The story of Bettie Page, the Land Rover

Photo: Marcel Meyer

Taking a Land Rover defender and equipping it for extreme adventures off the grid and on terrain, only the Kunene region can throw at you. However, this was the long-held dream of Marcel Meyer.

Just as all his other vehicles are named after famous women, he named this one Bettie Page, after a New York model in the mid-1950s.

“What many 4x4s do in their lifetime I do in a year,” Meyer says on the distances he covers since Betty was introduced to her new lifestyle in the bundus (a word adventurers love when in nature).

Despite describing each and every trip as good, this year was exceptional due to the unpredictable weather and the many showers in the Kunene region making some areas almost impassable as rivers came down in full flood.

The best advice any adventurer will give before trying to cross a river, regardless of how well equipped your off-roader is, is to either wait for the river to subside or walk through it to establish the depth of the water. When it is above knee-deep, rather play it safe and wait until it becomes passable, says Meyer.

His last trip took him four days longer to complete due to the many rivers like the Huab, Hoarusib and Kunene rivers, which were in full flood.

Sometimes the group had to camp on river banks due to safety concerns, with Meyer warning drivers never to consider crossing a river in full flood at night.

Meyer sold his prized Nissan Skyline, imported from Japan to satiate his love of speed, and bought the Land Rover instead a decision he says he doesn’t regret, although he still misses the iconic Skyline, despite the vehicles being worlds apart.
“Planning is key to any overland trip,” says Meyer.

This is in terms of route planning, taking into consideration the terrain that will be travelled, weather conditions and cellphone network coverage which makes a satellite phone a necessity, he says.

Other essential equipment and commodities include sufficient drinking water, a first aid kit and torches, to mention a few, he says.

Additional fuel is another thing that must be carried along, since many roads are remote and petrol stations are few and far between on certain routes. It is for this reason that Meyer has equipped his vehicle with extra fuel tanks with a total capacity of 280 litres.

All these extras can add up to an additional tonne in weight, which has necessitated the reinforcing of some parts, like the differential, gearbox, axles and camshafts, to compensate for the additional weight, allowing better handling of terrain.

The vehicle is built to be self-sufficient at all times and all the equipment installations were done by Meyer and his friends in his garage with a steely focus on functionality.

Taking on the notorious Van Zyl’s Pass on his last trip, they even had to build the road, if you can call it that, he says, laughing.

This was to ensure Betty could cross the mountainous terrain safely and without any incidents or damage to the vehicle.

This is evident in Betty since no space is wasted and even the tiniest space under the rear seats houses some of the inverters for the solar panels fitted on the roof.

By the looks of Betty, she has surely endured a lot of tough miles, but this, Meyer says, simply tells the story of her many adventures. To be exact, this 26-year-old Land Rover has clocked almost 400 000 kilometres and is still going strong.

For this duo, no horizon is too far, no mountain too high or river too deep to show Namibia off to guests.

Asking about the inevitable nightmare of a breakdown for any adventurer, Meyer says the most important part is to remain calm, focused and determine what the next step will be. This has become second nature ever since Meyer had a major breakdown in the bushes far away from any town or village. He had to get out his toolbox (another must on any and every excursion) and fix the broken differential with what he had.

Despite the challenges, Meyer’s dreams are alive when planning his future travels, with a trip across Africa on the cards, but for now Namibia, Zambia and Botswana remain on his radar.

His advice to any person thinking of travelling the world is to first explore and travel Namibia, as this country offers so many scenes, people and places.

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