Singapore, Here We Come
I don’t really know where to start. We’ve started our biggest overland trip yet. It’s now day 4 and there’s a lot to report on.
The last few days before our departure were extremely hectic. Getting our paperwork all in order, finalizing our gear and vehicle setup and leaving everything in order created multiple lists of overwhelmingly numerous tasks.
I don’t think we were able to finish everything on those lists, and we’ll probably only realize on the road what we forgot to pack and where the design flaws are in our camping gear and vehicle setup.
During the last 4 weeks, my dad and I were rebuilding and upgrading the drawer system we built for our Africa trip. This overland trip provided a great amount of experience in terms of what is needed and how to set up the interior of our Toyota. Some features I wanted were to have more storage and, if needed, it should be able to provide a sleeping platform in scenarios when there are no hotels (or we don’t want to stay in one) but we can’t use our rooftop tent. So we made the drawer system longer so that we now have a cabinet at the left rear door and two drawers instead of just one.
The drawers themselves are no longer than the original used to be though, the reason being that we had to keep one of the back seats. This made things a bit more complicated in terms of building the storage system and coming up with a design for the sleeping platform. Keeping one of the back seats was due to a Chinese law! We didn’t originally plan on keeping it at all, so that we’d have a van-like cargo space in the back, but if you’re entering China with your vehicle then you have to have a guide with you at all times. So he/she will be traveling with us for 40-45 days and will sit in the back. We’re actually going to be in a convoy with two other vehicles for our crossing of China, so the guide will be swapping vehicles every now and then.
Anyway, to get back to the drawer system, I think the end result is pretty good. My dad is extremely skillful when it comes to DIY projects, and basically I came up with the design while he directed the process of putting it together. That’s only one of the projects he helped on, but there are several other things that he either fixed or made so that we could be ready by June 19th. You might’ve read in my previous post that our departure date was actually the 18th, but that just didn’t turn out to be feasible.
WHERE ARE WE RIGHT NOW
We are using a great app called Polarsteps where you can follow us pretty much live! Click on the image below to see our travel map:
We had 4 weeks in Budapest to obtain our visas all the way to China. We’ll worry about all the visas after China later.
Those 4 weeks were just enough time for us to get the Russian, Mongolian and Chinese visas stamped into our passports. For the Chinese one, we needed an invitation letter from the tour company explaining what we do and detailing the itinerary. With that in hand and loads of other paperwork, we managed to get a 60-day visa, which gives us plenty of time even if we run into any problems. I’m not sure if I explained before, but you can only enter China overland with an organized tour so there we will have a guide. Other than that, we’ll be traveling completely independently all the way to Singapore.
And now a note about sponsors and finances, as I’m pretty sure many people are wondering about the finances of a trip like this. Well, the cost of this trip down to the last penny is covered by us, Evelin and myself. However, we also have product sponsors who were kind enough to provide their products to help better equip us in exchange for exposure on our blog and social media accounts. They found our website and approach likeable, so product and brand mentions may be valuable for them. On the other hand, I won’t be shy in reviewing those products honestly and without bias.
The products we received and extremely useful. We even had to refuse some products to be sent if they were not relevant or we already had something similar. Other than the products, the most valuable for us is when a sponsor mentions us on their social media accounts and links back to our website from theirs. These things help grow the audience of this site which is one of the main goals for me right now. One of the other ones is to get to Singapore safely.
Soon I’ll be writing a post about our sponsors and how we found them. While I’ll list them all in that article, I want to say a big thank you to all of them now too! I’m really happy and grateful that they saw us as a team worth supporting.
As of this writing we’re in Romania, just crossing the Carpathian Mountains. This country has a lot to offer for overlanders; it’s one of the few left in Europe where you can still find remote dirt tracks, and the scenery is varied and in some places extremely beautiful.
We’re still settling down in the rig in terms of what goes where, and finding out what do we still need so that we can do a final bit of shopping. To write about our equipment will require a whole separate blog post (if not several).
Our thoughts will also eventually settle down and get into the overlanding travel mood. Saying our farewells to our families wasn’t easy, as we won’t be seeing them for another 5 months or so. We're busy with planning our route for the next day and see amazing places all the time while our families worry about us back home. Our departure wasn't easy for us, but I'd imagine it was a lot harder for them.