Driving across Northwest America has been another feast for the eyes and for the soul.
Leaving the west, making our way east, led us through Cascade National Park with the bluest lakes I have ever seen and some of the most jaw-dropping mountains of our drive.
Thick, dense pine forests coat the landscapes, and we spent a day exploring Glacier National Park before heading to the world’s most active volcanic region; Yellowstone.
We’re not usually early morning people, but we entered Yellowstone at 6am in time for the sunrise, and the mystical scenes that greeted us easily repaid the hours of sleep that we had given up.
It was magical; the mysterious mist rising over early grazing herds, the lakes, rivers and mountains, the colours, the smells.
We hiked one of the parks highest peaks; Avalanche Peak, and it almost lived up to its name! Once we summited, we made our way across a ridge to the next peak, with Louise being literally knocked over by the wind several times. And as our path downwards turned into a scree slope, the only way down was to slide through rocks and pebbles, creating mini-avalanches and hoping we wouldn’t bring any bigger piles down on top of us.
It was an exhilarating, somewhat nerve-racking but beautiful hike… and we still had a day ahead of us to explore the Teton Mountains, a stunning mountain range that we had heard so much about.
But when we woke up, the heavens opened, and our plans for a beautiful hike in the Teton Mountains were spoiled. So we decided to just drive south.
Ten minutes later, as we entered Jackson, Wyoming, we were shocked to see a beautiful red Defender sitting outside a Dairy Queen. It wasn’t just any Defender; it was kitted out with a roof tent, roof boxes, two spare tyres, and those tell-tale stickers with a website and logo that told us “this car is on a serious journey”.
So we went inside, and met Sam and Hanne – a couple from Belgium who are into their 11th month of travelling.
When we told them that we had a Defender parked outside next to theirs, they of course jumped up and went out to take a look!
We started comparing our different interiors and exteriors; Michal and I were a little envious of their fridge and custom built units at the back. They had travelled around Africa for the first ten months of their trip, and had had a lot more time to build their house on wheels. The end result was beautifully organised and convenient; we learned a lot from them!
After a couple of hours of hearing each others’ stories, since we had no plans for that day thanks to the rain, we opted to join Sam, Hanne and “Lucy” their Defender on the road.
After an afternoon of driving and filling up on groceries, we found a perfect, secluded spot in the Idaho wilderness and set up camp for the evening.
The rain clouds had cleared out and the sky that night was absolutely stunning!
After a European breakfast, Sam and Hanne found some 4×4 trails through Crater of the Moon national park, and so after a morning of exploring caves and volcanic craters, we took our vehicles off road to put them through their paces.
They wanted to give us a little taste of what it might be like driving through Africa…
And within the first ten minutes, we heard a smash… We had lost a window!
We’re not sure if it was the intense vibrations, or the pressure from the car frame, or a stone flying up and hitting the window.
But it was gone!
With Sam and Hanne’s help, we patched it up using a plastic crate lid, and have now joined the league of travellers whose cars are somewhat held together by duct tape.
The rest of the 50-mile trail passed without any drama. But Sam and Hanne said that the roads and the landscape looked so similar to that of Namibia that they expected to see a giraffe or elephant at any moment!
We were planning to go our separate ways when we reached the lake, but there was a campsite just a mile away and so we spent our evening fishing (again, zero fish for us…), cooking and planning our next journey together somewhere in the world.
The next morning, we were both planning to get on the road early, but again we had so much to share and discuss and dream about that we didn’t get away until almost 3pm.
What a joy to meet such like-minded travellers by absolute chance! But we don’t believe in coincidences, and are very sure that we’ll get to travel somewhere together again in the future; maybe we’ll get ourselves a matching roof tent by then…
Sam and Hanne have been through Africa, N. America, and you can follow the rest of their epic journey through Central and South America and into South East Asis on their website www.tweejaaropreis.be – which means “Two Years On Vacation” – and if your Flemish isn’t up to scratch, google translate will help you out!
On a trip like this, it is imperative to be prepared and make good plans. But, sometimes, it is just wonderful when plans get changed or rain throws a curveball… something amazing might just happen…