The upcoming book Forever Off Track chronicles Karin-Marijke and Coen’s remarkable 3.5-year overland journey from Europe to Southeast Asia in a rugged Land Cruiser. Join them as they step out of their comfort zones, deal with fears, explore the beauty of the world, and embrace a life of full-time nomadism.
This story is a sample of their journey through Thailand.
North of Chiang Mai, the Land Cruiser hummed with satisfaction as we meandered through forest-clad mountains. This was the Thailand of brochures and tales of travelers: endless, impenetrable jungle full of wildlife, inhabited by indigenous people going back centuries. Each group had its traditions, type of dress and construction of houses. Around the villages, jungle made way for fields with corn, tea, bananas and pineapples.
“Do you have anything to snack?”
“Sure, I’ll get you a biscuit.”
I opened a package and handed Coen one.
“Interesting. They’re spicy. What kind of biscuits are they?”
“What do you mean, spicy? These are the blandest crackers on earth,” I responded, picking up the packet and checking it.
“Ah, um, I see the problem,” I hesitated. “Ants.”
“What! Oh my god. Yes, they’re biting me! Check my lips, they’re getting numb!”
Coen’s lips and the inside of his mouth were numb for the rest of the day.
Between the layers of the puff-pastry-type of crackers crawled dozens of the tiniest red ants. They had been a pest for months. I didn’t even remember when they had invaded our Land Cruiser. I think it was somewhere in India. Asia has dozens if not hundreds of types of ants. Most can be followed to their nests, making it easy to get rid of them, but these tiny insects were a different story.
First of all, they didn’t take food to their nest but consumed it on the spot. If we dropped a crumb they were there, out of the blue. Zillions of them. It was as if they were already there but that at the sight or smell of food a shield of invisibility was lifted. Secondly, they ate their way through everything. A closer look revealed the packet of biscuits had the tiniest holes, as did envelopes of noodle soups and other foodstuff in the storage container.
I had emptied the Land Cruiser a couple of times, cleaning every corner, spraying it, and repacking it, only to hear Coen exclaim he saw ants again. It drove us nuts.
One day we made camp on a shadeless field and set up the awning, which we had not used in ages. As we rolled out the canvas it fell apart in pieces. Finally, the culprit! An ants’ nest the size of a tennis ball. The bastards had even eaten the canvas. It didn’t really matter because we hardly used the awning, so we threw it out, sprayed the Land Cruiser on the outside and inside and, at last, had an ant-free vehicle.
This was one of the most annoying, but innocent troubles on our 3,5-year overland journey to Southeast-Asia. Others, more problematic challenges are part of our book: Forever Off Track.
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A special edition of Forever Off Track, which includes 32 pages filled with lively color photos and will be personally signed by both of us.