Preparing for a trip like the one we’re are planning to make, is great fun. Figuring out which route to take, reading about the incredible sites we’re going to visit, making shopping lists, thinking about visas, it all adds to the pre-action excitement. But one essential part of the trip was missing in all this for a long time: the car.

Until now. Two weeks ago we bought a 2001 Toyota Land Cruiser 90, 3.0 TD automatic in the small village of Smilde in the northern part of The Netherlands. We think we got a a great deal on this car, which ‘only’ has 326.000 kilometers on the clock. We preferred to have a manual operated car, but in the end decided to overthrow that requirement after talking to some experts.

Although the car doesn’t look like a real Blue Beast yet it will be in a couple of weeks when it’s properly fitted with added lights, a roof rack, new batteries, a bull bar and most importantly a custom made smart storage area in the back on top of which we’re planning to sleep. Four brand new General Grabber All Terrain tires are already under the car.

The inside back of the car will be ‘lifted’ thirty centimeters to create extra space in which two large drawers will be made, each consisting of several separate compartments, where we will be able to store our camping gear, spare car components, food and all other stuff. We think it’s a great set-up, but we only will be sure when the job is finished in a couple of weeks from now. Then the car will be shipped to Shanghai where we will put it on a truck and drive it to the Shanghai Vehicle Management Office to register in order to collect our temporary license plate.

We decided to buy a Landcruiser because, well… there wasn’t really any other choice. A Mitsubishi Pajero or Nissan Patrol probably both could have done the job, but the reliability and robuustness of the Land Cruiser is in a class apart. That’s what people with a lot more 4×4 experience than we have, told us again and again. That’s not to say we’re new to cars ourselves. My first car was a Fiat Uno, which was later upgraded to a Peugeot 106 and later into an old Volvo S40. Mirian has some sports car experience of her own, but as far as mechanics go, we both pretty much were green.

To improve our skills, learn about the most vulnerable parts of the engine and chassis of our new Land Cruiser and to be able to service our car ourselves and make small repairs, we took a one-day car mechanics course. We booked it at Ronnie Jongert’s autosleutelcursus-program. On a sunny, but cold Sunday in february in Beesd we learned a lot about our car and even discovered a pretty major missing stabilisation-part in the front end of the car. Before we bought the car it was approved in the mandatory Dutch APK-test and even got a routine service-job.

Anyway, we will have it properly fixed and are glad we found out now, rather than somewhere on the steppes of Mongolia.

Buying a car in The Netherlands while living in Shanghai is not the ideal situation to say the least. So we are forever grateful to Mirian’s parents who scouted the Low Lands for second hand Land Cruisers for weeks and pre selected a couple of them for us to see and drive when we were in The Netherlands late January. It made the buying process much smoother and more secure. I think it’s fair to say that although we burdened Mirian’s parents with all the scouting work, they thouroughly enjoyed it. They now must have seen every second hand Land Cruiser there is for sale in The Netherlands and know more about all the different models than anyone else in Holland.

And like them, we learned that Land Cruisers are so much sought after that they quickly are sold.

A special thanks also to Remco Prummel who mediated in the buying of our Blue Beast and took us out on our very first 4×4 training in some muddy meadows near Smilde even before we bought the car. Many thanks!