How Our Drive from Budapest and Singapore Changed The Way We Want To See The World
We couldn’t help it. I was always talking about one trip, I was so excited about it. I was talking about a previous trip all the time when I first met Evelin. Nothing else.
I travelled through Europe, Mongolia and Central Asia with two friends. Despite the fact that everything seemed perfect in our pick-up truck, some problems with the alternator eventually surfaced and we had no other option but to sell it in a remote village of Tajikistan, right next to the Afghan border.
We then managed to reach Mongolia without our truck but discovered the country, nonetheless.
The Start of Our Adventure
That attempt to drive to Mongolia was a turning point in the way I wanted to travel. A regular trip with a suitcase or backpack did not seem appealing anymore.
That is why Evelin and I were looking forward to organize the trip of our lifetime, an overland trip. We wanted it to be the longest one possible, which didn’t require our vehicle to be transported with a ferry or container ship. As such, we started planning for the Budapest-Singapore route.
So, we started looking online at other people’s experiences with overlanding, which made us even more excited for ours. Considering we had a Toyota Land Cruiser 120 (A GX470 equivalent), we were ready to explore our overlanding options. After all, I bought that because I was already thinking of a trip like this.
As we were planning the route, we were looking at potential highlights to see during the trip. Two of the destinations we were looking forward to were Mongolia and China. But it’s hard to pick just a few things even retrospectively since there so many brilliant spots this route has to offer.
We planned our itinerary gound south around the Black Sea and then driving north through Georgia and Chechnya and into Kazakhstan, north of the Caspian Sea.
It was quite a tough task to stay within our 6-month timeframe since there are so many places to go to and you don’t want to miss anything.
Georgia was a treasure. We went through the Tusheti National Park, which is full of fantastic off-road sections, gorges, waterfalls, and hidden villages.
Reaching Kazakhstan, Mongolia, and China
Chechnya doesn’t have the best reputation and it’s not a very touristy destination, so we definitely wanted to check it out. Local people were actually quite happy to see at least some tourists there when we visited.
Then we entered the massive plains of Kazakhstan. At first, our expectations were low, but Kazakhstan didn’t let us down in the end. In fact, it was one of the best parts of the trip. We managed to reach the Altai Region and drove on the Austro-Hungarian road. It was very challenging, but that’s what made it even better.
At this point, it was time to plan our route to Mongolia, China, and Southeast Asia. I’ve done a lot of research on Mongolia and also due to my previous trip to the country, I ended up with very high expectations. I knew overlanding is the best way to discover what the country has to offer.
Mongolia was amazing, and apart from getting to experience some amazing places, we also met other likeminded adventurers.
Not to mention that one of the greatest honors was to meet Coen and Karin-Marijke from Landcruising Adventure, who’ve been on the road since 2003.
They have an amazing story, and they managed to teach us a lot, while we stayed in the campground for 2-3 days.
It was also in Mongolia that we realized we had to start solving some problems. Although overlanding gives you an empowering feeling of independence and freedom, this also forces you to take life into your own hands and deal with your own issues.
Basically, we had problems with our vehicle, which was to be expected at some point. Mongolia has very few roads, so you have to drive on a lot of dirt roads and tracks which, of course, could take a toll on your truck.
Considering that we also had to cross some deep rivers, our transmission and starter motor started to malfunction, so we had to look for some solutions. It took us an 18-hour drive to find a mechanic who was willing to fix our starter motor. There was no way I could’ve fixed it myself in the middle of the Gobi Desert.
The automatic transmission was finally mended just after we entered China.
I have to say, driving through China was an experience of a lifetime all of its own.
Whereas we were able to see some remote villages that still take you back in time, most places look so modern that it’s hard to believe how poor this country was just a few decades ago. Over the last 20-30 years, the country underwent an incredible amount of development, which is why the cities are so futuristic looking and everything looks vibrant.
We loved meeting the villagers in the Chinese countryside because they were welcoming, kind and even offered to cook some mouth-watering dinners for us.
How The Trip Changed The Way We Want To Travel In The Future
Our trip took 6 months, but it’s hard to find words to describe the memories and experiences it offered. We will carry those with us forever.
Through overlanding, you don’t only get to travel in a unique way, but you can also connect with people in a completely different way than other forms of travel. You can meet and help some individuals who live in the remotest areas of the planet, far away from tourist routes.
We are now making plans for our next overlanding adventure. We plan to buy a van to replace our current Land Cruiser. It has to be an off-road-capable one, though, as we can’t afford to miss some of the best places in the world. With a van, we’d be able to enjoy the overlanding experience while being able to deal with extreme weather, if we need to.
We hope to complete the Pan-American Highway in the future. It is our dream. But until then, we want to discover more about Europe and see what it has to offer. We’ve already visited most European countries, but we feel like we haven’t really seen it until we criss-cross it as overlanders.
Ferenc & Evelin own OverlandSite.com, exiting the corporate rat race and now traveling fulltime in their 120-series Toyota Land Cruiser. Interesting in learning more about Overlanding basics? Follow their adventures on their site!