-An overview of this year’s Overland Rally at the Whistler Olympic Park, as experienced by Expedition BC.
In June of 2019, like previous years past, the Expedition BC family hitched up the Kakadu Bushranger trailer, loaded up the Sequoia with kids, clothes and food, and left the farm for another week on the road. Rather than picking a direction and meandering away from town, our destination was the Callahan Valley and the Whistler Olympic Park.
Usually we like to take our time and not race along the freeway to our destination. This trip was different though, as we had our sights set on the BC Overland Rally! In this case, it didn’t hurt taking the most direct route – the Sea 2 Sky highway hugs the edge of the Coast Mountains as it winds it’s way along the ocean, then up into the glaciated mountains between Vancouver and Whistler. Having outgrown the Sasquatch Mountain venue after only two years, the new location near Whistler was highly anticipated!
If you’re reading this because you want to know what it’s all about, the event’s motto is “Have fun, make friends, learn stuff!” The weekend, usually Thursday afternoon to Sunday morning, is packed full of instructional courses, top notch vendors and displays, food and drink, off road driving instruction and trail runs, nightly campfires and prizes, and all while camping out with a diverse group of vehicle based adventure travelers in the mountains!
I’d first like to start by clearing the air about the rally experience! Over the years I’ve heard and read comments from like-minded adventure travelers that the idea of camping together with hundreds of other people, crammed into a 20×20 space in an open field, is the very opposite type of experience they are looking for. Sure, most of us prefer to find camp in a scenic and remote spot, far away from the sights and sounds of other campers. We also fall in this category, having barely paid or camped in a regulated campground over the past decade! The rally experience is an exception, however, and one we’ll happily make year after year. I can say this after having attended eight of these events so far between the B.C.O.R. and N.W.O.R. in Washington State (same organizers). The friends we’ve made and the experiences we’ve collected at these rallies greatly outweighs the downsides of a somewhat crowded camp. It’s a family friendly culture, with offers of shared food/drinks, and invites to stranger’s campfire circles in the evenings, and trail runs during the days. We’ve often paired up with other rally goers to travel together in the days following the weekend! If the tight camping quarters is the issue, there’s always spaces along the back or in the corners for extra privacy. If you’ve never been to the rally, we encourage you to come out for one weekend to join in on the fun – it’s a highlight of the year for our travelling family!
We arrived early on Thursday and setup side-by-side with some friends you’ve seen in our trip reports before, Jeff and family in their Powerwagon/Kakadu Bushranger setup. Usually late June in Southwestern BC is warm and sunny, but this area was experiencing some localized rain showers to start the weekend, with the forecast trending toward sunnier skies closer to Sunday. My personal favourite thing to do is stroll around and check out the other camp setups. This usually takes me all weekend to accomplish as conversations are struck up about rigs and equipment, past travels and ideas for the future. I’ve found most attendees are quite happy to share info about their setups and are open to questions.
The variety of vehicles is always impressive, from large Unimogs and converted heavy duty commercial trucks, right down to imported mini-4×4’s and classics. Of course the more common, but nicely equipped, Jeeps and Toyotas made a nice showing. We took hundreds of photos, but went through the difficult task of picking out our favourites to show here:
Vendor row was impressive yet again, and we’ve noticed that more vendors from south of the border are starting to take notice. There were the steadfast regulars, such as Warn Industries, Kakadu Camping, ARB, Four-Wheel Campers, and also some new ones such as Quigley Motor Company and Combat Flip Flops. In total, there were almost 70 vendors setup in the vendor area, and a few more recognized company rigs in the camping areas. Other than a few laps through the vendor and display area, we didn’t spend too much time looking at new product, perhaps because it’s just too tempting to empty your wallet.
This year, we seemed to spend more time hanging around the off road and technical driving course. Mrs. ExpeditionBC strapped the kids inside and did most of the driving around the course while I hopped out and made my rounds with the camera.
The technical and driving courses proved to be extra popular this year, as shown by the lineup for the self-driving portion and large number of participants. There were beginner and intermediate classes available, which covered off first-time off-roaders and experienced ones alike.
We’ve experienced the instruction from the Overlanding BC staff several times in a variety of settings and there is always something new to learn. Once you feel like you have it all figured out, they’ll step up the challenge and provide a new tip or advice for best practice moving forward. Overall it makes for a great learning experience in your own vehicle!
It was certainly interesting to watch the variety of trucks and vans climb their way over the different portions of the course. Where else do you get to watch a highly modified and triple locked (I believe) Sprinter Van, a classic Toyota, and then a modern Power Wagon off-roading together?
The nightly campfire and prize raffles, along with the captivating speakers, is how most attendees finish up each day.
Of course there’s always something to catch your eye at the rally, whether it’s the camp dogs, something unique or an interesting point of view.
I’ll end this event report with something special. This is quite the storied vehicle and something I encourage everyone to read up on. It is a 1957 Land Rover Series 1, nicknamed the “Grizzly Torque”, which embarked on an expedition across Africa, India, Asia, and Australia.
What’s even more interesting is that it was piloted by famous artist Robert Bateman and childhood friend Bristol Foster for the 14 month expedition. The sides of the vehicle were painted by Bateman with scenes and faces from the various areas they traveled. The vehicle disappeared for some time however recently resurfaced and Bateman re-painted the images for the new owner. Fascinating.
If the 2019 Rally was any indication of what’s to come, I think the BC Overland Rally will continue to grow and attract a varied array of guests and industry vendors. All you have to do is look around and see the smiles of the rally-goers, and take in all the buzz of excitement in the air. Thanks to Ray and Marianne and family, as well as all the volunteers that make this event happen.
Till next time rally friends! -JC
After the rally, somewhere in the Coast Mountains…