It was June 2018 and the truck conversion was due to be completed by September 2018. So the next big question was – where should we go?
After we had collected the truck from Poland the first task would be to bring it back to the UK. It was still registered as a commercial HGV on a SORN (statutory off road notice). The truck would need to have an MOT test and re-categorised as a motor home. DVLA would require photographic evidence of its conversion. Once this was completed and the annual road tax paid, the truck would be fully legal.
The next task would be to the test the truck to ensure all systems were working correctly. We thought we would take the vehicle to Morocco in November 2018 to put it through its paces over mountains, across desert areas and along coastline beaches. That should produce a realistic snag list.
Our original plans were to travel the Silk Road route through “The Stans” and explore China but, unfortunately, China placed too many hurdles to deter the independent tourist. We were in touch with an agent in China who could arrange all the required paperwork and visas and we were told that our vehicle would need Chinese registration and that we would have to be accompanied by a Guide / Interpreter to ensure we didn’t stray from the designated route.
What finally made us give up the Silk Road Trip was when we were told we would need Chinese driving licences and these could not be issued to anyone over the age of 70. We understood that ways could be found to get round this age limit but we got the message that China didn’t welcome visitors, especially those wishing to travel independently.
Plan B was to take the truck to explore the Americas. We found a shipping company called Seabridge who had just started a new route – a roll on roll off service from Liverpool to Nova Scotia. This voyage would take 8/10 days and we could take a cabin on board and travelling with the truck. We booked the journey for March 2019.
Our plan was to drive through Canada, Quebec, Ottawa, Sudbury, Thunder Bay (on the shores of Lake Superior), Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Edmonton, Dawson Creek, Fort Nelson, Watson Lake and Whitehorse where we would cross the border into Alaska with our first stop at Anchorage. This was a journey of some 5000 miles, taking in various detours as we learned more about the area we were exploring.
In Alaska we hoped to explore the Aleutian Islands, a chain of fourteen large volcanic islands and 55 smaller ones belonging to both the US state of Alaska and the Russian Federal subject of Kamchatka.
From Alaska we would head across the border into Canada through Yukon Territory, British Columbia visiting Vancouver Island and then over the border into the USA – Seattle, Washington. Oregon, then California.
The Mexican border would be the next stop at Tijuana and then down the Baja peninsular with the Pacific Ocean on one side and the Sea of Cortez the other. We had always wanted to visit this area with its abundant sea life and a laid back lifestyle. From La Paz it was possible to get a ferry to Mazatlan on the Mexican mainland, a voyage of about nine hours.
Once through Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and into Panama we would head for the port of Colon to ship the truck on a roll on roll off service to Cartagena. This was because the road ran out at a place called the Darian Gap where the terrain became dense forest – full of bandits! A road had never been built here in spite of the Colombians wanting to invest millions of dollars to construct. The Panamanian authorities felt it would encourage drug trafficking.
We would fly to Cartagena to meet the truck from its arrival port. We understand the whole process is one of the most burdensome, bureaucraticb border crossings anywhere.
By now we would be in South America and would make our way south through Ecuador, Peru and Chile along the South Pacific Ocean coast towards Cape Horn at the tip of South America – a journey of some 6300 miles. Ushuaia in Argentina is about as far south as one can travel by truck. The Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego was just 480 miles from Port Stanley in the Falkland Islands.
Well, that’s the plan!