Round the world in seven years.
“Now or never!”
Around ten years ago, two young people from the Oberpfalz region of Bavaria decided: “We want to see the world!” Sabine Hoppe, graduate of an art academy, and Thomas Rahn, architect and forest scientist, both in their mid-20s, said to each other: “Now or never!”
The idea grew into a plan, the plan grew into a world trip. It began in 2009, took them across five continents and ended in 2015 with their return to Amberg.
Searched for and found.
To get around on your own wheels, you need a vehicle. In 2007, the couple discovered their motor home in an advertisement: an all-wheel-drive Mercedes-Benz LA 911, manufactured in 1977 in Wörth am Rhein, used by the German Federal Border Police, upgraded by a subsequent owner into an expedition vehicle with camper shell, single tyres and additional tanks.
When Sabine Hoppe and Thomas Rahn came across the “short-nose truck” (the name commonly given to this type of vehicle, which was available from Mercedes-Benz for more than 30 years), it already had a name: Paula. Paula accompanied the adventurous duo through 54 countries on five continents. On the Salar de Uyuni salt flat in Bolivia, the camper shell afforded them protection from a cold and frosty night at an altitude of 3600 metres.
Pictures in the mind.
“In the course of your life, you see so many pictures from all over the world,” says Thomas Rahn, “that you think you know them.” “But we wanted to see these things for ourselves,” adds partner Sabine Hoppe.
Apart from seeing things for themselves, they took thousands of photos, which they show and narrate at public presentations. Such as their encounter with a troop of baboons in the Ethiopian Highlands.
A truck of the world.
“As strange as it may sound: even as a child, I had the wish to go on such a journey – in a Mercedes all-terrain vehicle,” says Thomas Rahn. Yet the fact that an LA 911 then became the dependable companion of the travellers was not just a childhood dream come true: produced in large numbers, Mercedes-Benz “short-nose trucks” and “long-nose trucks” are still in evidence today in many countries and on almost every continent.
The chances of picking up a spare part or getting a repair done could not be better. On the outskirts of Tabriz, Paula comes across colleagues who are likewise still in day-to-day use. “A politically controversial country, Iran made one of the deepest impressions on us during our travels,” relates Sabine Hoppe. “Wherever we went, we met friendly people who greeted us with: 'Welcome to Iran'.”
“Gefahr” (danger) comes from “fahren” (to drive).
The German word “Gefahr” (danger) contains the verb “fahren” (to drive). People on their travels have always experienced critical situations and had to overcome them.
Although the adventurers from Bavaria were never robbed or attacked, there were still some hair-raising moments, such as the drive along the Camino de la Muerte, the legendary Road of Death up to the Bolivian Highlands. There are precipices up to 800 metres deep, while the road is hardly wider than a truck in some places.
When a country pieces itself together like a mosaic, kilometre after kilometre, in front of one’s eyes, this is a unique experience for the traveller. Especially in a region that conflicts with the central European way of seeing the world. Such as the deserted Kazakh Steppe, which is towered over by an endless sky in July 2010.
Paula, Sabine and Thomas covered 120,000 kilometres together between 2009 and 2015. Thomas Rahn says: “That was definitely not our last big trip in Paula.”
Sabine Hoppe and Thomas Rahn report on their experiences at picture presentations. Upcoming dates at: www.abseitsreisen.de