Realize the plan bit by bit and enjoy each
part that has been accomplished.
This prevents total frustration
should the dream as a whole however never be carry out, be
it for health or financial reasons.
We bought our hiking- and trekking equipment. Since then
each year we venture into the mountain fully loaded on trips
of several days' duration.
Stage 3 has thus been completed and is used with great joy.
Due to very good stock exchange gains and to good course
of business of our own computer technology company the earliest
possible starting date could be shifted forward to the year
2006, briefly even to 2004.
We became high-spirited, designed our towing vehicle on
the basis of a LandRover Defender 130 Crew-Cab and had it
built in 2000 - 2001. The vehicle is a very unique construction:
one lives outdoor and sleeps in the roof tent.
The "debut feature" had succeeded fantastically;
the concept has proven itself many times in the meantime
and is still something of the best we have seen in this category
Stage 2 of the dream had consequently also become reality.
After the crash of the stock exchange and the building of
the towing vehicle, which had turned out to cost 50% more
than planned, the possible starting point of the journey
had to be moved back again to earliest 2010. We were rather
frustrated and for quite some time had no more desire to
engage in any further detailed planning.
Beginning of 2002:
Beginning of 2002 however some lucky coincidences brought
us back on track:
- The worsening economic situation forced us to give up
our own company and to seek permanent employment.
- Ruedi, like Susi had already done, got employed in a
company, where one is already retired at age 62 instead
of the regular retirement age of 65.
Also the pension fund allows an even earlier retirement
starting from 57 and allows fantastic, partially tax-privileged
possibilities for additional financing of one's own early
It also offers the prepayment of an intermediate pension
covering the gap in payments between the age of 62 and
65 until the Swiss old-age pension (AHV) starts.
- Ruedi had a new idea regarding the financing:
the pension should no longer be based on the pension fund
and the retirement age but a private insurance should
prepare a pension plan based on the available financial
means (own capital, pensions, roll-over funds, etc.)
becoming available in the years to come.
The financing model was reviewed with the accountant and
the old age pension insurance discussed with insurance
experts in Switzerland.
End of 2002:
We went to Australia once again to clarify in the detail
among other things the following issues:
- Vehicle import, registration and insurance
- Customs formalities for vehicle and household items
- Costs for a property and a house (required contingency
- Subsistence, travel and vehicle-maintenance costs.
- Health, accident, liability and property insurances
- Conditions of private, Australian pension insurances
- Tax situation in Australia
- Details, expenses and dates regarding the building of
the planned caravan
Result of the trip to Australia:
- We must forget the usage of our already built towing
The vehicle can be converted to right-hand drive and can
be registered, but insurance (liability and collision)
cannot be obtained for it.
The vehicle is for Australian standards too expensive and
besides that it is a European import and for the insurance
the liability and repair costs would be not foreseeable.
Besides that the car was already too heavy to take over
220 kg additional axle load from the caravan.
The frustration once again was complete.
- In Australia privately financed pension insurance can
start from age 55. Capital insured and pension are practically
Beginning of 2003:
At the beginning of 2003 the financing model was adapted
again and the attained insights adopted. Much to our surprise
the earliest possible starting date could thus again be shifted
forward to 1.1.2005, in an emergency even to 1.1.2004. This
however was under the condition that we did not intend to
ever again live in Switzerland, as financing a life in Switzerland
would not be possible with the available pension. The expected
costs were calculated till the year 2025.
Due to many discussions with other travel-experienced and
because of our own, long-term itinerary, the variant
"Caravan- towing vehicle" was dropped. Despite
some disadvantages we have now decided go back again to the
original plans being a camper-van on the basis of an OKA
and therefore also reduce the travel concept to 2 stages.
Main reasons for this resolution were:
- To travel through South America with a towing vehicle
and a caravan can hardly be done
- Towing vehicles without a solid cab to live in are unsuitable
for longer journeys in the cold areas of South America,
Canada, Alaska etc.
- A towing vehicle with pop-top roof or roof tent offers
very little protection in bad weather, large animals and
uninvited visitors (humans).
When reviewing the plans for the camper-van with one of
the many builders we find out that the law in Switzerland
to drive such large vehicles will change 1.4.2003 and one
would have to pass the full truck drives test if the learning
permit was not ordered before end of March 2003.
They just manage to get it done on time.
The definite travel starting date was specified to be the
1.8.2005 and officially communicated.
Ruedi receives the immigration visa for Australia inclusive
We pass the driving test for C1 vehicles according to the
old Swiss law.
That means that we from now on may drive professionally vehicles
up to 7.5 t as well as campers with unrestricted weight in
The maximum weight of the OKA is 6.4 t, inclusive trailer
Intensive medical training (CH: Atlas Health Academy lead
by Pro Valetudine, Samariterverein)
Ruedi immigrates to Australia, even if only for 3 weeks.
We flew to Perth to measure and order to the OKA and organize
its shipment to Germany.
OKA has been promised to deliver the truck to Germany begin
Susi and Ruedi draw several versions of the camper back-section
and discuss it with Alu-Star. Every version get's better
and simpler but with more features.
The 5. version finally is what everyone agrees. Never less
there were 3 "final versions" to be drawn to implement
small detail changes.
Following has been agreed with Alu-Star:
- Building starts in October 2004 at Alu-Star.
- All work complete at begin of May 2005. Truck ready to
- Attending the biggest German Off-Road Exhibition
"Off-Road Adventure" in Bad Kissingen as exhibitor
for OKA and Alu-Star by end of May
- 4 weeks of testing in June in Greece
It was also decided to drive to Australia by a Container-Ship
via the Panama-channel. The turn has been booked.
Start is at September 9 in Hamburg, arrival in Sydney will
be October 24.
The OKA will be shipped separately by RoRo and is planned
to arrive shortly after our arrival.
OKA informs us that the car will not arrive in Germany until
earliest March 2005 with a possible additional delay until
end of June 2005. The new model is delayed and not to be
released for the Australian market before end of January
2005. This delay get's all of us in a very stressful and
Worst case scenarios are discussed and the back-section is
slightly modified so it also would fit to a 4x4 Mitsubishi
Canter or an Austrian Mantra. Just in case ....
Never less we agree that Alu-Star starts building the back-section,
based on factory drawings from OKA, the results of our investigations
and measurements as well as the many photos we shut last
December at OKA's factory.
December 2004 - February 2005:
The majority of the parts for the back-section like solar
system, fridge a.s.o. have to get organized. Part of it was
ordered in Switzerland and Ruedi exports the parts him self
to Germany. This is quite a nightmare and he learns all about
German/Swiss customs officials. It is unbelievable what an
amount of nonsense these guys produce. Every trip trough
the boarder is different and needs between 2 - 2.5 hours.
The empty back-section is ordered and gets delivered in
January. Alu-Star uses now an external, professional builder
which results again in an increased quality as these factory
press sizes the Aluminium sandwiches and uses Aluminium from
bobbins to avoid walls to be made from multiple sheets. The
result fully convinces.
The floor heating is built. It's the first time Ruedi can
really help building the camper. It is very complex work
and has to be done very precise to avoid future leaking,
as they would be nearly un-repairable. Alex works very exact
We give notice to our employer to leave the company by end
of June (minus vacation and overtime).
March - April 2005:
OKA finally confirms the delivery of the truck to Alu-Star
until end of June.
The floor heating is now installed and Alu-Star works on
the furniture. The Solar-Panels are mounted on the roof and
all wires connected.
The windows, the windows-covers and part of the water-system
Even though the cabinet is by far not as complete as planned,
it is shown at the biggest European Off-Road fair in Bad
Kissingen (Germany). We are guests of Alu-Star at the fair
and proudly enjoy three very hot days. The cabin is well
accepted by other builders and guests mainly due to its superb
quality and insulation.
OKA sends first pictures of our truck - but no truck. It
is further delayed and should arrive in September. This voids
all our plans and we know already that we will not start
travelling once in Australia. We will have to come back to
Europe to finish our camper.
Building the furniture turns out to be more complicated as
expected, so we also have delays on the back-section Ruedi
now works full time on the back-section at Alu-Star mainly
in building walls and doors for the furniture. A never ending
The furniture are more or less completed, the curtains are
mounted. Ruedi installs the electrical equipment and all
the wiring. Susi makes the Mozzy-screens. As the Defender
has now finally been sold we live in the back-section when
we are in Germany at Alu-Star.
Since the back-section still lacks wheels, it has to be
loaded onto a truck to get to our big bye-bye party in Illnau.
During these days the solar system shows its strength. Even
with slightly increased consumption and with clouded sky,
the system is able to refill the batteries within less than
half a day. Everything which has already been completed works
November 2005 - January 2006:
Begin of November we arrive in Perth on board of the container
vessel "CMA CGM Matisse". OKA informs us that the
truck is further delayed and will be ready by end of January
only. Based on this we decide to ship the back-section in
a container from Germany to Perth and complete the whole
car at OKA's factory instead of sending the truck to Germany
for completion. The work in Perth will still be done by Alu-Star.
The additional costs will be paid by OKA.
Before the container leaves Alu-Star has to complete all
the outstanding work on the back-section, organise the shipment
and adapt themselves to the changed situation. We are fully
busy to generate a complete detailed inventory of all items
and deal with customs.
On the 6th of December the container leaves Alu-Star and
on the 15th of January 2 people from Alu-Star and we
fly to Perth.
As we arrive at OKA the truck is by far not finished.
Due to a logistic error by the transport company the container
containing the back-section arrives one week later than
planned and only arrives at OKA on February 10th. This
generates enormous timing problems because Alex and Manfred
from Alu-Star have to be back in Germany latest by the
end of February. Thank God Thomas, the former owner of
Alu-Star, consents to help us and interrupts his trip through
Africa to give us a hand. Since he is able to stay as long
as required he is flown in from Tanzania.
We all work 6 days a week, and many hours per day, to get
as many tasks as possible done until the German crew has
to fly back. The spare wheel carrier, the crane-arm on the
back wall with the reversing camera, the roof rack, the air
operated stair, the roof hatches and the floor heating get
We find a leak in the underfloor heating. This is one of
Alex's most stressful working days he has ever had. Thanks
to up-to-date and very accurate drawings he finds the hole
in the tubes fast and can repair it relatively easily. Had
the plans not been available the back-section would have
had to be scrapped and we would have been forced to start
from scratch! The furniture is glued and riveted in it and
removing it would not be possible without its destruction.
On February 22nd our OKA has its first drive around the
factory. We are all pleased with the noise level of the new
End of February Alex and Manfred fly back to Germany. They
have never seen the final product.
The back-section and connecting frame are glued and screwed
together and finally mounted to the OKA's chassis. Also all
other prepared parts are fitted to the OKA.
The back-section gets spray-painted.
The underfloor heating and the OKA's motor cooling system
are connected. Nevertheless Thomas doesn't get it to work
until he also leaves Australia.
A big shock hits us when we weigh the truck on the weigh
bridge. The OKA weighs 6.4 t without our gear loaded.
This is about 1 t more than expected!!
We have no clue how so much extra weight was accumulated.
The OKA will only be licensed to 6500 kg. We have a very
By end of March all major work is complete and Thomas,
the third man from Alu-Star, returns back to Africa to continue
An external company modifies the truck so the GVM can be
legally increased to over 7 tonnes. Air springs are added on top
of the leave springs and the shock absorbers are replaced
with stronger types.
The modifications require official approval and an additional
break test will have to be performed.
After the beautiful and expensive spare wheel carrier is
scrapped to reduce the weight problem we are back on track.
The camper is more or less ready to be used, but OKA still
struggles with the final steps on getting the compliance
plate for their new model.
We spend the time working on a lot of detail-work.
May - June 2006:
The driver's cab is beefed-up, additional gear like PC,
GPS, 2-way radio, Sat-phone, is installed and connected.
Since the OKA can only be driven with a dealer plate until
the compliance plate is issued Ruedi is officially hired
by OKA as a test driver.
We test the camper for one week around Kalbarri. The truck
rides well and life in the back-section is comfortable and
pleasing. We are very satisfied with the exception of the
performance when driving in soft sand. The heavy weight of
the fully laden camper will always be a handicap.
Back in Perth the rustproofing is done. The company doing
it tell us that the airbags seem to be slipping and are not
in the original positions any more. Ruedi takes the OKA back
to the suspension company and they change the setup.
After extensive investigation Ruedi finds the problem in
the very complex underfloor heating. Some pipes are not connected
in the correct sequence.
After some changes the heating works flawless.
The compliance plate is still not issued. Additional tests
have been ordered and OKA doesn't pass all of them in the
first instance. As long as the compliance plate is missing,
we can not do the additional break tests necessary to upgrade
the truck to 7260 kg. Without completion of these tests we
are unable to licence the truck and get a licence plate.
The continuous delays are bad news for us. We have to start
our trip to Alice Springs latest on July 1st to be able to
meet a Swiss couple there on time. We have planned to travel
together during their holidays and we are supposed to bring
them some equipment. We can by no means shift the date, it
is too late. Slowly we are getting very nervous.
As expected the OKA doesn't get licensed by Canberra in
time, even though meanwhile all the tests have been completed.
Depending when this will be completed they will then deliver
the Camper either to Alice Springs, Broome or Darwin.
OKA organises an old Toyota Landcruiser (ex. Britz Bushcamper)
for us so we can start our trip in time. It is very cramped
but will have to do for the time being.
Once the plates from Canberra have been received OKA finishes
the break-testing. During the testing again one of the airsprings
shifts, hits the muffler and blows up. OKA takes the truck
back to the suspension place and has the bag fixed. The break-test
is passed and OKA licenses the truck for us.
The truck dealer in Alice Springs organises the truck for
the transport of the OKA but does not consider the height
of the back-section, it should have been a low-loader. As
organising a low-loader would lead to another delay of at
least one week we change our plans one last time. We drive
from Alice Springs to Perth (2951 km) within 3 days, pick
up the camper, reload all the equipment from the Landcruiser
to the OKA, drive in 3 more days to Broome (2145) and continue
our trip with our friends.
After all, except for one heart attack, three nervous
breakdowns and several short stays at the local mad house,
building the camper was a great experience :-))