Trucking Across Europe

Last month we went on a road trip across Europe – not quite what we’re used to, but the idea was to be in Poznan for the new truck to be moved from the truck factory to the fitting-out shop. It also happened to coincide with Vegan Summerfest in Berlin, the 47th IVU Vegfest, and having guests to try out the whole overland concept on – albeit in Vanya (my rather old Mercedes Sprinter campervan) rather than Katy, the new truck. So here’s what happened when Me, Mikey, Vanya and Charley went East…

The Road to Poznan

We set out from the South of France in the rain…so there’s no photos of our drive through the Massif Central. There were some beautiful views, if only we could have seen them. The teenagers played distracting word games which I soon opted out of to avoid driving into the back of trucks. It rained. They got to choose the music – from the collection of CDs I provided 😉 We drove through clouds and Vanya passed 170,000 miles on the clock – with a working turbo since I got the actuator replaced a couple of days before we headed off, which was nice, and made hills possible. We stopped at a boulangerie and got soaked crossing the road with a surprisingly dense loaf of bread. But in the evening we passed Chamonix and crossed out of France into Switzerland and headed for the campsite we stopped at on night 2 of our first Cape Town adventure. Then we went to one that actually had food nearby and ate some good pizza before sleep. It was a bit nicer in the morning, so we took a train trip with Vanya under the Furka Pass.

I always like driving through the alps, though Vanya’s power steering was making clicking noises and getting a bit heavy on the hairpins, so in some ways it was a relief when we hit the autobahns and began a long afternoon of driving til I’d had enough in the general direction of Leipzig. We didn’t get there, but did find a nice random bit of picturesque Germany to camp in in time for beer, chips and salad – that old time vegan fallback! It was even prettier in the morning.

The original plan had been to take another day before getting to Poznan, but a saga involving a pizza oven not being delivered from Portugal because apparently French logistics companies can’t dial non-French mobile phone numbers (while their Portuguese office has no such trouble) intervened. This has nothing to do with the truck – sorry, we are not having a pizza oven on board! 😀 Anyway, we were going to go via Prague but were delayed by non-delivery of oven, so headed straight to the truck factory in Poznan. The original plan was that the box would be done and the truck would be at the outfitters. The plan by the time we arrived was that the box would be done, mounted on the truck and I could have a look around it and get some cool photos. As you can see…things turned out to be not so advanced, and it took some persuasion for me to be allowed to even see the box. But at least Mikey got to play truck driver…

We did get some photos of the box, and since then they have finished it, added the rear-wheel carrier and put it all together, but I am glad we still had Berlin to visit or it would have been a very, very long pointless journey. As I write, the truck is due to be moved to the aircon guy to have the mechanicals fitted to the engine, so its still not at the fitting out stage.

Anyway, after an hour or so at Plandex we were free to do whatever we wanted so headed towards Berlin on the lookout for a campsite. More vegan pizza ensued, followed by a visit to a micro-brewery with no beer – and no customers. These things could be connected, but the campsite by the lake also had a bar so I was OK. Next morning we headed to Berlin for Vegan Summerfest / IVU Vegfest!

Vegfest / Vegan Summerfest Berlin

I’ve been to Berlin once before – in 1990, by coach from London just after the wall came down for ‘The Wall’ concert staged on the site of the Berlin Wall near the Brandenburg Gate. That was also the last time I knowingly ate meat (everything was closed and only one place would serve us anything, which was their lunchtime leftovers). It was good to be back then, visiting one of Europe’s biggest vegan events and seeing the huge growth of vegan choices. It was also great to eat all sorts of things that weren’t pizza, chips and salad for a few days! Oh and of course being in Germany the beer was good, and vegan! Vegan Summerfest took over Alexanderplatz for the weekend and was well attended (too well in some cases as the queues for the food stalls were very long!).

Before leaving Berlin, we took a vegan tour of the city organised by our hosts ProVeg International. For me, visiting the old Stasi remand prison was a little creepy, bringing my 2 visits to the city full circle – history is not that old. Or maybe I am! 🙂

It was great to meet up with some old friends and make new ones (this was my second IVU Vegfest after Nairobi last year). We also had some good conversations with people from vegan organisations around the world. Fingers crossed we’ll have some news soon about a launch event for the Vegan Without Frontiers first Expedition!

North West Africa 2020

Join the next Adventure!

** Suspended Until Further Notice due to COVID-19 – Dates Will Probably Change **

High Atlas Mountains, Wild Atlantic Coast and the Magnificent Sahara Desert

Our new Overland Yacht will be departing later this year – hitting the Sahara as Summer fades into Autumn and following the sunshine South – you can come for a stay aboard!

September and October will be spent in Morocco, Western Sahara and Mauritania – with a little extension into Senegal to complete the old Paris – Dakar rally route. These places, especially Morocco, are really easy for you to get to so ideal to come and try out life aboard the Vegan Overland Yacht as we venture into Africa.

Morocco

Leaving Europe we will explore Morocco, winding South from the Mediterranean through the Atlas Mountains, exploring the Sahara Desert and the Atlantic Coast. We will be climbing through the high folds of the Atlas mountains, and down through the spectacular gorges cut into them. Spending nights out under the stars in the desert. Making our way across the dunes of Erg Chegaga on the old route of the Paris-Dakar Rally. Staying at a trail-side auberge for some traditional Moroccan off-truck dining and hospitality.

As well as the grand landscapes, we will visit the historic cities of Fez, Casablanca and Marrakech – with time to become immersed in the ancient medinas, and stock up on spices from market stalls for our on-board kitchen. There will even be a visit to a vegan restaurant or two!

To the South we follow the Atlantic coast – literally on the beach for a 30km stretch of wet sand at low tide, between the dry dunes and the roaring ocean. Stopping over at a luxury camp with a swimming pool near a ruined fort, after walking under the cliffs and sea arches at Legzira.

Western Sahara

Then we head into Western Sahara and the long, empty expanse of desert and sea towards Dakhla. The desert has flattened into a wide plain here, ending as cliffs drop into the Atlantic, cut through by the occasional dry valley filled with dunes.

A stopover by a dry salt lake on the way provides a quiet break from the journey before we reach Dakhla Lagoon – a kite-surfer’s paradise of smooth water, sheltered from the Atlantic to the West. Beyond Dakhla the road is even quieter as we head for Mauritania.

Mauritania

Ironically given our choice of name, Overland travel in Africa is sometimes all about borders. Each is an experience of its own, and the crossing from Western Sahara into Mauritania will no doubt be memorable and probably take most of the day. After negotiating the formalities, we’ll head into Nouadhibou to prepare for the next little adventure. Nouadhibou is the end of the line for one of the world’s more extreme railways. Every day 2km long trains of iron ore cross the desert from Zouerat to the coast, also carrying passengers. By all accounts the best way to take the trip is sitting on top of the loaded ore wagons, rather than the passenger coach tagged onto the train. The word ‘comfortable’ has not been used in relation to either option. Keeping the rail line to our North, we will be heading into 400km of desert on sandy tracks to make the crossing to Atar – passing by Mauritania’s answer to Uluru: Ben Amera.

After exploring the Adrar region’s oases, this time we will head back to the coast to explore the Banc d’Arguin National Park on our way to Nouakchott – a last goodbye to the Sahara. If anyone is particularly adventurous, needs a break from the truck, or is keen on extreme trains, the ore-wagons are of course an option! Check out this blog post from the 2016 trip for more on this section of the route.

Senegal

Crossing into Senegal on the last leg towards Dakar, we’ll stop over in St Louis before heading down the coast to Africa’s most Westerly point and the end of our Poznan-Dakar rally. A short hop, but there’s lots more to experience, and some vegan friends to catch up with.

Pickup and Dropoff Schedule

We plan to be in the following places where it will be easiest to join or leave us for your stay on board. The schedule is of course subject to change – sometimes routes through the mountains are closed in winter even in Morocco, and if we have no guests to rendezvous with a little flexibility to detour can enhance the adventure. But we will make particular effort to stick to dates and places where guests have connecting travel. On the upside, budget and national airlines fly to lots of these places so there are many options.

  • 1st – 29th August :  UK / South of France / Spain / Morocco free-range (Special Prices!).
  • 30th August -3rd September: Fez
  • 7th -8th September: Casablanca
  • 15th-16th September – Marrakesh
  • 19th September: Agadir
  • 27th – 30th September: Dakhla
  • 2nd October: Nouadhibou
  • 5th-8th October: Atar
  • 14th October – Nouakchott
  • 17th October: St Louis
  • 19th – 21st October: Dakar / Lac Rose
  • 30th October – 29th November:  – TBC – Gambia/Guinea/Sierra Leone/Mali?

Special Launch Deals Available Now!

Be part of this new venture  – want to try out the Overland Yacht concept? Try it out on the maiden voyage and help us with trials for a reduced rate. Or check the schedule for where we plan to be, and book your stay aboard – dates are freely changeable (subject to availability and any price difference).

  • Pre-Season Truck Trials: August 2020 – join us to try out the new truck…no fixed plan of where and when at this point so just £25-£75 per night, depending on accommodation, no weekly charge.

Or a taste of the Paris-Dakar Route?

EXAMPLE: Joining for 2 weeks in Marrakesh and leaving in Dakhla would give you a taste of the historic city, the Atlas Mountains, the Sahara Desert and Atlantic Coast (including a drive along the wet sand of La Plage Blanche at low tide), and ending in the kite-surfers’ paradise of Dakhla Lagoon. Pretty much the same experience as Yury captured in this video, though this time staying in comfort aboard our exclusive Overland Yacht! This all-inclusive stay including 4 nights in hotel accommodation ‘ashore’ would cost £2870 per person.

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Costs & Causes

Vegan Without Frontiers is run on a not-for-profit basis – guest payments go directly to paying the costs of expeditions. All surplus income is directed to supported charities and projects. Nobody is paid a salary, and the company has no owners or shareholders to pay.