Toyota People: the Andela family, cross-continent adventurers

Toyota People

Some say that long, cross-continent road trips are only for those with few responsibilities. But the Andela family would beg to differ, as father Nic, mother Nicky and daughter Lily evidently enjoy the freedom of a nomadic lifestyle on epic journeys from London to Cape Town, South Africa. We caught up with the two medical professionals and self-confessed Toyota people to hear about how their various Land Cruiser models have facilitated this free-roaming existence.

Toyota People: Nic and Nicky Andela

Nicky, baby Lily and Nic with one of the three Land Cruisers that they have used as Toyota originally intended

How did you two meet, and did your professions require frequent travel?

Nic: “We met in 2003 at a hospital in central London. I was an anaesthetist and intensive care doctor, and Nicky was a physiotherapist. Following her manager’s recommendation, Nicky ended up living with me in a house share with four other doctors. But we only started dating in 2007.”

Nicky: “During those couple of years, our thoughts of travel were rather limited to the daily tube ride from Rotherhithe to London Bridge and back.”

Lily the bush baby, somewhere in Tanzania

How did you catch the travel bug?

Nic: “You could say that I caught it from my father. He told me that when he was young he read the book ‘Cape Cold to Cape Hot’ by Richard Pape. Written almost 70 years ago, it was a travelogue about the author’s record-breaking, 17,500-mile drive from Nordkapp in Norway to Cape Town, South Africa, in an old Austin. The account had obviously stuck with him for decades because following my mother’s death in 2006 he decided to replicate Pape’s journey. But in reverse. And on a Vespa scooter.

“He was supposed to be joined by a colleague on a motorbike. But when that person suddenly pulled out I felt compelled to become his travel partner instead. I knew that I didn’t want to attempt the journey on two wheels, but the only experience of off-road vehicles that I’d had was as a child in my uncle’s 70 Series Land Cruiser. So I went out and bought a different 70 Series model from a Japanese teacher in North London, then shipped it to Cape Town to join him. It turned out to be an indescribable adventure that truly infected me with the travel bug and cemented my relationship with the Land Cruiser.”

Sightseeing in Egypt

What about you, Nicky?

Nicky: “Before meeting Nic, I’d travelled extensively through India, Thailand, Cambodia and Mexico. But my fondest memories of all were holiday road trips through Europe with my parents and siblings. Dad would always rely on me to navigate, and I relished the responsibility of getting all of us safely to our destination. Which of course was all good practice for our own long-distance family road trips in various Land Cruisers.”

Sounds like you’ve been on a number of UK to Africa road trips in different Land Cruisers…

Nic: “To date we’ve had two long wheelbase models — one 70 Series and one 90 Series — and one short wheelbase 70 Series that we bought sight unseen after it was discovered in a shed in Spain. All of them have had manual gearboxes and diesel engines as that’s the most reliable and economical combination for road trips in Africa. Nicky’s favourite is our 1998 long wheelbase 90 Series as it is the most comfortable, especially with our daughter in tow. But my favourite is definitely the 1995 LJ78, the Land Cruiser Prado that started our overland adventures. We still own the LJ78 to this day.”

Nicky’s favourite Land Cruiser is her long wheelbase 90 Series, as it provided the most comfort with baby Lili in tow

Nicky: “So apart from shorter holiday road trips to France and Spain when our daughter was very small, we’ve driven through Africa twice. The first was Nic’s road trip with his dad in 2008, which took him all the way up the east coast and then by ferry to Italy and back through to the UK.

“The latest trip was in 2013 when our daughter was two years old. But instead of getting the ferry from Italy to Egypt we carried on clockwise around the east coast of the Mediterranean to Turkey. We then took a ferry to Israel, crossed the border into Jordan, and hopped on another ferry to the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt. After that we copied the eastern route through Africa that Nic had driven five years before as there are fewer border crossings to worry about.”

A quick stop-off to take in the northern coastline of the Mediterranean in Croatia

Did you question the viability of overland travel when your daughter came along?

Nic: “We understand that parents in general may be put off by long distance travelling. But by the time our daughter came along we were already experienced overlanders and understood the realities of it all. The Land Cruiser simply became our home on wheels. She was comfortable in her car seat and the rear bench became a mobile play pen that she filled with all sorts of things she found along the way.”

On the road, little Lily’s home was the family’s Land Cruiser – a home that also enabled her to see more of the world than many other two-year-olds

Nicky: “Nic was always very good about making sure that each Land Cruiser was in excellent mechanical order, but I was meticulous about two things: clean water and malaria prevention. To avoid gastro intestinal illnesses we ensured that all water we consumed was ultra-filtered. And then in areas with an increased risk of mosquitos we always wore long trousers and long sleeves, took occasional anti-malaria tablets — our daughter’s were hidden in her sandwiches — and slept under mosquito-proof nets.”

What modifications did you carry out to your Land Cruisers for these journeys?

Nic: “Interestingly, on the first overland trip in 2008 the 70 Series was completely standard. I saw so many people who’d spent thousands on aftermarket suspension set-ups, accessories and other items. But what they seem to forget is that the more stuff you add, the heavier the car becomes and the greater the risk is of getting bogged down on muddy roads. So for me, I relied on the fact that Toyota’s engineers had built a vehicle that was capable from the outset.

“Having said that, on our north-to-south trip in 2013 we did upgrade the suspension in the 90 Series as we were carrying a roof tent and multiple jerry cans.”

A home from home on the banks of the Dead Sea, Israel

What additional challenges come with travelling as a family compared to being a couple?

Nicky: “For the most part, travelling as a threesome was easier and more fun because African people love children. For example, having a two-year-old with us was something of a trump card at border crossings. We always seemed to be ushered to the front of the queues and expedited through the administrative processes. But then when you’re parked up for the night in an open game reserve, it was vital not to let her wander too far from the car.”

Free roaming within sight of base in the Nubian desert

What are some of your travel highlights?

Nic: “There are almost too many to recount, but many of them involve water. Teaching our daughter to swim in the pool of the colonial-era Old Cataract Hotel in Aswan, Egypt, was one highlight. As was swimming on the banks of Lake Malawi in the afternoon swell with thousands of fresh water tilapia. Lily played football with local Malawian children on the shore — incredibly, they’d improvised footballs from condoms and bits of rope. It would be amazing if any clubs in the UK could donate some used footballs to these kids…

Toyota People
Nicky with the local children on the banks of Lake Malawi, and one of their improvised footballs

“Then we have the memory of sleeping in Rauha National Park in Tanzania to the sounds of roaring lions and noisy elephants, hyenas and hippos at the watering hole. Just wonderful. Nicky also really loved the route around Lake Turkana from Omorate in southern Ethiopia to Samburu National Reserve in northern Kenya. It was very wild and out-there remote.”

Toyota People
An overnight stop in the Samburu National Reserve, Kenya

Nicky: “Can I offer a shameless plug? Some of these memorable highlights and overland resource gems can be seen on our blog Family In Africa.”

Talking of which, your most recent post is about the restoration of your original LJ78 Land Cruiser. That sounds like a real Toyota People project…

Nic: “Indeed. Beastly — that’s her nickname — holds such a special place in our hearts. It all started with her and she’s part of the family now. She’s been the most reliable vehicle we have ever owned, and we have so many fond memories with her.”

Nicky: “We can honestly say that these overland trips have been both life-changing and life-extending. Experiencing the entire arc of the sun from dawn and dusk every day really slows the passage of time in a beautiful way, especially when you’re in enjoying it breathtaking surroundings. So this restoration is our little way of making time slow down for Beastly.”

Toyota People
The Andelas’ freshly restored LJ78 Land Cruiser, ready to hit the road again on another epic adventure

Where are you now and what are some of your future plans?

Nic: “Nowadays we seem to spend more time in Cape Town than London. And because Beastly is almost 30 years old, we’ve found that it’s getting harder to find replacement parts. So we plan to keep her in South Africa and use her for more local trips. But plans are afoot for us to take a tour of the southern African countries — Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Mozambique — in Toyota’s latest 76 Series Land Cruiser next year. We cannot wait!

We definitely wish you all the best on this next exciting adventure. Thank you so much, Nic and Nicky, for taking the time to talk with us.

Read more: Toyota People articles


  1. An Epic Adventure by an incredible family. You guys make Toyota look good! Here’s to the amazing people that show us what the Toyota group of vehicles are truly capable of. I’m very lucky to have joined the Andella family on one of their “shorter trips” into Botswana. A trip I will never forget. Here’s to many more miles guys ! Xx

  2. Great article. I have had the privilege of travelling with the Andela’s on some smaller trips with the hope that there will be further trips in future. I too drive a Toyota albeit a FJ Cruiser and I absolutely love it. So far it has covered most of South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Lesotho, Zimbabwe and a big part of Zambia and that is only the tip of the iceberg for what I have planned. What makes these trips so enjoyable is having a capable and dependable vehicle. She has hardly put a foot wrong and I feel extremely proud every time I get into my Toyota. Each time I am asked if I want to upgrade when she is being serviced I have to just smirk and decline. She has gone beyond the realms of being a vehicle and has both become, and bought me into a lifestyle. There is not a place where it feels I cannot go. So all I can say is thank you Toyota for providing us with these amazing vehicles.

    1. Thanks Paul
      Appreciate your comment; you are a 4×4 legend and truly one of the best overland preparers and advisors in the business with an International resume that eclipses most.
      I would advise anyone looking to kit out their truck and needing guidance for whatever mission they have in mind to get in touch.

  3. Myself and Irma had the privilege to have met Nic, Nicky, Lily and of coarse Beastly on a roadtrip from Sani to Natal Battlefields along with other great people in January 2024.
    One evening next to a camp fire, the Andela family shared this incredible story with me and I was stunned about the experience that they had.
    I can honestly say, the Andela family are truly humble people and I would like to travel more with them in our beautiful Country as well as in our neighboring Countries with our Toyota’s.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

To be the first to hear about all of our latest news, offers and events, check the box below, we’ll send these communications by email, phone, SMS or post. Be assured that Toyota will only share your personal information with companies that are an integral part of fulfilling the services we deliver. If you would like to find out more about how we process your data please visit our privacy policy for details.

I understand that I can unsubscribe at any time.