What’s happening with Matilda?

Written by ralph on December 12th, 2015. Posted in Ralph's blog

Since coming back from Asia Matilda has sat, rather forlornly, on the drive while Arbie has been getting all the attention.  A few people have shown interest and have asked what’s happening with her and so I thought I would put this article together to let everyone know what the plans are.

The old and the new

Written by ralph on November 22nd, 2015. Posted in Ralph's blog

Well after the childlike euphoria of yesterday……….  There was more of it today.

Say hello to Arbie

Written by ralph on November 21st, 2015. Posted in Ralph's blog

Well, dear readers, we left you hanging!  Wondering what our decision would be.  In the end the ‘head’ won the argument and we are now the proud (and very happy) owners of a 2015 Ford Ranger Wildtrack named Arbie 🙂 

Head or heart, heart or head???

Written by ralph on November 5th, 2015. Posted in Ralph's blog

My heart says “Land Rover” my head is saying “look elsewhere”.  Oh how I wish this was easier 😥

Okay, so, here’s my dilemma;

We want to do a lot more travel and there are some changes occurring soon, in our lives, that will allow that to happen.  Unfortunately, at the same time, health reasons mean that climbing a ladder to bed every night is going to get more and more difficult.

Because of this we need to look for a replacement for Matilda that provides an easier option for the bed.  Rather than look upon this as a negative we have decided to try and combine several desires together and come up with a solution that will last us many years, extend our travelling ‘season’ and give us a bit of an ‘upgrade’ in comfort and convenience.

So the search has now begun for the ideal vehicle/accomodation combination.

Vehicle choice was the first and biggest decision and is always a compromise. It has to be:

  • A Commercial vehicle, so this meant one of the 1t pick ups or Defender 110 utility or 130.
  • Suitable as a daily commuting vehicle to 50 miles per day approximately.
  • Suitable for trips around the UK for work and leisure.
  • Reliable.
  • Reasonably economical.
  • To give us longevity, be as new (or low mileage) as possible.
  • Provide a level of comfort and safety better than (or at least equivalent to) Matilda.
  • Provide improved pulling power and performance than Matilda (especially up mountain tracks!).
  • Have proven ‘proper’ 4×4 ability.
  • Have international representation for parts/service.

For the accommodation we wanted;

  • A easily accessible double bed.
  • A space big enough to stand up in a get dressed or wash/shower.
  • A space big enough to sit in reasonable comfort for colder climates or when the weather outside turns yuck.
  • A toilet facility for those times when a spade just isn’t practicable.

The combination needed to be manageable on Norfolk’s narrow roads and be able to take us to all the places we have already been (and many we haven’t).  This includes those mountain tracks, desert pistes, gravel roads with river crossings and mile after mile of autobahn.

Naturally, of course, there could be only one vehicle worth considering; the Land Rover Defender.  So we took a 2013 110 Utility for a test drive.  The engine was definitely quieter and quite nippy (it was the 2.2 TDCi) and we both liked it.  It had covered 8000 miles and was just under £28000.  Unfortunately we realised that a 110 wasn’t going to give us the comfort we wanted along with enough loadspace for the accommodation we needed.   So we started to look for a newish 130.

A search on autotrader revealed just 8 for sale across the whole UK.  5 had cherry pickers on the back and only 2 had the TDCi engine (I wanted the TDCi so that it had the integrated AC like Matilda).

I started to do my research for all the mods I would want; how to improve the headlights, how to improve the turning circle, how to improve the seats, how to add soundproofing, getting it waxoyled, possible auto box conversions etc. etc.  I started to have it all planned out 🙂

We were not in a rush and so I also started to look for the accommodation options.  There was basically nothing available in the UK and a bespoke empty back ‘box’ was going to cost £10k from a local coachbuilder.

Searching further afield I discovered quite few offerings in France such as the Globe Camper:


This was just one of many such ‘Camping Cells’ as they are called.  At around £10-15k they were not cheap but they came with everything we wanted.

Wh2014-toyota-hilux-invincible-black-color-wallpapers-1024x661ilst looking at these I noticed that many were fitted to Toyota Hilux and Ford Ranger Double Cabs.  So just out of curiosity I started to have a look at them in turn.

Suddenly I started to realise just what my ‘love’ of Land Rovers was going to cost me!

For the price of a 3 or 4 year old 130 I could get a virtually brand new Ford or Toyota with less than 300 miles on the clock.  They were fitted with just about every driver aid, safety feature and convenience possible.    They had headlights that didn’t need upgrading, they had room for you right elbow, they had comfy seats, they had a good turning circle and they came with an auto option and a 12 years corrosion warranty.  They also came with plenty of cabin storage, USB charging sockets, bluetooth, cruise control, etc. etc.

I started to think that it was unfair to compare the Defender with these vehicles but then I realised that they also had airbags and ABS, as standard, two safety features you cannot get on a Defender 130 (ABS is only available on 2015 models) but they are fitted on my 21 years old discovery!

I really started to realise that a brand new defender was a backward step, in so many ways, from what I already had; let alone what I could get for the same money.

The Hilux and Ranger are massively successful in Australia and South Africa.  They have been thoroughly tested and have very good off-road credentials.   You can get underbody protection, winch mounts, snorkels, suspension upgrades, long range fuel tanks and virtually every other form of overland ‘enhancement’ you can think of for both of them.

The Ranger even has the same engine as the defender so I cant even give any brownie points for a better powerplant!

There are Ford and Toyota dealers in most countries in the world so getting service shouldn’t be a problem.  My biggest concern is finding a suitable DIY diagnostic tool for the electronics.  there seem to be a wide variety available for Land Rovers but not so many for other makes (maybe there’s a message there!).

So there we are my heart still says ‘Land Rover” but my head is slowly winning the battle.  We have arranged test drives of both vehicles over the weekend.

Once the decision is made we will be taking the plunge.  For the Camping Cell we shall be travelling to Germany in May to attend the Abenteuer & Allrad Show to view the wide range of overland options available on the continent.

I feel sure that we shall find what were looking for.


The final ‘tick in the box’

Written by ralph on November 1st, 2015. Posted in Ralph's blog

No trip is fully complete until all the flag stickers are in place.

As Monaco was an unplanned deviation I wasn’t prepared and so had to wait until my good friends at StickersWorld2008 could come up with the goods.

A quick ebay order and 2 days later the Monaco flying flag was in my hands.

This could be the last addition for many months and even for good (in our hands).  Soon Matilda will be put up for sale as we have decided to look for another vehicle to continue (and expand) our adventures.  There are a few jobs that need doing and she will be fully serviced and MoT’d.  After that we will advertise her and start looking for a worthy home for her.

As for our future vehicle choice, well the jury is out at the moment and all cards are on the table; Land Rover, Toyota, even Ford are in contention.  I shall post more about our deliberations soon.  We have a few months to weigh the pros and cons before taking the plunge.

As the dust finally settles

Written by ralph on October 25th, 2015. Posted in Ralph's blog

So, we’ve been home a few days and now that we’ve had a chance to catch up on some sleep, what’s the finally tally?

Miles: 4613.24
Furthest point from home: 1736 miles (as the crow flies)
Degrees of longitude: 31 degrees East (1/12 of the earth circumference)
Maximum altitude: 6401ft
Litres of fuel: Too many to count
Countries: 14
Continents: 2
New flags claimed: 9
Ferries: 7
Nights on a ferry: 5
Nights in a hotel: 6
Nights in a chalet: 1
Nights in a campsite: 6
Nights in a carpark: 1
Nights wildcamping: 11
Tyres: 1
Accidents: 1
Maintenance: 700ml water added to cooling system, 500ml fluid added to power steering.

Did we enjoy it?  On the whole yes.  Was it what we expected? No, not really.  We did not fully appreciate the aim of a ‘recce’ trip.  Regularly we would make a comment about things we were less than happy with only to receive the reply; “well it is a recce”.

This is why we split away from the group for several days.  We wanted to experience a bit more of the countries we passed through other than remote mountain tracks.

What were the high points?

  1. Istanbul was interesting but not as ‘exotic’ as I expected/hoped.
  2. The amazing surprise of the Alistratis Caves
  3. Finding our own Wild camp
  4. Watching the sunset over the Aegean from our rooftent
  5. Visiting Gallipoli and learning more about a bit of history I knew very little of and reading the names on the gravestones at the beach cemeteries.
  6. Meeting other travellers and sharing stories
  7. Matilda’s amazing performance; one day battling steep muddy tracks and the next cruising at 70+mph.

There were many more small moments and bigger events that all add together to create an overall positive experience.  Obviously the accident early in the trip clouded the early days and came as a real shock to both of us.  Luckily neither of us was hurt and Matilda was able to carry on.

It has helped us reconsider our future ‘overlanding’ and how Matilda fits into those plans (more on that later).

In the meantime, there is a pile of dirty washing that would shock a Chinese Laundry and a lot of bits and pieces scattered throughout the house needing to be put away.  So I’ll leave you with a picture from one of our favourite spots as we watched the sun set over the sea.

We hope you’ve enjoyed our blog.