Oasis Blog

Venezuela? What’s there then?

December 14, 2014

When someone says ‘Venezuela’ something strange happens.  Or, perhaps more accurately, nothing really happens at all.  Which is strange.  We know where it is, and it is not an insignificant country: around 30 million people live there, it has the world’s largest proven oil reserves (giving it a fair bit of clout) and up until recently had, depending on your take on it, either one of the most self-confident and refreshing or self-obsessed and annoying leaders on the global stage, in late President Hugo Chavez..  We also have a feint idea that it is supposed to be quite dangerous, but we can’t remember why we think that.  Perhaps we saw it on Ross Kemp on Gangs?  Oh, and they produce a lot of Miss Worlds.  But apart from these fairly trivial facts, our images of what is in the country itself are often oddly vague.

So when we started running trips from Rio de Janeiro to Quito via Venezuela, I was intrigued to see whaCanaima National Park Venezuelat our crew and travellers made of it.  It was fascinating to discover that there is much more to the country than chaotic cities, charismatic/oddball politicians and beauty queens: it is home to unique and stunning natural beauty, diverse and abundant wildlife, and one of the strangest and most exhilarating weather phenomena you are ever likely to see.  I recently caught up with one of our travellers, Nick, who completed our Rio-Quito via Manaus trip last year; here is an outline of some of his favourite memories from his time on the truck.

Lost in Time

‘Our truck entered Venezuela in the far south-east, crossing in from Brazil near the small mining city of Santa Elena de Uairén.  The first stop was Canaima National Park; the most famous attraction here is Angel Falls, the world’s highest uninterrupted waterfall, cascading some 979 metres down a steep rocky cliff.  During the dry season, when we were there, Angel Falls can actually come across as a bit underwhelming, as the low water levels see the flow come across as little more than a trickle that disappears into mist about a quarter of the way down.  But even bearing this in mind, the topography of the park makes it quite unlike anything you will have ever seen elsewhere in the world: looking outwards from a high viewpoint towards the park, the eye takes you along lush tropical forest in the foreground, is drawn to smooth, clear bodies of dark blue water that break up the flow of the trees, before leveling out and looking directly ahead to see the imposing tepuis: dark, rocky table-top mountains that tower stoically and independently across the horizon.

The stunning tepuis of Canaima National Park, Venezuela

Plunging deeper into the park you eventually find yourself surrounded by these giants, and everywhere you look there are waterfalls, freshwater lakes and sandy beaches encircled by the relentless forest.  It is said that this distinctive landscape provided the inspiration for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s ‘The Lost World’ novel, and it doesn’t take too much of an imaginative leap to picture prehistoric creatures trudging through the trees to visit one of the many watering holes.  It is certainly in the top five most stunning places I have ever been, and probably at the top.’

‘I think there’s an Anaconda in the bush, let’s have a look…’

‘Next up was Los Llanos, vast Retrieving an anaconda Los Llanos Venezuelatropical grasslands that stretches across central Venezuela and into Colombia.  It is broken up by the Orinoco River, and the flat geography means much of it is more like a mash or wetland than a fertile savannah.  The closest thing to it is probably the Pantanal in Brazil, but they’re still quite different.  Over the course of two days in Los Llanos we went out on various canoe trips and bush walks, and got a pretty good idea of its unique ecosystem: we saw capybara, caiman, pink river dolphins, a giant ant eater, piranhas and an incredible array of birdlife.  The real highlight though was when our guide found an anaconda in a bush and thought it would be a good idea to drag it out.  After a fairly fierce battle our guide won out, and we were able to inspect the impressive creature up close, before he was returned to his spot in the bush, which we were quite relieved about.’

The Continuous Thunderstorm

Ant Eater Los Llanos Venezuela

‘The main highlight of the trip in Venezuela, and one of the most incredible moments of all my travels, was Catatumbo Lightning Lake.  Where the Cataumbo River drains into Lake Maracaibo in north-west Venezuela, a very strange and impressive atmospheric phenomenon takes place.  For thousands of years this area has been the location of a more or less continual thunderstorm; air is blown across the lake and surrounding marshy land and encounters the steep peaks of the Andes.  Here, as it cools rapidly, massive amounts of electrical energy are created, resulting in pretty much guaranteed lightning shows, usually around an hour after dusk (that explanation is no doubt over-simplistic, but it’s about as far as my understanding goes).  [For more information on this, check out this Reuters article - external link] It is the highest concentration of lightning anywhere in the world.  We spent two days staying with a British natural photographer who has documented the lightning for years and become quite the authority on it.

Catatumbo Lightning Lake Venezuela

He’s also built a floating house on the lake where guests can stay and during the day he would take us around the nearby floating villages, where we had the chance to meet some of the local villagers and present them with some gifts of food we’d brought with us.  In the evenings he cooked up a large steak barbecue, and then we’d sit on the balcony overlooking the lake with a few drinks and wait for the spectacle to start.  For hours the lightning would flash, at times intermittently but at others relentlessly; the sky would light up as sheet lightning leapt from cloud to cloud some ten miles above us – a distance so great that it became inaudible, giving it an eerie, almost apocalyptic quality, made even strager by the fact it wasn’t raining – it was a warm, balmy evening.  What made this even more impressive was that until I’d got to Venezuela and started doing some research, I had no idea at all this even existed.  If it was in Europe there’d probably be stadium seating and every night countless tour groups would be marched in, tickets in hand.  But here we were, on the edge of Lake Maracaibo and we had it all to ourselves.’Catatumbo Lightning Lake Venezuela

‘Overall I was surprised by Venezuela; I wasn’t too sure what to expect, but never thought it would be home to such varied and unique natural attractions; from the stunning tepuis of Canaima, through the astounding diversity of Los Llanos and then the remarkable lightning of Catatumbo, it was a destination that constantly challenged, dazed and enthralled me.’

Thanks to Nick for telling us about his time in Venezuela on our 92-day Rio to Quito via Manaus trip.  In a few days we are catching up to talk about Colombia, so we’ll be sure to get another blog up soon about that.

 

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Travel Dilemmas:Should I Haggle?

December 12, 2014

We like this article, about what to think about when you’re haggling and thought we should share it with you as it is something we are sometimes asked about on our trips.  Haggling is a good way to engage with local people and can be a fun part of the holiday experience, but people should remember that paying just a few pence or pounds more in the local market may not make much of a difference to you but will have an enormous benefit to the local street vendor in a developing country. Buying local goods in souks and markets is great fun and should be seen in that light – it’s not about bargains but part of the holiday experience and a way of giving something back to the local community. Remember you are on holiday – a luxury for most people on the planet.

If you like haggling and end up with a good bargain why not give the vendor a tip or something extra in return for the experience?

Thanks to Tourism Concern for letting us reproduce this article. Have a look at other interesting articles on their website.


 

 

 

 

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Farewell to Tracy

December 4, 2014

After working for Oasis for four and a half years, Tracy is leaving us to do what she loves most – travel!  Those of you who have travelled with us to South America or the Middle East may know Tracy either as a tour leader on the road or as your contact here at HQ.  Here’s a bit about Tracy and how she got into overlanding…

Tracy - the Oasis Overland South America and Middle East Expert!Born in Australia, 30-something years ago my passion for Overland style travel began as a young girl of 7, when my parents pulled me out of school for 6 weeks to do a road trip from Perth to Broome, camping in some beautiful places along the way.

Once I hit 19, with a few more camping trips under my belt, I had a huge desire to travel to foreign lands and by doing odd jobs in hospitality, I had finally saved enough money to head to the UK with my ancestral visa. A trip to Europe and spending Anzac Day in Gallipoli were my first trip and then next on the agenda was Africa. I signed up for the 54 day Apes & Lakes trip with Oasis Overland in 2004 because I liked the look of the brochure (which back in the day had no colour in it!).  It was the beginning of something but I just didn’t know what!

Three years went by and after a trip to Morocco, where I decided I needed a lifestyle change, I applied for a position as a tour leader with Oasis, which led me to spend 3 months on our Regional Explorer tours in Egypt, 9 months on our Middle East trucks and 2 years on our trucks in South America, making some great friends and leaving me with fond memories along the way.

A year and a half was then spent working and road tripping in Canada and the USA with a friend before joining the Oasis Overland office team in October 2013 as the South America, Egypt and Morocco ‘Expert’!

Tracy and friend!First Oasis truck travelled on: Murray with legendary crew Nancy & Jason

Favourite country:  Too many to choose from but Argentina & Chile are right up there!

Top thing to pack:  Anti-inflammatory tablets, nothing worse than being itchy.

Top tip: When you arrive in a new place, don’t immediately get connected to the internet, get out and explore the sights, sounds & smells.  There is a big world beyond WIFI!

What is your favourite travel memory?  Trekking with the Mountain Gorillas in Rwanda and hiking in Torres del Paine National Park in Chile, both unforgettable and I’d do them both again if I had the chance.

Thank you Tracy for all your hard work (and baking) over the years.  We are going to miss you…  can you please tidy our desks before you leave?!  :-)


 

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Come and see us at the 2015 Travel Shows!

November 26, 2014

Can’t decide where to go for your next adventure? Come along and have a chat with us so we can help you plan your trip of a lifetime! We will also have some special show offers which will be revealed on the day.

In 2015 we will be exhibiting at the following shows:

The Adventure Travel Show

Adventure Travel Show 2015

Saturday 17th January 2015 – 9am – 6pm

Sunday 18 January 2015 – 9.30am – 5pm

We will be exhibiting at Stand Number E26. Come and see Chris, Jackie, Ethan and Seth from Oasis talk on Saturday about travelling 4000 miles through Africa as a family!

We are pleased to be able to offer you tickets for £4 when booking in advance (saving £6 off the door price) – tickets can be purchased at www.adventureshow.com or by calling 0871 230 7159 and the discount will be applied when quoting “OASISOVERLAND”. (Calls to the Ticket Hotline cost 10p per minute plus network extras).

The Times Destinations Holiday and Travel Show

Destinations Travel Show 2015

Thursday 29th January 2015 – 10:00am – 5:30pm

Friday 30th January 2015 – 10:00am – 5:30pm

Saturday 31st January 2015 – 10:00am – 5:30pm

Sunday 1st  February 2014 – 10:00am – 5:30pm

We will be exhibiting at Stand Number AA60.  There will be a host of celebrity talks and seminars as well as travel health advice and food from around the World. This large show has something for everyone!

We have a limited number of free tickets available. If you would like us to send you one then please email info@oasisoverland.co.uk detailing your full name and address and we will get them out to you as soon as possible.

TNT Travel Show

TNTTravelShow

Business Design Centre Islington

Sunday 1st March 2015 – 9.30am to 5.30pm

We will be exhibiting at Stand Number 84. The TNT show is a well-known backpacker favourite. There will be lots of seminars and talks. Entrance is free, but you need to visit their website to pre-register:

www.tnttravelshow.com

We look forward to seeing you!

 

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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

 

Posted in All Blogs.

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!

 

 

Posted in All Blogs. Tagged with , .

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