We’re doing this trip on a Dragoman truck named Cindy, and she’s a tough old bitch.
Cindy is a custom-built expedition vehicle built on a Mercedes truck chassis. She has a 6200cc diesel engine and in first gear, she can climb up the side of a building.
She holds 700 liters of fuel, a 400 liter fresh water tank, cooking equipment, tents, and spare parts. She has skid plates bolted to her side, and large propane canisters slung under her belly in cages. Every doors on the truck has a padlock.
She is piloted by T.J., a kid who is glad to be out of Texas, and Izzy, a tiny british woman who reminds of of Kaylee Fry from the TV series ‘Serentity’. Both of them are in their 20’s. While T.J. is the P.R. guy of the trip, making announcements and telling us what to expect, Izzy has the special bond with Cindy. Whenever we’re about to drive a challenging / possibly-fatal section of road, Izzy takes the wheel.
Driving on a dirt road yesterday, there was a loud ‘ping’ from somewhere below where we were seated. Today Izzy had one of the truck’s wheels off and was disassembling a hub to change a broken wheel bolt. She’s like a pixie specializing in truck magic.
Inside the truck are a number of benches as well as windows that roll down to give the occupants a wonderful view of the surroundings and a refreshing breeze. Towards the back are two four-person tables where passengers can play cards, read magazines, or simply have intense conversations about their dreams.
Overhead are elastic nets where we store hats, wine, fruit, and whatever we might need during the day’s journey. There is a sound system with speakers over each seat, and anyone can hook up their music player to set the soundtrack for the journey. (On this trip, everyone’s favorite album so far is “Flight of the Conchords”.)
Life on a Dragoman truck feels a lot like travel with a VW bus. There are more people and a lot more space, and the vehicle is a lot bigger, but it has the same self-contained feeling of an expedition. Sorin has been on many of Dragoman’s trucks, and he tells me that the people on the journey make a big difference in the ‘feel’ of the trip. Australians are generally crazy, the Brits are generally stodgy, and there are rarely any Americans, because we don’t get enough vacation to take a 3+ week Dragoman trip. There is always at least one person who is clinically insane.
I’m glad I’m on this trip, but I’m not sure if I’ll go on another. It’s much more comfortable than Burning Man, but a lot less comfortable than Fiji, and you’re sharing tight quarters with so many people. The personalities are complex and sometimes confusing.