I’ve always had this fantasy of driving an old Land Rover since I was a kid. I remember seeing the first one on Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, bouncing through the jungle with that spare wheel on the hood, no top, the front windshield folded down, and cool safari guys hanging on for dear life while taking photo’s of Lions, elephants, and Rhino’s. Since we’ve been here in Belize, I’ve noticed a few of just such old Land Rovers around the country from time to time, but have never had the opportunity to check one out, until today. All the while thinking how cool it would be to explore the natural beauty of Belize in an iconic old Land Rover, and just enjoying this simpleness of the machine, this dream keeps circling in my head. No air conditioning, power steering, radio, not even windows! Less stuff to fix or worry about breaking, I thought. Until today!
As you know we’ve been working on the Royal Rover feverishly trying to get it up and running so we could take it out for drives while we’re here, and it’s coming along slowly. Meanwhile we spied another old Land Rover here on the Placencia peninsula owned by an enthusiast. “I think I saw a Land Rover peeking out of that garage” I told Scott as we drove down the street. “Lets swing around and check it out” he said excitedly. “UnBelizeable” we both exclaimed as we pulled into the driveway and there it sat. A 1980 Land Rover Defender Military edition, in all it’s glory with the camouflage paint, canvas top and some cool looking crossed swords painted on the door. We introduced ourselves to the owner, and before we could finish our conversation about our Land Rover restoration project, he said “Have a look” and we most certainly did. From top to bottom, front to back, and meanwhile asking a thousand questions about it’s history, we were drooling. ” It runs fine” he said. “I’ll fire it up and you can take it for a spin” he added. “Now if you’re not back in ten minutes, I’ll come looking for you! ” he said with a chuckle.
Then, off we went and my fantasy started to dissipate. He warned me that there was no power steering, air conditioning, radio, none of that. “You have to manhandle it” he said with a smile. It took me several minutes to get out of the driveway doing a three point turn wrestling the steering wheel as sweat poured down my face. Once we got it going, it was bitter sweet, but “where’s the air conditioning?” I said turning to Scott. “Two windows down at 55!” Scott said laughingly as we drove along. It was quite entertaining and fun to drive an old historical vehicle like this especially in Belize, but the though of driving it any more than twenty minutes over rough terrain was sobering. How did those British Military soldiers survive driving these old Landy’s all over the country. Hmmmmm.. mad respect for them I’m thinking now.
Time to turn around. Another several minutes and a three point turn, we were on our way back. “Did you enjoy it?” we were asked. “Most definitely” we replied. We much appreciated his kindness and for us a memory we’ll soon not forgot. Especially that I need a/c, power steering, a radio, and windows. Have I gone soft and spoiled, you betcha? In all fairness though, I love these old Land Rovers so much and it really wouldn’t bother me to do without the modern day comforts. I still see myself just bouncing around in the jungle taking pictures of wildlife. Me, my camera, and the Landy. Maybe one day. Do you have a fantasy with old cars? We’d love to hear about it. Keep the dream alive.