The Overland Vehicle
Overlanding in Africa and South America is well known and many companies offer overland-style trips. But what about North America? North America has remote and beautiful places to visit and long distances to cover (especially in Alaska and Canada). Why not do it in a vehicle that has more space and is perfectly equipped for being outdoors and camping? Spending the last few years working for an overland adventure company throughout Africa and South America, we realized what the North American travel market was missing: Overland Vehicles. Most of the adventure companies in the US are running around with passenger vans and trailers attached. We thought: Why not build a vehicle that can carry more passengers, have more space and is more like a “home” for everyone? Bigger windows, spacious seating, viewing platform on the roof, and tables to play cards or write your journals.
So we took a yellow school bus and converted it into an overland vehicle. This is “Atka” – the guardian spirit in Inuit – on her maiden voyage from Arizona to Alaska.
My favourite road trips in Alaska and Canada
The best roads or “highways” in Canada are the “Alaska Highway” and the “Cassiar Highway”. “Highway” is for sure an exaggeration – most of the time you will see a car every half hour, even most of it is tarmac it is a rough ride for quite a few stretches as frost heaves are regularly destroying the road, but wildlife is abundant. On my last trip on the Alaska Highway in September 2014 I saw a lynx, a fox with a kill, five black bears including three cubs, buffaloes and the Northern Lights in 24 hours!
The best road in Alaska is the Denali Highway. “Highway” is again a strong word for a gravel road, sometimes covered in more potholes than many roads in Africa! But the stunning scenery with the Alaska Range and its glaciers, as well as caribou and moose crossing your way, you will feel as one of the first explorers. On top you can bush camp anywhere along the road!
The McCarthy Road leading into Wrangell/St. Elias National Park is also worth a drive. Leading to the “end of the road campsite” with an amazing glacier view, this gravel road offers views of some of the highest peaks in North America. Especially when the berries are ripe, black bears are frequently seen in the area.
You don’t want to go all by yourself and face a bear? Understandably so! Overlanding-style trips offer the right mixture of meeting lots of like-minded people, but having the freedom to make your own choices and being involved in the adventure: You can get the camp fire started yourself if you like to but you can also rely on your tour leaders organizing a bunch of stuff which you don’t want to deal with on your vacation. And you not only get to know the culture of the country you are visiting but befriend like-minded people from all over the world.
If you like outdoor activities and nature and want to explore the amazing landscape and animals of Alaska and Canada or concentrate on the beautiful National Parks in the Western US like Yellowstone, or Arches National Park, or hike down into one of the seven wonders of the world, I believe going on an overland trip is the best way to do it. You will be right out in the wilderness: trailblazing, spotting animals and enjoying evenings round the campfire. Yes, sometimes you might lack a shower or a proper toilet, but what is more rewarding than waking up in the middle of nowhere, the sun shining on your face and all you hear is the wind gently moving the bushes around you. There is nothing more peaceful than leaving civilization behind for a few days and slow down the pace we live. You will come back and appreciate your bathroom, bed, kitchen and realize that sometimes a little less (less information, less facebook, less comfort) can make you appreciate what and who you have in your life.