A 20-Year World Tour with Double Dutch World Safari

The homepage of the Double Dutch World Safari greets readers with the following quote: “You only live once, and when you do it right, once is enough.” After 300,000 km (187,000 Miles) through Australia alone, 390,000 km (250,000 Miles) through Africa, Europe, Russia, China, Tibet, Mongolia, Middle East, and Asia, and traveling from the bottom of South America through Central America to the US, it seems Robert and Clary Van Den Hoven are doing it right, indeed.  After 20 years of traveling around the world in 4×4 expedition vehicles, the Double Dutch World Safari entered the US in the spring of 22023, and we are thrilled to announce that they will be giving presentations and sitting on panel discussions at Overland Expo WEST 2024.  

Photo by Double Dutch Safari

Robert and Clary have lived (traditional stationary lives) in Holland, the Caribbean, and Australia. Robert was a Royal Dutch Marine from 1974 to 1977. He and Clary married in 1977 and moved to Australia a few years later. In 2004, the couple decided to travel around the world, starting in Australia, followed by Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia, Russia-Mongolia-China-Tibet, Southeast Asia, Borneo, India, Pakistan, Iran, Europe, South America, Central America. They plan to spend the next two to three years exploring the US and Canada.   

While at Overland Expo WEST, Robert will give a presentation called “Outbush Overland Around the World: How a 5-Year Journey Became a 20-Year Odyssey.”  Robert will discuss border crossings, Carnet de Passage, TIP, insurance, traveling alone or in a group, whether overlanding is dangerous, travel advice, and much more. Clary will be giving tours of their rig in the Showcase & DIY Area.  

To learn more about Robert and Clary, continue reading below for their interview with us. 

Photo by Double Dutch Safari

Overland Expo: Can you start out by telling us about your rigs?  

Robert and Clary: We’ve had several more traditional 4WD wagons, including a Nissan Patrol, Toyota Landcruiser 60 series, Toyota Landcruiser 80 Series, Toyota Landcruiser 100 series, and recently we purchased the new Toyota Landcruiser 300 series.  

When we started our around-the-world travels, we upgraded to a Mitsubishi Fuso 4×4 Canter Turbo diesel, a mid-size truck that we converted into a motorhome.  

After three years of traveling, we upgraded to a larger 4X4 Motorhome built on a Mercedes ex-army vehicle, a Mercedes Atego 1318 AK 4X4, with a specially built garage with a crane to get the bike or scooter out of the garage, and it also allowed for 1,000 liters of water capacity, a larger shower, a kitchen, and a very comfortable seating area. Except for adding a winch, lights, and new tires, we made no modifications to the vehicle. Our current Mercedes Atego is a rigid two-axle truck. It is a militarised commercial design to suit specific requirements.  

Overland Expo: Why did you sell the Fuso and upgrade to the Mercedes Atego?  

Robert and Clary: After we realized that overlanding was something very different from off-road driving as we did in Australia, we also realized very early in our travels that the real off-road work and weekend off-road trips we were used to Australia is not something you do with a large truck 7500KG and over when driving around the world.  

Photo by Double Dutch Safari

Overland Expo: What is your all-time favorite place that you have camped?   

Robert and Clary: There are many places, but the beach at Khao Lak in Thailand, around 100 kilometers north of the island of Phuket; the Beaches in Northern Mozambique; camping with the Kalahari Bushman in the Kalahari Desert; the Mursi Tribes in Southwest Ethiopia; and camping at the rim of the Katze dam in the small African country of Lesotho in Africa were among the best.  

READ MORE: Get Your Sneak Peak at the Overland Expo Driving Course

Overland Expo: What are your top three favorite countries and why?   

Robert and Clary: Very hard to answer as every country we visited had special places and memories or events.  

Our number one destination would be Southern Africa due to the combination of wild camping, wildlife, culture, and cost.  

Two would be the combination of Tibet and China. The scenery is amazing in Tibet, and so are the culture and history. The disadvantage is cost as you are required to have a guide (in reality he is a spy without any knowledge of some of the areas we visited). Our guide to Tibet had never visited Tibet and could not even speak the local language. And all this at a very high cost per day. Plus accommodation for the guide and food 

Number three would be the combination of Nepal, Pakistan, Iran, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. Wonderful scenery, amazing hospitable people, and lots of history.   

Photo by Double Dutch Safari

Overland Expo: What is your best silver-lining story?   

Robert and Clary: We purchased a brand-new Mitsubishi Fuso 4×4 Canter Turbo diesel, and after we were traveling six weeks in Africa, we encountered rear differential problems. Mercedes, who handles Mitsubishi in Australia, was no help. Mercedes South Africa called and sent detailed information to Mercedes Australia, stating that the rear differential was faulty and should be replaced under warranty. Mercedes Benz Australia refused to accept the findings of Mercedes Benz in South Africa. (So much for an international brand name.) The only offer they made was that if I shipped the vehicle back to Australia, they would investigate. (Imagine the cost of shipping back and forward again.) Long story short, we replaced the faulty differential at our own cost, and the people in South Africa who helped became lifelong friends who we have visited numerous times in the past 13 years and still do.  

The argument Mercedes Benz used, in the end, was that once the Mitsubishi Fuso was shipped overseas, there was no International Warranty. Hence, the only way (to receive warranty benefits) was to ship the vehicle back.  

Overland Expo: What is an area of overland travel that you think you are extremely skilled in? And, after 20 years, is there an area of overland travel that you feel you could use some improvement in?  

Photo by Double Dutch Safari

Robert and Clary: I think my best skills are in negotiating with corrupt police, the army, and customs. In 20 years of traveling, I never paid a bribe and never paid a fine.  

I am completely a-technical, have a complete lack of mechanical skills, and believe that none is required when driving around the world as long as you don’t have a vehicle full of computerized stuff. Keep your vehicle simple, and as they say, in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, they can repair your vehicle with a hammer and a spanner for a fraction of the price in South America, Central America, Europe, Mexico, or the United States. What is very important is that you service in time and any little issue gets looked at immediately. This allows me to sit next to the fire with a nice cold beer instead of lying under my vehicle. After 20 years of travel, I am sure this works.  

Overland Expo: What does your “division” of labor look like while traveling?   

Robert and Clary: My cooking skills go as far as boiling water, boiling eggs, and doing the BBQ on the campfire. Clary does all the cooking, shopping, and washing. As for maintenance, we don’t do it, we use local labor, and I am responsible for trip planning, website, blogs, and social media.  

Overland Expo: Do you have a favorite spot in the US that you traveled to/through in 2023? 

Robert and Clary: This would be Arches National Park, closely followed by Mesa Verde National Park, but we have seen so many amazing spots. We also loved the Pow Pow in Crows Agency, the highlight of which was the Indian Relay. 

However, the whole of the Western USA was amazing. In the 6 months traveling, we covered California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Colorado, Utah, Nevada and a part of Arizona. Your National Parks are some of the best in the world, the people are amazing and helpful.  

Photo by Double Dutch Safari

In 6 months of travel, we only twice parked at a campsite (Las Vegas and Lake Havasu); these were at the end of our six months of travel. BLM land was the preferred location and the odd night at Walmart after shopping.  

Overland Expo: What are you most looking forward to seeing in 2024? 

Robert and Clary: This year we are exploring Northern Mexico and Central and Southern USA. We look forward to visiting Northern Mexico, Oklahoma, Nashville, Memphis, New Orleans, Florida and Key West between March and October before flying home again.   

Overland Expo: Thanks for taking the time to chat with us! We can’t wait to catch up and hear more about your travels at Overland Expo West next month.

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