Overlanding the Americas

In May 2023 we leave on a trip of 19 months in North and South America. You can follow our adventures here.

Grand Teton National Park

We thought that Grand Teton was going to be a quick side trip from Yellowstone but we stayed a bit longer than foreseen. To be honest we really did not know too well what to expect. In this region it’s usually the big brother,Yellowstone, that gets all the attention. But we did know one thing; this park was going to be our last realistic chance to see moose on this trip. And it was now end of September so the bulls would finally have their famous big antlers. Male moose lose their antlers every spring but they grow back by fall, just in time to be used in the mating season clashes with other bulls. The weeks before getting to Grand Teton we had been on the look out but without success. As we were about to leave ‘moose habitat’ it was ‘now or never’.

Yellowstone part 1

After seeing the BBC documentaries (there are several) on Yellowstone, this park had been very high on my list. But… I was not the only one who had the park on his list. Summer has always been busy here. But it seems that since Covid a lot of people in the US to the ‘great outdoors. So now some parks are really being overrun during the holidays. We were there in the second part of September and had hoped that things would have calmed down a bit. But from other travelers, that it was still “horribly busy”: no camp spots, traffic jams for hours, no parking, fighting for pictures… We were bracing ourselves for the ‘worst’ and started working on a plan. In the end it was even better than expected.

Washington to Montana 

For our travels in the USA, there was an important decision we had to make, long before we set foot in the country: Do we apply for a visa that allows stays of up to 6 months or do we just use the 90 day ESTA? The former offers more flexibility but comes at a serious cost (150 euro per person) and a quite complex application process. The latter is cheap and very easy to get but puts quite a restriction on the planning. In the end we decided for the visa procedure and after filling out all kind of documents online, we found ourselves, queuing outside of the US embassy in the cold and rain, waiting for an interview which would determine if we were eligible for the visa or not. We got the visa! And we do not regret our choice at all. It gave us plenty of time to make our way down to Mexico. And after the ‘great Alaska rush’ summer we could really use this time time to slow down our travels.

Goodbye Canada, hello USA!

Vancouver Island was going to be our last stop in Canada and we look back at it with mixed feelings. It was really great to travel together with our friends from back home, but the Island was so very busy at the end of August. After all the peace and isolation up North this was quite a shock for us. We decided to flee across the border to the USA earlier than foreseen. It felt a bit bad to say goodbye to Canada in such a way…But the country was not going to let us go like that and still had a very nice surprise for us on our last day.

Back in Canada: Yukon & British Colombia

Our time in Alaska was great but now it was time to start moving South quickly. We wanted to meet our friends in Vancouver mid-August, so we had about 10 days to get there. Our GPS told us that it was a 2500 km drive to get there. So in theory that could be done pretty easily. However there are a lot of interesting short side trips possible on this route. And there was even a possibility to visit another little piece of Alaska on the way down. So it was going to be very interesting to see if we could keep our FOMO in check this time.

Alaska – Part 2

When I heard the name Valdez, I immediately used to think about the disastrous Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989. I remember very well watching the TV news as a 10-year old and being absolutely shocked by the images of the sea birds and otters covered in oil. Now, almost 25 years later, on the surface it is hard to still see traces of this eco disaster. But you only need to dig 30 cm on the beaches to find traces of oil of the spill. Certain animal population numbers have still not recovered. Some will never recover again as we would find out during our visit. All that being said, these days, Valdez and the nearby Prince William Sound are absolutely stunning. Going forward we will no longer automatically associate the town with the oil spill but rather think about the amazing time we had there.

Alaska – Part 1

Oh dear, where shall we start on this? Perhaps with our own expectations. There had been quite a bit of deliberation on whether or not to include Alaska in our itinerary. Not only because of the big additional distance (and resulting time pressure). But also because we were not sure  what to expect of Alaska. We read some mixed reviews going from “the best nature/wilderness/wildlife ever” to “completely overrun by tourists in summer” & “Disneyland wilderness”.  And then there was the Alaskan weather, which can be very fickle to say the least. We were told to expect very unstable, cool to cold weather and count on 60% of rainy days. So we kept our expectations very very low…

Alaska Highway & Yukon 

It is a long way from the Canadian Rocky Mountains to the Alaska border: 2500 km for the shortest route (which we did not plan to take). Adding a loop to Alaska to our trip would tag at least an additional 8000 km to our trip. This is not something one can cover (and enjoy!) in three weeks. So you will understand that it took quite a bit of deliberating on whether or not we would do this. In the end we decided to go for it. On the one hand because it was a unique chance to visit Alaska in a more or less ‘affordable’ way. You can of course fly into Alaska and rent a campervan there, however this is a very costly affair and with our own wheels we could cut back a lot in these costs. On the other hand it also offers to opportunity to explore the vast Yukon & BC region in North Canada ‘en route’. A region with some really nice scenery and attractions but even more remote to get to than Alaska itself. So, off we went on the Alaskan Highway.

Canadian Rocky Mountains 

As you may remember, we had as an objective to get to the famous national parks of Banff and Jasper in the Canadian Rockies before the start of the Canadian US and European summer holidays in July. Due to the bad weather in the region mid June and the detour we did to avoid this weather, we arrived a bit later and so we got to experience one reasonably calm week and one week of real ‘summer madness’.

Detours in Alberta 

So we finally arrived at the foot of the Rocky Mountains but the weather forecasts were looking really awful. Luckily we have the luxury of having the time to wait. So instead of moving into the mountains at Banff National Park we threw the planning in the bin and manoeuvred around the bad weather. Luckily Southern Alberta has plenty of interesting stuff to keep us (and the kids) busy.