Monday, 23 March 2015

Not the only overlanders

Often people think that this 'overlanding lifestyle' is really special. But (although it's fantastic) it's not that special, there are plenty of other people driving long term around the world, or a section of the world, in a motorhome or on motorbikes, or by some other self-sufficient-travel-style.

Popular routes are: the Americas (South America and/or North America and Central America), Africa, Asia, Australia, Across Russia, and even Europe. Some people make H's 4 years on this trip look quite paltry. H did about 2 years in South America, but some people drive to the bottom, then back to the top and then turn around and do it again, and again. You could take a lifetime doing this continually with just a little bit of money coming in to fund it.

We believe there are an average of two overlanding vehicles (motorhomes or motorbikes) passing through Cartagena, Colombia each day. It is the 'logical' passing point for travel between South America and North America or Central America. Currently it provides an option of a Ferry (Ferry Xpress) to and from Panama, or ships to and from many locations (e.g. Panama, California, Mexico, East Coast USA, Europe, Asia). A couple of weeks ago when H returned to Colombia to ship Blac from Cartagena to Europe (it's on it's way) there were about 20 vehicles that took the ferry to Colon, and there were 4 vehicles doing shipping at the same time. This was extreme numbers though, as a overlanding group 'Seabridge' (group overland travel) had 20 vehicles travelling through at the time: 18 of which travelled on the ferry, and 2 that were too big for the ferry and had to take a ship across the gap. Two vehicles (Blac and another) are returning to Europe.*

By sticking to the popular travel routes (like doing what is referred to as the Pan-American Highway, through Colombia, Ecuador, Peru... and keeping going south), the travel camaraderie can be quite strong. You can team up and travel in convoy or just keep meeting the same people on a regular basis. Alternatively, doing what the Belgian and the Aussie just did (North through Brazil, into the Guyanas and across Venezuela) means that you'll rarely meet other overlanders.

What I found strange is the demographics of it all. In South America I have found that French overlanders are commonly travelling as families with school age children (they 'home'-school them along the way), German overlanders are usually older and retired. Dutch, Swiss and Austrian overlanders are often middle-aged and returning to Europe to work for 6 months of every year. Americas are surprisingly rare (surprising because to me it seems easier to just start driving south out of America and keep going) but when you do meet them they are often younger still (30ish) and rushing.... like all the way to Ushuaia in 6 months. Mostly overlanders seem to be Europeans, very occasionally we have met Australians, New Zealanders (on motorbike only), and we also met a family from Morocco and a couple from Isreal. No matter where they are from, I always enjoyed meeting other overlanders.

Mostly, motorhome overlanders are couples, but some are singles (H was when I met him), and some are families (as per the French and Moroccans mentioned above). Sometimes you also get a couple of adventurous guys travelling together. Motorbike overlanders might be lone travellers to start but are often travelling in a group they met along the way. Of course, they can stay in backpacker accommodation and be socialised in that way.

Also, as a person who speaks English and Spanish, I thought that I was well equipped on the language front for overlanding in South America. But, we met many overlanders who really only spoke their native tongue: usually that being French or German. This left me sitting silent while H enjoyed conversations in whatever language was needed.

Dutch overlanders Chris and Monique (Photo is Monique with H) who we first met in Peninsula Valdes and then met accidentally many times more as we headed south.

The overlanders Christmas gathering in Ushuaia provides plenty of social interaction. 

My favourite other vehicle we've met is this one from Alaska which looks like a wooden cottage on wheels. (Oh, and for Americans, they don't meet the demographic mentioned above.)

*For people wanting to know about shipping: I have updated the webpage. 

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