. . . LAND ROVER OVERLAND EXPEDITION

. . . AROUND THE WORLD 2001/02
     
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Africa 1999
Around-the-World 2001/02
 

The Team

Jeff Willner
1. Start: Recipe for Adventure
2. Zimbabwe: Hyperinflation
3. Namibia: Southern Circuit
4. South Africa: Circuit 2
5. Zambia/Malawi: Sketches
7. Kenya: Bandit Country
8. Ethiopia: Diary
9. Ethiopia: Border Run
10. Sudan: Across the Sahara
11. Egypt: Cape to Cairo
12. Jordan/Syria: Sept. 11th
13. Turkey: Hospitality
14. Bulgaria/Romania/ Hungary
15. Slovakia/Austria/Poland
16. The Baltics & Russia
17. Scandinavia
18. Western Europe
19. Brazil: Clearning Customs
20. Argentina: Revolution
21. Argentina: To Ushuaia
22. Patagonia Disaster
23. Buenos Aires Beautiful
24. Uruguay: Beaches
25. Chile: Expedition Life
26. Bolivia: Atacama
27. Peru: Transit
28. Galapagos: Gorgeous
29. Ecuador: Jungle Run
30. Knifepoint
31. Dubai: Lay over
32. Singapore/Malaysia
33. Thailand: Hospitality
34. Cambodia: Ankor Wat
35. Vietnam: Hanoi & Halong
36. Laos: Back to Basics
37. China: Beijing Tour
38. China: Shanxi
39. China: Western Province
40. China: Tibet
41: Nepal: Mountains
42. India: Driving Struggle
43. Pakistan: Dodging War
44. Iran: Overcharging
45. End: One Last Laugh

Sally DeFina
1. Cape Town: Robben Island
2. Zanzibar: Mike & I
3. Kenya: African Driving School
4. Sudan: Mud Crossing
5. Patagonia: Goodbye Max
6. Malaysia: Mike Update
7. Thailand: Ko Phangan
8. Cambodia: Phnom Penh
9. Vietnam: By Train
10. Laos: Vang Vieng
11. China: Meet Mr. Chen

Jody Finver
1. Start: Surreal Solipse
2. Great Zimbabwe
3. Brokedown in Kenyan Desert
4. Egypt: So Should I Hyphenate
5. Poland: Home is Where the Truck Is

Gulin Akoz
1. Start: Bits and Pieces
2. Zambia: Diaries
3. Egypt: Africa Memories
4. Turkey: For Your Information
5. The Team and The Bean
6. Somebody Else's Child
7. On My Own
8. Long Lost Memories of Childhood
9. The Tree and the Boy
10. Jealous
11. The Aftermath

 

Panamerican 2003
Various Trips
Planning an Expedition

 

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www.KensingtonTours.com

 

 

 

#18 - Western Europe
Jeff Willner - November 16, 2001

(Bilbao, SPAIN) - Two things struck me while touring Berlin. First, that the city is really new. Shiny modern buildings are sprouting everywhere, especially in the old East Berlin section. Our guide explained the architecture on our four-hour walking tour as we huddled in the freezing wind.

"End of the cold war, wall comes down, people want something totally new. So Berlin is the newest city in Europe. Did you know that until last year, 80% of Europe's construction cranes were perched over projects in downtown Berlin." That's alota cranes. The Reichstag was the historic seat of government before Germany was divided, and was one of the first renovations when Germany united. The exterior has been restored, but instead of restoring the central copper dome - it has been replaced with a shimmering spaceport-like glass and stainless steel version. A super cool fusion of old and new. That is the new Berlin.

The second factoid I found out is that Hitler's remains have finally been traced. There was all this controversy after WWII because a body was never found. People had wild theories that the body was dumped in a vat of acid, or that he had escaped in disguise and lived in the mountains waiting to relaunch his evil empire.

We got the scoop while standing in the courtyard of a very mundane apartment complex. Cement block construction, flower beds, a stone path - no historic marker to indicate Hitler's bunker at all. Turns out the Soviets wanted to sow a little uncertainty in the Allies. As Berlin was in flames, overrun by the Soviet tanks, Hitler had retreated to his bunker and took poison with his longtime mistress Eva Braun. Then, wanting a warrior's death, he shot himself. Attendants took his body outside and set fire to it to avoid a nasty public scene like the one that happened with Mussolini in Italy (hanged him, cut off testicles, put them in his mouth). But the Soviet occupiers found the remains. They boxed him up, went to the outskirts of an East German town (forget the name, fingers were cold and didn't want to take notes) and buried the box outside town. In the early 80's there was some concern about the future of the state, so the remains were dug up by a secret commission, reduced to ash, and scattered to the wind. The details were only just found in the East German archives.

" So the bunker is still intact, right below us?" someone in our tour asked the guide. "Yep. The authorities don't want to destroy something so historic, but don't want to even mark it for the public. So it sits, hidden, underneath this apartment courtyard." Kids ran past to play, commuters edged around us clutching their briefcases. In the adjacent field the memorial to the murdered Jews is being constructed over the bunkers of other senior Nazi officials. Surreal.

Berlin was the last Junglerunner stop in Europe where the whole group was together. Over the next few days the group would scatter for a two week break while the truck was being shipped to South America.

Sally stepped off in Rotterdam. Mike (yes the boyfriend) was flying from Australia to visit and she would meet up with him in Paris. We dropped Jody and Janet off in Amsterdam. Despite repeated invitations (which turned into pleas because she really is a great person and so easy to travel with) Janet decided she couldn't continue with us to South America. Junglerunning is an expensive hobby. Jody flew to the UK for a couple days and then to Miami.

Gulin and I continued south from Amsterdam to Brugge, Belgium (the best mussels, fries, and beer in the world), and stayed in a highway motel on the outskirts of Paris. The next morning we navigated the Land Rover through Paris' downtown maze. After lunch at Cafe de la Paix, and a pop out to the suburbs to say hello to Mike (and unload Sally's stuff) we did a 3pm-2am marathon drive to San Sebastian, Spain. It's a beautiful seaside town that lost a tiny bit of its charm due to a freakish cold spell.

Let me make a confession here. I was a bad boy in Europe. I blame it on the traffic anarchy of Africa and the Middle East, or it may be genetic. Either way, in Europe I treated one way street signs like suggestions and parked wherever I wanted. Land Rover's have a curious quirk, the hand brake actually locks the drive train so the wheels cannot turn, and at 2.5 tons it is quite inconvenient to move. So we parked with impunity and threw the parking tickets away (honestly, when is the next time I plan to be driving through Bulgaria?). You can imagine the shock the next morning when Gulin and I went out to the truck to get our coats… and it wasn't there! I couldn't conceive of it being towed, so visions of theft swirled around my mind - I figured it was the end of the tour right there.

We went back upstairs to our Pension and asked the manager if there was a towing telephone number that we could call. "Oh yes! It is right here on the tourist map of the city. And you see, the tow away compound is quite conveniently located within walking distance of downtown." I asked if people got towed away often and he shrugged. "Well, it is northern Spain, and we do have the car bombs." I could imagine the conversation over the radio when they found the illegally parked Land Rover:

Tow Truck: Capitane, we have found a tourist vehicle that is parked on a yellow curb!
HQ: Well, it is 2:30am, maybe we can give them a few hours of grace.
Tow Truck: Well Capitane, it has a hidden compartment in the rear, there are 4 tanks of diesel on the roof, and 2 propane tanks. If it blows it could level an entire city block.
HQ: Sweet Mother of All that is Holy! Tow! Tow! Tow

When I retrieved the truck the towing mystery was solved. They have little dollies that slide under the rear wheels and within seconds the vehicle is jacked and gone. A steady stream of cars were towed past me as I paid my fine. All I can say is, if you're gonna park illegally, don't do it in Basque separatist territory.

After a couple days of tapas and vino tinto on the coast (and a 1.2kg lobster), we drove up to Bilbao to arrange shipping. The agency was competent, their service excellent, and the next day I flew off to Canada and Gulin dropped the Land Rover off at the dock. It was the end of the first stage of the trip and we all were looking forward to a couple weeks off. The trip resumes December 3 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Stage 1 Stats:
Start: June 25, 2001 - Livingstone, Zambia (Victoria Falls)
End: November 16, 2001 - Bilbao, Spain
Distance: 32,000km
Countries: 33 (Zambia, Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia, Sudan, Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, Austria, Slovakia, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Russia, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Germany, Holland, Belgium, France, Spain)

 

Copyright January 1999-2011
All rights reserved - Jeff Willner
Contact: jeffwillner@yahoo.com