If you’d told me two years ago that I would be driving around in a Land Cruiser and offroading to remote locations to wild camp (gosh, two years ago I would not have even known what wild camping is), I would have never believed you.
But yet, here I am, the newly branded Jana from Alu-Cab – having just returned from a wild camping trip with the Troopy.
For the past two years I’ve been working in the marketing team for Alu-Cab, and when I started here, I had little to no knowledge about overlanding.
What is Overlanding?
When I Googled “overlanding” the first time, I quite liked the definition:
Overlanding is self-reliant overland travel to remote destinations where the journey is the principal goal.
I am a firm believer that the journey is what life’s all about so it was a good start.
I got sucked into the overland-lifestyle very quickly. Because I handle the social media for Alu-Cab, I kind of lived vicariously through all of the videos and photos I’ve seen online of our customers living this life.
Recently, we’ve come up with an idea regarding the Toyota Land Cruiser 78 that is in our fleet. It has the Hercules Roof Conversion and is mostly used as a demo vehicle here at Alu-Cab HQ. It has been taken out on a few camping trips, but no one is putting it to the test like it deserves. There has been talk of kitting out the interior and making it bush-ready but no one has gotten around to it. I’ve obviously voiced my admiration for and interest in the overlanding lifestyle plenty of times and, I’m assuming after mulling it over for a while, Jeremy, our CEO and founder, came flying into the office one morning with an idea: “Jana, I think you should become our overlanding girl! Let’s start a project, kit out the Troopy and have you take it out on trips. We’ll document it all from a girl’s perspective and take our online audience along for the journey”.
The Jana From Alu-Cab journey began
And so we started planning “Jana From Alu-Cab” and I couldn’t believe my luck! But before we go all out with this project, I asked whether I can take it out for a weekend to just feel it out (“it” meaning the whole camping-overlanding-filming-it all-thing) I needed to see if I can even drive the Troopy!
So that’s how I ended up taking the Troopy out on my inaugural wild camping trip in the Cederberg.
I’m not going to lie, it was awesome but it was also a lot to take in. Running around, preparing, making lists, packing, getting there in time, trying to film things and also enjoy the moment! Not to even talk about four wheel driving with next to nothing four wheel drive experience – but we’ll get to that in a bit.
Luckily my boyfriend and travel partner, Simon, went with me – so I wasn’t left completely to my own devices! We were lucky enough to get the opportunity to camp on a private farm in the Cederberg. It was quite a mission to get down there and one of the staff members of the farm had to show us the right path to take before we could start looking for the perfect spot to camp. She jumped in the vehicle with us and because you could only get down there with a 4×4, we had to go down the little winding trail with the ever-capable Land Cruiser (that thing can handle anything, and I definitely got a lot of respect for it that weekend!), go back up to the top to drop-off our guide at her Volkswagen Combi, and go back down to where we decided to camp. Each trip took about 30 minutes and before we knew it, it was dark when we finally got to setting up camp.
While our guide was showing us preferable spots to camp, she also pointed out some Cape Leopard tracks – so as you can imagine, setting up camp in the dark with the possibility of two glowing leopard eyes watching us was quite the motivation to set-up within the least amount of time! Luckily popping the roof of our home on wheels (The Hercules Conversion) for the weekend is super quick along with swinging open the Shadow Awning. Simon attached some lights to the awning arms and we were in business. We were also sorted with a makeshift battery pack that Neil from our fitment team put together for me so that we could plug in the fridge and the lights.
After that we packed some rocks in a circle to create a fire pit, lit the fire and started with dinner.
For dinner we bought these very convenient burger boxes from Frankie Frenners (a cool butchery shop in Cape Town). They come with all the ingredients included so all we had to do was throw the patties on the fire. We also made some deep fried potato chips on the fire.
After that we chilled around the campfire and watched the full moon coming out over the valley before calling it a night.
The next day we got up, made some coffee and made shakshuka for brunch. After that I faffed around camp for quite some time before going out and recording some videos only to afterwards realize the sound on my mics didn’t work as great as I thought it did. I was nervous to talk on camera and the frustration of the mics not working did not help much. I soon realized going on trips and recording it won’t always just be overlanding and rainbows.
After about an hour of struggling, I was eager to actually just put down the electronics for a while and take some time to breathe, relax, and take in my surroundings. So I sat down, looked up at the amazing rock formations surrounding us and enjoyed a beer or two. Camping in a location with no one else around for kilometres was surreal. If something were to happen to us or the vehicle, it would have been a 4 hour walk to the nearest people.
We then started the fire for a potjie that I was in charge of making that night. I went about packing the fire and Simon played around with his drone a bit to get awesome images. The potjie making went fine, but I regret not filming more of the process! Another mental note, made for the next trip. After eating, we sat around camp for a while longer and then climbed up to bed.
With one night of our trip left, we decided to switch things up a bit and head to Sanddrif Holiday Resort which is about 40 minutes away. We were excited to take a drive and explore a bit more of the Cederberg.
After we packed up and before we left we took a quick hike up to where Simon saw some bushmen paintings the previous day. Very cool and worth the climb – even though I was in a dress! Southern African rock art has been dated to be as old as 28 000 years, with the age of the Cederberg paintings ranging from 8 000 years to 100 or 200 years.
Rear Bumper accident
When we arrived at Sanddrif, we were the only ones in the entire campsite. It was a cold but sunny Autumn day and I was excited to take a hot shower! My excitement lasted for about two seconds, because I soon noticed something very worrying at the back of the Troopy. The steel part of the rear bumper was terribly bent. It must have happened when I was driving up the steep climb out of the valley where we wild camped. I was honestly so stressed about that bent piece of steel. I know it happens when four wheel driving but it’s Murphy’s Law that it happened to me on pretty much my first go with the Troopy.
I knew I was going to get teased when I got back to work but, oh well, I made peace with the fact that I will need to take it as it comes. For the rest of the afternoon I tried to relax before returning to the madness of the city the next day.
The next morning, which was Monday morning, we left at about 07:00am. It was still dark and very frickin’ cold. We wanted to get back to the city early so that we could still get some work done.
And just like that we were back in a rainy Cape Town. I learnt a lot on my first trip. Now it is time to start planning the interior build and gearing up on camping equipment for the next one!
If you enjoyed this one, I will write blogs about the upcoming trips as I go along. I’m looking forward to the journey!
Oh and before I forget, everything turned out alright with the rear bumper. I just had to take what they call a “strafdop” (a shot) in South Africa to compensate for it. We’re now getting a proper aftermarket bumper and rock sliders from Gobi-X Manufacturing for the Troopy so hopefully it’ll be more Jana proof!