Is Overlanding Dead?

“Overlanding is dead.“ It´s a common lament among long time overland drivers. The expectations have changed, a sense of adventure has been lost. People want the comfort and the adventure without any of the compromise. The days of traveling through the middle of nowhere with a rough itinerary, a few maps and a week´s provisions are over. Or so I´m told.

I posed this question to Jono, the driver, as he swung the truck around another hairpin curve overlooking a vertigo inducing precipice. Something in the TDA mix keeps me coming back year after year, and I´m trying to figure out what it is exactly.

“Overlanding isn´t dead“ says Jono, ´´The industry has changed, people want more comforts, risk tolerance has shifted, but there will always be a certain percentage of people willing to put up with the risks and the discomfort in search of real adventure.´´  He then went on to tell me about a few rogue drivers that are leading crazy trips in the far flung corners of the globe; West Africa, the Middle East, Mongolia. Tours that take people off the beaten track, and allow them to experience something different.

He swings the truck around another corner, and the side-view mirror clips a cactus. I hang out the window to observe the margin for error he´s working with. My hand rests on the door latch, my seat belt is undone. The road we´re traveling on is taking us from an abandoned mining town up in the mountains to Playa Blanca National park. Perhaps the park is a major tourist draw, but I´m sure gringos don´t come via this trail.

“Take this trip for example, look at this road.“ The road drops down below us in a dramatic series of tight turns. “These guys are doing this crazy road on bicycles, now that is something different.´´ Three hours later and we´re rolling into our camp nestled among a bizarre collection of leaning granite boulders next to the sea. Again I am amazed at how quickly the landscape can change.

The next morning we´re set to leave. I look over the days navigation instructions, as Jono puts the truck in gear. We lurch forward for a second then the truck starts kicking up the fine powdery sand that gives Playa Blanca its name. Jono puts it in reverse but to no avail. Out come the shovels and the sand mats. From the moment we set out to accomplish the task we knew we had to succeed. Two and a half hours later the truck is back on terra firma and we´re covered in sand. We´re ready to find our way to the next camp, and I´m one step closer to understanding what it is that keeps me coming back for more. 

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