Magical gateway to the Arctic

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By Louise Creasy

10 September 2020

Arctic_road_trip_2020 Sue Maddock and her Freelander 2 get a warm welcome at the Arctic Circle : credit: © Robert Ngwenga

Land Rover Adventures are a group of friends who love Solihull’s finest and travelling. Fancy joining them? Read on...

The best thing about owning a Land Rover is that the whole world is open to you. It’s this philosophy that Land Rover Adventures, a group of friends and green oval enthusiasts, strongly believe in. Between them they have covered over 30,000 miles in 17 different countries over the past 12 months. They are not a business ;they just reach out to Land Rover and Range Rover clubs all over the UK to facilitate road trips, to bring people together and to experience travel in a different way.

Adventures from previous years include Netherlands, Spain, Italy and Chernobyl, while future quests may encompass the Alps, Romania, Morocco and Kaliningrad. From quaint villages to sprawling cities, famous landmarks to the wilderness, Land Rover Adventures are always looking for new and exciting destinations.

If you love to explore and you own a Land Rover (or Range Rover), then this may well be the group for you. Their only requirement is that your vehicle should be capable of driving at the speed limits of Europe – so able to sit comfortably at 80 mph safely for hours (perhaps not ideal for Series owners). Group members, love to travel – sometimes solo, sometimes one or two of them and sometimes as a group – which brings a whole new dynamic. All adventures start in the UK and trips typically last between two and five days, but they do go away for ten days between Christmas and New Year. 

We talk to the co-founder of Land Rover Adventure Daniel Dollin (together with Drew Morgan and Steve Anderson) plus a few other group members who recently undertook a trip to Tromsø, located almost 250 miles north of the Arctic Circle, to get a flavour of what they do.

 

Daniel Dollin: Founder of Land Rover Adventures (and Drew Morgan, left)
Land Rover of choice: 2014 Evoque Prestige Lux (2.2 sd4, automatic transmission) 
Where do you live? Devon
How old are you? 35 

Where did your love of travel come from? I’ve always wanted to travel, but life always seemed to get in the way. I only got my passport in 2017 – now I make sure work and life revolves around travel.

How long have you been interested in Land Rovers and why are they so special to you? Land Rovers have always been in our family, and I often attended AWDC events as a child, which then turned into me competing as soon as I got my first Range Rover Classic, and now, the Evoque goes off road!

Is it your first Evoque? If not, please list previous models? This is my second Evoque (the first met an untimely end on the M1 as we aquaplaned into the concrete central reservation) and it’s a fairly rare two-door model with some even rarer options. Previous Land Rovers included two supercharged L322s, three regular L322s, three P38s, seven Classics and three Freelander 1s.

 

Back to this car – how did you get hold of it? After crashing the first Evoque on the way to Yorkshire, I searched eBay while in the hotel, we picked up the hire car and test drove this on the way home. With adaptive cruise control and heated and cooled seats, I’ve never seen an Evoque with the same options in the UK.

What did you do to prepare the Evoque for the road trip? The beauty with any Land Rover product is they are generally road trip ready out of the box – all the cars needed was winter tyres. They all had a thorough service beforehand, and I spoke to Land Rover’s technical department to confirm the oil grade to protect the engine down in lows of around minus 30 degrees Celsius. 

Did you have any issues with the Evoque during the trip? The main issue we had was the wheel arches filling with snow. Every 30 minutes we’d need to stop and clear out the front arches otherwise steering and suspension travel was compromised.  

We also suffered from a chunk of ice, the size of a paving slab, coming off the roof of a lorry on the motorway in Sweden and hitting the windscreen so that needed to be replaced when we got home.

Why the Arctic Circle? Last year we drove to Chernobyl, this year we wanted to do something equally as exciting. I’ve always wanted to see the Northern Lights so this seemed like a great opportunity. The Christmas and New Year break usually gives everyone the longest period off, so essentially it’s governed by how far you can drive in five days and then back. We stuck the destination into Google maps, and went from there. We hate coming back the same route, so made our journey as circular as we could.

Any lowlights and highlights from your travels with your Evoque? The whole trip was immense, but driving through Finland was just beautiful. On the flip side, I think it’s easy to underestimate the toll driving for ten hours a day can take on you after a few days, especially as there were only three to four hours of daylight in the Arctic Circle. 

How many miles did you log up? 5000 miles total and 1000 more for Jason and Kirsty as they live in Scotland.

What are your plans for the future with the Evoque? Since Tromsø we’ve been down to the French Alps in February for a personal holiday, we were going to the Swiss Alps in April as a Land Rover Adventures event before coronavirus, hopefully the next trip we’ll be able to make is Romania over Christmas and New Year.

What is your top tip for anyone who also wants to overland? Don’t underestimate how tiring driving can get after a few days, take some audio books and calories don’t count on holiday – so eat everything that takes your fancy!

Anything you want to add?  People often talk to us about our adventures, they say things like “I wish I could, but…” or “I’d really love to but I don’t have the time”.  You need to make travel your priority as it can be as cheap or as expensive as you want to make it, and as long and as short as you want. You can drive economically and sleep in your car in mild weather, or you can floor it and stay in posh hotels and cover enormous distances.  The point is - just do it! Life is an adventure. Discover it!

 

Jason and Kirsty posing in front of Tromsø church

Kirsty West and Jason Osgood
Land Rover of choice:
Freelander 2 (2.2 Td4, manual transmission, Gen4 4x4 system) 
Where do you live?  Aberdeen (Scotland)
How old are you? Kirsty, 26; Jason, 35

Where did your love of travel come from? Kirsty: Having never left the UK before when the opportunity came up to visit eight countries in one journey, I had to jump on it. I have always loved the snow so I was super excited to visit Scandinavia in winter. However it was watching the TV series Long Way Round and Long Way Down that opened my eyes to how easily the world can be explored by vehicles, especially Land Rovers.  
Jason: Watching their adventures really opened my eyes to the wider world and lit the spark of adventure. After being on a few camping trips with my parents when I was younger I have always loved to travel, now being a lot older I find it easier to travel. This trip was my first time driving abroad and I absolutely loved it. 

How long have you been interested in Land Rovers and why are they so special to you? Kirsty: I got into the Land Rover scene though Jason, he would spend most weekends outside tinkering or fixing his various Land Rovers and at times needed some help, so I would go out and help when I could. He then took me on an off-roading forest drive with a local club, and it’s gone from there!
Jason: I got into Land Rovers about ten years ago when I needed a car to get to and from work. I had a Discovery 1 200Tdi Auto and absolutely loved it, but when it needed too much work to get through the next MoT I sold it and went back to other makes. Four years later I moved to Scotland and wanted to get another Land Rover, a Discovery 300Tdi. In total I’ve had four Discovery 1s and now I’ve got myself an Exmoor trim 2.5 110 (my first ever Defender) and absolutely love it. 

Is it your first Freelander? Kirsty: Yes, it is my first official car.
Jason: I’ll be honest, I used to slate the Freelanders until Kirsty got one and I took it off-road, and wow it’s brilliant, if I didn’t have the Defender, I would probably have a Freelander.

Back to this car – how did you get hold of it? Jason: The car was bought secondhand from a lady in Sheffield who needed the money to put a deposit on a house. I had spent a long time looking for a car in blue, with heated seats, no fake wood trim and a grey or black interior – a surprisingly hard combination to find. After seeing one locally but discovering it had bad rust around the wheel arches, I gave up looking. I then spotted this one on Facebook Marketplace, and pretty much put a deposit on it there and then.  A week later we drove down to view it. It came with most of the service history and was in very good condition. It had the odd scratch here and there, but nothing unexpected for a nearly ten-year-old car. It had been used as a second car, enjoying leisurely drives with its previous owner; it didn’t know what it was getting into with me!

What did you do to prepare the Freelander for the trip?  Jason: Before we fully committed to the trip we changed the cam belt and water pump as well as the brake pads and discs all round and a general service. After fully committing to the trip we got a set of full winter tyres and snow chains, plus we checked the engine coolant would be okay in extreme cold. As is recommended with the Freelander 2 we used 5W30 oil, and used concentrated screen wash usable to minus 50 degrees Celsius.

   

The trip was 5000 miles in total 

Any lowlights and highlights from your travels with your Freelander? Jason: Highlights would have to be the snow! Experiencing that much snow was just amazing. In the UK the country shuts down with the smallest amount, so it was amazing to see everyone just going about their day-to-day business. Another highlight was the people, everyone we went with were just fantastic, we all got on so well and looked after each other throughout the adventure. Everyone we met on the road was very welcoming too, but also understanding when we weren’t exactly fluent in the local language!  

The only downside would have to be the length of the trip; we wish it could have been longer to give us more of an opportunity to explore the different counties. Often, we weren’t arriving at our destination until later in the eventing not giving us time to explore where we were staying.  

What are your plans for the future with the Freelander? Jason: We’re planning on getting a roof tent for other adventures, including the main UK Land Rover shows.

What is your top tip for anyone who also wants to overland? Just keep on top of the maintenance of the vehicle and it will keep going, look after it and it will look after you. Make sure you have the right tyres and equipment for where you are going and all will be fine.  

Anything you want to add? Instead of thinking about doing a trip, just go and do it – that’s what we did. You know what they say, ‘One Life, Live It’, and that’s what we are doing.

 

Sue and Nobert love to explore non-tourist places 

Sue Maddock (and Nobert Ngwenya)
Land Rover of choice: Freelander 2 (2.2 Td4)
Where do you live? Methwold, Norfolk 
How old are you? 54 (Sue), 41 (Nobert) 

Where did your love of travel come from? We have always loved to travel, particularly to the less touristy places. It is important to us to be in touch with nature and the local environment – understanding local culture and respecting the differences in attitude, behaviour and beliefs. To us travel is an important part of life – it opens new horizons and broadens our outlook on life. It helps us become tolerant and appreciative of everything. 

How long have you been interested in Land Rovers and why are they so special to you? We are the owners of FreelanderSpecialist.com which was formed in 2007. Our passion is Freelanders and we know them inside out and back to front! They are very special to us not only because they give us our whole way of life but because they are amazingly capable vehicles and have taken us to places where many did not believe a Freelander could go. We have been across the Sahara, around Iceland in winter camping, as well as up in the Arctic Circle for this recent trip. 

So we take it, this isn’t your first Freelander? We have had every model of Freelander there is! Our main adventuring Freelander is an old L-Series Freelander 1 called Knapsack – we love him! He is kitted out with all the overland camping gear such as a roof tent, awning, fridge/freezer, you name it. 

We also have one of the 37 Camel Trophy Freelanders in existence – a real treasure. Our general everyday car is a HSE Freelander 2, the one we took to the Arctic Circle. 

Back to this car - how did you get hold of it? Blitzen Glitzen, which is what we named this Freelander 2, was acquired by us when a customer broke down in Europe and, after having the Freelander transported to us for assessment, decided that the engine rebuild plus replacement turbo was not financially viable for them. We purchased the Freelander from them and it stood in our premises for a year or more, waiting for a bit of TLC. When the opportunity came to join the trip to the Arctic Circle we decided this would be the best Freelander for us to use – Knapsack would be carrying too much weight and the Freelander 2 we were using as our daily car at the time did not have heated seats, which we felt would be a big bonus in the Arctic conditions. 

What did you do to prepare the Freelander for the road trip? We had quite a big task ahead of us to prepare Blitzen Glitzen for his Arctic adventure – he was an empty shell! We had to do that aforementioned engine work and generally rebuild. We completed the work about three weeks before we were due to go and took him for a test spin to Bruges, Belgium. We had a bit of an issue with coolant loss from one of the pipes, but managed to sort that out and then took him for a second test run to the airport when we had a weekend in Porto. It was a perfect drive down but on the way back we had an issue with the MAF sensor. Another problem sorted and the only thing left to do was fit some high quality winter tyres, imported from Sweden. We then confidently hit the road, on Boxing Day, to the Arctic Circle. Blitzen Glitzen performed amazingly for the entire trip. He never missed a beat, but even if he did, mechanical issues are never a worry to us, after all we are FreelanderSpecialist.com! 

Stunning village composed of snow and ice

Any lowlights and highlights from your travels with your Freelander? Lows are just like challenges in your adventure! We did have a bit of a mishap when Nobert declared he saw the perfect spot for a photo opportunity. We turned around and as we pulled over to let a snow plough pass in the opposite direction onto what looked like a flattened out piece of snow, it was in fact masquerading as a ditch. We were almost on our side, we could not even get out of the drivers’ door, but we thought it was going to be a quick fix – after all there was an enormous snow plough to help us! Unfortunately the snow plough could not get any grip on the road. Some locals then came along to help but none of them had the power to get us out, as there was only one wheel touching the ground. Two of the Freelanders that were with our group then came along, but at this point we thought the locals had called for a tractor and so did not try the recovery with a Freelander (I’m sure it would have succeeded!). Fortunately Matt and Mark managed to get a snow chain on the one wheel that was on the ground – lesson, always make sure you know how to use the equipment you bring with you – just as the snow plough returned again. This time he decided to give it one more try, pulling in the other direction. A combination of him having a bit more grip going downhill, one snow chain on, plus a number of people pushing and out we came.

What are your plans for the future with the Freelander?  We are not sure what adventure Blitzen Glitzen will be going on next, but Knapsack will be heading on a Southern European trip later this year [subject to COVID-19] – we want to go to all the Southern European countries we have not yet been to including countries like Kosovo, Serbia and Albania. Next year we will cover the Northern ones including Latvia, Lithuania, Belarus and Estonia. Our ultimate adventure is to drive to Mongolia – we just need to be in a position to leave FreelanderSpecialist.com for the amount of time needed! 

What is your top tip for anyone who also wants to overland? The very top tip is to make sure you have the correct tyres for the terrain you are going to – do not skimp on rubber, this is what will keep you moving in the right direction! Then there is the one we missed – make sure you know how to use the equipment you take – we must learn how to put snow chains on! Most of all go with an open mind and embrace everything you face on your journey. 

Anything you want to add?  Anybody can go on an adventure with their Land Rover – the only thing which can stop you is your own mind.

 

Scandinavian prices are a drain on the wallet 

Steven Anderson (plus Chris Overson and Nathan Evans)
Land Rover of choice: Freelander 2 HSE (2.2 Td4, automatic transmission, with Gen 3 4x4 system)
Where do you live?  Holsworthy, North Devon
How old are you? 27 

Where did your love of travel come from?  I used to travel as a teenager as much as possible via rail. It started there. I got my driving licence when I was 24, and that’s when my adventures really kicked off. 

How long have you been interested in Land Rovers and why are they so special to you? The Freelander is epic, I could go on, but I’ll keep it simple. I purchased a 2002 Td4 ES Premium as my first car in 2018 – it was cheeky, fun, and capable and above all, handled every task I threw at it. It even got me home from Ukraine when the clutch failed, it was absolutely outstanding, but it was old and I wanted more. This Freelander 2 HSE came up at the right price with the right options. So far, it’s been a great vehicle, it’s more refined and more grown up with a more serious feel to it than the Freelander 1.

How did you get hold of it? It was a huge gamble, it had a transmission fault, boost issues and some other niggles, no real service history other than a book with some stamps. Fortunately it was all completely fixable and enabled me to get the car I wanted, sooner, at a much lower price.

Freelander and Evoque buddy-up on the beach

What did you do to prepare the Freelander for the road trip? As it was a Land Rover, not much, just a general service, correct coolant mixture and snow tyres. 

Any lowlights and highlights from your travels with your Freelander?  Highlights would be getting to know the car more, seeing its capabilities. Lowlights, there wasn’t really any. Road trip, friends, Northern Lights, Tromsø, what is not to love?

What are your plans for the future with the Freelander?  Enjoy the Freelander for another year or two and make my way up the Land Rover ladder.

What is your top tip for anyone who also wants to overland in a Freelander? Plan, prepare and make sure you’ve got a decent roof tent.

Anything you want to add?  If you want adventure, this is where it is! Come join us!

Website: landroveradventures.co.uk
Facebook: LandRoverAdventures