I am the worst sucker for anything that relates to van life. If it’s online forums, YouTube channels, books or magazines, if it relates to traveling about in converted vans in any way, then I’m 100% in. I think it stems from all the safari tours I’ve done over the years as a tour guide, all in my 2007 Toyota Quantum.
Where It All Began
Years ago, I think around 2016, the Hluhlwue Imfolozi area was caught in a deluge that just defied belief. My French guests were due to travel to Mozambique to enjoy a diving trip but this was cancelled thanks to a cyclone passing by. We had spent 3 days in the Hluhluwe Imfolozi Game Reserve and were due to leave on the last afternoon. Over the 3 days in the park I had successfully navigated flooded rivers, dodged downed trees and somehow still spotted four of the Big 5.
We left the park and started on the way way back to Durban but after an hour the roads simply became to dangerous to drive on. The driving rain reduced visibility down to a few meters and roads became lakes. I pulled into a service station that was crowded with others and we ordered coffee’s to help warm us up.
Coffees in hand we jumped back into the van and made ourselves comfortable as we waited the rain out. It took around 3 hours before we could move on again. But over those three hours, we were warm, dry and oh so comfortable in my Toyota Quantum, so much so that my French guests started Googling to see if he could purchase one in France (turns out they are called the Hi Ace in France).
It got me thinking though, how fantastic would it be to travel around South Africa and maybe even Africa in a converted Toyota Quantum. The bug had bitten deeply and I have ever since become quite single minded about converting my Quantum.
I’ve had a quite a few camping trips in 2018 and 2019 where I’ve packed a tent and headed off to some remote spots – one of my favorites was a few nights spent at False Bay (a write up to follow soon). I simply took all the seats of the Quantum out to add packing space, but ended up sleeping in the vehicle anyway. So I know it can be done, there is more than enough space.
Apart from the space, the Quantum is one of the hardiest vehicles out there, with a raised height off the ground that makes dirt roads a breeze, a reliable Toyota engine that’s (mostly) easy to maintain, a sliding door and super large back door. It’s perfect to convert!
Over the next year or so I’m going to try out the “#vanlife” lifestyle by exploring KwaZulu-Natal and documenting the experience. There is so much to see and do around KZN but only so much time in which to see it all.
I’ve code named the project “Quantum” (sounds like a James Bond film) and will write about the build here as well – hopefully it’ll inspire more people out there to do something similar and explore their surroundings.
In trying to figure out how to go about converting the Quantum I’ve found some YouTube’rs who have embraced a nomadic and mobile lifestyle – not just camping in their vans but living in them as well – this appeals to me but alas, not practical in South Africa unfortunately. Two of my favorite YouTube’rs are;
- Primal Outdoors – Jason Darrah is an outdoor photographer and videographer who lives in his Overland truck. I have watched pretty much every YouTube video he’s made and I absolutely lust after his van.
- Off Grid Back Country – Brian is another favorite of mine, only he lives in the back of what we’d call a “bakkie” here in South Africa. Another channel that keeps me coming back for more.
Throughout the lockdown period in South Africa, the one thing I missed above all else was the ability to travel. I know I’m not alone in this, but being able to book a campsite and send a few days fishing, cooking over a campfire or even just rocking gently in a hammock is what I consider a life worth living. To not be able to do so is distressing to say the least.
I don’t believe life will ever be the same as before the arrival of covid19,m but the silver lining is that we all have an opportunity to change our lifestyles and better spend our time on things that bring us joy – for me it’s travel and exploration.
See you on the road!