40 YEARS EXPLORING THE WORLD IN 4 LAND ROVERS
Many people like to say they would go on adventures, they are real enthusiasts of Overlanding and off-road trips, but not many are as dedicated as Pierrette and Denis Robin.
When I found out about their extraordinary journey, I had no choice but to share their 40-year adventure in their 4x4s. To start with, this couple makes the story even more interesting. Pierrette and Denis come from a tiny village in Haute-Loire, France.
1st question: Can you give us an overview of your journey and countries visited?
We are Pierrette and Denis, and we live in a tiny village in Auvergne. For those who know us, we are the Robinlands.
In 1977, we bought our first Land Rover 109 Utility to renovate an old family house at an altitude of 1200 m (4000 ft) in an area that gets a lot of snow in winter and is often difficult to reach with the snowdrifts.
In the first years with the 109, we did a lot of 4×4 with a local club.
In 1982, once the renovations were done, the land was transformed into a “travel” version; it was arranged so that we could sleep in it. Overnights in inlets by the sea in Corsica, holidays wandering in the trails with our 4×4… We just loved it. Passion for off-road travels was born!
Since 1982, with the family, we have always traveled by Land Rover: 109, Land Rover Turbo D modified into 300TDI, Defender 110 TDI, and Defender 130 TDI with an Ortec canopy camper which we still have. There are no criteria for choosing countries. At first, we chose closer places, and then with time, we wanted to discover more and explore a bit further.
From 1982 to 2005, we traveled during our holidays to countries that were easily accessible: England, Ireland, Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria, Sicily, Spain, Morocco, Mauritania, Algeria, Tunisia, Mali, Senegal, Libya, Turkey, Armenia, Georgia, Nagorno-Karabakh, Syria, Jordan.
From 2006 to 2008, many trips lasted longer (2 and half months): Eastern Europe, Ukraine, Russia, Mongolia, Central Asia, Kazakhstan, Africa with Burkina and, again, Mauritania and Mali.
In 2010 we retired and no longer had a return date, which allowed usto travel in South America from Ushuaia to Quito (Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, Peru, Paraguay, Uruguay, Brazil, Ecuador), in the Himalayas (China, Nepal, Pakistan, India), Southeast Asia (Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand, Myanmar), Western Africa (Mauritania, Senegal, Guinea Conakry, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Togo, Benin, Burkina, Mali).
The last trip was in the Middle East in 2019/2020 (shortened as we had to return to Pakistan and India): Iran, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Israel.
2nd and 3rd questions – What is the best tip you can give to people who want to travel like you, and which equipment is essential when traveling by 4X4?
Preparation: When you decide to go on a trip, it is important to consider the seasons if you spend your time outside and sleep in your vehicle.
– As for mechanics, inspect the vehicle before leaving (although it does not prevent the unforeseen).
– Choose proper tires and good quality shock absorbers. We have been driving for many years with versatile tires (like Mud Goodrich) and high-performance shock absorbers (like Kony Heavy Track Raid) regardless of road conditions.
– Equip the vehicle according to your destination: additional diesel fuel tanks for the desert, engine heater, thermal protection for tanks, antifreeze lubricants and fuel for polar regions.
– Same for the canopy camper to protect yourself against hot or cold weather (like Wesbasto heater and gas heater).
– Some essential car parts (diesel fuel pump, stuff to repair the clutch, accessory belt) so that you don’t get stuck in remote places without breakdown service.
– Useful vehicle accessories: traction aid, Hi-lift jack (given you have lift points), winch if you travel alone. You can add diff guard, driveshaft and transfer case skid plates.
– Navigation systems (GPS or mobile apps like Maps.me).
Each additional pound put on the vehicle means less water, fuel, and food. Keep in mind that you need to limit the weight as much as possible.
4th question et 6th question – Did you encounter a challenge that made you think about abandoning the adventure? Did you have any issues with the vehicle?
Not huge problems – there is always a solution! But some bad memories and stressful moments:
– while the border was closed due to landmines, it was rather stressful to drive through smugglers’ trails in Mauritania/Sahara
– on a former Moudjeria/Atar trail (Mauritanian desert), we could not turn around as we didn’t have enough diesel, and we didn’t have GPS (it didn’t exist back then)
– we had a lot of adrenalin from Nouadhibou to Nouakchott when we had to drive on the beach. The smallest ocean tides in the year forced us to drive 200 km in water.
Few break downs on our trips
– the transmission on the 109 was stuck at a gas station in Marrakech, and we fixed it on the roadside with a thin cover
– an axle shaft broke in Kirghizstan. The most difficult was to find someone who could temporarily weld it while we waited for the part ordered by the internet
– the vacuum pump of the land was fixed at an Indian mechanic’s in Chandigarh (India)
– the cylinder head gasket was fixed in Ukraine with parts we ordered by the internet
– a clutch problem in Burkina – we had the replacement part in the land
5th question – Financially, how should couples like you get prepared?
We have been asked this question often. We made our first trips during our holidays and only visited countries we could easily go to in a month. We were only camping and did not spend on hotels and rentals. The living costs were low in most countries back then (Iran, North Africa, Lybia…), and diesel was almost free in some countries like Iran and Lybia. Maintenance and equipment are done by Denis, which is a huge advantage and a great way to save money. We were reasonable for everyday life, eating in restaurants and visiting sites without missing out.
Since we have retired, although our trips are longer, our pensions are sufficient. We spend less than if we were staying home.
7th question – What is your favorite place?
A lot of places, it is impossible to name only one. We have fond memories of meetings in those countries.
In terms of landscapes, countries around the Himalayas are on top: Tibet (China), Nepal, Pakistan, Iran, and Caucasia (Georgia, Armenia).
For a change of scenery: Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, North African countries, Western Africa (Guinea, Benin, Togo, Mali, Burkina), Mongolia, Siberia.
As for making us feel welcome: Iran and Pakistan are on top, followed by Southeast Asia (Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia…) and Saudi Arabia.
8th question – If you had to choose a song that makes you think of your trips, which one would it be?
“Voyageur” by Bernard Lavilliers
Dave Daneault 4x4setupMagazine