In moments of peak stress, boredom, or desperation for change, we’ve probably all shared the same dream: why not just drop everything and travel. Many are lucky do it for a few months, or even a couple of years, but perhaps no modern travelers have been more ambitious than Gunther and Christine Holtorf, who set out in 1990 on a tour of Africa in a Mercedes Benz G Wagon named ‘Otto,’ and never looked back. Over the next 20 years the trio would rack up almost 550,000 miles (885,139km) across some 177 countries. They never once slept in a hotel, preferring to string up hammocks or sleep inside Otto, a car that required a stockpile of 400 spare parts lashed to the roof for emergency repairs.
Their adventures lead them to encounters with numerous vanishing cultures, extraordinary wildlife, and special permission to drive through both Cuba and even North Korea. There were also tricky political situations, a few minor car wrecks, and no less than five cases of malaria. Christine passed away in 2010, but Gunther, now 76, continued traveling for several more years before recently returning to Berlin.
The video from 2012 above includes some great highlights from the Hortorf’s trek, but what you really need to do is scroll through this new interactive travelogue from the BBC that includes some newly published photos and a full written account of their decades-long adventures. Also, here’s Gunther telling a great story about his close encounter with a hyena. (via PetaPixel)
Update: Here’s a 2013 interview with Gunther from Outside.