STAFF Michael Stolz
Founder / Publisher
Director of Business Development
ABOUT Proven Overland is a quarterly online magazine that is passionate about vehicle based adventures. We are striving to bring something unique to the world of 4WD and off-road magazines; a more clean and simple format. We are keeping the gear reviews and ads to a minimum, because isnâ€™t the best part of overlanding the stories behind it all? Proven will highlight the raw tales of real people exploring our world and getting out there- featuring the victories and challenges along the way.
ADVERTISE If you are interested in getting on board by advertising or partnering with Proven, you can chat with us or ask us questions here: firstname.lastname@example.org
CONTRIBUTE We are always on the lookout for new and awesome content. If you have a story or an overland rig you would like to share with us drop us a line at: email@example.com
FEATURES Travel Beasts Adventure Story Reece and Nancy @Travel_Beasts
A Canyon Country Wander Adventure Story Michael Holland @DesertRush
Next Destination, Further Overlander Profile Rob Morgan @This.Wild.Dream
Overlanding Downunder Adventure Story Elliot Mann @4wd_Addiction
Desk To Glory
Interview Richard and Ashley @DeskToGlory
Readers Rides #ProvenOverland
TRAVEL BEASTS ADVENTURE STORY
sat in the driving seat of the Land Cruiser as it creaked over to one side, my fuel pouring out of the filler cap down the mountainside. The vehicle was two degrees from rolling angle on this tight mountain track, and my back wheels had slipped out in the thick mud during an ill-advised attempt to turn around. The cruiser sat at a terrifying angle. My now white knuckles grasped the steering wheel trying to maintain a grip through sweaty palms, praying that the back wheels would not slip any further in the thick mud I’d gotten myself into. We were at 1,500 meters altitude on the side of a volcano, deep in a cloud forest in rural Nicaragua, and we were about to lose the car that was our home. Wiping away the sweat that beaded upon my brow, I looked around me. It seemed that everyone in this isolated village had come out to watch the spectacle. The villagers were dotted up and down the hillside, pointing and gaping at our predicament from outside their houses amid the crop terraces and coffee plants. I sighed – the last thing I needed right now was an audience. As I dropped the Cruiser into low-four gear and prepared to use my last chance to get out of this mess, I wondered – whatever inspired me to choose this life? I thought back to the grey blustery British winter nights. I remember going to work before the sun rose, and returning home long after it had set. I remember watching an episode of Top Gear over a curry one rainy Sunday - watching the spectacular landscape shots on the screen felt like I was seeing sunlight for the first time in weeks. I remember that the more we discussed the possibility of driving the length of the Americas, the more that the objections and problems melted away. After an almost imperceptible amount of time, I found myself standing on a windy patch of tarmac in a sleepy town in the Netherlands, and forking over a years worth of savings for a vehicle that we now call home. From here, we never looked back. I handed in my notice at my office manager’s job, and Nancy followed suit, terminating her contract as a nurse with the British National Health Service.
A brief look back at my former life was the small reminder I needed and with re-hardened tenacity, I hit the accelerator and the vehicle tried once more to gain traction. The Cruiser lurched forward, and then slipped back into the muddy ditch with a sickening shudder. As I’d tried to ease it out, the back wheels had slid again and it now felt like the vehicle was almost horizontal. I looked around at my beautiful surroundings on the side of this volcano and cursed everything – how could I have been so stupid? Everything we had worked for, the hours spent building this vehicle, the miles we had driven to be here - everything was about to roll down the side of this mountain track. Despair set in. As I pondered my next move, a local man appeared at my window, talking excitedly in Spanish. “Now is not the time mate.” I muttered under my breath. I glanced down and felt an immediate pang of guilt as I saw that the man had carried a huge piece of timber over to the vehicle, and was telling me that he would stack it under the wheel so I could get traction. My foot firmly planted on the brake pedal, I could only watch in awe in my wing mirror as he dragged yet more chunks of timber and rocks, and piled them slowly under my back wheels. “Ahora amigo!” the man shouted, as he threw his weight against the back of the Cruiser. I gunned the engine, the back tyres bit into the wood and stone, and the vehicle crawled forward and instantly righted itself away from the precarious angle. Overcome with relief and delight I leaped out of the car and thanked the man profusely. This lifestyle has a knack for humbling whoever chooses to live it.
Days later and again we are smashing our Land Cruiser through muddy rain forest tracks, the squeal of the rubber on stones and the spray of the mud put a grin on my face and I bury the accelerator once again. Rounding a corner to find a river rushing across the road, I slam the brakes in time to catch a sign that reads: “Warning Crocodiles!” and I consider my next move as the floodwater threatens to make the river crossing Impassable. We’ve come too far. We are two days into this rainy expedition in an almost impenetrable tract of Central American rainforest. There is no going back. We decide to get out and wade across on foot to check the depth. Hand in hand against the rushing waters and armed with a stick to test the depth and hopefully defend ourselves, should we need to. This is overlanding. This is what we do. As the rain hammers my face and the water begins to push us downstream I smile. This is the life I chose and I couldn’t be happier. I asked myself again – why do we do this? Why do we give up our warm and comfortable homes with running water and appliances, and set out in a bare-bones vehicle into the teeth of the elements? Why do we do this, knowing that we must battle the extreme heat and sweat, extreme discomfort, the insects and illnesses? If you’re reading this, it’s not likely I’ll have to offer much of an explanation to that question. We do this because it’s in our blood. We do it because we have to, to feel alive.
That hot cup of tea in the comfort of a warm house, whilst sitting in front of television set always tastes slightly bitter - we are not made for the comfortable life. We are not made for convenience, for routine, for our bodies to be always to be at a pleasant temperature; in fact these things slowly crush our spirits. We’re made for the unknown, for adventure, for finding out what’s over that next hill, or what’s around that next corner in some dusty old town street. It’s waking up sweating in a busy city car park and climbing out of the roof tent in your underpants. It’s brushing your teeth whilst looking out at a volcano erupting across a lake. It is toiling tirelessly through river crossings and along hot dusty trails, and arriving at a place to set up camp, crack a beer, and watch the Milky Way rise over the dark horizon. We do it because this is the only life for us. We are Travel Beasts, Reece and Nancy, two travelers trying to forge our way down the spine of the Americas from the US to Patagonia, like the beasts we were born to be…
Reece and Nancy Wesbite: www.facebook.com/TravelBeasts Instagram: @Travel_Beasts
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A CANYON COUNTRY WANDER
“ ir, that road hasn’t been open for over a year. And, then, for only a few weeks.” “Okay, is it open now?” “Weelllll. Yes, but there are some requirements before I can issue you a permit.” There we were…Five friends standing and waiting in the confines of the Canyonlands Needles (Utah) Visitor Center. We had purposely altered our course after I had called the visitor center a few days prior and learned that the Horse Canyon Road was open. It rarely is. The ranger informed us that the permit required pairs of vehicles and at least one had to have a winch—check. She told us that we had to be self-reliant-check. Lastly, she said we had to exit the canyon by sunset—check. With a few signatures, she handed us the combination to the locked gate. We began the wander. The day prior, our group met in Arches National Park. A mixed bag of teachers, business owners, and a professional photographer planned to embark on a two-week jaunt through the wilds of Utah and Arizona. We had decided to use our vehicles to gain access to backcountry adventures that included canyoneering, ruin hunting, pack rafting, slot canyon hiking, and photography. On day one, we gathered in Moab to escape the heat. I led the group from the Park Avenue parking lot while onlookers wondered what we were doing. The sun beat down on us. Soon, we found shade on the north side of a red slickrock dome. Our feet gained purchase, and up we went. Thirty minutes later, we topped out. The 360-degree views made us all speechless. After savoring the views of the Moab valley and the mighty LaSal Mountains to the east, we decided to descend. We donned harnesses and climbing helmets. I yelled, “rope” as I threw down the eight-millimeter rope for our first rappel. The afternoon sunlight illiminated the slickrock wonderland that is Arches National Park. As Dave rappelled down, it was difficult for us not to look at and focus on the views (arches, slickrock, LaSal Mountains) and the peacefulness of it all. Our final rappel was a tall one. Barb clipped in and began her descent to the desert floor. As we waited, we delighted in the western sun shining and all the grandeur that is canyon country. After we all descended safely, I coiled the ropes in preparation for our next adventure.
To start day two, our armada of Toyota vehicles traveled down the dusty two-track south of Moab. The desert was still and quiet. Well, it was June! Not prime time to be in the deserts of the southwest due to the heat, but the quietness was worth it. The road followed a large, swooping bend, and off to the north sat a “town.” Well, not really a normal town. The town sat back in the rocks. The homes were carved into the rock. Long ago Mormons settled here; to help combat the heat of the desert, the residents purposely built their homes into the rocks. We snapped a few photos and moved onto our main objective of the day, Horse Canyon.
A ruin/home in exquisite shape. It appeared someone had just left. Nope. This ruin was at least 700 years old! We all gathered below it and marveled at how the structure could last so long. Our discoveries didn’t stop there.
Horse Canyon rarely opens because flash floods destroy it. Quick sand, water holes, and dirt quagmires can block vehicle passage. The National Park Service spends a great deal of time attempting to keep the road open but eventually throws in the towel when the monsoons kick in. But, our timing was perfect. The water had dried, and the road was in decent shape. We took our permits and thanked the ranger. So, what’s the big deal about Horse Canyon? It was home to the Ancestral Puebloans/Anasazi around the year 1300; their homes, ruins and granaries remain in the Neapolitan colored canyon. Yes, one could hike the entire canyon; but with vehicle access, the explorer can explore drainages, alcoves, and buttes that hold the “goods.”
“What’s that?” Shane called out. “Where?” I responded.
Sam’s Toyota Tacoma threw dust into a cloud as he drove up a short but steep sand embankment. My eyes spotted it before my Land Cruise came to a stop. Tucked back into a red rock alcove was a massive ruin.
When our vehicles couldn’t go any further, we set off on foot at the end of the road. Flood damage had ravaged the road which resulted in a five-foot drop/ canal. Our packs loaded with water and snacks, we strolled off, not at a blistering pace. The desert sun beat down on us. However, excitement supplied our determination.
Shane pointed to an alcove in the distance but directly in front us. I squinted while Shane glassed it. I snatched the binoculars from Shane and spotted it immediately: the ladder hanging from the door of the ruin. What a crazy site for a ruin, and the Ponderosa pine ladder was quite unusual. The “goods” were unveiling themselves. We just had to pay attention. After three more hours of hiking and searching, we decided to return to our vehicles. We spotted many more dwellings of the Ancestral Puebloans, but time was not on our side. Remember, we had to exit the canyon by sunset. In our vehicles, we retraced our tracks through the sand back toward the entrance gate. I couldn’t resist stopping to take a few more pictures. Horse Canyon is a magical place. I was sad to leave. Well, almost…Shane high-centered his vehicle
in a sandy bog right before the gate. By this time, the sun had set leaving us in the dark. “Want me to pull you out with the winch?” Shane stubbornly accepted. He wanted to extract his vehicle on his own merits, but we had to go! The gate closed behind us and so did the overlanding experience that is Horse Canyon. We didn’t start early the following morning. We had made camp around 10:30 the previous night, so our energy waned. With coffee in the body, I gained a little more pep in my step to start the day’s adventure. Traveling in our vehicles along a desert two track, a desert oasis dumbfounded us. We noticed a river that had water…a lot of water— even a waterfall! I scanned the walls of the canyons and commented that we weren’t the first ones to realize water in the desert was “gold!” Sure enough, I spotted the dwellings the Ancestral Puebloans/Anasazi built into the alcove. Off we went. We climbed the rock face directly where we thought accessing the ruins would be easy—denied. We followed a narrow sliver pathway of rock right up to the point where it disappeared—denied. Some things are left to appreciate from afar. On this day, that is exactly what we did. Our Toyota caravan, comprised of two Tacomas, a Tundra, and two 100 series Land Cruisers, rallied down a dirt two track. My eyes fixated on the prickly pear cacti and Indian paintbrush in bloom. Surely, this would be the final week or two before the desert heat would overtake the flowers and kill them for another year. I closed the barbwire gate, and we aired up our tires. It was time to rally south on Highway 191.
I spotted the turnoff to Muley Point. Pavement turned to dirt once again as we continued south. We were now on Cedar Mesa, the southern section of the new Bears Ears National Monument. We raced against the setting sun. We wanted Muley Point to serve as our campsite for the night. Luck was on our side, and we arrived just in time to witness “magic hour.” Shane grabbed his monstrous 8x10 camera and placed his tripod on the slickrock edge. I quickly followed suit with my camera while the others marveled at the view. The skyline to the south showcased the towering buttes of Monument Valley in Arizona; directly below us we watched the dirt-colored waters of the San Juan River. The lack of wind created a blissful, relaxing night. With our spirits high, our heads hit the pillows for a good night’s sleep. Shane led us to Lee’s Ferry Lodge right off of Highway 89A. We quickly choose a beer from their large selection and retired to the porch. Planted in comfortable chairs with our feet propped on the lodge pole pine railings, we fixated on the desert landscape of Marble Canyon. Ed and Brian planned to meet us here. In the meantime, we laughed and told stories while gazing onto canyon country. The following day with our group of desert wanderers numbering seven, we drove west. As rain plastered the windshield, I kept my eyes open for the right turn onto the House Rock Valley Road. The rooster tails of dust followed us north as we passed the California Condor viewing area. These birds have made a come back and use the Vermillion Cliffs as a nesting area. The road rose and lowered, twisted and turned like a two-track rollercoaster. We headed to two iconic southwest landmarks: Buckskin Gulch and the Wave. Buckskin Gulch is touted as the world’s longest slot canyon, and it did not disappoint. The walls towered above us; we tilted our heads skyward. Logs wedged high above signified the one, true slot canyon fear—flash floods. But, on this day it was just a causal walk in the park. Ed and Brian had permits to the Wave and met us as we exited Buckskin. Brian asked, “Should I run down to see Buckskin? Even for a few minutes?” “You better!” I responded. An hour later, we all returned to the vehicles. “Onward!” Sam shouted. We headed east toward Big Water, Utah. Big Water is the southern gateway to the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. This began the longest off-road portion of our trip.
That evening, light struck the surroundings and near our vehicles as we proceeded on the dirt road. “Magic hour” was upon us, and we reveled in it. The Grand Staircase-Escalante Monument is the nations largest monument in the lower 48 states. The land is comprised of canyons, plateaus, towers, and very few people. Travel across the monument is comprised of dirt roads and two-tracks. The monument also borders the Glen Canyon Recreation area, aka Lake Powell. The sun remained high in the sky and seemed to never want to set. The roads were nicely marked, and we made our way to the lake. Brian and Ed both yelled out, “Wow!” We weren’t at the lake but high above it at Alstrom Point. We were captivated by the views, and generally, remained speechless. We prepared dinner, started a fire, and enjoyed cold beverages. Was this view for real? It was! I tried to focus on the billions of stars twinkling overhead. The next morning, I savored the last swig of coffee before we drove our vehicles toward the Smoky Mountain Road. This dirt road runs basically north-south and serves as a main artery for the monument. High cirrus clouds appeared to our west, and we crossed our fingers that no rain would meet us along the journey. Roads in the monument can quickly become impassable. Today’s journey required us to travel 100 miles or so on some of the most remote roads in the US. Off we went. Our vehicles climbed the Kelly Grade, which is a steep dugway/roadway, carved along cliffs and mesa tops. It was hard not to strain the neck while gazing at the views all around. We topped out. The landscape quickly changed. Gone was the dry arid desert environment, replaced by grasses and Juniper trees. The temperatures hovered around the low 60’s. Amazing changes. The road continued atop the Kaiparowits Plateau. This enormous mesa top is home to nothing. Just the way I like it. Today, the high plateau is used by local ranchers to graze cattle. Seven hundred years ago, the Ancestral Puebloans escaped the heat of the lower altitudes and made “summer homes” where it’s cooler. Our eyes scanned the slickrock trying to determine where those summer homes could be hidden. Brian yelled, “I think I found one!” Sure enough, he had spotted a stunning ruin tucked back in the slickrock depression. What made the site even better was a small, natural arch above it. A room with a view…. The afternoon sun started to cast shadows among the Juniper trees, which signified that we had to get moving. We drove down Left Hand Collet Road, notorious for wash outs and bad conditions. There were a few cowboys wrangling horses at the top when we approached. “How’s the road?” I questioned. The cowboy responded. “It’s in great shape. I pulled the horse trailer up it.” With that, we got the “green light” and off we went. The road switch backed to the canyon bottom. Once on the canyon bottom, we witnessed geology at work. The road followed the wash through the sandstone watercourse. Above us, enormous boulders hung seemingly ready at any moment to tip over. I understood how this road could get so hammered by the flash floods ripping through the canyon. Shane commented that the last time he was
on this road, it was a boulder field nightmare and thought his truck was going to split into two. On this day, we enjoyed a leisurely drive through the magic of canyon country. I pulled over at the unmarked to scan the map. I identified the intersection as Hole in the Rock Road. This road, formerly a wagon track, is famous for the Mormon expedition in the 1800s. Today, this 60-mile road leads to some awe-inspiring goods of canyon country. If we took a left turn, it would lead us to the town of Escalante, Utah. What to do? With smiles on our faces, the choice was obvious. We all made a right turn and continued down the Hole in the Rock Road. We had more to see and do…. We spent two stellar weeks covering the goods of canyon country through the states of Arizona and Utah. No, not everything we did is documented in this article. You, as the reader, will hopefully get the bug and “find” all the things I didn’t report and others that we never discovered. The land is vast and calls for the overlander to adventure on it. What are you waiting for? Get after it! Planning Guide *The deserts of Utah and Arizona are remote. Stock up on supplies whenever you see a grocery store and gas station! *Carry 5 gallons of extra gas *Four Wheel Drive/High Clearance vehicles will allow you to venture and visit most places. *Take Caution when rain is in the forecast. The roads can turn into a quagmire. Wait for them to dry out. *Cell Phone Service is sporadic. I carried a rescue beacon. *I use the Benchmark Maps of Utah and Arizonat
Michael Holland Instagram: @DesertRush
NEXT DESINATION, FURTHER OVERLANDER PROFILE
ets walk down memory lane. The short and sweet is an 8-year career in the US Navy and living in a van for the past 22 months. How I got here and what it has taught me is not short and not always sweet. When I turned 18 years old I joined the US Navy, both Grandfathers served during WWII and I intended on carrying on the tradition. From the start the goal was a full 20-year career to retirement, that didnâ€™t work out. In 2007 I was stationed at The US Navy Ceremonial Guard in Washington DC. For the next two years I preformed military funerals, 21 gun salutes and handed over flags to fallen sailors. By the end of 2009 I had preformed over 3,000 military funerals. In only two years at that command I had married and then shortly after leaving divorced, drank an awful lot and saw a lot of death. I dealt with the reality of war on the home front and it left its mark. From 2009 till the end of my contract in 2015 I deployed or detached 10 times. I spent a little over 4 years over seas and more than two in the Middle East. But every idea I had planted in my brain about where I wanted be by 25 was the complete opposite. I had paved a path I was unable to walk and everything was going wrong. Between 2013 and 2014 I had no idea what I was doing with my life, I was coming to the obvious conclusion that I needed to separate from the Navy. I needed to and go find myself but I was struggling to find the path to myself. I had been working my whole life, my family instilled hard work in me at a young age and I did not want to let them down. I was also very afraid; the military had always been there for me, I had a large safety blanket from paychecks to mentors. But something had to give.
I spent a lot time on deployments or at home thinking over what I wanted to do. By late 2013 I was sitting in the Persian Gulf losing my mind. My life was starting to crack and break in from all sides. I had been partying way to hard, working even harder and I needed to break that cycle. I had only a cell phone to do my research and crummy Wifi, but I found something on Instagram, I found vanlife. Immediately I began plotting a way to make this my reality, I was going to make this happen. I saved all I could, bought a van, volunteered for another Middle East tour and built my dream van. At the end August in 2015 I was no longer on active duty and I was driving a 1995 Chevy G30 from Washington St. to Montana. My maiden voyage was a one-day non-stop haul to see an old Navy buddy. I left the Navy on August 15th 2015 and sense then I have been on the road. During 2015 and 2016 I spent 11 months on the road, no work, no responsibilities, total freedom. But to say it was a smooth and easy transition would be a total lie; I had a lot on my mind. Left over anxiety was hard to shake dreams were persistent and mistakes I made at work or in that funeral wouldnâ€™t go away. I was a bloody mess. But I wanted to experience new things, this is what I had set out for, clear that head and get back to living. I wanted to see the West, road trips down the Cali coast or into the Sierra and I did. I found lonely camps in Utah and all across Oregon, Montana, Idaho, Washington, California, Nevada, New Mexico.. I found my space. Then I road tripped across the US, a few times, made amazing life long friends and truly found myself.
I set out for things I previously believed were completely out of my reach. I spent months living in climbing spots scaring myself daily trying everything offered to me. I connected with old friends, met new ones and learned how to slow down. Epic things followed and I embraced them and continue to this day. I have pushed myself out of my comfort zone, found my true breaking point and gone further. In Montana one afternoon I bumped into a Grizzly Bear on a solo backpack, I have seen Black Bears, Cougars, monstrous Elk and all the animals in between. I have spent time in the deserts of the South West so wide open that I had to stop, blink scrape my jaw off the floor then blink again. I found what I can truly do alone and how far I am willing to go alone. I had worked myself to the point of collapse on deployment after deployment and broken down at funerals for fellow sailors. But setting out on the road alone taught me how to handle these things. In the deserts or the mountains I find myself looking back, I find strength in growing from all of these experiences. For example having the coast guard called on me as I was being swept out to sea on a surfboard, funerals I did for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans. The days and weeks spent living on a flight line in strange countries, wild nights in Europe or sleeping on the side of a noisy highway in a van. Everything has its place, reason and lesson to grow from. In only 28 years of life I have a lot left to gain and a lot to be thankful for. However from here I plan on gaining and learning the next few lessons from the front seat of a hippie van rolling down the road. Taking off was the best decision I ever made. Next destination, further.
Rob Morgan Instagram - @This.Wild.Dream Website - TheseWildDreams.com
OVERLANDING, DOWNUNDER ADVENTURE STORY
he alpine mountains of the Victorian High Country make up some of the steepest and most challenging terrain in Australia. Living in Melbourne, we are only a few hours drive from this mountain playground. Every weekend is a chance to escape the hectic city and explore the endless labyrinth of 4x4 tracks and stunning scenery. Our launching pad for the trip was Cheynes Bridge, just south of Licola, a tiny town nestled in the valleys below the mountains. I use this spot a lot if I’m heading to this region of the High Country. It’s an easy drive from Melbourne, only about 3 hours depending on traffic. The spot has heaps of space (enough for a few big groups), it has fire pits and drop toilets, not to mention it’s on the river so a quick cast isn’t out of the question. When we arrived at camp for the first night, the excitement was palpable! It had been a while since a few of the lads had been out in the bush and you can tell they were hanging to hit the tracks. It was an all Nissan convoy for this trip with three GU Patrols and two D22 Navaras. . Will this mean no recoveries? We shall see!
Dingo Hill Track Packed up and on the road by about 8:30am, I had to admit a few of us have felt better, but a stop into the Licola general store for a coffee and pie saw us right. As I always like to do, we had a quick chat with the locals at the store to get the latest news on our planned tracks. According to an old mate, the rivers in the area had never been so low but everything else was good (except the bloody dust). Our first track for the day was Dingo Hill Track. To reach the start of Dingo Hill from Licola, head north for several kilometers along Tamboritha road. It’s a windy, high-range gravel road. I’d definitely advise dropping your tyre pressures to about 25 PSI for this drive. It’s pretty rough and the lower pressures really help smooth out those corrugations (along with increasing traction and breaking distance). Arriving at the start of Dingo Hill Track, we dropped the tyre pressures to low range levels. For me, that started at 20 pends in the front and 22 in the rear. I leave a little extra air in the rears as the majority of the extra weight in my vehicle is stored over the rear axle. Of course, if the terrain gets hardcore I drop a few more PSI. The choice all depends on the track in front of you.
The track starts off pretty easily as you make your way into the forest. There are a number of short creek crossings, which were nothing more than streams. Looks like old mate wasn’t exaggerating, it was incredibly dry. With conditions this dry, the ruts and bog holes that scatter the track were easily tackled. Traction was abundant and most of the rigs made it though with ease. Matt did manage to diff out his Patrol on one section, but a gentle snatch backwards had him quickly on his way. In the wet, when its muddy and the rivers are flowing, this would be a very different challenge. Further down the track there are some steep hill climbs. Again, traction was easily found and everyone made it up without issue. A couple of these hills might get interesting in the wet, but most rigs with good tyres and suspension should be sweet. As they say, what goes up must come down. On Dingo Hill Track this means switchbacks, lots of switchbacks! As you descend through the hordes of 3-point turns, it’s a good time to take in the stunning views. The lads with IFS (independent front suspension) rigs will have no dramas, but as fellow Patrol owners will know, bloody B-doubles have better turning circles!
I really wouldn’t advise towing a trailer on this track, but if you do, be aware that the switchbacks are very tight and the drops are deadly steep. At the end of Dingo Hill there is a fork, you can either take the Butcher Country Link Track (marked steep on the Hema), which leads onto Butcher Country Track or you can take Caledonia River Track. They both run parallel to each other and finish up on Howitt Road. Caledonia River Track At the fork there’s enough the convoy off the tracks. We took the opportunity to pull over and cook up a feed. After a much needed bacon and e.g. wrap, we pointed the rigs at the Caledonia River Track. As the name suggests, there are a few river crossings to negotiate along this track. Luckily I love a good river crossing. It’s one of the aspects of 4WDing that really gets the blood pumping. Sadly, there wasn’t much blood pumping this time, mostly due to the river crossings being so low. Honestly, I’ve driven through deeper puddles! On the bright side, I now have a good reason to come back closer to winter. Caledonia River Track does however offer more than just river crossings. There are plenty of good hill climbs to keep you entertained and for those of us who enjoy a good view (who doesn’t), there is some stunning scenery.
One particular section of the track provides the biggest challenge. It’s a steep, uneven hill climb containing a few step-ups. There is also a heap of very loose rock and bull dust which makes traction harder to find. Matt made his way up first in his GU Patrol. After watching him disappear into a cloud of dust, we heard a call over the UHF asking fora spotter. He’d lost traction and slid sideways in to a position you never want to be in on a steep hill. After assessing the situation, we maneuvered him into a safe position to have another crack at the climb. Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough traction and combined with the lack of momentum, he failed to make the climb again. This time we elected to use the winch. There’s no point in risking damage to the vehicle or the track. After all, this is why we bolt the things to our fourbys. We quickly had the winch recovery setup; a simple single line pull from a strong anchor would do the trick. In no time, the Patrol was safely pulled onto a section where it could find traction and continue the climb. Next it was my turn. As traction was at a premium, I hit the front e-locker button and the big GU Patrol (The Great White as it’s better known) just walked up the track. When I came to the section where Matt had gotten into trouble, I picked a slightly different line (I had the advantage of inspecting the track during his recovery). The big girl took it all in her stride and I was at the top without a worry. Tell you what; I bloody love that Harrop e-locker. It makes an amazing amount of difference to the trucks performance.
This harder section can be bypassed but as the rest of the convoy discovered, the bypass track does take a long detour before it rejoins the main track. Further along the track, we passed through some beautiful country. The drive wasn’t too difficult - I just cruised along admiring the bush. The last obstacle of note was a potentially tricky rock step up. There are a few lines to choose from so I hung to the right and didn’t have any issue. Judging by the diff marks on some rocks, a few people have got it wrong. Caledonia River Track isn’t short as it takes a few hours to negotiate. You gain a fair amount of altitude as well, finishing up around 1500 meters by the time you complete the track. It was about 4pm when we pulled off the track at Howitt road. By this time we were all ready for a frothy and good feed so we called it a day and set up camp near Howitt Hut. This is a cracking camping spot as there are heaps of firewood nearby which is a bloody good thing because it gets cold at this altitude even in summer. There are good drop toilets up at the hut and most of the formed campsites have large fire pits. v Time to swap the drivers seat for a camp chair beside the fire and crack a cold beer. Does it get any better? If you want to see more of what Australian overlanding has to offer, why not follow my social page and check out the website. (Not quite finished at time of writing but please feel free to join the mailing list to get the latest announcements)
Elliot Mann Instagram: @4wd_addiction Website: www.4wdaddiction.com.au Facebook: @4wdaddiction
DESK TO GLORY INTERVIEW
We were lucky enough to catch up with Richard and Ashley from Desk To Glory and ask them about their recent trip to South America. Personally, we have followed them since the very beginning of their trip and have loved every photo and story they’ve shared through instagram or on their website. We were very excited to ask them questions about their trip, check them out: Can you tell us a little about yourselves personally and what inspired the name that is Desk To Glory? We were trying to come up with a name for our blog and were struggling. But one day Ashley saw me (Richard) watching Dust to Glory for the thousandth time when “planning” our trip though Baja. It hit her, we were leaving our desk jobs in search of glory (whatever that would mean). Desk. To. Glory. What or who first inspired your idea for your trip down the Pan American Highway? How long did it take you guys to plan and prepare for your trip? With a simple text message conversation our short-term life plans were about to change. Ashley: Richard: Ashley: Richard: Ashley:
We need to have a life chat today. Do you want a divorce? ;) Haha, NO I don’t lol Do you want a baby? Um, NO
We met for a “life chat” at Trees Organic Coffee in Vancouver, BC on April 13, 2013. Our full-time day jobs combined with our part-time evening/weekend jobs became a little too much for us that afternoon. It was time for a change and time to ask ourselves the question, “What are we going to do about it?” We decided on a whim that it was time to go travelling. We gave ourselves 5 months to pay off our debts, sell our junk, save some money, build a truck, rent out our condo, and quit our jobs. Sounded like a good plan to us! Actually, the first plan included a backpacking trip through India and Nepal. We thought this would be the best bang for the buck and offer some great hiking opportunities. Very quickly we realized that we craved something different, but still very simple. Ashley said that she wanted to relax on a beach and not have to worry about hauling around a backpack all the time. We quickly had this vision in our heads of parking on a beach in Baja, setting up camp for a week at a time, and just soaking up the sun until we were recharged and ready for adventure.
We had been following a few blogs from overlanders (Lost World Expedition, Home On The Highway, and Ruined Adventures) who had done similar trips in similarly antiquated Toyotas. Honestly, we had never really thought we would be able to pull it off. Who can just pack up and leave their jobs for a year at a time? Blasphemy. It had seemed like such a pipe dream until we made the decision to go and set our plan into action. Once we made the actual decision to leave it really was all about making a list and checking off the tasks one by one. We didn’t have much time to think about the trip we were about to set off on. Even nowadays, being back in Canada after two years of travelling, it’s really hard to believe we actually did it. The first month on the road was spent exploring the west coast of the U.S. while continuously trying to escape the rain of the Pacific Northwest. Baja, Mexico was next. By the time we had finished with the Baja Peninsula we felt like we really hit our stride. We focused on each day as it came, not worrying about the past or the future. The single word we can use to describe those first months is freedom. It’s hard to explain it any differently than that. We had the ability to spend a week on a beach in Baja, Mexico or ditch out the following day to go explore the mountains. What’s the story behind choosing Little Red as your home and vehicle for your journey? We had decided to leave on our trip to Panama (at that time we hadn’t considered South America) and knew that this truck (a 1990 Toyota Pickup) was sitting in Richard’s Dad’s backyard, left for dead.
It was essentially rust-free, but needed a new engine, suspension, wheels, tires, interior, etc. Since nobody was using it, we asked nicely if we could, you know, take it to Central America. Although we received a couple of questioning looks, nobody had any objections so we went straight to work on it. Essentially, we tried to leave the truck as stock as possible so that we could easily find replacement parts on the road if needed. We replaced the springs and shocks with beefy Old Man Emu parts, but shied away from a custom SAS. The venerable 2.4L 22RE was rebuilt instead of swapping in something more powerful. Bumpers and rock sliders were added for off-road protection and also to protect from the crazy (or so they seemed to us) Latin American drivers. The specialty mods were reserved to improve our camp life. We added a second battery (an Optima Yellowtop), a Samlex America 85W solar panel, and a 37qt ARB fridge. That combined with our CVT Mt. Bachelor rooftop tent round out the major additions. We tried to keep everything as simple as possible to avoid unnecessary problems on the road. The K.I.S.S., Keep It Simple Stupid, ideology was the main thought for the build because we really wanted to enjoy the trip instead of constantly fixing the truck. Thankfully there haven’t been many major issues that left us stranded (except for a broken axle in Toronto of all places), but after 80,000 km of hard driving, plenty of parts of been replaced before significant damage occurred. We had a pinion seal replaced in Panama, clutch kit and brakes in Colombia, and tie-rod ends in Peru.
All of these parts were in stock in each of the respective towns. We are picky when it comes to who touches the truck if it isn’t Richard, but you learn pretty quickly which mechanics to trust and which ones honestly want to help, but who you wouldn’t necessarily want touching your rig. This is a function over form build. Everything on the truck was done for a purpose, to get us as far away from home as possible with as much comfort as necessary, and then be able to safely return us back to where we started. Reliability and safety are the two most important things to worry about. Our must haves include our ARB fridge and LED lights that are strategically placed for night time visibility. Could you tell us a little bit about your run in with the volcano? At 6:00 a.m. we awoke to the sound of a horn honking, and someone yelling outside of our tent, “Hello!? Hello? Spanish or English? Do you speak Spanish or English?” We unzipped our tent and poked our heads out to find an agitated climbing guide standing at the base of our tent ladder. “We were on the mountain this morning and there was an eruption. The park is closed and we are evacuating now. It is not safe to be here.” We jumped out of the tent and saw a big billowing cloud where Cotopaxi Volcano was. There was ash covering the truck and the tent, and the air smelled distinctly like sulphur. The guides, hotel staff and other guests were outside packing up, jumping into the back of moving trucks, and running around in a hurry directing people. We rubbed the sleep out of our eyes, jumped into the truck, slammed the tent closed, and got the heck out of there. We were really stoked it didn’t happen the day earlier when we had hiked up to the glacier. Good timing!
Do you guys have a place or places that really stood out to you on your trip? We absolutely loved our time in Peru and the Cordillera Blanca. We are our best selves when travelling, but especially so in the mountains. The Cordillera Blanca mountain range, a part of the larger Andes, includes several peaks reaching to 20,000ft and we spent weeks exploring the area. Bolivia also stood out as a favourite due to the complete diversity of landscape in the relatively small country. Sajama National Park, the city of La Paz, Salar De Uyuni salt flats, and the Lagunas route were all stand out memories of the entire trip and found in a country we spent only a few weeks in. Seeing Mt. Fitz Roy in Argentina for the first time absolutely took our breath away. Did you run into many other overlanders on the way down? Almost every single day in Mexico and Central America. Everyone seemed to spread out a bit once in South America, but it was common to end up at a popular campsite with five to ten vehicles. UK, German, and Swiss license plates seemed to be the most common, but plenty of people travelling from North America and other South American countries could be found. We spent our first month in Mexico with Song Of The Road and a few weeks with George and Jenine (Traveling the Americas) and Mallary and Chris (Our Coordinates) which included almost our entire time in Bolivia.
Would you recommend this trip to people? Without a doubt this was the greatest thing we have done with our lives to date. Zero regrets. If you could give someone planning a similar trip some advice, what would it be? One piece of advice we hear regularly (and highly recommend) is that you test your rig and your gear plenty of time in advance of your trip. With this you’ll learn very quickly whether your set-up will work for you long term and if you need to make any changes before you are too far from home. We ignored this advice, mostly since we had limited time due to a self-imposed departure date. We only had 500 km (310 miles) of break-in kilometers and the first oil change on the new motor before we started south. The first night on the trip was the first time we had slept in our rooftop tent or tried out our awning. We had no idea what we were doing, but figured out everything we needed along the way. We’re not saying this way doesn’t work, as it obviously has for us, you just have to be able to adapt to situations and make changes along the way if needed. It’s a case of “Do as I say, not as I do”. We strongly recommend saving more money than we did and spending more time testing your rig. Saying that, we are happy we didn’t get bogged down in the details and just hit the road. Maybe somewhere in between is the best option.
Richard and Ashley Website: www.DeskToGlory.com Instagram: @DeskToGlory
A curated selection of Instagram photos that have been hashtagged #provenoverland. If you want a chance to get featured on our instagram account or in our magazine use our hashtag on your instagram photos!
Instagram: @ jf17martel
Published on Jul 22, 2017