Oasis Blog

La Paz and what makes it so awesome!

June 22, 2015

La Paz is often thought of as somewhere that could be rather dangerous to visit and not high on everyone’s travel wish list but personally, it’s one of my most favourite cities in the world.

For a start, how many cities have this kind of setting?:

La PazWow!

Where else do young people dressed up as zebras regularly patrol the streets, promoting road safety?:

Wildlife in La Paz!

 A somewhat unexpected sight when you first see them!  This is a brilliant project set up 14 years ago to encourage safety awareness amongst both drivers and pedestrians.  Many of the stripey participants are ‘at risk’ youths who benefit hugely from taking part.

If you really want to, you can launch yourself from  the 17th floor of the Hotel Presidente, right in the city centre (preferably dressed as a super hero) and abseil or rap jump for 50 metres. 

Here’s our tour leader Danny and two intrepid Oasis travellers (Superman and… is that Bob the Builder? aka Gemma and Ryan!).

Abseil instructionDon't look down...DannyWell done guys!

 

There are some very nice restaurants in La Paz but I prefer to head to the indoor market for a fresh fruit juice made on the spot and a fried trout meal for under five bucks.

Juice stall in the indoor market in La Paz


After trawling the shops for alpaca wool ponchos and tiny knitted llama-topped pens (a classy gift for my office colleagues), I love strolling the odd shops and market stalls where you really have no idea what you might be buying. La Paz shop and street stall

And top of my list for my next visit, the terrific Telerifico that Chris told us about recently:

La Paz Cable Car

La Paz is not like anywhere else I know with its high-altitude, mountain setting, its mixture of colonial streets and more modern concrete structures, great little bars to find and quirky markets and alleys to explore and ladies in their typical bowler hats, huge skirts and long plaits.

You can see Bolivia’s capital on our South America Overland Adventures and our Regional Explorer trips to Peru, Bolivia and Brazil.

 

Posted in All Blogs, South America. Tagged with , , .

Will There Be WiFi…? How Has Technology Changed Overland Travel, And Why Do We Sometimes Resist It?

June 12, 2015

When Oasis Overland began operating nearly twenty years ago, the world was a very different place.  E-mail was in its infancy, websites were text-heavy and not laden with flash graphics and video clips, and the concept of a ‘smartphone’ was still little more than an idea being bandied about the offices of Apple in California.  To design and run overland trips in Africa and then South America, Chris and Steve (who ran the company in the early days) had to do weird things like write letters, look at paper maps and speak to people on the phone, all from the first Oasis ‘HQ’ – a bedsit in Hounslow, West London.

Today, the world, and overlanding, are very different.  Instant communications means that at any given moment here at Oasis HQ (which is now a spacious if incongruous office in rural Somerset) we can be reading e-mails from travellers in Cameroon, talking to operators in Turkmenistan on Skype and receiving phone calls from tour leaders and drivers in the Amazon jungle.  There’s no doubt that in a lot of ways things have become easier for us and our travellers, but sometimes we do wonder if we’ve lost something: a lot of the unpredictability that makes overland expeditions what they are has gone, as has the sense of ‘disappearing’ – that lovely thought of flying to Africa or South America and then returning a few months later with your friends and family not entirely sure where you’d been or what you’d been doing all that time.

Overall, it is of course a good thing that overlanding is now easier, but as an operator we still try, where possible, to retain some of those things that make our adventure travel expeditions so unique.  Here is my quick summary of how technology has changed the overland industry, and what we do differently to stay true to our modest roots of that bedsit in Hounslow.

  • Instant Communication Between the Office and On the Road

    We still do bushcamps where we can

    We still do bushcamps where we can

It’s never been more simple to talk to someone anywhere in the world, about anything.  From the Oasis HQ we can get up-to-the-second updates from our crew on the road and keep on top of any changing or unexpected events that demand a change in plan.  When Volcan Villarica in Chile erupted in early 2015, rather frustratingly spoiling the plans of our group heading that way to climb it, we were told about it by our Tour Leader Rachel before it was reported on the BBC World News.  By the time we were getting panicked updates on travel in Chile from the Foreign Office, Rachel had already made a new plan and her group were able to climb a different volcano which, fortunately, wasn’t erupting.

Also, when travellers about to embark on their trip ask us for information, we can get it within seconds by sending off an e-mail to a contact somewhere in the world and have an answer straight away.  If you want to know if the banks in Uzbekistan are open on a Monday, we can ask our contact in Tashkent who’ll be able to tell us.  The rapid spread of mobile phones also means we can find out straight away what’s happening.  When our 2014/2015 Trans Africa expedition was trying to find its way through an officially closed border between Nigeria and Cameroon, it was a series of text messages from driver Steve Newsway that told us, step-by-step, minute-by-minute, exactly what was happening (for the record, we managed it and successfully ran two trucks through West Africa this year).  In the past, all of this was impossible, so it was harder for us to support our crew on the ground, and for them to help us out with the latest information from the road.

  • Talking With Friends and Family While You Are Away

Ah, Facebook.  That constant stream of photos of bespoke hamburgers and babies.  Well, not just that.  Our travellers are now able to update their friends and family back home through social media with posts and photos on exactly where they are and what they’ve been up to.  Also, the phenomenon of blogging has of course found its way in to overland trips, as our travellers have kept both their friends and the rest of us updated and entertained with tales from the road (check out Rob’s fantastic blogs from his Trans Africa trip, still ongoing).  No longer the lengthy task of having mail held by the Poste Restante service and wondering if it’ll still be there when you arrive, or buying a new diary for your trip to keep a daily journal of your trip, ready to give everyone a blow-by-blow account of your adventure once you returned.

  • Sat Navs and Global Positioning Systems (GPS)
Filling up the jerry cans on the Trans Africa

Filling up the jerry cans on the Trans Africa

When I first did an overland trip in 2006, on a 15-week Kingdoms and Carnivals from Rio to Quito I remember being sat riding shotgun on one of the long drives from Buenos Aires all the way down to Ushuaia on Tierra del Fuego.  At one point, as I stared vacantly at the impressive nothingness that is eastern Patagonia, the driver, Andy, started yelling at me enthusiastically over the roar of the engine, asking me to grab his atlas.  He passed me a pen, and said “write down where we are, there’s a great spot for a bush camp there!” as he pointed excitedly out of the window.  Using my best GCSE geography skills, I worked out, more or less, where we are on the map, jotted down an ‘X’ in black biro and wrote in my barely legible handwriting ‘BUSH CAMP’.  After I’d done that, I asked Andy what on earth that was all about; it was midday, we didn’t need to find a camping spot.  He explained that when other crew take over the truck they can check the maps and it helps if there are things like camping spots, petrol stations and fresh water supplies marked on it.  I thought that was pretty cool, it played on my childhood dream of being some sort of explorer.

Skip forward seven years to my first Africa trip as an Oasis Tour Leader, and myself and Mick were trying to find our way through the madness of Dar Es Salaam in Tanzania.  We had one atlas in the cab, but it had barely been used.  We didn’t need it.  Mick had his GPS on display, with co-ordinates of our campsite for the evening plumbed in.  It told us how far was to go, which turning to take at the next roundabout, and even gave us an approximate arrival time (always hopelessly optimistic given Dar’s interesting take on ‘urban planning’ and heavy traffic).

Whereas in the past we relied on scrawled notes on maps, discussions about routes and roads over a beer when crew crossed paths, today the combination of GPS and mobile communications means our crew can jot down the exact location of a good bushcamp, text it to other drivers, and then they can find their way to the exact spot.

On their recent Nile Trans trip, the crew, Kim and Gareth, buried their beer in the desert south of Sudan (where alcohol is illegal), noted the co-ordinates and on their return trip dug it up again and popped it in the coolbox.  You can’t do that on a road atlas (I suppose you could try).  More broadly, this is a positive thing – we don’t get lost as often, we can plot drives and roughly how long they will take long before we attempt them and, all in, it makes for a smoother run.

  • What are we missing?

So on balance, technology has made overlanding easier, from the perspective of the office team, our crew on the road and our travellers on board.  But in many ways, it has taken a little away, too.  There is less of a sense of adventure sometimes, through the internet we still get bogged down in the ‘real world’ as news from home becomes impossible to escape from, and as WiFi starts to invade more and more places, we find people are more drawn to their smarthpones or iPads in favour of sitting around the campfire and enjoying being in the middle of nowhere.

Rachel and Cary's truck, Spongebob, is designated 'WiFi-Free Zone'

Rachel and Cary's truck, Spongebob, is designated 'WiFi-Free Zone'

As an operator, we appreciate people want and often need to stay connected, for both personal and work reasons.  We need the internet and mobile phones, too.  But we still try to stay true to our roots and keep the characteristics that make overland travel what it is.

We do this by still doing bushcamps where we can – camping out miles from civilisation, be it in the deserts of Sudan or at 4000m in the Peruvian altiplano.

We won’t put WiFi routers on the back of our trucks – our thinking is, why would you want to stare at your computer when you’ve got the mountains of Kyrgyzstan to look at out of the window?

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we are still always looking to try new routes and destinations, or going about established destinations in a new way.  Our main thought when we look to try new things isn’t ‘will there be WiFi’? – The questions we ask are ‘can we do it?’ and ‘will it be an adventure?’.  If the answers are, respectively, ‘probably’ and ‘hopefully’, we’ll give it a go.  If you’re on board, it’s all part of the fun.  You can get on the internet again tomorrow, for today let’s try to drive across this river!

Jon

What are your thoughts on how technology has changed travel?  Use the comments box below to share your views!

 

 

Posted in All Blogs.

Meeting the ‘Stans… preparation for overlanding through Central Asia

June 4, 2015

The Darvaza Gas Craters, caused by the collapse of a soviet oil rig in 1971. Expected to burn out in a few weeks, it still burns today. A rather unique highlight.

After recently completing the Nile Trans expedition from Cairo to Cape Town, I arrived last month at Oasis HQ down in Somerset, with plenty of time to prepare for my next trip… Central Asia. Swapping savannahs for steppes, I, along with driver Colin and a hardy group of overlanders, face a land of daunting visas, temperamental embassies, extreme climates, repressive governments, not to mention stunning scenery, people, architecture, culture, history and some great soviet engineering to boot.

First things first, look at a map. Central Asia comprises the area on the globe that used to be part of the Soviet Union before it’s disintegration in 1991. Now it comprises 5 independent states, all ending in ‘Stan’, between China and the Caspian Sea. In August I will be starting from Ashgabat, the capital of Turkmenistan, and head north through the country’s deserts, into Uzbekistan and many of the old Silk Road cities. We pass through Kazahkstan south of the great Kazahk steppe, before bush camping our way through Kyrgyzstan. From here we head back the way we came, before continuing on through Iran and Turkey before finishing in Istanbul in early November. Luckily for me, Jon on the Asia desk at Oasis HQ is already up to his ears in visa red tape allowing me to take a step back and really look at where we are heading

Central Asia and its Silk Road towns, has a long and complex history. Not an exactly known history buff, my starting point to get a handle on it was the ‘The Great Game’ by Peter Hopkirk, recounting the subversive rivalry and conflict between Russia and Great Britain for control of the area in the 1800’s. This gave me a pretty good understanding about what went on to lead the region to the political landscape it has now. A respectable pile of books later, and I’ve got an idea about what the modern ‘Stans are all about.

Our truck Habibi at a yurt camp at Lake Song Kol in Kyrgyzstan last year

With my bedtime reading under control, I move on to the more physical aspects of preparation, our overland expedition vehicle… aka the truck, affectionately known as Habibi . She has been hanging out at Oasis HQ since her last trip through central Asia and I’ve been going through checking everything is in top working order.  Just as importantly, checking all her stores and compartments to get an idea of what I need to buy before we head out as well. This is mostly all sorts of dry goods, from tea and coffee to cleaning products to herbs and spices, and of course a decent stock of baked beans! This leaves me with one heck of shopping list.

I was hoping the English summer might allow me to do this work outside in the sunshine, but I think I set my sights too high. Never mind, soon enough I’ll be sweating my way through the Karakum desert in 40+ heat, dreaming of this chilly wind!

We still have some space left on the truck for our trip this year, if its sounds like the kinda thing you would be into check out the trips on our website http://www.oasisoverland.co.uk/trips/Central-Asia/list/
Maybe see you out there!

Cheers, Kim

 

Posted in All Blogs.

Review your Oasis Trip for a chance to win £250 off your next adventure with us

June 2, 2015

Here at Oasis we really value your feedback on our trips. It helps us evaluate the trips and travel service we provide and make changes if necessary. We know that your feedback is invaluable too, to other Oasis travellers, deciding on a trip. Did you know that you can review your trips on our website?  Anyone that completes a review in the next 6 months will be entered into a free prize draw for the chance to win £250 off your next Oasis trip, for yourself or a friend. The winner will be notified, by e-mail on 15th December 2015. If you’ve done more than one trip with us in the past you will get a prize entry for each review you complete. We look forward to seeing your reviews and good luck with the competition!

(Terms and Conditions-not many but: A future trip has to be booked by 30th June 2016 (to travel at any time) and the offer cannot be used with any other discount codes or promotions.)

Where will your next trip be?

The Gas Craters of Turkmenistan

The Waterways of the Okavango Delta, Botswana

The Perito Moreno, Glacier of Argentina

 

 

 

 

Posted in All Blogs.

Cairo to Cape Town by bicycle in 41 days!

May 27, 2015

Just last month, Jackie from Oasis met Mark Beaumont in Cairo, at the start of his cycle journey to Cape Town and attempt to break the world record time.  Incredibly, Mark arrived in to Cape Town 41 days, 10 hours and 22 minutes after leaving Cairo, beating not only the world record but smashing his own aim of completing the journey in 50 days.

Mark Beaumont cycling Cairo to Cape TownWe are really pleased to have assisted Mark in planning some parts of his route as we have run trips between Cairo and Cape Town for many years, following a similar route – although not quite as direct or fast!

Some stats from Mark:

“I finished in 41 days 10 hours and 22 minutes, after cycling 6762 miles, spending 439 hours in the saddle, and climbing 190,355 feet through 8 countries. The old World Record was just over 59 days, but in truth I was never racing anyone, it was always about pushing for my absolute personal best. In the last week through Botswana and South Africa I threw caution to the wind, averaging over 200 miles a day and riding up to 16 hours a day. The overall daily average is 160 miles a day, which is tough going anywhere, but through the roads and across the borders of Africa has been incredible, by far the toughest ride of my life.”

(These stats have all to be double checked and verified by Guinness World Records)

Check out Mark’s Facebook Page for some great photos, video clips and comments from the saddle.

Congratulations Mark on this incredible achievement!

 

Posted in Africa, All Blogs. Tagged with .

Spanish and… Salsa? My Experience at Spanish School in Quito, by Rachel, Oasis Tour Leader in South America

May 7, 2015

 

Just a year after ending a less-than-successful stint at university, I unexpectedly found myself back in the classroom. I was about to embark on the 15 week Kingdoms & Carnivals trip with Oasis Overland, and my Spanish seriously needed some work!

I knew the basics: “hola!”, “gracias”, “uno cerveza por favor”, but not enough to get by outside a bar or restaurant environment, so I signed up to a week of Spanish lessons in Quito, Ecuador.  The lessons were at Atahualpa Spanish School, and I would be staying with a local family for the week so I could practice what I’d learned that day and get a feel for life in South America.

The night before my first da, I met my Ecuadorian family and they welcomed me into their home. I was nervous, sat round the dinner table with people I’d just met, trying to communicate in a language I didn’t have much of a grasp on. However, by the end of the first meal I had managed to maintain a basic conversation, and ended being taught the Spanish versions of a few favourite Disney songs by my new five year old “sister”.Rachel with a new friend at Machu Picchu

Each day started with breakfast, then “mum” walked me to school and I had a morning lesson of conversational Spanish, with my teacher Lusmille. We’d then take the bus into central Quito, and Lusmille would take me round the various cultural and historical sites in the city, much of which is a UNESCO World Heritage site with plenty of reminders of its role as an important centre, before and during the colonial era, and over the course of the independence struggle and into the modern era as the capital of Ecuador.

It was great having Quito Old Townmy own personal tour guide taking round the city. She only spoke to me in Spanish, which I was surprised to find I could actually understand quite well! We’d then have lunch in a local restaurant or market and head back to school for my afternoon lessons. My other teacher, Juan, taught me grammar and vocabulary. It may sound a bit dry, but these were my favourite lessons and helped me immensely with my conversations.

School was tiring, but as soon as I got home I did my homework; a model student and a stark contrast from my actual schooldays!

Evenings usually consisted of a delicious family dinner and an early night, but on the Friday during my stay there coincided with a festival in the city centre and my family invited me to go along. I said “si, porque no?!” and we set off to Quito Old Townthe Old Town with various aunts, cousins and grandparents in tow. We wandered along the cobbled streets, past food stalls and street performers until we reached our destination: a restaurant with a courtyard where all the tables had been pushed back to make a dancefloor. We shared a jug of some kind of warm alcoholic juice. Then the band arrived and everyone got up to dance. I was keen to show off the one salsa move I had learnt on my previous travels in South America, but after a few songs I realised everyone was actually dancing merengue, and I had no idea what I was doing! It was great fun all the same, and a unique experience. I was the only “gringo” there, and towards the end of the night one of my aunts got the crowd to chant “Ingleterra, Ingleterra!” every time I got up to dance!

I learned a lot more than I thought I would during my time at Spanish school, and I enjoyed it a lot more that I’d expected as well! I’m not close to being fluent yet, but Spanish school gave me the confidence to practice conversation with the people I meet and has really enhanced my experience in South America, a continent where not a huge amount of English is spoken so far – I liked it so much I’m doing it again in October!

You can add a one-week Spanish School and Quito Cultural Program with a family homestay like Rachel to any Oasis Overland trip starting or finishing in Quito, with prices starting from £395 a week, including lessons, accommodation, some meals and guided tours of Quito. Selecti it as an ‘add-on’ before or after booking by logging into your Oasis account.  We can also add volunteering projects, or Spanish lessons of a longer duration, and cater for all abilities from beginner to fluent. For more information, e-mail southamerica@oasisoverland.co.uk.

 

Posted in All Blogs, South America.

Cairo to Cape Town in 50 days

April 14, 2015

Jackie from our UK office was in Cairo last week and was fortunate to be able to meet up with Mark Beaumont #africasolo. Mark has just begun a 10,000km epic cycle journey from Cairo to Cape Town and is aiming to complete the journey in 50 days, beating the current world record for this journey. That’s about 200km every day!

Oasis Overland are proud to have been approached by Mark for assistance in the planning of his journey, based on our years of experience running trips on this route. Chris, our Director, a keen cyclist himself, was keen to offer Mark all the help he could, having cycled himself  from London to Ghana and down through South America.

We wish Mark  every success on his journey and will be following his adventures closely.

If Mark’s route stimulates your sense of adventure, but you’re not quite up to the cycling have a look at our 17 week Cairo to Cape Town expedition

 

 

 

Posted in All Blogs. Tagged with , , .

La Paz Teleferico (that’s Cable Car to us gringos)

April 1, 2015

Recently constructed and opened this has added a whole new dynamic to the indigenous city of La Paz, the highest capital city in the world (and yes, that does include Kathmandu).

La Paz Cable CarThe Cable Car, although I think TELEFERICO sounds heaps better, starts its journey from La Paz El Alto at 4000 meters above sea level where La Paz sits on the Alti Plano. From here it glides down the city above the roof tops of the clustered houses, schools, office buildings and the colourful Andean street vendors and the busy everyday life of this high altitude old city.

Oasis Tour Leaders encourage our travellers to jump on the cable car and experience the ride along with the bustling local commuters as they hop in and out at the various stations as the cable cars sweep their way down towards Ciudad Baixa at the bottom of the city at around 2800 meters.  La Paz claims their Teleferico breaks quite a few records; entirely funded by Bolivia, it claims to be the only Cable Car system of its size built for local commuters -not tourists or as part of a feature; it is the highest and longest  urban cable car in the world, and carries more people per revolution and per day than any other in the world.

Bolivia Cable CarIn the opinion of our road crew Rachel and Ricardo who have sent these images in to us it is definitely the ‘coolest’ in the world. And what about price? At 3 Bolivianos (only 25 UK pence or $0.40 cents) why not jump on and take a ride?

 

Posted in South America. Tagged with , , .

Toilet Twinning

March 31, 2015
2.5 billion people across the world don’t have somewhere safe, clean and hygienic to go to the loo. That’s more than a third of the people on the planet. We think that stinks!
For those of you that have already travelled with us, you will have some understanding of bush toilet stops and the hazards this entails-even on a short term basis. For people living with the reality of no toilet on a daily basis a hole in the ground is quite literally a life saver – protecting women from the risk of attack as they find somewhere private to squat, and shielding children from preventable diarrhoeal diseases.
Oasis Overland have just joined forces with Toilet Twinning  to build seven new latrines for communities in Africa. Toilet Twinning raises funds to enable people living in poor communities to have clean water, a decent toilet, and to learn about hygiene – a vital combination that prevents the spread of disease, reduces the number of deaths among children, and brings hope for the future.
For a £60 donation, you can twin your toilet at home, work etc with a latrine in various parts of the world. With a framed certificate and precise co-ordinates as to the location of the twinned loo it also makes a great gift for a loved one. The three loo pictures in this post are three of the seven we have twinned with.

 

Posted in All Blogs.

Congratulations and Respect to the Oasis UK to Cape Town Trans Africa Team

March 24, 2015

Congratulations to our two truly adventurous trans Africa expeditions, led by Steve, Steve and Joe on reaching Namibia. These intrepid  travellers left the UK in November, 2014. At that time Ebola was at it’s height, African borders were being closed at an alarming rate and Africa’s desperately needed tourist revenue was nowhere to be seen. Our adventurous group was not deterred! Leaving a cosy European winter they set off for Africa, crossing through Morocco, Mauritania, Senegal, Mali, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Togo, Benin, Nigeria, Cameroon, Gabon, Congo, Angola and now into Namibia. Some of the group will complete their African adventure in South Africa, but others will venture on, up the east coast to Cairo. They have sooooo many stories about the highs and lows, the heat and the dust, jungles, deserts, rivers, waterfalls and the fantastic people they have encountered along the way.  Look out for some of their stories over the coming weeks. Well done to you all and we can’t wait to hear your tales!

If you have a true spirit of adventure and want to immerse yourself in the wonders that Africa has to offer, our next trans-Africa expedition leaves the UK on 15th November 2015. This really is a trip of a lifetime! See the links below for further details

39 weeks from UK to Cairo

21 weeks from UK to Cape Town

9 weeks from the UK to Accra

 

Posted in All Blogs. Tagged with , , , , , .

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