It’s a Wrap

Driving along Copacabana Beach; watching a jaguar swim, hunt and kill a crocodile just like on Planet Earth; crawling through ancient cave cities in Turkey; having a tiger mock charge us; joining the pilgrims circuiting Barkhor Temple in Lhasa; and eating Argentinian lomo fillet cooked over a fire washed down with a fantastic malbec.......this trip has been far beyond our wildest expectations. How can you sum up a round the world trip of nearly 180,000km that has taken over 4 years into one short blog? We've travelled to 58 countries in all 7 continents. It's almost an impossible task. So we've rounded them up into a few highlight lists: . Our top places visited:
  • Antarctica
  • Patagonia
  • Okavango Delta
  • Australian Outback
  • Tibetan Plateau
Of course, overlanding is a lot about amazing drives and camping out in the wild, enjoying amazing sunsets (sometimes even sunrises too) and watching the stars. The "best" roads we have driven:
  • Carretera Austral, Chile
  • Canon del Pato, Peru
  • Plenty Highway, Australia
  • Karakoram Highway, Pakistan
  • Pamir Highway, Tajikistan
Some of the most memorable places we have slept: 
  • On the ice with no tent in Antartica (sadly without the truck)
  • Outside the highest monastery in the world, Mount Everest Basecamp in Tibet
  • On our own beside a waterhole with 200 elephants and a pride of lions in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe
  • On an active volcano in Chile, we had to come down in the middle of the night due to high winds
  • Salar de Unyi salt pans, Bolivia
  • Fire station, Nicaragua
  • Drive-in cinema, outback Australia
  • Police station compound in Guatamala
  • On a yacht crossing the Panama Canal
  • Too many petrol stations during long drives in India and Brazil.
Escaping by the skin of our teeth from a flood in South Africa, only to fall in a hole metres from safety; shredding a tyre and breaking 3 disc break covers on the remote Gibb River Road, Australia; being hit hard by a truck from behind in Cambodia and the police deciding it must have been the foreigner's fault; and more. We've been incredibility lucky but on a trip like this there are always problems and difficulties. Here is a list of our top 5 frustrations:
  • Being a useless mechanic
  • Shipping
  • Bureaucracy and regulations for driving your own vehicle in countries like Thailand, China and Myanmar.
  • Dealing with the Chinese police and military, Xinjiang Province
  • Driving in India
Did we think we could drive the whole way around the world when we started? Probably not! But we thought we would give it a go. What was the harm in that? Trying would definitely be an adventure and that is what we were after. So here is what we have learnt:
  • 99.9% of people are nice, friendly and willing to help
  • The world is not as scary as it is sometimes made out
  • There are some amazing wild natural places but they are increasingly under threat
  • You can manage with less
  • It is possible. It might take a lot of hard work, perseverance and luck but it is possible.
All over the world we have met amazing people who have welcomed us to their country. Of course doing it with two young children, it felt like a huge responsibility to not only keep them safe but for them to learn, grown and most importantly to love the world they live in. It's been wonderful to see their response to the world around them. They usually have a different take on something than us and travelling with them has opened so many doors to us. At times, especially in Asia, it felt like we were travelling with minor celebrities as people were delighted to meet foreign children. Homeschooling or more accurately "world schooling" them has been such a privilege. As well as the usual subjects, we have always learnt about the culture, natural history, history, politics, religion or environment we have been travelling through. Aztecs in Mexico; the exploration and wildlife of Antarctica; apartheid in South Africa; the southern constellations in outback Australia; Islam in Malaysia; the Romans in Turkey the list goes on and on. How better to learn about the world than experiencing it. It's added so much to the journey. Talking, books and ideas have grasped the girl's imaginations and intrigued them before we get to a place, then it's hands on learning from there on in and we've been learning alongside them. They will often blow us away by pointing something out in a museum or an animal doing something and explain it to us. "How an earth do you know that?" I'll ask. . The girls are only just starting to become aware how unique their childhood has been, for them travelling is just normal life. Lucy has been on the road for half of her life. Their formative years have been spent exploring some of the planet's furthest corners and we hope that will develop them into truly global citizens. . Of course they have their own opinions, here are some of their most memorable moments:
  • Hoola-hooping to get warm before sleeping out on the ice, without a tent, in Antarctica
  • Seeing lots of leopards, cheetahs, lions and wild dog puppies in the Okavango Delta, Botswana
  • Lucy eating spicy fried grasshoppers in Mexico and fat-bottomed ants in Columbia
  • Catching Piranas for tea in the Amazon, Bolivia
  • Daddy following the Middlesbrough football game in the dark in outback Australia and screaming when a wallaby licked his elbow
  • Pay-by-weight exotic Amazon fruit flavour ice cream in Brazil
  • Making straws that can make the water clean to drink out of lotus stalks, in the Okavango Delta, Botswana
  • Crazy Indian driving
  • Going on game drives every morning in nighties and wrapped in duvets, Africa
  • Kayaking with playful sea lions on the Skeleton Coast Namibia, they kept on trying to chew the paddles.
Thank you to all the wonderful people we met along the way that made the journey so special. And thank you to all our readers for joining us on our journey Gilly, Steve, Alisha and Lucy

We did it!

"Can we drive around the world with two young children in tow?" "We can certainly try!" These were one of the first sentences I wrote for this website. Well now we have an answer: "YES!" England welcomed us back with a magnificent sunrise, as we arrived into Portsmouth on the overnight ferry. We had done it! 180,000km, 58 countries on 7 continents! DSC04584 DSC04588 DSC04594 The week crossing Europe sadly seemed like it was another day, another country. The cost of having spent so much time in China, Tibet and the 'Stans. We always knew that this last part of our trip would be a bit of rush. With Alisha's new school's start of term date looming, we had a "home" ferry to catch. The coastline of Montenegro and Croatia was absolutely breathtaking: craggy limestone mountains and cliffs dropping off into azure waters of the Aegean below. Every bay, a pretty historic town called out to us for a stop but we had to keep going. We did manage to stop and admire the picturesque former fishing island of Sveti Stefan, now an exclusive hotel. We didn't stop long enough to take advantage of the 110 Euro beach access just in front! Kotor and Perast made for a nice wander around to admire the winding streets inside the historic fortress towns. DSC04436 DSC04501 DSC04510 DSC04527 At the end of Steve's last blog he lamented that our wild camping nights were probably over as we ventured further into Europe, how wrong he was. Just a few hours after posting we squeezed our way down a narrow, steep track to one of our best campspots in ages. High up on a scrub covered hillside we had a 180° view of the Aegean Sea, it was a perfectly flat spot just big enough for is. Created as a delivery spot for an abandoned half finished hotel, there was nothing else nearby. It was so nice that we abandoned all thoughts we had of moving on a shortish distance the next day to see the town of Kotor and decided to stay an extra day. What was even better was that just over a kilometre further down the track, which got even more steep and rough, was a small pebbly beach with perfectly clear azure water. Watching the sun setting over the sea while eating tea, then watching the stars come out it was sad to think that we we are soon to give this lifestyle up. DSC04446 DSC04451 DSC04456 DSC04464 Crossing into Croatia we had an unusual night spot in Kupari, just south of Dubrovnik next to the bombed out remains of 4 huge hotels. You could see the shell and bullet holes in the walls of the hotel's from the break up of Yugoslavia. It made an interesting contrast with the crowds of beach goers enjoying the sea just in front of it. A stark reminder of a bloody conflict that I can remember unfolding on the tv screen just a few years ago. DSC04547 From there onwards it was just 4 days of solid driving: tiring for Steve and boring for the rest of us. Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina (for a whole 10km), Croatia (again) Slovenia, Austria, Germany and France all passed by in a blur of motorways. Being delayed by a forest fire in Northern Croatia for over 4 hours and spending 3 hours at a garage to fix a leaking tyre caused far more worry than usual, rarely have we had such a strict deadline. Steve was almost tipped over the edge trying to pay our Austrian road tolls. Being such a big vehicle we needed a special box that beeped on the motorway, we had to visit 8 (yes, 8!) different service stations to sort it out and pay a 60 Euro fine because we hadn't returned a similar box 5 years ago because it had been so difficult. All that for just over 200km on their roads. There were lots of poignant moments, it was hard not to feel sad at parts of even our most mundane routine: last day of schooling; last wild camp; last night in the truck; but definitely not the last cold shower (our hot water system broke back in Thailand, fine in India but painful in Tibet). It didn't seem really real that the trip was coming to an end and that our whole lives are about to change so dramatically. DSC04474 It seemed very surreal leaving the ferry and joining the commuter queues of traffic on the south coast. We couldn't quite work out how we felt about coming to the end. In our heads, we felt it should be ticker tape and a brass band playing but the reality was rather more unglamorous - a garage just down the road from the port. But such is the nature of overlanding at times. But when is all said and done, we have done it! We have driven around the world and for now we will just enjoy that and celebrate. DSC04600 DSC04605