Slogging through a muddy road, a lone pickup pushes its way forward. With a slide in camper in its bed, the two explorers enjoy the challenge and regale the reader of exotic places, friendly people, and not so friendly situations as they travel from California to Tierra Del Fuego.
I first discovered them while thumbing through an issue of Four Wheeler magazine. That was in 1982, so they already had ten years of solo exploration before I heard of them. Gary had even more experience and stories to tell when you count his time in the Camel Trophy challenges by Land Rover.
What hooked me was the fact that they were using something I saw on the road everyday as their own version of the USS Enterprise, discovering strange new worlds and seeking out new lives and civilization here on our own planet. Yeah, the rest of the magazine had glossy pictures of tricked out trucks and hard-core off-roading thrills. I didn’t care. These two people were doing the real challenge. Going from place to place where if you broke down, there is no walk out an hour away or taxi to call once you get to base. They were on their own and had to be self-sufficient. Sure, they could have stuck to the paved highways and side streets for their trips, but they wanted more than what the asphalt offered. They wanted the secrets of the land that only the dirt roads and two-track lanes could offer. They were sailors crossing the ocean in search of little known islands, but on land.
Their truck was there means to an end. Compared to the over the top rigs splashed across the pages and cover of the magazine, the Turtle seemed positively mild. Looks were conceiving though as I learned about the tan truck and what it was built for. It had a mild lift, a change to the suspension to allow better clearance between the important parts of the underside and possible debris and rocks on the road. The Turtle also had off-road tires, a brush guard, and winches to pull it out when it got stuck.
The Turtle also came with a shell; A camper shell to be exact. It was a unique camper boasting a lightweight aluminum frame and a top that opened up another eight inches for walk around room. When closed, that camper had such a low profile that it let the truck go places bigger trucks wouldn’t fit. The low weight of the camper allowed more items of comfort and necessity to be carried without overloading the truck. The Turtle was home, car, and fortress rolled into one.
And they took it all across Central and South America. When they had finished, Ford was so impressed they offered the Wescotts a new pickup for their next adventure. And what an adventure it turned out to be, for the next time the Wescotts looked east instead of south. The Turtle’s next expedition was through Siberia during winter! Over frozen lakes and through sub-freezing temperatures, Gary and Monika drove the Turtle from one end of Russia to the other and when they finished, pushed on until they explored Switzerland.
Today they are putting the finishing touches on their preparations for their next great voyage. The Silk Road. They will be driving their latest version of the Turtle from Portugal, through 26 countries and finishing inside China. It’s been many years of planning and testing new equipment for this challenge and they are excited!
I am too. The Wescotts have been a big influence on me as I grew up. Their stories dovetailed neatly into my own local adventures. Like them I prefer seeing Nature to the taillights of the car ahead of me. I’ll look for that gravel road instead of the paved highway when possible. And while my life choices have led to a more domestic lifestyle, I can still join Gary and Monika on their grand explorations.
I am reminded of a question a brilliant world traveler asked one time. “Why would people want to read about my adventures when they can have their own?” The answer was always simple. Without those to inspire us, where would we get that spark of excitement and encouragement to go? Reading and thinking of these two adventurers years ago cemented my own will to have adventures of my own. I hope they inspire and encourage you to go have an adventure of your own.
If you’d like to follow them you can find The Turtle Expedition here.
And their Facebook page here.