Have you ever thought about driving around the world one day? Could it be the ultimate road trip? Here at Gearbox Magazine, we love stories of people doing remarkable things with vehicles. Nick and Joanne Yu bought a used truck in South Africa, then drove it home… all the way to England. We caught up with them between adventures.
We came across this video and had to find out more about Nick and Joanne.
Please introduce yourself. What’s your name? Where do you live?
Nick and Joanne Yu, we are two Canadians currently live in the Southwest of England, in Gloucestershire.
What do you do for a living?
[Nick]: Project Manager – Renewables, Projects recovering PGM (platinum group metals)
[Joanne]: Programme Leader – Aerospace industry
And what do you drive?
[Nick]: First Generation Citroen C4 VTS – 2.0L 16v Hdi
[Joanne]: All I’ll say is its Korean and 1L, not very exciting!
You’ve been all over the world. And not always by car. Here’s the big question: Why?
[Nick]: I’m very fascinated by other cultures and seeing how other people on this planet live their lives. In addition to being a bit of a gearhead, I like photography and what better excuse to buy camera equipment!
We have done a variety of travelling, sometimes by car and others not. It really comes down to the logistical practicality. For instance, when doing a ‘sun and sand’ holiday, it’s not practical to bring a car island hopping, other times getting a vehicle into a country is just too much of a hassle.
This is true for China as its very bureaucratic and expensive to bring a car in, plus it’s not the easiest to drive from your house to China. (Although we are working on it!) We always try for road trip holidays because they are the most fun to us.
[Joanne]: I travel to get outside of my comfort zone and to experience something bigger than my own life.
In 2010, you and your wife Joanne bought a used truck in South Africa – and then drove it home to the UK. Why Africa?
[Nick]: Admittedly this was my bright idea and I spent a lot of time convincing Joanne to do the trip; safety was one of the biggest issues. There is a lot of pre-conception of what a country or continent is like without really knowing the full truth. The main reason I wanted to go to Africa is its one of the last wild places on the planet.
[Joanne]: Nick can be a good salesman. Plus I get to pick every holiday from now until… forever!
Which truck did you choose for this adventure?
A 1987 Toyota Hilux 2.2Y – Petrol. Known for its reliability and ruggedness with solid front axle for off road ability!
Why not a Land Rover?
[Nick]: There is a huge debate in Africa as to which is better, Land Rover or Toyota. There are good arguments to both in terms of availability of spares. However the main reason I selected the Toyota was because most of the blogs I read that involved a Land Rover they always seem to be fixing them! Not to say Toyota never break down, but we never had any major issues and in almost every town I saw a Toyota dealer. There is a reason why it is the most popular truck on the African Continent.
Why did you buy your overland vehicle rather than build it? Pros and Cons?
This is an easy answer, cost. At the time, it was much cheaper to buy a pre-built truck then to source a truck and put the kit on yourself. We were also very lucky; the couple we bought the truck from took very good care of the truck until we got there to pick it up.
Pros: Cost, due to currency exchange differences between buying and selling months later, we actually made a profit on our truck when we were finished with it. (This is rare, but it does happen).
Cons: You don’t know the condition of everything, and it takes a good couple of weeks to shake down the vehicle. We planned a short ‘tester’ trip up the coast and back in South Africa to hopefully expose any weaknesses. The other downside is things are not exactly how you might like them; you have to live with someone else’s system, which could be very different from your own.
Can you tell us about a time when something went very wrong in Africa and how you managed to overcome?
[Nick]: “Very Wrong” in Africa usually means I wouldn’t be responding here today. So in that respect, we were fortunate to have nothing serious happen in Africa. But we did have two major inconveniences, which sum Africa up completely. In the end patience is the best quality, which goes a long way.
Political Change: Things can change in Africa very fast. This was evident when the border procedures between Kenya and Ethiopia had changed in a matter of days, meaning there were a whole new set of requirements to get across. We were one of the first who encountered this problem. With no access through Ethiopia, our trip would have ended. The only alternate options at the time were just too dangerous. These were Southern Sudan, which was not a formed country at the time or Somalia, which is a failed state. We ended up shipping our passports to friends back in Canada to sort out at the embassies there.
Never take anything for granted and check everything yourself in Africa, make sure its done right. For example, after one particularly long day, I did not check the fuel (smell for gasoline) and only looked at the pump ‘marked’ unleaded. I assumed we got the right stuff, however 1 kilometre down the road we ended up with a stalled truck and a tank FULL of diesel. It took 5 hours to drop the tank drain it and fill it back up with gasoline from the reserve tanks. Although, it wasn’t all that bad. Other than my time, only cost me 12 cokes and the tank of diesel, which I gave to my ‘pit crew’.
[Joanne]: Sometimes your worst enemy is yourself – I spent months being ultra-vigilant, in regards to safety and valuables. Only to let my guard down when we got back to the ‘civilised’ Europe and forgot our Passports in a McDonald’s bathroom!
How about a time when everything seemed to come together perfectly and you thought, “This is what life is all about!”
[Nick]: There are too many to list! But if I only could do one thing again it would be us sitting alone on top of the Sossusvlei dunes watching the sunset. (Namibia)
[Joanne]: Having a 10m long Whale Shark swim so close you could touch it. (Mozambique)
On your site, you make it clear that you fund your globetrotting through living beneath your means. We know why you do this, but could you share some examples of how? Where do you draw the line?
[Nick]: I must give Joanne a lot of credit here. She keeps my spending in-line as much as possible! As much as I’d really like to drive a brand new car with 300+hp. But we tend to drive a lot, so buying second hand cars and diesel where possible, really helps the budget. This really helps in the EU where the cost of cars and fuel is very high.
[Joanne]: On the home front, we tend not to eat out and just enjoy cooking in our home. Also when purchasing something, we really ask ourselves ‘do we really need it?’ or ‘Can it serve dual purpose?’ 7 out of 10 times, we figure we can live without.
[Nick & Joanne]: We draw the line at never letting our budget get in the way of spending time with our family and friends.
You’ve also mentioned you’re in the process of designing your own expedition rig. What can you tell us about it at this stage of development?
[Nick]: Mostly my responsibility here, currently designing an overland expedition vehicle out of an ex-British military truck. It’s very much still in the design stage. Not much to say yet, except it will be 4WD with a trusty 5.9L Cummins Turbo Diesel and have 20” of ground clearance! It’s a big project that I expect to complete in the next 3 years.
Can you share any lessons learned from your Africa trip you’ll be applying to the new machine?
[Nick]: Bring less stuff! The biggest danger of building a bigger vehicle is you will carry more junk around.
[Joanne]: Bigger fridge!
Finally, where can our readers find you online if they’d like more information or just to keep up with you and Joanne in the future?
Over a decade ago, before the whole social media movement, we created a site to keep our family and friends informed, it has now become more of an online diary of our travels, mostly photos and videos. www.nickandjoanne.com
We’d like to thank Nick and Joanne for taking the time to share a glimpse into their adventures with us. If you’d like to know more about what it’s like to drive across Africa, you don’t want to miss their website! While they were travelling, they posted almost daily updates from the road. It’s really cool.
- Which continent would YOU drive across?
- Which vehicle would you use to do so?