Intrepid traveler Andy Pag made it around the world in his customised bio-diesel truck – making him at least a little bit of an expert on how to take four wheels through four hemispheres. Read on for a few tips on planning your around-the-world drive.
Get a car
After fifteen years of running vehicle based expeditions across the Sahara Desert and the rest of Africa I'm still undecided on the best philosophy for choosing the perfect expedition vehicle.
Saharan tracks and marshy logging roads in the Congo Basin will take their toll on any vehicle, no matter how indestructible it's designed to be. Modern vehicles are more reliable but when something does go wrong you can't MacGyver your way out of it. They often require special tools, computer diagnostics and replacement parts which can't be fabricated in the bush. Older vehicles are more prone to break but can be repaired more easily by local mechanics with basic tools, a welder and a grinder.
If I'm picking a vehicle for a destination I'll find out what brands are popular in the countries I'm passing through so I know I can find spare parts. Toyota and Mercedes have proved to be the easiest to find.
Fill it up
Diesel is almost always cheaper than petrol, and a tank of diesel has a longer range than the same volume of petrol. If filling cans with fuel, I'll fill them to the brim as temperature changes cause the air to expand. Why? The less air inside the can, the less pressure on the seal, and less prone to leaks.
It can be hard to find good quality tools locally so I travel with my own sockets, wrenches and screw drivers – but don't skimp on quality. Cheap wrenches can round the corners off a tight nut and turn a simple repair into a major disaster.
Apart from tools, I look for expedition equipment locally. I find out what gear local drivers use and get the same. Everything from sand ladders, tow straps, tyre pumps, mosquito nets and hammocks are available in the places where they're needed. You'll never need to get everything you need before you leave – plan on grabbing some stuff on the road.
Expedition GPS's are loaded with information and I particularly value a mapping service called Tracks4Africa when I'm in the wild, but as soon as I'm in a village nothing beats winding down the window and asking for directions. You might not get to where you want, but you'll end up having great adventure.
Andy is currently spending the winter in Nepal. @biotruck
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