Any of you following me thus far will have noted my several and many promises to blog about vehicles and today I've decided to put all the confusing, conflicting and helpful information together into a blog.
It should be easy right, just get a camper and head out. If ONLY! It is one of the most difficult things thus far. I guess it is only difficult because I'm doing this on a tight budget and if I had tens of thousands of € or £ the entire thing would be over and done with. But as the saying goes "beggars can't be choosers" but regrettably I do need to be somewhat choosy as my research has led me to some choices in terms of vehicle that I cannot veer from without potential consequences.
As such, below are the factors that I've decided I have to take into consideration.
- Comfort - I'm not 25 anymore and I like a degree of comfort. As such I've decided to take a camper. It has to be a camper so that I can have my 'stuff' with me. I've reduced my life to 35 boxes at the moment - probably still more than I can take, but as my journey is planned to be a one-way trip to Zimbabwe I want to be able to take as much as I can with me, mostly sentimental things I've gathered over the years. I also decided on a camper because I am not a camper (in the pitching a tent sense), and from my research hotels can be difficult to find if you're in the middle of nowhere, so with my own bed I can just park and sleep where I am. But I'd also like to live in it so standing up is an option I'm looking for, can't see myself scrabbling around on all 4's for 6-9 months.
- Security - many people have expressed concern about my safety and I have taken several factors into consideration. I prefer the thought of 4 metal walls around me rather than the canvas of a tent, this is also related to the idea of a rooftop tent. Thanks to those people who have recommended the tent on top of a vehicle (mainly for their confidence that I could get up there and off without doing myself considerable damage). I have also considered that I would prefer a vehicle where the cab and rear are integrated and this means that if I sense any trouble around me I could just jump into the front and drive off, jimjams or jeans.
- Terrain - I intend to travel on a route which will take me from deserts, coastal, tropical, and inbetween. While I would like to visit places of interest I don't think I plan on doing any wild bundu bashing but this said the conditions of roads varies from good to almost non-existant. From my reading I have noted that rain can be the worst enemy as it turns roads into rivers with potholes that could be puddles or pools in which one can easily submerge. This has meant moving my decision for a camper to the need for a 4x4 camper (which immediately reduces the options and more than doubles the cost!
- Reliablitiy - I regrettably, have little knowledge of the internal workings of a car, give me anything else to fix or rig up, no problem, but anything beyond changing a tyre or putting in oil and water and I'm stumped. So the vehicle needs to be solid and reliable. Now if I was in the USA there are many fabulous vechiles available but I'm going into Africa and that means repairs are likely to be done by a guy with a basic workshop or someone who can tinker with an engine. Spares an repairs are the consideration, they need to be easily available and by all accounts Toyota is the most easily available for overlanders. Now that reduces the camper options considerably. Another thing is that the vehicle needs to be a mechanical as possible with as few electronic bits as there are unlikely to be fully fitted workshops with all the electronic gadgetry. This apparently means that I'm looking for an older vehicle ... before 2002 ideally.
- Fuel - it has to be diesel, this is the most commonly available fuel and as the quality varies and diesel engines aren't as fussy as petrol, this is the best option to consider.
So here's what I'm looking for ... a unicorn
a comfortable, affordable, secure, diesel, reliable, old, 4x4, probably best a Toyota.
Now perhaps you have some idea as to why this has been such a headache! It is my most important purchase but finding that unicorn is proving to be difficult.
A special thanks to all the input and answering questions that my male friends have patiently answered thus, their sharing of ideas, suggestions and links so far ... John Norton, John Sexton, Ivo Barata da Silva.