Ride along with us in our Land Rover as we meet dedicated wildlife conservationists, view amazing wildlife and have some crazy adventures along the way via our Podcasts.
Downsizing! Russ and I have lived in about every space imaginable. From a 4,000 sq ft mission home, spacious two story, patio home, apartment, RV and now… a Land Rover.
Without a doubt the last being the most fun and challenging.
Enjoy the Podcast!
Watch the video “Africa for 8 Months”
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Living in a Land Rover in Africa
Running a nonprofit to help those who protect African wildlife from the other side of the planet… well, it can be done, but…
How could we possibly afford to spend more time in Africa? How could we travel to meet and get more involved with these dedicated individuals? Experience life in the bush? Share more intimate first hand stories, raise more funds, and simply to do our part better?
It was in April 2014, after we’d spent 10 weeks in Africa, that Russ took a good look at our finances and said, “If we’re really careful we can retire and spend half the year in Africa!”
Over the years I’d never been very motivated by the detailed budgets Russ had laid out… but this was different. He had my full attention.
We’d figured out some time back that if we lowered our expenses we only had to work part of the year so we had gotten out of debt and chosen to live on wheels in a 38’ RV. However, if I’d thought that was skinning up…
“If we buy a 4×4, with a rooftop tent, fully kitted and live in it we can spend more time in Africa” I couldn’t believe Russ was actually serious. But he was.
Less than five months later we were back in Africa and the proud owners of our second home on wheels, an old Land Rover.
Let’s do it!
Russ, the engineer that he is, spent hours, days, months, researching which vehicle would be best. He looked at maintenance records, drivability, reliability, endurance, owner satisfaction. He finally settled on… well, I can’t even remember… because to be honest, in the back of my mind there really was only one vehicle to consider… a Land Rover. No brainer right? It’s the African icon!
Just how much of an icon it is we didn’t find out till later. We thought it simply to be more African, nostalgic, but we had no idea. People walk up to us in parking lots, seek us out in public places, wave and hoot at us on the road, or just give a starry eyed look as we pass by. It’s really like driving a Harley-Davidson without the rumble.
Like any classic it must bring back memories of times past and experiences real or coveted for a wide range of people.
It’s a 2001 TD5 Defender. Fortunately it was quite well equipped when we bought it. However, we’ve added and updated to make it just right for us.
Let’s start from the top on down. To sleep we have a comfortable queen sized space in our Howling Moon rooftop tent with windows on the side and on top. The tent can be opened and closed in about 20 minutes. When we are stationary for a couple of days or the weather is inclement it has a vestibule to attach to create a fully enclosed sitting area for cooking and working around the ladder. Next to the tent is a large can for storing spare parts and recovery equipment, and next to it are 2 20l jerry cans (one with diesel and the water). Attached to the roof rack is a shovel and an axe as well as a large awning for shade on the opposite from the tent.
Inside we have an 80l fridge, dual batteries, collapsible solar panels, inverters and converts, a huge duffle holding a ground tent and other camping gear, plastic buckets for toiletries, first aid and medical items (have to be prepared for that runny tummy or unexpected fever or injury), a bag of kitchen supplies and a basket for fresh fruit and vegetables. Then there are two drawers for food and supplies. A cargo net across the back is perfect for pillows, towels and other light weight items. On the back seat are our clothing duffels. On the floor smaller duffels with maps, electronic and other devices. Under the seat is room for bags to stuff dirty clothes and shoes.
On the back door is the spare tire, below it the high lift jack, step up and ladder to access the roof. On the opposite side is a large gas canister used for cooking. On the front are two spotlights, a winch for pulling us out of mud or sand, and a grass seed catcher to keep them from choking up the radiator. Of course on the side is a snorkel, which is not for traversing deep water, but to pull clean air into the engine on when traveling on dusty dirt roads.
Masterfully incorporated into the vehicle are 3 fuel tanks so we can go around 1,000km depending on terrain, as well as a 20l water tank with spigot in the back.
Except for a toilet and shower we are pretty self-contained. Though two decent sized square tubs serve as sinks to wash dishes, wash and rinse for doing laundry, and basin for bathing (if needed.)
One thing you must have when living in a Landy is time. As everything takes twice as long.
Living in a regular home with the regular conveniences we get used to getting simple things like brushing our teeth done without much ado. However, living in a Landy most everyday tasks take twice as long. However, before that turns you off… look at it this way, it becomes part of the experience!
I’ll share a few everyday tasks and you may be surprised how much fun daily chores can be… or can they?
Depending on if we put them up for the night (due to rain or heavy dew) we begin by setting up our two chairs and the table, usually in a sunny spot with a nice view. Then out comes the kitchen duffle, we’ll need the cutting board, bowls, spoons and paring knife.
I climb on the step and open the top loading fridge, hook door to the net to keep it open and reach in for an apple, a pear, a papaya and the box of juice. Items like bananas and pineapple are stored in a soft sided basket.
As there is no kitchen sink it’s off to the nearest water source (sometimes it’s our onboard tank with easy to use spigot.) Once washed the fruit are ready to be cut up. Cereal and our nut and seed mix is stashed in our food drawer. Add some juice (milk goes bad too quickly) and were ready to enjoy breakfast watching the birds. In most places we camp there are busy song birds and generally quite a variety of species.
Clean up requires mozing over to the nearest faucet. If water is of a premium (no water other than what we carry with us) the paper towels and wet wipes come in handy.
Taking a Shower
Absence definitely makes the heart grow fonder!
Grab some clean clothes out of the duffle, toiletry bag and don’t forget the towel as you trot off to the (hopefully) outdoor shower with (hopefully) ample and constant hot water. Before showering you must find a place to hang up your clean clothes in a dry part of the shower stall, take out your soap, shampoo and foot scrubber (essential if wearing flip flops for any length of time), remove clothes and place in a spot that will stay dry. Turn on the water, careful, the one on the left is not always the hot water. Aahhh! A shower feels heavenly when out camping.
Once all washed up the trick is getting your underwear and pants on without getting them damp from the wet floor (especially if you wear the same flip flops to shower.) Here’s definitely where your balancing exercises pay off!
Then it’s walking back to the camp stuffing the dirty clothes into the laundry bag under the back seat, hanging the towel over the chair to dry and putting the toiletry bag back in its place (mine is behind the back seat.) Oh yes, and don’t look down, because your feet will probably have gotten dirty again already… however, the rest of you feels wonderful, at least for a few minutes.
Space is limited as are the change of clothes, so washing when the weather is good and we’re staying put for the day is important. We have two tubs, one for washing the second for rinsing. So, grab the laundry bag and head for the faucet, or some camps have a wash area. Sort out the clothes, here its less about color and whites and more about cleanest to dirtiest. Fill up the wash tub with water and get some suds going. Scrub a dub then squeeze and into the rinse tub it goes. Of course there has to be ample water to dump out the wash and rinse tubs numerous times. At the end everything gets wrung out really well and it’s off to air drying on the portable clotheslines that we’ve strung from tree to tree or Landy to tree. If it’s a breezy day, everything is dry and folded and packed away in no time, if rain moves in, well then, that’s a different story.
Set the table and chairs in the sun or shade or in the wind shelter of the Landy. Take out the kitchen duffle. Open the fridge grab the plastic boxes and pick the desired vegies and drop them in the tub. Pull other food items out of the drawer. Go wash the vegies. Cut up the vegies. Take out the gas stove and pan. Pour some olive oil in the pan, drop all the vegies in and sprinkle generously with special South African seasoning. Add a splash of water so the vegies won’t stick, cover the pan and light the single burner gas cooker.
When the vegies are tender serve, sit back and enjoy the scenery.
Clean up follows as with breakfast.
One disadvantage of a roof top tent is that you have to pack it up anytime you want to drive somewhere. However, we’ve gotten it down to about a 20 minute process. It also helps you keep things very simple… with few if any extras to pull out and put back in.
Going to bed
After a couple of weeks we figured out how to leave our bedding (except for the warm blanket) on the bed when we close up the tent and this helps at bed time. After marching off to the ablution (bathhouse) to wash up and change (though we frequently change right next to the Landy as no one is around.) We grab our laptops, any extra clothes if it might get cold, lock up the Landy and climb up into the tent. There we read or write for a bit before calling it a day.
With the African night noises and stars above it generally makes for a great night’s sleep.
It the birds that tell us its morning, to check I peer out to see the first signs of light on the horizon as the sun readies to shine on another day in Africa.
Living in a Land Rover in Africa… where the ordinary is anything but ordinary!