It began in 2005 with the acquisition of a Land Rover Defender 90 and quickly evolved into a protracted series of expeditions through Africa and across all of Europe and Asia. Known as Sirocco Overland, this continued adventure is the work of Gareth and Lisa, two ambitious travelers with unassailable wanderlust. Now in Australia preparing to explore their fourth continent, we caught up with Gareth and Lisa for a quick chat. You can find part one of this interview [HERE].
One of the interesting things about overland travel is how it unites fellow adventurers. You appear to have met up with many fellow travelers along the way. It must afford a nice level of comfort, or at the very least a welcome change in your daily routine, to share it with another traveler. Do you still stay in touch with the other overlanders you encountered?
Absolutely! Its quite a strange encounter as everyone is on the same wavelength, everyone is self reliant and everyone has some good advice and stories; overall it is a very positive experience. We met people on push bikes, motorbikes and the odd 4×4. The truly adventurous travellers were in Central Asia. We met the McNeil’s (http://mcneilsonwheels.com) in Istanbul and later in Uzbekistan. Bukhara ended up being an overlanders mecca when we arrived, a kind of bottleneck of adventurous travellers heading into remoter parts of Central Asia. Along with the McNeil’s was Adam (www.shortwayround.co.uk) who we travelled with in Tajikistan/Afghanistan and the Altai; Noah (http://rtwwithnoah.blogspot.com.au) who we would later see on the BAM road in Siberia, Jon (http://bigoadventures.com) who was in his 80 series heading for China, four Austrians on motorbikes and two Italians on push bikes. We all got together and went out for food and beers. It was a great couple of days. We met others along the way: Linda riding solo on her push bike, Carsten in his Troopy with his son heading back to Switzerland, Martina with her dog in her Troopy going to China, two lads from Sweden in their Discovery, Canadian Ed in Yakutsk on his BMW bike, the list is almost endless. The McNeil’s landed in Australia a month or so ago so we plan to go up to Sydney to meet them, it will be good to see them again after all the peddling they have done to get here.
Preparing for a nine month long trip has to be challenging. What did you forget to bring along? What do you wish you hadn’t packed? Is your set-up finally dialed in, or is it a continual work in progress?
Reasonably challenging yes, mostly to do with the sheer number of countries we crossed, then visas, then border crossings and the restrictions placed on us and the vehicle. Trying to read about all the procedures etc. for each country was a bit of a headache. We planned a basic route but generally we took each country as it came. I had a rough itinerary for how long we could stay in each country to make sure we were in Siberia at the right time and leaving again before winter. As far as living/camping arrangements go we are fairly dialled in. Several smaller trips have proved to us what gear works, what doesn’t and what you won’t use. We keep things very simple and practical but sometimes this is not always comfortable.
As is always the case, we wore the same few items of clothing, day in, day out, but we had to deal with all four seasons at variable latitudes and altitudes so it was hard to pack light in terms of clothing. As this was a longer trip we envisaged having some time on our hands so we took a few toys along with us including the packraft, bouldering gear, fishing rods etc. but the reality on this trip was that we rarely had any spare time. There was always stuff to do when we stopped. Aside from the usual chores there was the blog to write, photos to process and keeping in touch with family and friends back home. We actually averaged over 160km per day for eight months so it was pretty fast paced stuff.
Early on in our trip we realised that we would basically be living outside for the next eight months with just an awning and roof tent for shelter. It was testing at times. I think overland travel is a continual work in progress for most longterm travellers as things change. Trip duration, country climate and family size are always evolving so your wants and needs have to follow suit.
I was recently speaking with another overlander plotting his own trans-continent trip. He was quick to point out that he doesn’t know how much he doesn’t know about protracted travels. What unexpected lessons have you learned from the road? Any advice for would-be overlanders?
When we started planning trips there was always something we would miss but it was always minor. I think the main thing to sort out before you leave is how you are going to manage/mitigate risk. I always try to visualise the trip and ask myself what might happen. When you have your scenarios you can work on how best to prevent or manage them. For this trip I felt it was necessary to have contacts in our satellite phone for a GP, paramedic, mechanic, spare parts dealer and a number of contacts who can post on the technical forums on our behalf. All of the above were friends, so we were quite lucky. Other than that, proper training and/or experience cannot be beaten.
There were a few minor things that cropped up on this trip. Mostly these were environmental considerations concerning waste vehicle fluids, obtaining clean water and carrying your own rubbish for extended periods in remote areas. It’s easy to plan your scheduled vehicle services yourself but where do you put all your waste oils? I have covered these points on our website here: http://siroccoverland.com/tread-lightly-please/
I always like to throw in one very unoriginal question, so here it is: What’s after Australia? Are there any destinations you want to return to?
Who knows! The plan was always to come here and save some well-needed money. We will surely be planted here for the next 3-5 years, after that who knows? I would love to see the Defender in the Americas which would mark it’s final two continents (I don’t think we could ever afford to take it to Antarctica). We rarely return to the same place twice, but I think we may find ourselves back in Siberia or Afghanistan in the future.
Looking through your website, it’s easy to become green with travel envy. To temper our collective jealousy there has to be one downside to a nine month expedition across a huge portion of the globe. What’s the biggest challenge you had to overcome on a regular basis?
It’s not on a regular basis, but finance is the biggest one for us. We gave up everything getting here and have no savings left. We have no house or retirement plan and our families are not wealthy. If you really want it, you have to REALLY want it. It is a huge sacrifice and for us, a life changing decision. There are no other downsides, the trip was awesome!
One last question. If you could distill the experience of overlanding into one word, what would it be?
From all of us at Expedition Portal, we want to thank Gareth and Lisa for taking the time to participate in this interview. The shared experience is what makes overlanding so compelling and unique. We wish Gareth and Lisa all the best and hope they get rolling again very soon.The Maxtrax is rated 4.5 out of 5 stars on Amazon.