Who followed who?
How did the first contact with GrizzlyNbear come about?
We can’t remember.
However, one day we ended up staying with Stephanie in an Airbnb in Bishkek while Leigh was abroad for work.
Coen and I became quickly enthralled by their inspiring overland journey. Like us, Stephanie and Leigh have made overlanding their way of life and share the joy in connecting with local people.
Watching Stephanie’s fantastic travel vlogs (link below), I was blown away by the landscapes they crossed because they combine overlanding with another passion: rock climbing.
When Leigh returned they had a surprise in store for us: they took us rock climbing and gave us a glimpse of a new world! We took turns in pulling ourselves to the top of a rock face, safely secured by Leigh (who, I’m sure, did a lot of pulling to actually get me up there :-)). Next we went skiing for a couple of hours and had a blast.
Stephanie and Leigh represent everything we believe make great ambassadors for an overlanding lifestyle. Full of positive energy (“Leigh hates any form of negativity,” Stephanie said), a joy de vivre that is contagious, super healthy with all their outdoor adventures and eating well, lots of curiosity of where they are, forever digging deeper by meeting people and sharing time with them.
Currently in South Korea and Japan, they have lots of unique adventures to share with you. Here’s a bit more about who they are and what they have been doing. It’s been a pleasure sharing time with them and we can’t wait till our roads cross again!
Check out the fascinating stories of other overlanders:
Tell us a bit about who you are, and what GrizzlyNBear Overland is about
GrizzlyNbear Overland is Stephanie from France, Leigh from Australia, Grizzly the camper and Bear the Defender.
We have been travelling full time for the better part of 11 years with the last 6 Overlanding. Travelling Overland with our own vehicle and home is such a great way to realise our dream.
As passionate rock climbers we follow the seasons around the world exploring and seeking new climbing destinations. We also like to hike in the mountains although rock climbing is always the priority.
Thankfully the two passions are usually done together with most rock climbing destinations requiring at least some form of hiking to reach. If we are ever in areas with limited climbing then we will occasionally undertake a long-distance hike.
How do you find good climbing spots/hiking trails?
Living in this digital age makes things quite easy when it comes to researching new areas to climb and explore.
Before travelling to a new country we will do an internet search for climbing in that country. Also, join any Facebook climbing groups for that particular country.
We love to connect with the local climbing communities as we travel. This is where the best knowledge and advice is found.
A recurring question from overlanders: How do you manage to stay strong and fit?
Whilst living full time on the road and not climbing or hiking we try to keep in shape. Other methods of training include running, TRX training, elastic band resistance training, jump rope and a portable climbing fingerboard.
It’s sometimes hard to stay disciplined whilst living out of car parks, wild camps and constantly on the move. We do our best but also enjoy life and are not too strict on ourselves if we miss a day here and there.
What are the top destinations you’ve visited for these activities, and what makes them so special?
As of right now Turkey has by far been our favourite climbing and Overlanding destination. It has absolutely everything that we look for in a country. Incredibly friendly people, a rich and spectacular history with amazing ancient buildings, great food, awesome trails and of course some of the best climbing in the world.
In saying that our current country of South Korea is very quickly shaping up to be a close contender to Turkey and maybe even taking the top spot if things continue as they are.
Books on Rock Climbing Adventures
(click on the images to look inside)
Back to the overlanding part of it. Is GrizzlyNbear the perfect rig for overland travel? If so, why?
In our opinion there is no such thing as the perfect rig for Overlanding.
It’s such a personal decision as well as finding something to suit the individual, couple or family’s needs.
For us right now we feel that we have the perfect set up for our lifestyle.
The main reason for this is we have a set up which allows us to remove our living space from our truck. We can be mobile on a daily basis when staying in a climbing area for long periods without having to pack up our house to drive to climbing locations daily. This also allows us to take on more challenging 4×4 trails without compromising our home.
As far as the vehicle itself is concerned we are very happy with the Defender.
In over 20 years of offroad driving I, (Leigh), have owned 6 different 4x4s including 3 Defenders, Toyota Landcruiser 80 series, Toyota Hilux and a Holden Jackaroo. I have pushed all of these vehicles to their limits and had mechanical, structural and electrical issues with each and every one of them.
When you choose to tackle some of the worst roads in the world things will break, it’s inevitable. All we can do is perform regular inspections and routine preventative maintenance to minimise the risk of a major failure.
What is the toughest situation you’ve found yourself in on the road thus far?
Travelling as we do involves certain risks and of course now and again things don’t go to plan.
Over the years we’ve encountered many situations that have taken us to our mental and physical limits including our Landcruiser stolen, a Defender wrecked in a head-on collision, arrested in Azerbaijan, and a snapped axle in the mountains of Kyrgyzstan during a snow storm.
Most recently we had what we both agree to be the toughest so far. In a remote area of Eastern Mongolia we were crossing a frozen river when the ice cracked, the vehicle fell through and became stuck.
Without going into too much detail we did all of the pre river crossing checks that we would usually do. I checked ice thickness, water depth, discovered existing tyre tracks on the ice and watched a local drive across before us who also assured us it would be ok.
This situation was particularly stressful due to the fact that our Mongolian visa was at an end and we needed to enter Russia the next day to begin our transit visa.
After 6 hours of freezing work and with the help of 4 local men we managed to get free at midnight. By morning the river was completely frozen solid again from minus 20°C overnight temperatures. If we had waited until morning we would have been encased in ice, missed our Russian entry and possibly overstayed our Mongolian visa (see the river crossing here).
Interaction with locals is an important part of your journey. Can you share with us a particular encounter that sticks with you?
An essential part of our journey is interaction with the local people. It never ceases to amaze us the hospitality and kindness that we are shown during our travels.
One particular meeting comes to mind in Armenia. We were climbing in an area called Hells Canyon, a scary name maybe but definitely not so scary locals. Within minutes of arriving we were invited to join a large group of local men who had come down from the capital Yerevan for a barbecue.
An instant connection was formed which led to many more meetings and the making of life long friendships. They owed us nothing and hardly knew us but were ready to give us everything, it was a very special time. This was just one of the so many experiences we have had like this and we truly treasure each and every one.
What’s the best thing you packed and what’s the stupidest thing you brought (and possibly ditched)?
We try our best to live a minimalist lifestyle and think we are doing ok seen as though everything we own in the world is in our truck and camper.
Every 6 months we like to do a big spring clean, laying out all we own and either giving away or getting rid of things that we are not using. Over the years we’ve discovered that we carried many things that we learn to treasure and many things that we should never have brought to begin with.
Steph’s most valuable item is her Japanese kitchen Mandolin. A fast and lightweight kitchen tool used for slicing and grating fruit and vegetables.
The item she regrets bringing initially were two enormous camping chairs that we have long since given away and replaced with very small lightweight Helinox chairs which we actually hardly use also.
We often prefer to sit on the ground or a rock than chairs.
For myself I would say that the Jetboil is my most valuable and most used item. Nothing boils water faster and we use it for roadside coffee stops and hiking trips regularly.
Something I insisted on bringing that has also long since been given away is a Dutch Oven (an extremely big and heavy cast iron cooking pot). We used once in the Sahara Desert, Morocco, in 18 months of lugging it around.
What’s your #1 tip for people who’d like to do what you are doing but who are afraid to do so?
If we had to give some advice to others that are considering a similar trip but are having doubts, this would be it:
The media would have us believe that the world is a lot more dangerous than it really is. Do your own research away from mainstream media and make decisions from this.
Set a date that can’t be changed. It’s very easy to keep putting off your dreams making any excuse until it just doesn’t happen at all.
Rent your house out, hand in your resignation, pull the kids out of school and take that year off work. Life will go on there without you, but that other life you dream of pursuing will not be there forever.
Do you have a favorite book on overlanding or climbing to recommend?
As for book recommendations I have never read any books on Overlanding, climbing or travel. I am absolutely addicted to the fantasy genre and have been for the last 25 years.
Maybe not the typical choice for overlanders but I highly recommend fantasy novels as they can often span many years of reading just one book series.
By far my favourite author is Robert Jordan who is famous for the Wheel of Time – an epic 14 novel series that spanned over 20 years.
I love to read fantasy as an escape from the real world. To completely lose yourself in the imaginations of these incredible fantasy authors is a very special experience. They are not for everyone but I encourage people to at try to read fantasy at least once in their life.
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