by Graeme BellPhotography by Luisa Bell

I need your advice, people.

We have been working (literally) our way around the world for four years now. My wife and I are a writer/photographer team and we have two teenage kids who keep on growing despite our instruction not to. We live in a Land Rover Defender with a roof top tent, for now.

My problem? My lovely wife, Luisa, insists on buying bulk and packing tight. When we first met I soon realised that she could not resist cram packing the vehicle for our frequent road trips. A small Fiat with a large trunk would be packed up to the front seats and a roof rack was installed to carry the excess. When my son was born she moved into the back seat with him and packed the passenger seat and foot well, full, she would buy a month’s groceries for a ten day trip. When we bought the Defender she lost her chill completely, all that space, she could pack e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g!

Background. Back when Luisa was a kid she spent a year living in a caravan travelling the country with her family, her dad selling life insurance in small mining communities. There was not enough space for her toys and she had to leave most behind, also, the fridge may have often been less than well stocked.

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Diagnosis. Luisa has inherited a wanderlust from her father while simultaneously developing a need for things, as it is the things which give her a sense of home. The more unpractical the thing the more it represents the luxurious space a home affords. An empty fridge is miserable.

Treatment. I recommend shock therapy.

Travelling East and Southern Africa overland, Luisa packed a huge amount of food, clothing, medical equipment, make up, stationary and toys. She also packed every charger (even those without a known purpose) and electronic device she has ever owned. The result is a stuffed Land Rover and two kids sharing a back seat with uncomfortably hard edged gizmos.

A story from our journey around South America will further illustrate her compulsion. In Brazil we often observed a statue in the windows or on the balcony of homes. The statue is a life sized bust with great boobs and is either blonde or black and is called Namoradeira. She rests her chin in the palm of her hand and stares longingly into the distance, as if waiting for a lover to return. Luisa absolutely had to have one but would not settle for a key ring version, she had to have the full size statue, made of a mix of clay and cement. I begged and pleaded but Luisa was not listening, she set her jaw and narrowed her eyes. I will have it. She told me to stop being such a party pooper, that she would post the statue home within a week.

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We wrapped Namoradeira in towels, bubble wrap and duct tape and she took up residence on the back seat next to Jessica who had to hold her while we drove over rough roads. Weeks past and our lonesome guest remained in the back seat, we had to remove her and place her gently out of harm’s way every time we camped or needed to get a child or electronic gadget off the back seat. The statue weighed about 35 pounds and Luisa refused to pay the rate quoted by the Brazilian post office. “Stop whining, we will send it from Argentina”. We had bought our Namoradeira just north of Rio de Janiero and over the next few months drove along the coast to the far northern town of Jericoacoara before heading back down through central Brazil to the border of Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina, a journey of 12 000 miles.

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In Argentina we failed to find a postal rate which agreed with Luisa. “Quit bitching, we will post it from Chile”.  Eventually, I made some space in the rear load area and we drove down to Ushuaia, the end of the world, and then back up to Chile, our overloaded Land Rover losing two tyres which led to a replacement of all rims and tyres in Punta Arenas (another extremely frustrating Luisa driven debacle I will perhaps share with you one day).

Punctures plagued us almost daily as we drove up along the spine of the Andes through Chile (too expensive), Peru (too expensive), Ecuador, (too expensive), Colombia (too expensive) and eventually into Venezuela where we were able to exchange dollars on the black market for ten times the official rate and finally were able to afford postage. By now that pretty chunk of masonry had been with us for two years and over 40 000 miles. I have the patience of a frikken saint.

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(Now might be a good time to explain that my wife had given up a wonderful business and beautiful home to travel the world with me, I have to be patient and understanding, I owe her that at least.)

On Isla Magarita island, a windswept chunk of Caribbean rock, we found a DHL office and happily handed over our dear Namoradeira and a pile of Bolivars. Goodbye sweet Brazilian, you will not be missed.

Three weeks later we received an email from cousin Sam. A package had arrived, oddly shaped and covered in customs tape. INSPECTED. Sam removed the tape and packaging to find a hammer smashed head taped together above a set of rather nice boobs.

The nightmare does not end there. I have just learned that Luisa had the broken bust put into storage for when we return to South Africa. Why, Luisa? Why?

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In the USA Luisa is faced daily with an excruciating option, buy one for $1.00 or get five for $3.00. The Land Rover will be stuffed with bulk buys, the fridge and food crates over flowing with produce. But then, perhaps most maddening, she insists on buying our daily meals fresh from the store. It is as if she expects to round a corner and find herself in the middle of nowhere, a zombie apocalypse cutting off her supply of yoghurt, cream cheese and red wine.

After all these years she still insists I am the one with a problem. How do I help her see the light?

I still think shock therapy may be the solution (a larger vehicle is not an option, she will merely fill that to the gills).

A2A Expedition: The Bulk Buy Overlander

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About the Author: Graeme Bell

Graeme Bell is a full time overlander and author. He was born in Johannesburg, South Africa but considers Cape Town home. He is currently travelling the planet with his wife Luisa and two children, Keelan and Jessica, in a Land Rover Defender 130 affectionately know as Mafuta. www.a2aexpedition.com