The Bell Family Nimbl Experience
Mar 28, 2022
Allow me to introduce myself and my family. We were born in Africa and together have spent the last 13 years chasing incredible experiences and adventure across five continents. We have traveled overland from Cape Town to Kilimanjaro, circumnavigated South America, completed the Pan -Am journey from Argentina to Alaska before exploring Europe to Asia and across the entirety of coastal Western Africa, all in a trusty self-built Land Rover Defender camper. I am a Member of The Explorers Club and the author of five excellent books and yes, I may be biased. I am also the Senior Editor 4WD for Expedition Portal and an Overland Journal contributor since 2015. I hope that you are suitably impressed. I am bloody amazed. We are Graeme, Luisa, Keelan and Jessica Bell. Our children have become adults as we have traveled and we are incredibly proud of who they have become.
So, now that you know who we are, you may be asking yourself why are you reading about us on the Nimbl website? The answer is gloriously simple. We will be using one of the original, refitted prototype Nimbl (XP) Campers to explore Latin America. The vehicle is called Proto but we have given him the nickname “Major Tom” as he is all American – powerful, capable and adventurous with an eye on the future. The Nimbl Camper reminds me of a space ship and we now insist that whoever travels with us begins all hand-held comms thus; “Ground control to Major Tom.” Extra points for a Bowie impersonation.
Before heading out we had to make some improvements to Major Tom including a beautiful new ARB bull bar, upgraded headlights and a matte black grille as we like the vehicle to be practical and as inconspicuous as possible. A new set of General Tire X3 Mud Terrains were installed as we anticipate more than a few treks into the jungle. The camper needed only minor upgrades and repairs which Alex and the team took care of with the usual diligence and craftsmanship. A week was spent working on Major Tom at the Nimbl HQ in Colfax, California and, with the clock ticking on our US visas, we made the long dash for the Mexican border, arriving at the Tecate border post two hours before our ten-year visas expired. Holy Toledo!
A day later we found ourselves in need of decompression, parked near the edge of a cliff, overlooking the Pacific Ocean north of Ensenada. Our first tasks were to stock up on tacos, affordable Mexican fruit and vegetables and to fill the 75-gallon water tank with readily available purified water from a Puraficador. While others in our convoy had to make do with the occasional swim in the sea we enjoyed indoor plumbing and hot showers! No, we did not feel guilty, we have paid our dues and lived rough on the road for many wonderful years.
And so, begins our journey south. The Pan American highway is not new to us, but the Nimbl camper is and, man, what a game changer. First, the base vehicle has the bulletproof 5.9l Cummins diesel power plant which pulls like a train, accelerates with intent and makes a tough road tame. Nimbl have upgraded to an Icon suspension and upgraded leaf pack at the rear with ARB air bags, allowing a smooth and predictable drive across all road surfaces. The flat bed onto which the camper is mounted has excellent, sealed storage boxes and we now have the space to carry all the gear we want and need. And don’t get me started on the camper – spacious, comfortable, practical, it is everything a long-distance, long-term traveler could ask for. Would I change anything? Well, only the aesthetic but with time we will make the interior our own. We do have a house plant though, a Venus Flytrap which is an incredibly practical and entertaining plant!
As soon as possible we left the cities behind and headed to secluded beaches and trails through the mountains. Long dusty roads surrounded by glorious desert landscapes led us to old missions, towns and beach villages where not much has changed over the years. And, naturally, a good shake down trip is not without some surprises but all the problems were easily taken care of and all had to do with the base vehicle, not the camper. One of the things which surprised us the most about the Nimbl camper is the air tight seals. We have never driven a camper which did not fill with dust after a long day in the dirt, but the Nimbl never became dusty inside. The off-road performance of the vehicle is excellent and we were surprised that even deep sand did not pose too much of an obstacle.
Mulege, pronounced moo-la-hey, is a quiet, friendly village beside the Sea of Cortez, the type of village which was built with horse carts and donkeys in mind. We were concerned that Major Tom would be too wide for the narrow streets, we drove slowly and carefully and had no problems at all. A relief as we would be driving through many such colonial villages, towns and cities as we head south. After filling up with Tres Leches and a few groceries we joined our young friends, Kade and Brooke, and made a beeline for the secluded, remote Agua Verde beach. A tight and dangerous mountain pass leads down to the shore and we engaged low range to save the brakes. Once past the small ranch and a green bay we scouted for the narrow, rough trail which terminated at the rocky beach of an island dotted bay. Major Tom cruised effortlessly along the beach until we found a perfect camp spot. Stingrays hunted and pelicans swam, at nigh bio-luminescence would enthrall us as small waves crashed and the campfire sparked, while the Milky Way put on a show. This is why we do what we do, this is the greatest life we can live, with courage and love and an open heart.
It has been almost a month since we left the USA with Major Tom and we are all falling in love with this practical, capable and comfortable vehicle.