Oasis Blog

Office Charity Comedy Night Raises £800

November 25, 2014

Our office staff recently ran their 15th, bi-annual, Charity Comedy night and the final figures are through. We raised £800 for our two good causes- Yewstock School Hydrotherapy Pool (a school for children with special needs close to our UK office) and the Hupenyu Hutsva Children’s Home in Harare, Zimbabwe. So far, these charity nights have raised about £15,000 for local and overseas good causes. The Hupenyu Hutsva Children’s Home is a regular project that Oasis supports. Once a year we take all the children out for a day trip, using our Expedition vehicles and crew, and end the day with a big party. Many of the children rarely leave the compound they live on, so this is a big event for them. Our last outing was in May 2014. We have asked the Home how they would like the money spent this time and school uniforms are a priority. Chris, our Director is going out to Zimbabwe in December this year and school uniform shopping, with the staff, is now on his list of things to do!

Our next Comedy Night is on 21st March 2015, at The Exchange, Sturminster Newton, Dorset. We have a great line-up of 4 acts plus a compere and tickets are just £12, with all profits going to our two good causes, which for this show will be The Sudanese Community Development Project in Cairo and Shillingstone Seniors’ Club. Tickets are available from the venue now! Tel: 01258 475137.

 

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Katie’s Kyrgyzstan Trip (part 2)

November 20, 2014

Tamara - Kyrgyzstan eagle champioin

…continued on from Katie’s Kyrgyzstan Trip (part 1)

The day after our fun in Jeti Orguz, a few of us opted to watch an eagle display, where the trainer introduced us to his 4 times eagle champion – Tamara. Eagle hunters are quite common in Kyrgyzstan and it was great for us to learn about this tradition from someone that was very passionate and who clearly cared a lot about his eagle. The display was impressive, but it was actually hearing all about the care and training of an eagle that impressed me the most – and the fact that I got to hold Tamara! To complete another perfect day (this was the running joke on the trip…as every day was just so good!), we set up our next bush camp back on the shores of Lake Issyk Kul.

Bush camping on Lake Issyk Kul

The middle of the trip saw us arrive into Kochkor, which is where we had our ‘homestay’, and therefore a bed and the one shower of the trip, which was a real treat. The homestay is where you stay with a local family in their house, and where they cook your evening meal and breakfast for you – and to say the food was delicious is an understatement!

Following the homestay we were treated once again to a stunning day of driving through a valley and slowly making our way up to Lake Song Kol, where we even had a quick photoshoot with some yaks! As we decended  towards the lake, it reminded me of the Ngorongoro Crater in Tanazania, but rather than seeing herds of wildebeest, I was looking at hundreds of herds of horses, with the odd sheep and donkey scattered in! This was going to be our set up for the next three nights, a beutifully decorated yurt near the lakes edge. To me this place was just perfect, as the sunsets were glorious, and I would fall asleep and wake up to the sound of galloping horses close by. Having never ridden properly in my life, I decided this was the place to do it – and I was very pleased & relieved to see that my horse was rather docile! This provided lots of entertainment, as my horse took me on the route it wanted to go, rather than where the rest of the group were going (but somehow we made it back to the yurt)! Grace our tour leader also arranged a game of Ulak Tartysh (a Kyrgy version of polo!), where a lamb is killed and then the body is hitched under the leg of a rider and they have to get this to a goal on the ground. It is a great game to watch, where you get to witness the incredible horsemanship skills of the Kyrgy people, and it became a real social event where other locals rode over and ended up joining in, and continuing the game long in to the afternoon.

our yurt at Lake Song Kol

Sunset over Lake Song Kol

Extreme flapping near Lake Song Kol

We all felt a bit sad to be leaving Song Kol, but we were in for a lovely suprise, our descent was on the other side of the lake, with views that just had to be seen to be believed – so hopefully the picture of the extreme flapping does it some justice!

Making our way through mountain passes we made it to Tash-Rabat, which is a caravanserai in really great condition, and our tour leader and driver both agreed it was the best along the Silk Route that they had seen, so something not to be missed.

Heading back towards Bishkek my spirits dropped as the trip was coming to an end, but luckily we did have time to visit and climb up Burana Tower, a 24m tall minaret which is all that is left of a once thriving city – but now gives you a chance to see the views all around and a moment to take in all that we had seen.

Tash Rabat Caravanserai

This journey will stay with me forever, and I hope that one day I will return to Kyrgyzstan, but in the meantime I have my pictures and a short video to remind me!

Click here to see Katie’s video!

You too can get to go on this incredible trip: Kyrgyzstan Overland (15 days)

Or for those wanting to go sooner and have a little more time on your hands then you can go on our London to Beinjing trip (17 weeks)

 

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Katie’s Kyrgyzstan Trip (part 1)

November 19, 2014

Katie holding a falcon in Jeti Orguz

It has been nearly 3 months since returning from my trip to Kyrgyzstan, and I still get excited any time that I get the opportunity to talk to anyone about it, and I now have an opportunity to share this experience with anyone that is interested!

One of the first things I get asked when telling my friends or anyone about this trip is, so where is Kyrgyzstan? Or they let me know they have never heard of this country before. Well it seems they are not in the minority, I am not going to lie, before I worked for Oasis Overland I was none the wiser either! So for those that don’t know, Kyrgyzstan sits next to China, and just below Kazakhstan and was where one of the major silk routes went through. As to what the country is like you will pick that up throughout this blog, but what I can say now is that if it hasn’t been on your list of places to visit,  then I can really recommend it goes to the top of your list! One of the positives of not many people knowing about Kyrgyzstan is that it has still not been changed by tourism, and it lends itself perfectly for over land travel, as it is still ‘raw’ with natural beauty, and as there aren’t campsites it is all about ‘bush camping’ (pulling over at a good spot and setting up for the night), but in places that are beyond stunning. The locals were always just so friendly and welcoming wherever we went, even though I couldn’t speak any of the local language, but my charades often seemed to get me by – even if they also caused a lot of laughter as well!

But on to the trip…!

This 15 day trip starts in Bishkek, which is the Capital of Kyrgyzstan. To get there I got a flight from stansted via Istanbul with Pegasus (Turkish airlines also flies there), which is a very basic no frills flight, but it got me there!  I had booked myself into the Asia Mountains Hotel, as that is where our trip started from, and when I arrived it was the perfect start as there was even a swimming pool to relax in,! Having flown in the day before the trip started, I had allowed for time to explore Bishkek, which was really great to walk around and explore, including getting money changed into the local currency of Kyrgyz som, and having the first opportunity to try some local delicacies, including manty (fried dumplings), plov (a rice dish with meat) and fried lagman (noodles, with tomatoes, meat and other vegetables) – all delicious!

'Habibi' relaxing next to Lake Issyk Kul

After a  pre-departure meeting with our tour leader (Grace) and driver (Malcolm) we were all shown around our new home for the next 15 days (or more for those that were continuing on to Istanbul)…Our truck Habibi.

Our first stop was in the centre of Bishkek so that cook groups could go off and get food for their meals, some needed to sort visas and the rest of us had some free time to explore. So a few of us went to the Kyryz State Historical Museum (formerly the Lenin museum) in Ala-Too Square, while there are no English translations it is still well worth seeing, including the story telling murals on the ceilings. Leaving the vibrant city of Bishkek behind we headed to Ala-Archa park, which was just so beautiful , it almost felt like we were arriving into the Swiss Alps. Arriving early afternoon allowed us time to go and explore the surrounding area  as well as set up our tents in our first bush camp. That first night I was very pleased to have bought my winter warmers as the temperatures plummeted as soon as the sun set!

Kyrgyz State Historical Museum, Bishkek

Ala Archa

After a lovely cooked breakfast we all set off for our own free days in Ala-Archa with a few of us heading up the mountain towards a waterfall, and for those feeling more energetic on to the glacial viewing point. I would say I am probably below average when it comes to fitness, so the first section of the trek was pretty tough, as it was very steep, and you are already at quite an altitude with basically no shade from the glaring sun. But the great thing was that you can do everything at your own pace and if you want to head back then you can. It took me over 2 hours to reach the waterfall, and the views were well worth it as you can see from the pictures. While others continued on trekking in the afternoon, I was able to do a few checks on the truck with Malcolm, as keeping our trucks in good nick is very important to us and is always very evident whenever you meet one of our drivers, who really take care of them at every opportunity.

Katie trekking in Ala Archa

Leaving Ala-Archa we headed back to Bishkek for a quick stop to pick up some more supplies, get the visas for those that needed them and our last City fix before heading out into the wilderness and towards Lake Issyk Kul. Driving along beautiful tree lined streets and with mountains on one side of the truck we started to see the edge of Lake Issyk Kul and its blue waters. We were in for a real treat as we pulled off the main road and down a track right down to the edge of the lake where we parked up and set up our camp for the night. This is a prime example of where ‘bush camping’ comes into its own, as you are not restrained by having to stay in a particular spot and you are surrounded by what the country has to offer, which in this case was the beach for our tents, the vast lake to go swimming in and the backdrop of mountains behind us and the shadowy outline of the snow capped mountains on the other side of the lake where we would be later on in the trip. The swimming in the lake was like heaven too, a shower overlanding style!

Semenovskre Gorge

The following day we went on to see the open air petroglyph site, which is a large open area full of boulders and stones that have carvings on them dating back to 1500BC. Here we had a bit of fun testing our eyesight to see if we could spot carvings on the stones, as over time many have faded. Following this we stopped off in the town of Cholpon-Ata, where there was time to explore and pick up any snacks. and I decided to continue my cultural experience by going into the Cholpon-Ata museum, which was only 50 Kyrgy som. This museum really surprised me in that there were English translations about many of the artefacts and pictures. Before long we were on our way again to our next bush camp in Semenovskre Gorge, where once again we were treated to another great bush camp right next to a flowing river and some yurts.  With time to explore the surrounding area we all set off to take in the different views and meet some of the people that lived nearby.

Karakol was our next stop, where we all had a chance to explore, which included seeing the Russian Orthodox Cathedral, which was well worth the visit and very easy to find, and then on to see the colourful Dungan Mosque. We also took the opportunity to explore the main bazaar, which was huge, with many of the stalls/shops made up of large shipping containers (these were adapted all over Kyrgyzstan!).  Jeti Orguz was our next stop, with huge red rock formations , where once again we had a ‘water feature’ (river) next to our camp. Here we were able to wonder around the local town and explore the local tracks which led to the ‘valley of the flowers’ (sadly no flowers due to the time of year…but beautiful none the less!). A few of us headed off to the sanatorium nearby in the afternoon, which provided  a lot of entertainment as we looked for showers, but these didn’t exist but a very run down pool did! So after a lot of giggles and mis-communication we re-joined the group having had no showers, a time of ‘reflection’ next to a pool for 10mins and having a great massage!

Click here to read ‘part 2′ of Katie’s blog, of where the group headed next along with a short video from the trip!

Russian Orthodox Cathedral, Karakol

Jeti Orguz

 

 

 

 

Jeti Orguz - 1 of 5 wooden bridges

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Trans Africa Expedition On Its Way

November 12, 2014

At around 5.30 pm on a typically dark, cold and wet evening in early winter, a yellow truck pulled out of an unassuming workshop in Somerset, south-west England, turned right, and rolled off along an abandoned minor country road into the night.  A few days later, but this time against a backdrop of a solemn grey cloudy sky, another repeated the trick.  This was hardly a grand depart, by any stretch: there was no fanfare, in fact there weren’t even any travellers on board yet, and it the trucks weren’t so incongruous in rural Britain, no-one would probably have even noticed them.  But these vehicles were and, soon enough, the groups on board them will be starting an adventure unlike any other: a 39-week lap around Africa, as overlanders call it ‘The Trans’ or to use Oasis tour leader Joe’s phrase in a recent blog, ‘the trip of trips’.  The 2014/2015 Trans-Africa was, finally, underway.

Tour leader Joe about to depart, with Nala, the truck, behind him.

‘The Trans’ carries an almost mythological status amongs the overland community; drivers and tour leaders who have ‘done a Trans’ are often seen in a different category from those of us who haven’t.  Not that there is any snobbery to it; overland crew live in quite the socialist utopia in many ways.  After all, it’s hard to have hierarchies when none of you have showered for a few days and spent most of the afternoon digging a truck out a muddy boghole.  But it’s easy to see why it is seen that way.  Having traversed the frustrations of Portsmouth’s late rush hour, the trucks headed separately down western France, through Andalucía and then to Gibraltar, where they met their respective groups of travellers.  From this outpost of British order, formality and social awkwardness they are now heading into what, for many, will be quite literally the unknown, and certainly nothing quite like rural England.

The trucks and their groups are now in Morocco, attaining visas for the next few countries they will pass through on their way through West Africa  eventually to Cape Town (expected arrival mid-April), where they’ll turn around and come all the way back up the eastern side before finishing up in Cairo next August.

Trans Africa truck stuck in Mauritania

 There will, of course, be challenges on the way: unexpected delays, adverse weather, frustrations with officialdom, short-notice changes of plan and almost certainly getting stuck on a muddy track more than once.  But the crew are ready, that’s what all the preparation was for, and with the help of their groups, they’ll find a way around it.  And what comes will also offer unrivalled memories: bustling colourful towns full of buoyant and effervescent people, a varied but relentlessly staggering natural beauty, from the emptiness of the Sahara to the claustrophobic and yet infinite expanse of the Congo, and a largely unchartered and hidden, yet rich culture and history, intact and not diluted by gift shops selling tat or gaggles of tourists wearing identical baseball caps.  And then there’s the wildlife.
But that, in many ways, is the nature of the Trans, and helps explain why it is held in such a unique regard by those who have done one, as crew or as a passenger.  It’ll be tough at times but undoubtedly completely worth it, and more.

Bogged on a West African motorway

We still have spaces on the Accra-Cape Town and Accra-Cairo legs of this year’s Trans, if this sounds like something you’d like to get involved with!

Out food shopping in Ghana

 

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High Tea and a Hundred Elephants

November 5, 2014

I was recently given the opportunity to join one of our Overland trucks on its journey south from Victoria Falls to Cape Town and well, who passes up on a chance like that? Not me, for sure! My bags were packed the day I found out – perhaps a little premature…3 months in advance! Don’t get me wrong, working in the Oasis office is great but it’s not quite the same as being ‘on the road’, which I did for 3 years as a tour leader in the Middle East and South America.

I flew with South African Airways from London to Johannesburg and then on to Victoria Falls. Arrival at the airport was really easy & straight forward, being that it was smaller than your average International airport – picture something a similar size to your local McDonalds! There seemed to be only 2 people issuing visas and stamping passports for a queue of about 200 people so after approximately 1 hour I had parted with US$30, collected my backpack and headed out into the arrivals hall in search of our wonderful local representative Joy. The search took about 5 seconds (remember this airport is small!) and we were on our way into town.

Arriving into Victoria Falls, the adventure capital of Zimbabwe, where bungee jumping, gorge swings, white water rafting & scenic flights are top of most travellers to do lists, I had just  1 activity on my mind – High Tea at the Victoria Falls Hotel. Joy dropped me off at the campsite (thanks Joy!), where I caught my first glimpse of my ‘ride’ for the next 3 weeks and met up with the crew – Pete & Tabitha. I had got there just in time, as they were heading out the door for the 15 minute walk to the Victoria Falls Hotel. Phew…I hadn’t missed out!

 

For those who don’t know what I mean when I say ‘High Tea’,  it’s basically an afternoon binge on cakes & tea. Not being a tea drinker I opted for a Pimm’s (this is a holiday, right?) to wash down all the goodies on our 3 tiered platter. After a few hours of eating, chatting & relaxing my belly was full and a walk around town seemed to be the sensible idea. I headed to the supermarket to stock up on some overlanding essentials that I had chosen not to bring with me – toilet paper, bug spray & a couple of beers. Later that evening we sat in the campsite bar & restaurant & watched a local singing & dancing performance and at this moment, I really felt like I was in Africa.

The first drive day saw us crossing the border into Botswana, a smooth process with the only quirk being that we had to wear 1 pair of shoes and carry another with us. Apparently they are worried about foot & mouth disease here, so we had to dip our 2 pairs of shoes in some solution before we were allowed back on the truck. We stopped in a small town for a couple of hours to do some cook group shopping, change money & have lunch and then headed on to our campsite next to the Chobe river. It was a warm day, so after pitching our tents some people opted to take a dip in the pool, whilst others had a drink in the bar area.

We were picked up at 3pm and transferred down to the boat port for our Chobe River cruise (an activity included in the price). Setting off I was feeling optimistic about what we might see, after all, there is no guarantees where wildlife is concerned. I took along some cheese & crackers (a must if you ever do this cruise I think) and sat back to enjoy the river. Before too long we saw the most ridiculous number of elephants that you could imagine, 100’s of them  – we even got to witness them crossing the river, snorkelling with their trunks. How the baby elephants made it, I’m still not sure! As well as elephants, we saw hippos, crocodiles, water buffalo, red lechwe & kudu. It was an amazing wildlife experience and as I watched the sunset from the boat on our way back to the port, I was feeling rather lucky.

 

Watch out for the next leg of my journey, into the Okavango Delta, coming in a few weeks….Tracy

 

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A little bit about Natalie

October 29, 2014

At Oasis Overland HQ, we have a fantastic team who work hard behind the scenes to make our travellers’ trips amazing!  Some of you may have spoken to Natalie who currently deals with all things Africa.  Here’s a little bit about her and how she got the travel bug…

Natalie at Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

Natalie at Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

I first travelled to Africa aged five with my parents.  We only went on holiday every three or four years, but when we did my Mum wanted to make sure it was to a far-flung place.  I’m not sure Mum and Dad quite realised what they had started!  In 1998 I packed my backpack and set off on a trip to Zimbabwe.  It sealed the deal with my love affair with my backpack and my love of travel.

 

Natalie at the Equator in Africa

At the Equator in Africa

After university I started my initial career with the NHS, before taking a long-overdue ‘gap year’ (actually it was my second gap year but whose counting…) or should I say gap-two-year!  I started this trip with a bang and went down to Antarctica, before heading onto South East Asia, Australia, New Zealand, Central and South America.  It was an amazing trip and one that holds so many special memories.   I went back to work and fast forward to a few years down the line, and I had itchy feet again.  Way back when I was in Zimbabwe in 1998 I’d dreamt of travelling from Cairo to Cape Town.  A simple search showed that Oasis Overland ran this trip, and I came along to one of the travel shows, signed up and never looked back.  With my traveller hat on I can honestly say it was 16 of the best weeks of my life!  It was truly life changing for me as well as I met my husband and best friend on the trip!

Just another day in the Oasis Overland office

Just another day in the Oasis Overland office

In 2011 an opportunity to work for Oasis Overland presented itself.  The dream job really did exist, so I accepted the role and moved from London to Somerset to start the next chapter in my life.  Initially I worked with the South America trips, and for two years I thoroughly enjoyed this.  I was lucky enough to take five months off over last winter and to travel with my husband overland from London to Beijing and back to India.  Having travelled through 12 countries and racked up 20,000km we had to board a plane!!  Going back to work after such an adventure is not hard when you work for a travel company and since I have been back I have been involved in all aspects of our Africa trips.  I love talking to our travellers and getting excited with them as they embark on their own adventures.

She does love an Oasis Overland truck

She does love an Oasis Overland truck!

First Oasis truck travelled on (and still my favourite): Nahenda (some know her as Bulldog) – an amazing girl driven at the time by Franco.  She’s a beauty!

Favourite country: An impossible question…. can I have three?!?!  Zimbabwe, Myanmar, New Zealand

Top thing to pack:  A small handbag / man bag that contains all your charging cables.  If you get the chance for a night out on the town, then empty the chargers out and you are ready to go!

Top tip: When something doesn’t go to plan, then go with it… you never know where it will take you and what opportunities will pop up as a result

What is your favourite travel memory?: Standing out on deck in Antarctica whilst a pod of orcas circled near our expedition ship.  We felt so privileged to be sharing their environment

Natalie will soon be leaving us for pastures new… thank you Natalie for all the help you’ve given our travellers in Africa and South America.  We wish you all the best and will miss you!

 

 

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Preparing for the trip of trips…

October 22, 2014

Joe tells us about preparing to tour lead our Trans Africa Expedition…

Oasis Overland Tour Leader, JoeWay back in March I received an email from the good folks at Oasis Overland HQ offering me the gig tour leading the trip of trips, the biggest baddest of them all, the Trans Africa Expedition. Two years ago when I started with Oasis I would never have even dreamed of doing this trip. In fact, whenever I was asked about it I usually replied with “No way, that trip is a bit too much for me”.

But Africa is one of those places that gets under your skin and even just the smallest of hits can leave you with an enduring lifelong habit.  Even if you never return there will be that ever present itch to give way to the voices in your head and go back for more. Not unlike those who get their kicks through less fulfilling sources than travel.

The roads in West Africa can be quite challenging!So there I was sitting in a bar by the River Nile in Uganda with a fully fledged Africa addiction.  Like a lot of addicts I was beginning to find the kick not as potent after a little over 12 months treading the familiar trail through East Africa and down to Cape Town and a short jaunt backpacking Kenya and Ethiopia.  I needed to find a way to get that original feeling back and there it was on my iPhone. The next level of Africa. West Africa…

I took my time deciding to do it. I spoke to a few overlanding buddies who had run this particular trip themselves and they all more or less said the same thing, “It the hardest trip you will ever do but its the best. It makes you work but the rewards are worth it.” After a few weeks of devouring all the information I could about West Africa I took the gig. I couldn’t focus too much on it though. I had a job to do. Another seven months doing the East and Southern Africa run.

Joe cleaning out tents for our Trans Africa Expedition

Fast forward to September. I bid farewell to my last Grand Adventurer crowd and headed back to Sydney for a three week break. This is when the work for me began in earnest. Applying for passports and visas, beginning to formulate an itinerary and working out just how to get around Ebola affected areas (turns out we are going quite literally, around them, through Mali). With all that and some R&R time with the family it was time to head to Oasis HQ in the UK where the real prep would take place.

I have done my fair share of trip preparation after completing five Grand Adventurers but the scale of preparation that goes into this trip dwarfs all others. It had begun months before I arrived with Natalie, Chris and the rest of the Oasis HQ team leaving no stone unturned. I joined the melee of emailing, photocopying and planning and it became evident there was a lot left to do. Things to clean, two trucks to fill with food, itineraries to finalise, visas to sort and more information to consume than one could possibly imagine. The days are running out and the jobs are gradually being ticked off. The shopping is done, our very flexible itinerary completed and my desk covered in a pile of paper that is slowly finding order.

Van full of food - just a fraction of the huge amount to be carried on the truckEver wondered what a van full of canned goods looks like… I now know. Let’s get this show on the road.

Our 39 week Trans Africa Expedition starts on 4th November.  Contact us if you’d like to join – we still have places left but you’ll need to be quick  as there is limited time to make visa applications.

 

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The not express, Mosi-Oa-Tunya Express

October 15, 2014

Oasis Overland Tour Leader Joe tells us about his group’s train journey from Bulawayo to Victoria Falls…

All aboard! The Bulawayo to Victoria Falls sleeper trainI was recently asked by the folks at Oasis HQ to take my group on the train from Bulawayo to Victoria Falls as part of our 75 day Grand Adventure trip. Being somewhat of a train travel enthusiast as a result of my previous travels through Asia, Europe and Africa I was eager to take up the challenge as were my 13 fellow travellers on the trip.

Being Africa I knew it would be a somewhat unique experience and a quick browse of seat61.com seemed to affirm this. No online booking, a somewhat relaxed approach to scheduling and carriages that were built in the 1950′s during the colonial heyday, that have received little or no TLC since independence in the 80′s. Perfect! It was shaping up to be a uniquely African experience.

Bulawayo to Victoria Falls train, ZimbabweAs I settle into my sleeper cabin a quick inspection reveals, one very grubby mirror that still bares the insignia of Rhodesian Railways (It hasn’t been referred to as Rhodesian Railways since independence in the early 80′s). Two well worn benches. Four lights that, try as they might, produce only a dull, annoying hum but alas no light. One sink, tarnished and inoperative and one crisp packet. The carriages on this particular train were built in the 1950′s either in the UK or in South Africa so a degree of wear and tear is to be expected and besides, this IS Africa after all, or T.I.A as it is popularly shortened to.

What we did have though was a rather large fold out table, food to eat, beer to drink, some tunes on the ipod and a packet of cards and when all the revelry is through a reasonably comfy bed to sleep on. If you wish to part with $4 you can also have it expertly made up with crisp white linen by the carriage attendant. Result!

On the Victoria Falls train, ZimbabweWith the train under way 3 minutes early we settle down to a dinner of chicken rolls. Progress is soon halted for quite a period of time for no apparent reason, this would prove to be a rather common occurrence on our journey to Victoria Falls. In such situations there is nothing to do but sit back, relax and crack open a refreshing beverage while sighing the immortal phrase, “T.I.A”.

One refreshing beverage became several and before you knew it there were 12 people crammed into a 6 berth cabin, we had a train party on our hands. It was a good thing we had each only brought a limited supply of drinks otherwise I feel it had the potential to carry on well into the wee hours.

When daylight broke it was to reveal a sunrise only Africa can turn on. The sun’s rays of golden light transformed into a hue of deep red by the haze of dust particles in the air that you only really get in the height of a dry season. The train worked its way through the Zimbabwean bush like a long lazy brown snake that’s just had a meal.

As it turned out the train had been delayed though the night as we slept. When I queried the cabin attendant he dutifully informed me that we were indeed 300 minutes behind schedule. No biggie, only 5 hours. There is little to do in this situation but sit back, relax, eat your delicious breakfast muffin while sighing the immortal phrase, “T.I.A”.

The train from Bulawayo to Victoria Falls As the train trundled on we passed through Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe’s largest national park. Here from the comfort of our cabin we saw Impala, Zebra, Kudu, Giraffe and even an Elephant! One of the greatest things about train travel, in my opinion, is to sit quietly and watch the world slide past the window with the clickety-clack of the rolling stock on the rails beneath you. Throw in a splash of African wildlife and you are onto a sure winner.

Another quite long stop, in a town called Morden, to drop off the coal cars our train seemed to have acquired through the night ensured that we would not be making up any of that lost time.  A few enterprising locals were walking up and down the length of the train selling ice cold water and soda as well as biscuits. This made for some light entertainment for a few minutes.  With the burden of the coal cars relieved on our aging engine we carried on.

Victoria Falls Railway StationA mere few hours later,  the sight of the “Flight of the Angels” helipad out the window told me that we would soon be approaching our destination of Victoria Falls. On the other side of the train a mist hung above the bush, this was the tell tale spray of Mosi-Oa-Tunya, The Smoke the Thunders or as we know it Victoria Falls.

The old girl gracefully came to a halt at the beautifully historic Victoria Falls Station and we disembarked a mere seven hours late. It was now time to get settled into our accommodation at Rest Camp, find a spot by the pool, grab a cold drink, sit back, relax and sigh, “T.I.A”.

Thanks Joe!

You can take the Bulawayo to Victoria Falls train on these Oasis overland trips in Africa:

NAIROBI to CAPE TOWN (75 days) Grand Adventurer

LILONGWE to CAPE TOWN (35 days) Deltas & Dunes

NAIROBI to VIC FALLS (54 days) Apes & Lakes

 

 

 

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Deaf travels with Oasis Overland

October 8, 2014

Oasis traveller Helen tells us about her experience on our Trans Africa Expedition

Crossing the Equator on the Oasis Trans Africa ExpeditionPacking my bags for my 9 month UK to Cairo trip around Africa wasn’t easy, it had to include a year’s worth of batteries for my 2 Cochlear Implants (Hearing aids) which weighed a lot!  I also had to pack all kinds of spare parts for it, a drying kit and a spare Implant (ended up needing it!).  I’m profoundly deaf (100% deaf) and I rely a lot on lipreading to understand others and I was VERY nervous about doing this trip in terms of understanding people and getting along with them!

After we all got together and arrived in Africa, I asked my tour leader if she could tell everyone that I was deaf and to get my attention before speaking to me or to make sure that I can read their lips clearly, that light is on their faces, no shadows on their faces or even having the sun in my eyes which prevents me from lipreading!

I realised I could lipread most people easily and learnt to adjust to lipreading the harder ones and we all helped each other out, so that worked out well.  I also know British sign language so I taught some of my fellow travellers  to learn some of the basics signs for fun and also just in case I need to sign in situations where I can’t wear my CI (Cochlear Implant) i.e. swimming in the river/sea.

Oasis Overland travellers Trans Africa Expedition 2013-14I loved the layout of my overland truck because all the seats were facing each other so I was able to follow most conversations.  This was also one of the reasons I chose Oasis.  I made sure I sat in the middle most of the time so that it was easier to ‘watch’ people.  This certainly made truck life a lot easier.

The thing that I struggled the most with was evenings.  After a long day of lipreading (listening with eyes is hard work!)  sometimes my eyes would hurt and I would get a headache.  It didn’t help that light conditions went down with the sun and made it difficult to understand what was going on.  The cooking and food preparation was fine as there are lights over the tables.  Sitting together and eating, I made sure I sat where the truck lights were behind me so therefore most light would fall on people in front of me. We would have a talk from the trip leader about plans for the following day/week.  Sometimes I couldn’t see which was fine as I’m tired at this point.  Sometimes I would use my head torch on people so I could follow important conversations.  After we all cleared up most people would be near the kitchen lights so I would ask or someone would explain what I missed and what time I need to get up for breakfast and I preferred that as I could ask questions about it to make sure I didn’t miss anything.

Helen at the top of Mount Kilimanjaro!  Doing fun activities was no problem at all. I would tell the instructor that I’m deaf and they would explain all I need to do or watch out for before the activity starts whether it was quad biking, shark diving, sky diving etc.

My advice to other deaf/disabled travellers is to let people know what your needs are then I’m sure your fellow travellers would be happy to help you – like mine did with me.

Thanks Helen, we’re glad you had a great time!

 

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Oasis HQ tries out some gear from Blacks & Millets

October 1, 2014

We’ve been sent some cool stuff from Blacks and Millets which disappointingly isn’t actually for us here at Oasis HQ but is for three of our Nile Trans Cairo to Cape Town travellers to try out!  They’ll be reviewing the gear during their intrepid journey across Africa but we thought we would take a sneaky peak first and give our own opinion!

First out of the bag was the Thermarest Prolite sleeping mat… lots of ‘oh they’re brilliant… fantastic… I love mine!’ comments as we opened it up.  It seems quite narrow compared to our own ones but if the rest of its qualities are the same as ours then we think they’re great – you don’t feel the ground through them, they’re easy to roll up, Natalie’s lasted 16 weeks across Africa and Katie’s survived a complete soaking in a rain-filled tent!

Natalie sporting the head torch on one of our overland trucks!

Natalie sporting the head torch on one of our overland trucks!

Next up, a Petzl Tikka 2 head torch…  essential piece of overlanding equipment!  Or so Katie and I thought but Natalie prefers to hang her Maglite round her neck or on a headband.  ‘It’s very light’ (Ceris) ‘oh it’s heavy’ (Natalie).  On comparing to another one we had to hand we agreed on slightly heavy!  This head torch is quite basic with just two settings of brightness.  We felt you didn’t really need more than that although a red light setting can be useful for being less attractive to bugs.  It comes with batteries which is handy.

The very small video camera and accessories

The very small video camera and accessories

Last but not least, a VEHO MUVI™ Atom ‘No Proof No Glory’ Bundle.  It’s a small video camera which is very, very, very tiny!  We didn’t want to mess around with this one too much so we’ll have to wait and see what our Oasis traveller has to say about it but it looks like it will be a cool piece of kit!  It has loads of little accessories for attaching it to all manner of things from a cycle helmet to your backpack.  The instructions look pretty clear and simple so hopefully even a technophobe like me could work it out!

The items have now been packed up again and will soon be winging their way to Cairo for the 16 week expedition to Cape Town.  Let’s see if they survive the journey!

 

 

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

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