Okay, so soon after making the decision to do the trip, we started looking for a car. From reading other overlanders blogs and doing research, we realized that the sooner we have the car, the sooner we can really start preparing for the trip. The car is the biggest expense and once you have it, there’s nothing stopping you. Without a car it’s easy to push things forward and be lazy, but with a huge machine waiting in the garage you have no excuse but to really make the trip happen.
After being in touch with a few Landcruiser owners, we eventually found what we were looking for. An HDJ80 from 1993 in good shape. And it was almost more than we could wish for – since this car had been out on an expedition before it already had all the gear needed. We could instantly stop thinking of getting all the extra equipment and trust me, when your head is full of the million thoughts before a trip like this, that was nice.
We told the owners, Ivan and Dajana Brgic, our plans and they were happy to sell the car to us. Now we just had to make a plan to get the car from Croatia to Sweden…
A couple of weeks later, Brian and I stood at the airport waiting to board a plane to Rijeka. Brian looked at me and said “We’re now going to a country we’ve never been to before, to stay with people we don’t know and buy a car we’ve never seen”. I said “yup” and then we just smiled at the craziness of the whole situation.
Ivan and Dajana, and their little daughter Naomi, met up in Rijeka and we went to their home village outside the city of Pula, where the car was parked. We spent a few hours familiarizing ourselves with the Landcruiser, checking out its interior and exterior and learning about all the equipment. Not all bedrooms come with an instructor’s manual!
That evening we got to be tourists while Dajana took us around Pula and we badly wished we had more time to spend in Croatia. We’re probably the only ones who have been there for one day only! But we only had three days to do this, so we had to get moving. We had closed the deal with Ivan and Dajana by going to the bank and spent the night in their apartment. In the morning, after scoffing Dajana’s delicious pancakes, we set direction north. First, however, we had to fill up with fuel and finding
the fuel station and then finding our way back to the highway probably took an hour and a half…
We drove through beautiful Slovenia only stopping at a fuel station to get the vignette sticker that you put on your windscreen. Same thing through just as beautiful Austria, where we also stopped to have lunch. This was just after that outbreak of EHEC. It was a bit weird doing everything to avoid the veggies on your plate!
Then things started happening that we hadn’t calculated on. Things like traffic jams. We had no idea why or for how long we’d be stopping, we just watched with fascination how the Austrians, obviously quite used to these things, soon stepped out of their cars and started chatting to each other.
Because we spent so much time waiting with the Austrians, we didn’t make it further than into southern Germany the first day. By the time we reached Munich it was already dark. Surely, Munich had to be the one city where I hadn’t done research on campsites. We were just too sure we’d make it further. Classical foolishness. But things went alright anyhow.
We tried to avoid getting into the city and that’s exactly where we ended up of course. Stopping at a fuel station I was advised of a motel nearby. The motel turned out to be a fancy wanna be-hotel way above our budget. But the guys at the reception were incredibly helpful and not only told us of a campsite in the city, but called it up to make sure it was still open and gave us a map!
After a couple of wrong turns trying to read an extremely detailed map of a tiny corner of Munich in the dark (tinted windows are made for driving in the Sahara desert at day, not in big cities at night), we found the campsite probably 10 minutes before they were closing up for the day. We asked the old guy at the reception where we could grab something to eat and he said there was a Bavarian restaurant a 5 minute walk away through the forest. If we had a torch.
I tried to silence my grumbling stomach while we parked and put the tent up and prepared for the night. We then grabbed a torch and went out on our search for this Bavarian restaurant. We couldn’t help but feeling a bit like Hans and Greta as we walked along a stream, waving spiderwebs and branches off our faces in the dark and finally reached a lit up area and saw this massive yellow building with brown shutters and flowers by each little window.
It got even more surreal when the only people we met at the restaurant were all dressed up in traditional German clothing. A woman came towards us in this giant skirt, corset, big bosom and a beer keg in each hand. We figured they were a wedding party so we stayed out of their way and asked a waiter if we could eat something. But no, we were too late and had to be happy with a big glass of beer.
I realized how tired Brian was when he, being the most enthusiastic beer drinker I know, only made it through half his glass. He had after all driven the entire day and it had taken its toll on him. We soon walked back to the campsite and fell asleep in the roof tent, for the first time. I only remember concluding how much I liked it, how nice and cosy it was, before fading away into the sleeping world and Brian was probably there already.
After Munich we kept going north and passed city after city on the map. In the afternoon we switched and I drove for 2-3 hours. But it was quite tricky, I wasn’t used to driving the type of car, and a right hand drive without a rearview mirror on top of that, being so top heavy it sometimes felt like we were going to take off. Which is not a nice feeling when you’re going at 120 km/h on a three lane highway. So Brian got back behind the wheel and towards the evening we reached Denmark.
By now passing country borders was almost not a noticeable event, only a sign by the side of the road. It was only entering Slovenia that we had to show our passports. Driving on the autobahn turned out to be a fairly boring activity and being spoiled with the gorgeous mountainous landscapes of the south, the view got a bit boring as well.
It was dark by the time we drove across the bridge between Denmark and Sweden. We called up my folks telling them we were aiming to make it there, another 2.5 hours away. Stocking up on Coke, Red Bull and coffee (!) we both sat eyes wide open the rest of the way and finally made it to Växjö, my hometown, at about 2 o’clock in the morning.
The following morning the car attracted a bit of attention and we happily demonstrated it to mom, dad and some of their neighbors. Then we packed up and headed for Stockholm, the last stretch of about six hours.
The trip back from Croatia went great although it would have been nice not to have such a tight deadline, but to actually be able to make some more stops in Europe along the way. Without a doubt, we enjoyed travelling with the Land Cruiser and the trip really gave us a taste for more!
Go to the photo gallery for a heap more photos from this trip!