We are Jen, Gav and Ruby the Landy, and in May 2016 we will be embarking on the trip of our lives – driving around the world! We are both in our mid 40s and live in Leeds. Jen works for the Youth Offending Service and Gav in computers. Jen does not have a practical bone in her body and is very clumsy. She can, however, talk the hind leg off a donkey, is very positive and loves people, so has been put in charge of ‘international relations’ for the trip! Gav is far more logical and practical which means he is in charge of mending anything that breaks.
Enough about us, the real star of the show is Ruby the Landy. Ruby is a 21 year old Defender Land Rover 300 Tdi County Station Wagon. We bought her in 2010 from Jake Wright, a lovely local independent Land Rover specialist. She had one previous owner, a farmer’s wife in Plymouth and was in great condition (the vehicle that is, we don’t know about the farmer’s wife). But what on earth inspired us to drive an old Landy around the world? Let’s rewind…………
Where did the idea come from?
We had both travelled extensively before Ruby came on the scene. One of our trips for Jen’s 40th birthday was a trip to Tanzania, where we climbed Kilimanjaro and then went on safari. And then came that moment. We were on safari, bouncing around the Serengeti in Tanzania in an old Land Rover Defender, just us and a guide. It was brilliant, and so the idea was born.
When we returned we decided that the way we wanted to travel in the future was overland. We did a little bit of research about which vehicle to get, however I think our hearts were set on a Defender. Ruby was the first one we saw, we test drove her and bought her! She had done 120,000 miles and was in pretty good condition.
The early days – we were clueless!
I am sure some of you will be familiar with such a system! On cold trips we then foolishly used the back of the vehicle to cook a meal. At a very posh camping and caravanning site next to Loch Lomond, we managed to set the old foam back seats on fire and were moments away from disaster!
When we got home we removed the seats and decided to start the overland prep. We started with a roof rack and first tested this out with a drive to the Pyrenees, where we had our huge fire pit from home strapped to the rack for 2 weeks!
The professional work we had done
We then made a big decision, we wanted to pay to get Ruby ‘overland ready’. This has pros and cons. It cost quite a bit of money and meant that we did not get the practical experience. On the plus side, we were delighted with the work we had done and it has meant we have had a couple of years or so to really test our stuff out and find out how it works for us. We used Footloose 4×4 for our two main lots of work. We got a new galvanised chassis and loads of other mechanical stuff including: Polybushes, new wheels, gear box, radiator, diff guards etc., plus in the second round we got a dog guard, window guards, drawer system, fridge, long range fuel and water tanks, water filter and pump, front seats etc.
We originally had a Howling Moon Roof tent and we still have our Howling Moon awning and awning walls. The quality was great and it did us really well for 3 years.
However, we changed this for a Maggiolina Grand Tour last year and are really happy with this decision. It is far easier to put up and down, which will benefit us when using it on an almost daily basis.
We did a number of trips to the Outer Hebrides (Harris, Lewis, the Uists and Barra) which we would highly recommend. The Hebrides are wonderful to drive around and superb for wild camping.
We also spent a month in Morocco. We loved Morocco. We went as far as Erg Chebbi and drove in the desert close to the Algerian border.
Gav managed a roadside repair when our heater matrix broke, so that gave us more confidence. This trip confirmed our desire to drive further afield, so decided to set a date and start to seriously save.
Round the world trip
We gave ourselves a three year target and set the date for spring/summer 2016. Our original route was going to be heading east from the UK, Europe, Iran, Pakistan, India, South East Asia and finishing in South America. This all changed last year when we decided that an Antarctica trip was on the top of our lists of must do’s. We realised that if this came at the end of the trip, we would probably not have the funds to afford it. On that basis we completely reversed our route and will drive from west to east! We have booked an Antarctica expedition for December of this year, flying from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia where we meet our ship. We then head to the Falklands, South Georgia and Antarctica. We will be shipping Ruby into Cartagena, Columbia from Tilsbury docks and we will fly there via New York a week or so later; the plan is then to reunite with her in Columbia! We are using agents on both sides and will firm the plans up in March. From Columbia we will slowly head south, planning to reach Buenos Aires in December. We will store Ruby for 3 weeks whilst we go on our expedition (sorry Rubes!)
We plan to spend the first year exploring South America and then ship to Malaysia where the long journey back to Europe will continue. We hope to cover South East Asia, the idea being to drive though Myanmar, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Iran etc. That said, we may well change our plans and go a different way. We’ve been following the wonderful Around the World in 800 Days trip though the Stans and are very tempted. Who knows?
In addition to prepping Ruby, we have also been researching routes using electronic versions of the Lonely Planet guides, Reiss maps and of course, other people’s blogs on the internet. South America seems fairly straightforward -we don’t need visas in advance nor a carnet. We will start to think about getting a carnet towards the end of our first year.
Jen has attended a basic mechanics course at night school, although it was quite advanced for her very basic skills! We will also attend a bush mechanics course in the near future for a couple of days. We have booked to attend a wilderness medicine course for 2 days and have a couple of off-road training days scheduled too.
We have researched travel insurance, and have narrowed it down to two companies -True Traveller or World Nomads. Both allow for an extension whilst on the road and both have excellent medical cover. Neither offer insurance for our possessions as they stipulate that possessions need to be in a locked room which is no good for overland travellers.
We are in the middle of getting our travel vaccinations and I can highly recommend booking in for a travel health consultation with Nomad travel – we went to the Manchester branch. They help you with vaccinations, malaria advice and bespoke medical kit amongst other things.
We plan to rent out our house, so the last couple of months have been spent redecorating and starting to pack up our stuff. This will stored with parents. We don’t plan to keep very much, just personal stuff and mementos from previous trips. The rest we have taken to charity shops or sold on ebay.
We hope to be away for at least two years, well, that’s as long as we anticipate the money will last for. That is, unless Jen is put in charge of finances, in which case we will be back in three months!
This article was the first in an ongoing blog to appear here within Euro 4×4 Mag, but for more information about Ruby, our preparation, route planning and so forth, see our website Ruby the Landy or our Facebook page rubythelandy.