The intent to proceed with Tip Toe Overland remains and if anything the desire to travel again has been enhanced by the Covid -19 pandemic and the associated, seemingly never ending, 'lock down's'. The issue is how to travel responsibly, keeping ourselves (and others) safe from disease. Falling ill in Africa where the standards of medical care are generally poor and currently overloaded would not be good nor responsible. The start of a vaccination program in the UK is good news and we should finally see the tide start to turn against Covid. I think 2020 has taught us to 'expect the unexpected' and it shouldn't be a surprise to anybody to learn of the recent mutation of the disease; nor that it may take until August 21 for the UK to develop 'herd immunity' to Covid. Vaccination programs across the African continent will follow but it looks like its going to be 2022 at the earliest before cross border overland travel will be sensible in Africa.
In Europe however, the situation is likely to be different although the crystal ball still remains 'misty'. The vaccine should be more readily available and it is probable that overland travel could be safe by around the end of Q2/21. This is a best guess and the situation will need to reviewed again nearer the time. A window of opportunity to travel is therefore possibly appearing but not early enough to allow the full Expedition to be completed before the rains in Africa. It might however be possible to break the trip in two parts. Europe in late 2021 followed by Africa in 2022.
Assuming we are able to do this, the provisional plan is to reverse the planned Scandinavian circuit. Departing the UK, direct to Sweden, northwards through Finland to the North Cape before the winter snows. Then southwards at a more leisurely pace through Norway, returning to the UK for the winter. A real bonus would be the ability to attend the annual Caravan Salon in Dusseldorf in early Sep 21 on the return leg back to UK but we are likely to be too late for this.
This change would also create an opportunity to select a different (more economical and potentially comfortable) vehicle for the European leg. Possibly a Campervan or motorhome. Vehicles under 6 m (7m max) and 3500kgs are easier to park; tolls and ferries are cheaper and use appoximately half the fuel of an Expedition Truck. Of the vehicles we have looked at so far, the comfortable 'mobile cottage' is about 7m in length and has a large 'garage' for bikes etc. This is very 'doable' in Europe, but would be completely hopeless in Africa.
In addition to having a great time, Tip Toe Overland will research agriculture, wildlife, fisheries and community issues in the Arctic with a view to identifying and ultimately sharing best practice with projects in Africa. As unlikely as it might seem there are a number of common issues including human / carnivorous wildlife conflicts, farming conflicts, community livelihoods, education, asset protection, commercial pressures, fresh water and loss of habitat. I'll share more about the drivers and purpose of the expedition in due course.
In the mean time, may I wish you a very happy Christmas and lets hope we all have a better 2021. Stay well.