Updated: Jul 26
For the past nine years we have been obsessed with the idea of one day exploring the world in an off-road expedition vehicle. We dream of reaching places and discovering the "unknown" that is denied to ordinary tourists. Nine years ago, we made it our goal to finally give something back to the many dear people we met in our more than twenty years as Swiss abroad. And for over three years we have been working with professionals to design and build a home on wheels, which at first glance we now blandly call FRAME, but the naming of FRAME, that is a story in itself. So, today is Day Zero. The day we can finally call our FRAME our own. The day we drive from Switzerland to Cologne to take over our expedition vehicle from the builder of the living box. It is Ash Wednesday and typically not a day to travel to Cologne, as Ash Wednesday is the end of the Cologne Carnival. So we expect some "oncoming traffic." But since we are arriving by train today, traffic doesn't matter much anyway.
Orangework is a specialist for expedition vehicles and motorhomes and the final destination of our journey today. We want to arrive absolutely before dark, because we are already so excited how our FRAME now looks finished. We have seen "him" - yes FRAME is a male, because an UNIMOG - only at the end of January at our last Steppvisite, but there was still so much missing. Today, hopefully no more.
Around 5PM we finally arrive. A gentle evening sun shines to our dear little FRAME. I agree, the belittlement does not really do justice to the rather mighty expedition vehicle. With a length of seven meters, a width of two meters 30 and a height of three meters 45, the eight-ton truck presents itself quite impressively. Today, our vehicle looks out at us in a discreet gray-blue, but with bright yellow-green rims. Yellow-green is our "corporate" color so to speak. That's why we always made sure to add some yellow-green accents during the build. The Hutchinson rims are certainly the most eye-catching of these accents and leave no doubt, even in the most distant foreign countries, that our rig cannot pose a military threat.
The Unimog 1550L/37, the exact name of the chassis of our world cruising vehicle, was a bright red French fire engine for over twenty years. So, besides the birthplace of the Unimogs in the Mercedes Benz factories in Wörth am Rhein, Bordeaux and thus the Atlantic coast is at least his second home. But soon he will be naturalized in Switzerland and thus has, like us, eventful years behind him. But what he still has ahead of him, he probably can't really dream of yet ;-).
When designing our adventure vehicle, there were countless decisions to be made. It was always a matter of weighing up what seemed to be more important. Starting with the size of the vehicle: At the beginning we looked at "normal" off-road vehicles, such as a G-Class Mercedes or Landcruiser. But quickly we realized that for long term travel we wanted something more comfortable. Then, one day at the biggest overlander fair in the world, the "Abenteuer Allrad" in Bad Kissingen, we saw big monsters like the MAN with a six meter fifty long living box, we soon dreamed of almost unlimited luxury on wheels. But fortunately reason soon caught up with us again, because the disadvantages of a twelve-ton truck with a total length of almost nine meters were not worth it to us. The Unimog was the perfect compromise between reasonable size and still enough comfort for long-term travel. In addition, it fulfilled another important criterion for us. The Unimog is indisputably the most off-road capable truck you could wish for. As an offspring of Mercedes Benz, it also has the world's best service network at its disposal. For our way of traveling and to really get to places where no one else has gone before, it was and is the best choice for us.
But there were two more criteria where we didn't want to compromise. So-called non-negotiables on our long list of design and equipment features. One is security, with all that entails. From burglar-proof KCT quality windows, locking systems and other security-related precautions, which we will not talk about here - for security reasons.
The other is sleeping comfort, with the help of an appropriately sized and comfortable bed. Many overlanders are satisfied with a double bed of 1m20 or 1m40. For us, this had to be at least 1m60, even though we didn't have ample space for it with a layout of just over four meters at the most. However, a clever interior design with a bed narrowing in the leg area made this wish possible for us.
Adventures are exhausting and living in less than ten square meters is anyway. When you fall into bed in the evening, perhaps dead tired, after a narrow steep pass road, a dangerous river crossing or traversing a desert that is considered unconquerable, a good, healthy night's sleep is essential to be fit again the next day for another eventful stage. After intensive research focusing on natural materials and tolerance of high humidity, our bed choice fell on the Swiss Hüsler Nest system. A Talalay natural latex mattress with cotton cover and soft overlay, all cut in the right free form, should guarantee uncompromising healthy and restful sleep.
We are already so excited about our first night in the FRAME. Tired enough for a deep sleep we are already, after our long journey and the many impressions during the handover of our "new baby".
THE DAY AFTER
To escape the big city we drove some more kilometers to make our first night camp outside of Cologne. In keeping with the nature of our Unimog, we drove the last few meters over unpaved roads to reach an ideal, quiet and reasonably flat level spot for the night. So here we are, fantastically beautiful and fantastically alone. Switch off the lights and good night!
How cold the night must have been, we see the next day at the ice formation on our solar panels and the vehicle hood. According to the weather app it was about minus five degrees. Who would have thought that. We wake up to the first rays of sunshine and are snug and warm in our Hüsler Nest. The light camel hair blankets have certainly contributed to the fact that we had to neither sweat nor freeze. Of course, thanks also to the Webasto water heater for a wonderful indoor climate. Did we sleep as well as at home? No! It was much better, because without electric or light pollution and in a super comfortable bed we just didn't miss anything. Let the adventure begin!