The easiest way for us to explain the evolution of the trip is to show the various articles that we have written over the last year for the Kea news letter. Kea is the company that converted the vehicle that we bought for the trip. The first article is the oldest and so most out of date, and the last one reflects the latest plans. Just goes to show how we have changed things as we learnt more about the route and the bureaucratic hurdles that we faced.

Articles for Kea newsletter

1)Rocking chair regrets – or Kea camper to Europe!

There can be nothing worse in our minds, than to be in our 90’s, sitting in our rocking chairs on the front porch saying to each other “I wish we’d done …..”. Much better saying, “do you remember when we …..”

With that in mind, when four or five years ago, I (Graham) suggested driving overland to Australia from the UK in a 4×4 my long suffering wife (Marjool) agreed that it sounded fun. Why not! Since this milestone there have been many twists and turns in our planning process which have included a switch from us using a Land Rover camper self build travelling from the UK to Oz, to a Landcruiser based ex hire Kea camper travelling from Oz to the UK. Although I would have loved to build my own camper we realised that it was very difficult get hold of the right vehicle in the UK and that there would also be the issue of shipping it home after the trip. After a Safari trip in Africa and a short trip to Australia this summer, we knew just what we needed. We then saw the Kea Conqueror, it was a perfect match! When we found a suitable one for sale in Cairns we couldn’t resist, and although buying something on the other side of the world without seeing it yourself is a little scary, the Kea team made it very easy.

We always knew that we would have to wait to do the trip until our two boys Tom and Ben were settled into university and living away from home, plus we needed to get our finances sorted out so that we could give up working for a while. Well that is all in place and we are ready now to set off in April 2011 from Perth with the aim of driving home to Exeter in Devon. The route we are now starting to plan in detail will include NW Australia (Kimberleys via Gibb river road), Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Laos, China, Mongolia, Russia, Kazakhstan, Russia (again) Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Germany, Holland, Belgium, France and finally the channel ferry back to the UK. We expect to be away for around six months but can be flexible.

We are having a trial run in February 2010 for two months when we hope to travel from Sydney to Perth via Tasmania. Then we plan to find somewhere to store the vehicle in Perth ready for the trip in 2011. If you would like more information or would even like to join us for part of the trip please contact Graham and Marjool Brooke.

2) Trial Run – Sydney Harbour Bridge to London Tower Bridge

Great news, the camper is perfect for the trip! OK, when you are climbing up into the bed last thing at night, you sometimes wonder, “ shouldn’t we be in a nice comfortable hotel room somewhere ….. are we mad!?”. This thought soon disappears when you hear the waves on the beach only yards from your camper, or hear the birds and animals around you in a remote national park, as you drop off to sleep in the surprisingly comfortable bed. The key to finding the perfect camping spot is being able to drive down that narrow rutted track to the beach, or river, or forest clearing. It’s magical!

Our son Tom picked up the camper for us in Cairns and then drove it down to meet us in Sydney. He is only twenty, and until he got into the Kea Conquerer, had never driven anything bigger than a 1.0 ltr compact car. He found it easy to drive however and somehow managed to do 6500 kilometers on the way down!

We loaded the camper the day after flying in from London and headed south to Jervis Bay where we tested the camper for leaks …..  as it rained solidly for 4 days …… and hard! However, we caught fish and saw dolphins playing really close to the beach and so left happy and still dry.

From there it was straight to Tasmania where we had a wonderful trip, visiting many deserted beaches and fast flowing trout rivers, walked some beautiful trails and meeting lots of friendly people. There are so many places where you can free camp in Tasmania that the only time we stayed in a commercial campsite was in Port Arthur. The scenery was stunning and we had two and a half weeks of sunshine. So far so good!

After leaving Tasmania we headed along the Great Ocean Road, up to Adelaide, along the Murray River and back to Sydney. Originally we were going to leave the camper in Perth but Norman has arranged for trip preparation to be carried out at Kea in Sydney. There is some non-standard equipment that we need to buy and fit for some of the roads in Mongolia and Russia. We are also going for the interior upgrade that will give more water capacity, bigger fridge and an all important external shower ….. luxury! Other than that the 8500 trial run had not thrown up any issues. We are good to go!

In terms of planning we have been trying to keep things flexible until we knew if we would be travelling with a group. Its nice to give travel partners an input. However we have now decided that we will plan to travel alone and then if anyone wants to come along they can just join us for the bits they want to do. We are meeting with a lady this week who is working for a UK based expedition company, having moved back here from Malaysia where her job was to organize all the logistics for overland trips throughout Asia and Russia. Lucky find. Our plan over this next month is to fix dates and start booking containers/shipping and the guide for China. Watch this space for the final itinerary!

3) Planning – no, lets just go!

We are a spontaneous couple, suddenly deciding to spend two and a half months in a canoe in Europe paddling over a thousand kilometers (1988), setting off to climb Kilimanjaro in Africa (2009), so detailed logistical planning comes hard to us. We were pretty naïve when we started this project, thinking “yes, lets jump in the camper and start driving north, turn left in Mongolia and on to London – easy”. The reality is that obtaining visas, permits to travel, insurance, guides, arranging vehicle shipping, understanding what you can and can’t do in each country, is time consuming and hard work. We do not subscribe to the view that the planning is half the fun! The fun is setting of on new roads and new countries, camping in beautiful places and meeting different people. We like planning for tomorrows drive with a map, a guide book and a full tank of fuel.

The result of all the research and planning to date has meant that for carnet (vehicle passport), visas, vehicle import costs and finally hitting the right weather in the right places, has meant that we have turned our plans on their head again! We are now shipping the vehicle out of Sydney to the UK, registering it there and then driving from London Bridge to Sydney Harbour Bridge. That way we start the trip during the European summer, get through Mongolia during the dry warm season, see China at the best time and then get to spend November, December and January in South East Asia and the finally into OZ in February. Perfect!

This all means that we have a little longer to plan and make a few more modifications to the vehicle. Norman and Stefano at Kea Sydney have been incredibly helpful with the interior upgrade and some mechanical changes, but we still plan to add solar panels, wider wheels and tyres, winch, alarm, safe and a bug proof awning at the rear so that you can sit outside to eat without losing all your blood!

Although it’s a long way off, we are starting to think about getting the vehicle home again after OZ. Ship to Cape Town and drive through Africa or over to America, up to Alaska and on through Canada to Newfoundland …….. That’s the sort of planning we like …… vague but exciting! We really can’t wait to be on our way now!

4) Kea Conqueror – Around the world 2011

The trip that we have been thinking of for so long is finally getting close enough for us to get excited. The start date is fixed at 1st July 2011, when we will drive from Devon up to the west side of London for a family gathering to celebrate my parents 60th Wedding Anniversary. This will be held on an old steam launch on the river Thames and will involve tea and cake enjoyed while cruising up the river to Winsor Castle (very English!). It will also be a good opportunity to say our farewells to the family before hitting the road to Dover and the cross channel ferry to France. We will then pass through Belgium and into Holland to visit Marjool’s family for a few days.

Since our last update we have been working hard on the trip planning, having lots of fun plotting a route on Google Maps and following various blogs of people who are doing a similar thing. The surprise is just how many there are. Most of the time however has been spent on the phone to embassies, visa agencies, carnet issuing authorities, travel agents, travel health clinics and suppliers of 4×4 parts and accessories. We keep writing lists and adding items but ticking off completed jobs seems a really slow process!

As part of our preparation we have been having some basic Russian Lessons and can now read the Cyrillic alphabet, which is essential for asking directions and reading road signs. We can also say, the numbers up to 100, road, city, left, right, straight on, pothole, puncture, petrol station, steering wheel and tea and a number of other relevant/critical phases. We also tried to get our teacher to give us the phrase for ‘no more vodka thank you,’ but she thought that this might spoil our fun! We have also bought a ‘point and tell book’ which has pictures of most things and situations, as a last resort. I think that we might need it quite a lot!

We now have another vehicle travelling with us through China. It is actually a young family driving a Land Rover Defender 110 on their way to New Zealand. They are travelling with two children aged 2 and 4 and will join us in Mongolia somewhere near Ulaanbaatar. We are fully expecting Mongolia to be one of the highlights of the trip as it is so different from anywhere we have been before. Although most people stick to the tracks, it is possible just to head off across the terrain using the GPS to guide you. This is because the land is all common ground and not privately owned. Just after our arrival in Mongolia we have arranged a few days living with a family who hunt with Golden Eagles in the Altai Mountains. It should be amazing!

The latest route (and I am sure that there will be changes along the way) is as follows:

UK, France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Russia, Mongolia, China, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, Thailand (again), Malaysia, ship to west coast US, Canada, UK.

Our two boys are flying to Thailand to visit us for Xmas and then we should be in Malaysia ready to ship the vehicle by the end of January. We will then fly home for a few months to catch up with the business, friends and family before rejoining the vehicle in the US. This will allow the seasons to catch up ready for our trip up the coast to Alaska and then back through Canada. We should finally be back in the UK around September or October after putting the vehicle on a ship in Nova Scotia.

Wow, around the world in a Kea Conqueror ….we are so lucky!


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