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Around the world in a 6x6
Wednesday, March 28, 2012 1:22 AM

Around the world in a 6x6

Weighing 18 tonnes and with an aura that can best be described as predominantly boxy, the preferred conveyance of Stefan Sigl and Petra Mester for their around-the-world journey looks like something out from a Mad Max movie set.

The war-like appearance of the rugged juggernaut can’t be faulted.

The 1979 MAN 6X6 KAT1 truck started life in the German army before it was acquired by Sigl a few years ago and converted into a mobile home for their globe trotting drive.

Sigl, Mester and their gigantic truck-cum-mobile home.

The truck easily attracts droves of curious on-lookers wherever it goes.

“Everywhere I park the truck, a crowd gathers around us in less than five minutes,” Sigl laughs.
Since their trek began from Germany in November 2009, adventure-loving Sigl and Mester have been on the road for more than two years, travelled more than 40,000km and visited 18 countries.

The countries visited so far include Switzerland, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Oman, Iran, Pakistan, India, Nepal, China, Laos, Cambodia and Thailand.
HerrMAN passing an overturned truck on the rocky road from Manali to Leh in northern India.

In fact, the German couple are no strangers to overland drives.

They have toured Europe in a recreational vehicle and Africa in a Mercedes-Benz G-Class.

But for the “big journey”, Sigl had to settle for a more robust vehicle as they would be driving on bad roads.

Sigl, 50, was formerly with the media industry while Mester, 51, was a teacher and social worker.

Creature comforts inside the truck include a “living quarter” with beds, toilet, air conditioning, deep freezer, microwave oven and washing machine. Solar panels fitted on the roof of the vehicle power the truck’s electrical appliances.

Additional fuel and water tanks have been installed and when fully stocked with supplies, the truck can camp out for four weeks.

The vehicle is also equipped with satellite navigation and even has a mini-garage for storing a scooter and a bicycle.

The truck, or affectionately called HerrMAN, is powered by a 12.7-litre diesel engine with 380bhp.

HerrMAN is a combination of the German word “herr” which means “mister” while MAN is the truck brand.

Besides meaning “Mr MAN” in English, the name HerrMAN was also a tribute to Sigl’s father whose name was Herman.

HerrMAN was also 90% rebuilt by Sigl as he wanted to familiarise himself as much with the truck before the journey began.

“If anything breaks down, I must be able to fix it,” he says.

So far, the 33-year-old HerrMAN has been performing well and only some leaky seals had to be changed.

Fuel quality had not been an issue for HerrMAN as the vehicle’s military specifications meant that it could operate on low grade diesel.

Since starting the trip, HerrMAN has consumed some 6,300 euros (RM25,000) worth of diesel.

HerrMAN, which was fitted with six chunky Continental’s HCS all-terrain tyres when it left Germany, made a stopover at Continental Sime Tyre’s Petaling Jaya head office early this month.

The truck will get a new set of tyres while in Malaysia before being shipped to Sumatra.

Sigl says he had never expected that the tyres to last the 40,000km drive over tarmac as well as rough and rocky terrain without suffering a puncture.

Tools for the journey and (below) getting some help in the Dead Sea, Jordan.
The tyres withstood the searing heat of the Middle-Eastern desert and even the high altitude and extreme temperatures of the Himalayas and Tibet.

However, Sigl had to change a tyre and rim once enroute to Athens.

A cracked rim had caused a cut on one of the tyres, causing it to lose pressure.

An emergency call was made to Continental which promptly sent a replacement to Sigl before HerrMAN was shipped by ferry to Turkey.

Sigl who takes turns driving the behemoth with Mester, says planning the route for HerrMAN was challenging because of the vehicle’s weight and height.

“We have to make sure that bridges are strong enough to support HerrMAN’s weight and we can pass overhead obstacles,” he says.

Once, the truck got stuck for two days at a dried section of the Dead Sea in Jordan. They had thought the ground was hard enough to support HerrMAN but in the end an excavator had to be used to pull it out.

The couple even picked up a new dog along the journey. Their Alaskan malamute named Justin died in India.

While waiting in Nepal for the approval of their visas to enter China, Sigl and Mester befriended a street dog.

“In the end, we took the dog in and named it Mandu, short for the Nepali capital of Katmandu,” he says.

“Now, the dog is our guard, if it’s not sleeping,” Sigl laughs.

The couple will stay in Malaysia for a month and visit key attractions in the west and east coasts before moving on to Indonesia.

The couple will also visit Timor Leste, Australia and New Zealand before their next leg in South America.

“Actually, we have not planned any detailed route nor itinerary. We are just moving along as we feel like it.

“Travelling should not be like following a strict schedule where you must be at a certain place at a certain time,” Sigl says.

The couple had earlier thought of using a sail boat for their world adventure but dropped the idea.

“When you are at the seas, you will only get to see water, water and more water for weeks. On land, there are more things and people to see and meet,” Sigl says.

At Dubai Marina, United Arab Emirates.



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