Pictured – Monty, a ’94 Land Rover Safari Defender, passing through the valley of the East African Rift while on a 14,000 mile adventure from London to Cape Town.
People tend to choose vacation destinations based on how blue the water is or how pampered they will get at the spa. And for those of us bound to e-mail inboxes and office cubicles, average length of stay is usually somewhere in the week to ten day neighborhood. Ric and his girlfriend Charlie took a slightly different approach to their escape from reality this year. The Shepherds Bush, London-based couple decided to skip the Pina Coladas and all-you-can-eat buffet lines and instead spend six months roaming the earth in their ‘94 Defender affectionately known as Monty. Ric, Charlie and Monty, who left London October 1st, will have clocked an astonishing 14,000 miles when they reach Cape Town in March. That’s about 2,000 miles more than most Americans drive in a single year. As you can imagine, WIFI access is pretty hard to come by but, somewhere between the border of Ethiopia and Kenya, Ric and Charlie were good enough to share their experiences with us.
WHAT WAS YOUR INSPIRATION FOR THIS AMAZING TRIP?
The cause for the trip is mainly a big holiday for Charlie – but we’re raising money for a company called Computer Aid in the process.
WHAT IS MONTY’S DEAL?
Monty is a 1994 Land Rover Safari Defender with a 300Tdi engine. I bought her off a policeman 2 years ago.
WHAT KIND OF MODS DID YOU MAKE TO MONTY FOR THE TRIP?
I’ve fitted Monty with 2″ lift supergaz suspension from britpart, BFGoodrich Mud Terrain tyres, a Warn winch, a big steel plate that protects the steering and underbody of the car from rocks, another steel front diff protector, the roof rack with Jerry cans and roof tent, and a 75 liter water tank attached to an RV water pump for running water. There’s also a water purifier that’s supposed to allow us to put river water in it and produce safe drinking water – haven’t tried that! We also have an Engel fridge which sits in the center of the rear seats to keep the beer cold (it’s amazing how many African bars sell you warm beer). There’s two batteries in there two which run off of a National Luna dual charge system. The extra batter runs the fridge, water pump and 1000W inverter.
You’ll also see a snorkel air intake on the drivers side for river crossings. I’ve got a built in air compressor under the passenger seat. When I hit sand or crap terrain I need to let the tyres down a lot so it helps to have the air compressor built in so that we can pump them back up again.
Under the drivers seat there’s a big amplifier for the stereo and I’ve fitted some chunky speakers in the back. The built in system was rubbish and you couldn’t hear anything when off road, now it’s really loud and nice and clear. The metal things on the back windows are sand and bridging ladders for getting through deep sand or across deep potholes. We did have a Carputer in there before which ran off of a Mac Mini under the drivers seat attached to a touch screen in the front. I had a Sega emulator running off it so we could play sonic the hedgehog on surfing trips but I took it out because it wouldn’t have survived Africa.
TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOUR TRAVELS SO FAR?
It can be quite hard driving a Land Rover in Africa, especially northern Africa where the market is dominated by Toyota Land Cruisers. The amount of times I heard “why would you use a Land Rover, they’re not powerful enough. Take it back and get a Land Cruiser” or we’d go somewhere and they would only have parts for Land Cruisers – it got very frustrating. This changes the further south you go though and when you get into Kenya the majority of 4x4s are Land Rovers again. I must admit, when we had problems with Monty’s gearbox that left us stranded in Cairo for two weeks I was wondering why the hell I didn’t bring a Toyota. Before I left the UK I knew I’d both love and hate the car at different stages of the trip. After doing the northern Kenya road (known as the Moyale road) though which gave the car a complete hammering for two days I’m back to loving it again! It’s a bit of a Mac vs PC thing with Land Rovers and Land Cruisers, you could never be as passionate about a Land Cruiser as you could with a Defender in the same way that you couldn’t like an IBM Thinkpad as much as a MacBook. A couple of sayings I’ve heard along the way and can personally attest to…
“If you want to see Africa bring a Land Cruiser, if you want to meet the people bring a Land Rover”
“A land rover is always sick but never dead”
WHAT IS THE MOST EXTRAORDINARY THING YOU HAVE SEEN SO FAR?
We’ve seen a few extraordinary things, take your pick from the below…
A camel without a head – it was beside the road and a truck or something massive had knocked it’s head clean off!
A monkey tried to get in our roof tent through the window, he started unzipping it and I had to punch him to get him off.
On the way to Lalibela in Ethiopia the road was a rough gravel track and I was going a tad too quick and had Monty sideways drifting round a corner on a mountain pass with a steep drop to the side at one point. That wasn’t really extraordinary but bloody scary, I slowed down after that.
When we first got into Ethiopia, the customs house was made of cow shit and had livestock in it.
Just after the customs house we picked up some hitchhiking Ethiopian Students, there wasn’t enough room in the car for all three so one went on the roof. At first I went slow but then forgot he was on top – I’m not sure what 60mph feels like on top of a Land Rover through a mountain pass but he does!