Monday, October 29, 2012

Finally - Resolution to the Big question in life (well mine anyway)

So my plan after Costa Rica has always been to get a truck to 'live in'. Or out of. The big question of course was which kind of truck.

Being a Brit of course means you have-to-have a Defender for an expedition. Ray Mears himself said  "There's something reassuring about the Defender. You see one coming and think everything's going to be alright".

But being a Brit in the US of A means the market it is rather different and the search is very frustrating. This is your typical Defender (NAS) in the US these days:

Normally a V8 petrol engine, and automatic. Great for posing about on California beaches, but not exactly great for long distances. It is quite a gas guzzler and usually has a soft-top. The longer 110 version is even rarer. Both are very expensive.

Driving Landys and other 4x4's in England, Africa, Iceland, US and Costa Rica has really reinforced my preference for a nice diesel with a manual transmission. So I was excited when I saw this.

Diesel engine, AND manual. Cool air intake. But pretty old, very high mileage, leaks underneath and VERY expensive. I pass it by often on Sunday mornings and 8 months later it is still unsold.

The sensible thing in the US is to go with the local market and accept automatic, and maybe even buy a Toyota. There's a local company that builds campers to go on the back of 4x4 pickup trucks. And when I realised one of my photo heros has one, then I thought perhaps my photos would look better if I got one of these...

I even went up to their showrooms near Sacramento and spent a few hours playing around in them. Very compact, but very comfortable with bed space for 3 and cooker and fridge. Ideal for my style of rocking up in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night wondering where to put the tent.

So getting one of those was my plan as I left work.

Then I arrived in Costa Rica to work with Raleigh International and spent the next few months driving around in these...

Ooooh. Brilliant. Yesss torquey diesel, and of course manual - like the rest of the world. And I met this German guy traversing the length of the American continent in one of these...

Yes that is a tent on the roof - a style much favoured for overlanding in Africa as you are up out of the way of the critters. He was very pleased with it, even considered it highly reliable. So I thought if it is reliable enough for a German, the reputation they have (especially in the US) may be outdated. I even thought about buying something like that down there and then driving it all the way through Central America to the US.

Then I get back to the US and realise 1) The lead time on the build of those campers had doubled 2) It was getting expensive and 3) I'd already spent alot of my budget.

So I start thinking - cheaper, cheaper, cheaper. Just around the corner I see one of these. I left a note on the windshield to get the owner to call me.

And he did! Yes it's 4x4, it has a built in bed, manual and a crawler gear. He didn't even want too much for it - they're rare especially in 4x4 guise. But the man himself told me he considered it more of a bad road car than off road capable.

So, in the end, after all that I went out and bought one of these...

Only 4 years old, and yes it's an automatic. A Toyota 4Runner (very similar to the Hilux Surf in the UK). But it is big enough to sleep in - I can either put the back seat down forwards and sleep in the back, or, put the front seat back and sleep in the front. It has no kitchen but it does have an Aux input to the stereo and a sunroof. It doesn't drink quite as badly as other 4x4's and it is very quiet. I'll have to buy a Land Rover as a 2nd car one day.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Jungle Trekkin' Cattell Style

I met this cool dude in Costa Rica, his video editing is brilliant.
Around 1:30 in to it, there's me me trekking in style.

Thanks Matt, you've inspired me to give it a GoPro.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

In California even the rain is dry

Just in case anyone is inclined to accuse me of sitting still for too long I left San Francisco again for a few days in the Sierras. A spot of mountain biking, hiking and photography around Tahoe and Yosemite.

A Raleigh mate was over from England so we rented a car (the Beemer is a bit sick and will be traded for the right truck) headed for Tahoe and nearly got caught the wrong side of the Sierras in a snow storm.

So I haven't got wet yet in California, as even the rain has fallen dry. Yup after being damp for nearly 4 months, I'm pretty dry now - niice.

We drove over Tioga Pass in a snow storm which cleared just in time to have a hike around Tuolumne Meadows in the sun.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Back in SF

It is sooooo good to be home.

Weather was way too hot for me though - my sweat glands need a rest for the next decade or so after the Tropics. Temps were in the 100's all over the Bay Area.

Then yesterday, the fog rolled back in, blew the tourists away and restored the place to how it should be ;-))

Went for a ride over that bridge and blew all the cobwebs away.