A la découverte de l'Europe sauvage – Première partie, le Sud Est – Voyage en Land Rover Defender

Discovering Wild Europe – 1st part: The southeast Everything starts with a passion: Nature wild spaces and their fauna This nature exists for millions of years looking for an unachievable equilibrium This nature changes, evolves, diversifies more surprising every day. It is a challenge for those who want to live with it a joy for those who share its intimacy, accept and understand it Alice born between the ocean and the tropical forests of Brazil it’s due to the proximity with dolphins and whales every day that she felt in love with cetaceans Alice: Brazilian, 29. Biologist; Specialist of cetaceans; Read, write and live the trip Thomas is very changing, from fish, insects then reptiles, his passion for nature and photography brought him to explore the world looking for the best wildlife pictures Thomas: French, 28. Biologist & Photographer; Reptile specialist; Photographs the trip From our encounter a project will rise: discover the wonders of the world whereas they are wild and unique or more common To do so, we’ll use a Land Rover Defender A mythical vehicle Used during the 60’s by Alice’s grandfather its look is in itself an invitation to exploration We will leave in 3 years, for sure But to where? While the idea to travel to Brazil by road occurred we decided to choose Europe. Land with multiple facets I barely know it: Montenegro Albania, Romania, Poland or Iceland countries that where unknown to me few years ago And me, I wanted to discover the world and yet, I had never travelled in Europe thousands of kilometres away from home in the west of France And yet, this continent offers a wide range of landscape, where you can meet almost all climates and landscapes A continent which offers a different nature at every step The goal of our European tour will be to discover its wilderness around the 4 major cardinal directions: At first, the West: our starting point at the Atlantic Ocean A year and half before our “real” departure we will go to Scotland to test this itinerant lifestyle Its wide-open spaces, dolphins, whales sea birds of all kind, and seals would be a starting point Then it will be the East, in Greece, the North with its Cape and its midnight sun, and then the South with the unmissable Gibraltar Detroit So it’s a lizard, not a snake but a legless lizard. We have some in France, but that one is much larger than the French ones It’s the European Glass Lizard We can see that it’s a lizard because it can blink its eyes and has ears

Albania. We have been expecting a lot from its wilderness A poorly known country, with inhabited mountains filled with eagles, wolves, and large natural parks where hundreds of bird species nest But, in March, the meteorological conditions remind us something that we knew without having really experienced Nature can be really inhospitable Windstorm at Vlorä Thomas, you broke everything! Yesterday, the wind broke the door track now we have to reshape it and reinstall it I knew that we should have brought an anvil… 550 km later, we find a much bearable environment ideal for a traveling lifestyle Constant sun, no excessive wetness no unbearable heat, no wind, blue sky exuberant nature It’s the Greek Peloponnese in spring time! Unique European point with a good weather at this time of the year it’s here that we will wait that the sun shine up north to pursue our travel From Nauplie, lovely little town where the sun shines we will go along the crystal-blue waters and cross the Magne Mountains which short vegetation reminds us the weather beaten regions Yet we travel for the wilderness, but we also enjoy as much the small opportunities to discover and learn about the ancient civilisations and the men who lived here Archaeological sites at every street corner, museums and of course the Greek-Orthodox churches Athens, a city full of History, where will we stay 2 full weeks Not only by pleasure but by necessity First technical problem: We have to change the entire gear box! A hard blow for our budget Costing by itself a time and a half our repair budget… The good thing is that during our time in Athens, we had the opportunity to visit its museums

meet plenty of nice people and live their lifestyle We are in Athens’ halls Alice wanted to visit it She came wearing flip flops I’m so focused on not getting my feet dirty… and it’s messy! Enough to make you become vegetarian! Ok, today, we bought tomatoes, onions, and we paid only 1 euro! And we got for free this enormous kale! We don’t know where to fit it…we have no space!! We are at the Turkish border Here we can find the Ottoman viper. The most dangerous viper in Europe. So we are looking for it, under the sun in stone-full land trying to find it So Thomas is lifting rocks to see if he can find one underneath He is protected by his gloves. He has a snake hook I’m stepping aside…a little bit afraid ! What have you found? A colubrid I think it’s the cousin of the green and yellow French colubrid It’s a game of strength… Wonderful! So it’s indeed the cousin of the green and yellow French colubrid Aïe ! I was just saying to Alice that the French one is an easy-bitter and it seems that its Balkanese cousin is the same: it bites very easily! A Typhlops : a primitive snake The next country we planned in our trip is like Albania, known for its wild nature and its rural landscapes It’s Romania, and we started it by the unmissable Danube delta Protected from the rain, under trees while we are doing a birdwatching tour It’s a dream for every naturalist Filled with opportunities for a wildlife photographer Cormorant, pelicans and swans are there But also the Spatula, the pygmy cormorant, swallows and lots of other smaller bird species… We will even find the golden Jackal A long-time friend that we heard many times in Greece But we also went to Romania for the 4X4 and its trails… And we had some! The front tire on the right skates

when you do that You got out from where you were… So here it is: I wanted You should not make a video of that I wanted to look a little bit further the road because we have settled our bivouac after stucking the car… and we found this farm… and drank too much Raki A plum brandy and yet, we had to say no at some point… we’re completely drunk! We should not do a vlog of that What we really loved in this country was its adventures and encounters Like its wilderness: close and accessible Very diverse landscapes: humid zones mountains and even mud-volcanoes emerging in the forest An unique place giving the impression to have walked on the surface of the moon But also a wonderland in the Transylvanian forests Fascinating and yet terrifying these forests are inhabited by large mammals that we were dying to observe: wolves lynx and bears Unfortunately our trip in Romania would be shorten due to technical problems: yes, the life on the road can also bear, sometimes some bad surprises The car had some issues on the road. On one of the most beautiful of the world: the Transfagarasan road But the problem became more and more serious and we finished to get stuck We tried to call 112 because we have no phone signal, of course At least, in the meantime Thomas found a fox to take pictures The police will come to pick us and bring us somewhere where we will find phone signal and then we’ll call the technical assistance What are you looking for?

I’m trying to figure out how to remove the gasoil pump, because, in fact here we have some reinforcement blocking the pump. So it has to be cut to remove easily the pump Otherwise we’ll have to dismantle it from beneath, and it’s a lot of work! No, no, no… The problem is that, if he uses a grinder now, as he has disconnected the gasoline wires it spilled everywhere So if he uses an electric machine it’s going to set the place on fire… In the meantime, we are heading back to France so we have to get rid of our laundry, fresh food pack our luggage and Thomas is doing it here in the car service… After the first three months of travelling I’m asking myself how we thought travelling like that would be and how we can compare it to what we have lived Well, I thought that we were expecting a lot more off-road, the real issue in Europe is that there is not a lot of off-road, and when you are on it, well you are just looking for complications because you can drive anywhere with a normal car We did a lot of “normal road” travelling looking for bivouac is not just stop in the middle of nowhere in deep Mongolia Everynight, you need to find a good spot and sometimes it can take time… I think that for other people that travelled in Mongolia South-East Asia for example, when you go to a place which has good off-road possibilities then you can sleep on the side of the trail It does not matter as long as the trail is nice the landscape is nice In Europe, on the road, to sleep on its side… well it’s not great so you have to look for a bivouac to sleep It kind of complicates things to be in Europe. From one side it’s more confortable but on the other it’s harder to find a good bivouac and drive off-road So at the end, we don’t do it much really…. The 4X4 really is used to drive faster than if we had a van or a normal car in a forest, or sloppy terrain but for now I don’t think that the 4X4 is essential for the first part of our trip Sometimes looking for a bivouac, lead us to get stuck In Romania, of course, on the Greek beaches but also on off-road It moves by itself, without Thomas Without anything! Normally it’s good it will follow the tracks ahead and we’ll pack the gear and get along Bye, Def! You can go a little bit behind more on the left The front tyre slips a little bit Can you explain what you are doing? I’m lowering the pressure a little bit, because we can’t climb that hill, yet not huge

but we had 3 bars in the tire… We wanted to climb that sandy slope that we already came down and doing so, the car skated and we could not climb it at all We got stuck doing so so we had to lower the pressure in the tires We went from 3.5 bars to 2.5 We did it. Now Alice is packing while I’m increasing the pressure in the tires It is not at all what is sold on Social media And not only on Social Media. We discussed with a lot of travellers before our trip, and when doing so a large part said “no, it’s wonderful: always new and wonderful encounters meeting with Nature off-road at the end of the world”, and yet, when we are in it, when it becomes your daily life it’s not like this every day: when we just started it, we were thinking “and now the adventure begins” and finally to have a bad weather find places spoiled with trash it deceived us Beside the fact that we knew we would find trashes in the Balkans, the fact that in March, it would be cold without living this in your daily life, facing the constraints it’s hard to face on a daily basis the fact to live on a 2m² area for two… it’s really not a lot when you are two in the car At the end, we did not live that much outside because of the cold And that’s what bothered the start of our journey You need to have an adaptation period: and other people told us the same thing, it’s true you need 2-3 months to get used to it our space in the car You need to adapt to this new lifestyle, like you would adapt on a new apartment beside here, you have more constrains: for everything you have to do, every activity, every task even if it’s minimal you need to remove stuff, think on how to do it and at the end of these 3 months, I think we are more used to the car Like for Scotland, for instance: when we went there for 15 days we had 10 days inside the car. Closing the roof was a pain and finally at the end, we took our marks with the car and we had to take several others when we started the adventure and when we were no longer in holidays One of the most problematic issues we had was the water It goes everywhere when it rains. When it rains for more than half a day, water is pouring inside the car I think that the humidity is our harsh enemy in that kind of travel. When you sleep you produce humidity, same when you cook And all that humidity stays When everything is dumped you loose a lot of comfort and it means to sleep in moist bedsheets it means to be moist all day long with no possibility to take a shower, to dry properly and everything is moist It’s living in nature, living with the elements When it’s hot outside, the temperature can rise to 35-36°C inside

When it’s windy, the fabric slams. All these elements of comfort that we can buy help us every day to enhance our comfort and to have a better day-to-day life against the elements. But it’s not just the discomfort and it shall not be seen as a small hic-ups At home, when it’s raining, you get inside take a shower and you are stuck inside, and yes that’s a small discomfort Here, when it rains, you can’t go out with a jacket because, when you will come back, where are you going to hang it? For all of this we need to be outside – even to leave a bivouac, you have to be outside, to pack the gear, close the roof etc and when one of us is outside it’s helpful So we really live outside So, if the weather outside is not good, it means that our day is potentially ruined Finally, after 2-3 months, we took our marks: we pay much more attention to the weather forecast when we know that it’s going to rain, we limit our activities and do whatever has to be done outside for when it rains we just have to close the roof It happened to us to have closed the roof during the day and have stayed inside for the whole day because there was a lot of rain and we knew that later in the evening the weather would improve Here is the most painful fact about our fabric: it takes the water from the outside, and drips on the inside We had a complete day of rain hence we will not be able to dry this outside before one or two days, and the equipment is getting moist After three months, we ran out of gaz And the system we have is French system-only, so it’s going to be complicated And the fact that for everything we want to do that depends on a shop or a structure we are in a new country, so we need to know where to look Every time that we are looking for something special we don’t know where to look For example in Romania, we did not know where to locate the post-office! Ok it’s a small issue, but you have an adaptation phase in every country It’s not only the travel. We got used to it in 2-3 months, but in each country we have a week of adaptation to know where to look “What’s the supermarket name ? « Where can we find water? » There is also this to adapt to I think. For the water you need to create an habit: every time we pass near a water fountain, well, we need to refill the stock because we don’t know when we will find the next one So you always have to refill In water, gasoil, groceries. When you are out of food, you have water when you have water; you are out of gas when there is no gas… We are always chasing these What we should aim is to make a stop in a big city pack up the food, gas and water every 1-2 weeks and try to stick to that But we still don’t have the reflex to fill everything when we can and our food storage system is rather small… as well as our fridge We end up having to buy something every day or two and having to keep moving to do something All these small changes every time make us realise that we are in a traveller life and not on holidays – where you have everything at your disposal – Unlike home where you don’t ask yourself where to get water or electricity For instance, our fridge takes all our energy, and we are really wondering if it’s really worth it When it’s cold, then it’s just storage and when it’s hot it pumps all our electricity All these issues could be resolved by buying small and side equipment that we do not consider buying before because it is expensive In fact there is a solution for all these issues but before the travel you tend to minimize them We think that these solutions are luxury Having a heater for instance is no luxury Having to deal every day with this kind of situation with this kind of thing to manage a moment arrives when we are tired of all of this and when you fell a little bit depressed in travel you start to have doubts whereas when the mood is good and sometimes for very simple things like having a sunny day or just because you found a bivouac with no mosquitoes from easy things you can be very happy And this good mood makes you think that you make the right decision doing your travel After these three first months, I think we successfully addressed all these challenges, and took our marks. It was long but it’s the same when you arrive in a new apartment We took our habits, as well for the comfort

but also in terms of what have to be done Here we found drinkable water source so Thomas is filling the tank with water for the shower, washing dishes etc… then we’ll fill our stock of water bottles to drink Even if this traveling life is no piece of cake it brings us to fantastic encounters which are all small victories on our travel objectives In these moments we enjoy every second If I would have to summarize this first part of our travel in three pictures I think I would choose first the one of the white spatula in the Danube delta Entering in this place was one of the best experiences in terms of Wildlife photography Not only by our incredible proximity with the animals, but also for these moments between thunderstorm and dusk, light and rain river and forest. It was the accomplishment of what I’ve been waited for so long Then I would choose the picture of our bivouac near the Olympus Mont A clear night sky, alone in the mountains facing the nature greatness It’s the same feeling that I experience every time I’m at the footstep of a mountain but here it was not any night and not any mountain Fantastic bivouac, where the time suspended for the time of the picture Then I would choose a picture, that is not the best nor the most expressive but a picture where most would pass by without a glance, but for me it represents what become our travel It’s our home Where we take refuge when everything outside is going south where we like to spend time For me this travel could be represented by this picture where I’m writing on my travel notebook in front of a fantastic landscape One of these moments of reflexion on what we achieved but also one moment when we can turn to our inner part, and think about it, deep in nature’s wonder But the first part of our travel was not always that restful: We had some emotional elevators: our Def stuck in the mud in Romania A day symbolising the ups and downs of the “road-life” A huge difficulty to overcome: 2 hours and a half to remove the car from there, followed –a few minutes later- by one of the best encounters of our trip A couple of farmers from the world’s end: Lica and his wife Veronica And to conclude, the bear An observation like no other: we saw them 4 times in total! Every encounter was different and very special Seeing this enormous mammal so close cross its gaze, share a few minutes with it these moments will stay forever in my memory

amongst the best memories of this European tour Discovering wild Europe – 1st part: The Southeast. A movie proposed by Aurore d’Aventures In Albania there are a lot of puppies like this Thanks, tortoise! When there are cars from the other side It’s a bit complicated Thomas made a friend It’s a Look behind the thighs There are spikes or not? The tail? The tail has one spike Ah, and then there are two scales, it’s a Hermanii tortoise Go, cross the road We are encercled