The Landcruiser arriveth and the Stratford Overland Show.
Early on Thursday 21st September I took a train to Kendal, to collect our Landcruiser imported from Holland by Stan Healy of Overlander. (Yes I was wearing crocks all weekend as I had left my shoes in France).
I had slept badly as Jim and I had just come back from France and my Virgin train ticket had disappeared from my emails and I was all of a dither as I was setting out for Euston with no ticket! Things looked up when a new ticket was issued by Virgin - phew.
I had agreed to pick up our new Landcruiser and to drive it South, via the Adventure Overland Show in Stratford. As luck would have it, friends have a flat in Stratford, so I would stay for the weekend, then drive the Landy to London via Julian Voelcker of Overland Cruisers near Ledbury, who had agreed to give it a technical appraisal on the Monday.
So, I was whizzing past hills and dales on the train, that only two weeks before, Jim and I had trekked through on foot, as part of our aborted attempt to walk the Coast to Coast path in Cumbria. (An altogether different story).
As I drove down the M6 and then the M40 and arrived in Stratford, I realised that this was going to be no ordinary driving experience. I was learning how life is lived in the slow lane. I am not sure that I went faster than 60mph and my main concern was that the braking distances were not at all like a modern lightweight car. The acceleration is slow and quite frankly it feels like driving a slow tank! But, the sound of it is something else. The engine makes a deep rumble and it sounds wonderfully reassuring. I kind of feel that it will take us anywhere we decide to go - which is just as well.
Already adapted as a camper, the vehicle was interesting enough to be on the Overlander display and the following afternoon, I was all set to deliver the beast to the show.
On arrival, I found it incredibly exciting to be located in an area where a huge number of very large overlanding lorries and their owners rumbled up one after another. It seemed like a never ending stream of amazing massive, custom adapted, 4x4 camper vehicles. There were converted fire trucks, old military vehicles and custom built set ups sitting astride massive axels and wheels designed to cope with most eventualities, on and off road. Their owners had traversed the globe, some with their young families and had many a story to tell. Others were about to set off on epic journeys and were packed to go. I felt that I was in the presence of a new club whose membership I did not yet qualify for.
On Stan's Overlander stand, in a field, I opened up our pop top roof and decided to paint our metal recovery tracks black, before fixing them onto the side of the vehicle, as they were sort of battered and vaguely rusty looking - not a good look. Whilst I was doing this, people sauntered passed and said that they should not be black as they get too hot, or that they should be painted white or that they will only get scraped and battered again, so I should not bother painting them at all. I carried on.
Sitting around in the Landy for a couple of days, (something I am going to do a lot of), with lots of visitors peering in, was quite an experience. What I realised is how enthusiastic people are about old Land-cruisers, particularly these very old classic cars built to last in the 80's and 90's. In the UK too, they are rare and sought after. Indeed we met another couple who had tried to buy ours via Stan, but our sale had gone through very quickly. I began to feel just a little bit lucky.
Jim, (who turned up with our dog from London), and I wandered around the stands, looking at all the gizmos on sale, but we were too 'green' to know what we had and what we might need. We did get a few tips on security, visas and carnets and also found various companies that freighted vehicles to and from Australia etc. (The only bad thing about the weekend, was that although the show was very dog friendly, not all dogs are friendly. Our lovely Springer Spaniel, who was with us, was set upon by a rather large dog and our attendance on site was interspersed with visits to the pet hospital. Tilly dog is now recovering from her ordeal and the dog owners have been very good about the vet bills.)
One of the things we did learn, was that our pop-top roof level sleeping compartment is quite heavy and I am not totally convinced that we will happily lift it up at the end of each long day to go to sleep, without damage to our backs! I think a solution may need to be found. Not so easy they cry.
Attending the show, was the best possible introduction to the world of overlanding. We met many fascinating people and I can imagine that life on the road will involve linking up with others to share guides, knowledge and company. The websites which I joined over the last few months, now have faces and people attached to them. And, for sure, these people are the most enthusiastic and optimistic set of people one could hope to meet. This is the start of a really big adventure.