Ready to become a wandering rover through Europe, Russia and beyond
Don't wander off the main roads at the borders due to the risk of landmines. Don't enter any old, abandoned buildings as many of them are still booby-trapped from the war. Not the types of warnings that come with a normal vacation, but this is no ordinary trip and these are just some of the things we will have to bear in mind.
I'm no stranger to adventure travel. I've participated in tropical fish collecting trips to the Peruvian Amazon, Mexico and Lake Malawi in Africa. I've travelled across southern Africa for a month in one of those big overland trucks and, last year, I drove my Land Rover to the Swiss Alps for a month. But these all pale against the Bermuda Rover adventure that I'm about to embark upon. The 5½-month adventure will involve driving my Land Rover through 24 countries and covering over 20,000 miles. I can't think of a better way to celebrate retirement.
The adventure will take me and my friend Klaus across Europe and through Ukraine to Russia, so the current developments in Ukraine are obviously being watched closely. Once into Russia, we'll drive east through Siberia, including some off-road sections, until we reach Lake Baikal, the deepest lake in the world. We'll then turn south into Mongolia where the real off-road driving experience will begin. Outside the capital city of Ulaan Baatar, there are very few paved roads, so we'll be following dirt tracks across the steppes as we make our way back west through Mongolia. The westward journey will continue through Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan and then back through Russia and Ukraine. The European segment will take us through Romania, Albania and Greece before we wind our way through the Balkans to Slovenia. We'll then turn north to get Klaus back home to Berlin where I'll pick up my wife, Bev, for the more comfortable (non-camping) final leg through Germany, Austria, Italy, France and England.
To prepare for this trip, I had to purchase and equip a suitable vehicle — a process that brought plenty of drama. Some valuable lessons were learned after the garage preparing my first Land Rover Defender went bankrupt and left me high and dry with an incomplete and unsuitable vehicle. A second Defender was purchased and the usable upgrades from the first vehicle were transferred to the second, before selling what was left of the first. With a good base vehicle and a reputable garage, work progressed to upgrade and equip the vehicle so that it was suitable for the journey. This included replacing the suspension, fitting underbody protection, installing a fridge, solar panel, additional fuel tank and removing the rear seating to build a storage area and sleeping platform. And then there was an array of camping gear and miscellaneous equipment to buy.
The Land Rover got its first shake-down test in the summer of 2013 when my daughter Michele and I drove it through Europe to the Alps. The month-long trip saw us visit nine countries and cover around 3,000 miles. The Defender and our camping equipment came through with flying colours. Back in England, the vehicle had a thorough servicing and some more work to address a few niggling issues that were noticed on the trip, ensuring that it is in top shape for the 2014 adventure.
Of course, I'm excited about the trip. I expect that it will challenge us in a number of ways. We'll struggle with languages. We may get frustrated with bureaucracy at border crossings. There's a chance that we'll suffer flat tyres or breakdowns and we may get stuck in the mud. We'll miss our families and friends. We'll have to contend with bad weather and swarms of insects. But I hope that we meet beautiful friendly people, see wonderful places and experience diverse cultures. I hope that we remain humble, upbeat and flexible and see the positive side of everything. I'm sure that we'll learn from our experiences, returning as better people thanks to our exposure to the wider world.
I'll be updating my blog whenever we can find an internet connection, so anyone wishing to follow our exploits can do so at www.bermudarover.com.
Inspector Craig Morfitt joined the Humberside Police Force (UK) in 1978 and left in 1984 to join the Bermuda Police Service.
He has worked in a number of sections within the police, including CID, and is currently in charge of the Service Delivery Improvement Unit.
His personal policing philosophy is “Always act with integrity and respect, treating others fairly and in the manner that they would wish to be treated.”
Inspector Morfitt is vice-president of the September 5th Foundation, a registered charity to benefit the victims of Hurricane Fabian.
He is also treasurer and past chairman of the Bermuda Police Boxing Section, and a diversity facilitator for the Human Rights Commission.
He is a member of the Bermuda Fry-Angle Aquarium Society and the Bermuda Classic Bike Club. He is also an avid traveller who particularly enjoys getting off the beaten track.
Inspector Morfitt holds a Master of Science Degree in Police Leadership & Management from the University of Leicester.