As a warm-up, Lois and Jeff Gunn drove 11,300 kilometres from Kelowna to the Arctic Circle and back, returning last month.
“It took five weeks, but we made some detours,” said Jeff with a laugh.
“We drove the same road as they do in the TV show Ice Road Truckers. We also took the Dempster Highway in Inuvik and the all-weather road to Tuktoyaktuk.”
The Kelowna couple are on a post-retirement quest to drive the 30,000-kilometre Pan-American Highway, the network of roads stretching from the Arctic to the tip of South America.
And that’s not all.
From Ushuaia, the resort town on the Tierra del Fuego archipelago and southernmost reaches of Argentina, the Gunns will put their truck camper on a boat to follow it to Cape Town, South Africa.
From there, the plan is to drive north — the entire length of the African continent.
It’s 12,000 kilometres on the Trans-Sahara Highway from Cape Town to Casablanca, Morocco.
“But again, I’m sure we’ll take some detours,” said Jeff with another chuckle.
Earlier this year, Jeff retired as the district vice-president at CIBC and Lois finished up work with the City of Kelowna.
They’ve always dreamed of having the time to make a momentous road trip, and now that flight of fancy is coming true.
The Gunns are no strangers to extended journeys.
For their honeymoon in 1985, they spent five months tooling around Europe in one of those retro Volkswagen Kombi vans.
In 2003, they pulled their two kids out of school to backpack and camp around South America for three months from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to Venezuela.
However, the Pan-American, Trans-Sahara jaunt is on a whole other scale.
It could take years, depending on how fast, or slow, they drive, how many detours they take and how long they stay in places that lure them in.
“This trip is really inspired by those world travellers who drive a Land Rover with a rooftop tent,” said Jeff.
“Our pop-up truck camper has a few more amenities and a bit more room, but it’s still small, for sure.”
The custom-made truck camper with extending roof has a pop-up queen-sized bed, miniscule kitchen with fridge, stove, sink and dinette for two, and a tiny bathroom consisting of not much more than the toilet.
“We decided to go small for our camper because it’s easier to drive in windy conditions and through narrow South American streets,” said Jeff.
“Plus, it’s a good size to get on ferries and on the boat from Ushuaia to Cape Town.”
Speaking of ferries, they are needed along the Pan-American Highway.
The Gunns are currently on the road from Kelowna to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, at the southernmost reach of the Baja Peninsula.
From there, they, and their truck camper, have to get on a ferry to cross the Gulf of California to Mazatlan.
A ferry will also be used from Panama to Cartagena, Colombia, to make the jump from Central America to South America.
In South America, the Gunns are looking forward to spending time in the Brazilian Pantanal, the region encompassing the world’s largest tropical wetland; the world’s largest salt flats in Uyuni, Bolivia; driving along the coast of Chile to see the fjords; and drinking Malbec red wine in Argentina.
Travelling in a small truck camper is also viable because the Gunns will be in warm climates for most of the trip.
“If we’re not driving or sleeping in the truck, we’re outdoors, enjoying where we are,” said Jeff.
“And when we feel cramped, which happens about once a week, we’ll rent an Airbnb or stay in a nice hotel for a night to stretch out. Hotels are so affordable in Central and South America.”
You can follow Lois and Jeff Gunn’s journey on OneEndlessRoad.com.