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Crew Focus: Tour Leader Prosper

How long have you been overlanding? Which Oasis areas have you worked in?

I have been overlanding for 11 years and I am currently a Tour Leader in Africa.

Where are you now? Next trip?

We have recently started a Grand Adventurer trip which is now in Kampala. We are on the way to the Gorillas.

What was your first Overland trip? Any particular memories?

It was in June 2008 with Wildtreck Adventures. The whole trip was so good and what made it incredible was seeing my first “big 5” (lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and buffalo) in Kruger National Park.

 

Funniest overlanding moment:

The Dress Up Party at Kande Beach is always so much fun!

Happiest overlanding memory:

Finishing trips with happy passengers makes the trip memorable and gives me the energy to continue onto the next trip.

 

Favourite places/ activities:

Zanzibar and Swakopmund are my favourite places.

For activities it has to be; bunji jumping and white water rafting in Victoria Falls, pony trekking in Lesotho and skydiving in Namibia

Where would you like to travel next?

I would love to travel from London to Turkey. I have heard the Ultimate Overland Asia Exploratory next year is going to be unbelievable!

 

Best truck meal:

Spaghetti Bolognaise

Advice for Oasis travellers:

Let us do the worrying so you can sit back and relax!

 

 

 

Final words of wisdom:

Africa is a vast continent with 54 countries – it is NOT a country. Come and do an overland trip or a few with us as it’s the best way of seeing this incredible continent!

Posted in Africa, All Blogs, Central Asia.

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Not all insurance policies are created equal!

Insurance; I know it isn’t the most exciting topic when thinking about booking your next trip, but it is hugely important to consider!

The question to ask yourself is; what have I got in place to protect myself or to protect the costs of my trip if the worst were to happen?

Travel Insurance is compulsory on all Oasis Overland trips. And these days a quick search online produces hundreds if not thousands of policies for you to pick from. You may even have it as an added extra with a bank account. BUT how well do you actually know the policy that you have or choose to go with and do you know exactly what it includes?

Are you covered for the full range of activities that you might choose to do during a trip as not all insurance policies cover higher risk activities like quad biking, sand boarding, tandem parachuting, white water rafting and high altitude trekking.

Imagine this, you are on the trip of a lifetime and your travel buddies decide to go sand boarding in Huacachina, white water rafting at Victoria Falls or hot air ballooning in Cappadoccia. You really don’t want to miss out, but you aren’t sure if your insurance covers you so miss out on the opportunity to do this incredible once in a life time activity!  A scenario I am sure you wouldn’t want to happen.

When selecting your policy, you need to know what you are covered for and ensure that it is specifically designed for adventure & overland travel as not all policies are.  Maybe great for sitting on the beach, but not for hang-gliding over it!

Our insurance policy is tailor made for overland adventure travel with specialist Insurance Brokers Campbell Irvine and covers most activities you may think about doing on your trip.

It is also extremely important that you check the full extent of your cover related to 24 hour Medical Emergency Assistance. In the event of you needing medical treatment you want to know that you have the best cover available to you so that your enjoyment of the trip is not over taken by an unwanted bout of sickness or an accident – after all you have paid good money to go on this amazing trip.

Things to think about and make sure you have in place include the following:

  • 24hour Medical Emergency Assistance and Repatriation
  • Cancellation
  • Personal accident – Death, Loss of limb, eyes, disability
  • Personal liability – Damaging others/others property
  • Travel delays
  • Legal expenses
  • Baggage

Something else to think about is whether you are travelling to areas that FCO have advised against as your policy may become invalidated if you travel to some of these areas. The Foreign & Commonwealth Office provides the latest travel advice by country including safety and security, entry requirements, travel warnings and health. We would always advise you to double check your policy with your provider if travelling somewhere that may be on their list.

The great thing about Campbell Irvine policies is that they can be flexible and include additional higher risk activities and areas that you are not advised to travel to.

What’s also great about their policies is that they have their own settlement agency and a dedicated team which means that one person deals with your situation from start to finish.

Make sure you’re ready for an adventure of a life time with travel insurance from our trusted partner Campbell Irvine.

Contact us now to find out more or get a quote.

Posted in Africa, All Blogs, Central Asia, Middle East, South America, Southeast Asia.

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South Africa – Katie’s Blog Part 1

Katie from our Africa desk trip joined one of our fantastic South Africa trips. It sounds like an incredible jounrey so far, check out where she has been and what she has seen below……

I am currently sat with the Drakensburg Mountains as a back drop in a campsite in the Royal Natal National Park, which is a truly beautiful setting to be writing this blog from! There is currently Zimbabwean music playing while our tour leader prepares another amazing treat of an evening meal for us.

Tomorrow we have a free day for hiking in the Drakensburg Mountains and we can do anything from one and a half hours to around six hours. So I shall see how active I am feeling tomorrow!

But let me take you back to the beginning of this trip, which started in Cape Town, and has travelled across the Garden Route, along the Wild Coast and into Lesotho before our current location.

I can definitely recommend getting in to Cape town at least a few days ahead of the trip start date if you can, as there is so  much to do and see here, from Robben Island, Table Mountain, walking tours, museums and so much more!

Day one of our journey takes us out of the hustle and bustle of city life and to the Cape of Good Hope.  Straight away you are treated to beautiful views and you can either stroll up to the lighthouse or you can use the funicular railway. When you are at the top it does get rather blustery so hold on to your cameras!

From here we made our way to our first campsite in Gansbaai. This is a lovely campsite right on the edge of the ocean where if you are lucky you can get to see whales – they are apparently in calfing season at the moment. A free day here allows you to go for strolls along the coastal paths to find lovely bays and you can also go shark cage diving or take a boat out to look for the marine big 5 – whale, shark, seal, penguin and dolphin!

Oudtshoon was our next destination where we got to go and explore the impressive chambers of Cango Caves.  There is an adventurous option there for those that want, although you do have to be a certain size, as you may have seen on the video of Prosper on our Facebook page!  We also went to an ostrich farm where we got up close and personal to these powerful birds.

Our next stop along the coast was Knysna, where we stayed on the edge of the lagoon. Once again  there are plenty of different activities to do here, from walks, boat rides or just a relaxing day at the waterfront with plenty of shops, cafes and restaurants to keep you occupied – all a short distance from our campsite, where we actually stayed in rooms, as half this trip is accommodated!

From Knysna we travelled on to Tsitsikamma and down to Storms River mouth. For those who like a bit of adrenaline you can go kayaking followed by lilos down the river. Or you can take a scenic hike along the coastal path to the suspension bridge and on up to the look out point. There are quite a few steps so you definitely get a good calf workout!

Island Vibe Backpackers lives up to its name with a really fun lively bar to relax in over the evening, while dorm rooms take in the view of Jeffreys Bay and if you want to upgrade there are some lovely seaview ensuite rooms. There is a good chance of spotting dolphins here so worth keeping an eye out.

A safari in Addo National Park is included in this trip, which is where we headed next and we were not disappointed with the game that we saw.  Just 2 seconds through the gate we were greeted by a large elephant. From here the wildlife kept on giving, with herds of elephants almost around every corner, with one group being around 40-50 in number! There was plenty of kudu, meerkats, birds and even a black rhino too!  In the evening as we camp right next to the entrance we were able to walk down to the floodlit watering hole where luck was on our side as another rhino walked passed just as we got there.  We were also treated to a further game drive in the morning, where we got to see plenty more wildlife including two male lions.

Buccaneers is a well known destination on the Wild Coast and I can see why.  Driving down a small track you are greeted by a lagoon and a view of the Indian Ocean. This really is a beautiful location where we got to stay for 2 nights. Not only are the views beautiful, but there is once again plenty to do, from hikes, walks, kayaking, horse rides along the beach, village walks and a soup kitchen and of course a swim or a surf in the warm Indian Ocean. In the evenings there is a lovely bar to hang out at and you may even bump in to someone you know – such as a past Oasis traveller (it’s a small world!).

We finally left the coastline and headed inland to Lesotho. This is a new country for me, and wow is all I can say… the views in every direction are just incredible! I am also quickly taken back to East Africa in that wherever you see people, they start waving at you and you are automatically made to feel very welcome. We reached Malalea Lodge and I am running out of words to describe the beauty of this location, where you have a mountainous backdrop and individual huts for rooms. We spent 3 nights here enabling us plenty of time to explore the local area, with pony trekking of various lengths and even overnight options, to long hikes and short village walks… all of which kept us busy over the next few days and really made us feel integrated in to the village life. In the evenings we were also treated to the truly beautiful singing of the local choir and band, who have made their own instruments from metal containers and twine and other household goods – the music really takes you to another place as the night sky draws in and is lit up by the beautiful African stars.

This brings me back to my current location in the Drakensburg Mountains! So thanks for taking the time to read my journey so far….

Posted in Africa, All Blogs.

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Crew Focus : Driver Cary

How long have you been overlanding and how did you get into it?

On and off since January 2015

A friend did a trip in South America with another company which inspired me to start doing it.

Which Oasis areas have you worked in?

I’ve worked in South America and Central Asia

Where are you now?

I’m living in Ireland at the moment.

Next trip?

I’ll be the driver for the Exploratory – London to Istanbul via Kathmandu (26 weeks) Ultimate Asia Overland Expedition.

 

What was your first Overland trip? Any particular memories?

My first trip was the Kingdoms and Carnivals (15weeks) from Rio to Quito.

I really enjoyed driving through the mountains in Patagonia.

 

Funniest overlanding moment:

A passenger once asked how the military trained the Guerillas (Gorillas!)

The things tour leaders say on long drive days!

Happiest overlanding memory:

Thank you letters from the Passengers. I keep them all!

Favourite places/ activities:

Horse riding in Kyrgyzstan

Mountain biking on Death road in Bolivia.

Plane ride to Angel Falls in Venezuela

Where would you like to travel next?

India, Pakistan and Nepal – How convenient!

 

Best truck meal:

The 3 types of Curry and rice and the chai tea at a bushcamp in Kyrgyzstan.

 

Advice for Oasis travellers:

Dig a little deeper – it’ll pay off.

 

Final words of wisdom:

Ask Kate…..or whichever tour leader I’m working with!

Posted in All Blogs, UK News.

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Morocco – A must see destination for all travellers!

Located in the North of Africa, Morocco is a popular destination for all travellers including families. Full of colourful culture, vibrant communities and beautiful sunny weather, it’s easy to understand why people love it so much!  If you haven’t yet been, it really should be high on your destination wish list!

Morocco’s intoxicating mix of sounds, aroma and colour welcomes you. There is so much to see and do, that the only thing that you may struggle with is deciding what to do next!  The ancient labyrinthine medina of Marrakech, the astonishing landscape of the Atlas Mountains and extraordinary Sahara Desert scenery are not to be missed.

We offer a selection of Morocco trips;

For those travellers with limited time enjoy the Morocco Express, a perfect short break of just 5 days or for those with longer you can enjoy a 15 days treat by booking the Morocco Encompassed trip.

The Imperial Cities of Fez, Rabat, Marrakech and Meknes have all been capital of Morocco at some time, so each of them each enjoy historical importance.  Whether you want to see palaces and churches or mosques and museums, you can spend weeks exploring the culture of these places, the wonderful sights and sounds are never ending.

Add that to the other exciting places we offer on our trips, and your time will be full of history, scenery and relaxation, what’s not to like?!

Here are some of the highlights and places to visit when you go to Morocco…….

Marrakech is a great imperial city, unique in the Arab world for the chance it offers to experience city life, which in patterns and appearance, remains medieval for the most part. The atmosphere of the city rather than a long list of sites and monuments is what attracts many visitors.

The name Marrakech conjures up images of magic carpets, snake charmers and spices all brought in on camel trains. Set within the rose-coloured walls of the medina lies a reality that is not that far removed from an exotic film set – a tangle of winding streets that open onto verdant gardens and dark alleyways that lead to bustling souks.  You can explore the central square, the Djemâa-el-Fna, an extraordinary gathering and market place. It is full of colour, spicy aromas and traders and is worth visiting in the evening when it’s overflowing with food stalls and buzzing with dancers, acrobats, fortune tellers, musicians and henna artists. Towering over all this is the Koutoubia Minaret, the tallest building in the city, and a reminder of the importance of Islam to the lives of the city’s residents.

The stunning Atlas Mountains stretching the length of the country, dominate the interior of the country and are accessible from the foothills of the High Atlas which can be reached in just an hour from Marrakech. They offer fantastic trekking with walks to suit all levels of ability.  Berber villages are on terraces, clinging to the sides of the mountains. The network of paths are used by locals every day and offer you an insight into real mountain life.

When you visit the Sahara Desert Berber Camp you are offered the opportunity to trek on camels into the desert, enjoy a Berber meal and relax under the beautiful Saharan starry sky.

Casablanca, bordering the Atlantic Ocean is Morocco’s main port and the largest city in the country, again offering something different for travellers with its share of older neighbourhoods showcasing French colonial and Moroccan architecture. Whilst not as atmospheric as other cities in Morocco, this is where business prospers as it is the industrial, economic and financial centre of the country.

Meknes  includes the spectacular  Bab Mansour, a huge gate with arches and mosaic tiling, the 12th century Grand Mosque and the Mausoleum of Moulay Ismail, the resting place of the most famous and notorious sultans of the country.

Fes, the most ancient of the imperial capitals is the oldest and largest medieval city in the world. Its medina-city of Fes El Bali, is believed to be one of the world’s largest urban pedestrian zones, with only donkeys and bikes as means of transportation and is a heady mix of aromas, sights and sounds. There are plenty of mosques and palaces to visit. After exploring the dye-pits, tanneries, pharmacy, pottery and restaurants, you can enjoy a traditional meal and live Moroccan entertainment including traditional and belly dancing.

The coastal city of Tangier, also known as the ‘white city’ is located at the western entrance to the Strait of Gibraltar where the Mediterranean Sea meets the Atlantic Ocean. It is a lively city with a mix of cultures, both European and Moroccan. There are many historical highlights you may wish to visit in the city, including the Grand Socco – which is the romantic entrance to the Tangier marketplace, Kasbah – a museum that is housed in the former sultan’s palace of Dar El Makhzen, or the Caves of Hercules – named in homage to the Greek hero Heracles (Hercules in Roman mythology). Or you may simply wish to get lost in the winding streets and alleyways of the medina, or take a beachfront stroll.

Essaouira is a striking blue and white fishing town enclosed within sea front fortifications called the Skala de la Kasbah. Great beaches and surf beckon.  Completely different from the other places you visit, this is an enjoyable base to unwind, and is perfect for enjoying a casual stroll around the medina. For the adrenaline seekers there are optional extras such as wind and kite surfing due to its infamous wind!

For a trip that is rather different from the norm, the Berber Migration Tour is a unique trekking expedition which is like no other. 

One of our favourite trips on offer with Oasis Overland is an exciting journey beginning in the heart of Morocco, in the city of Marrakech. You will join a Berber family and their farming animals as they head on their bi-annual journey to new pastures, trekking through the High Atlas Mountains and seeing unmissable sights including breathtaking panoramic views and picturesque valleys. You will visit Berber villages and have the opportunity to enjoy traditional Moroccan food and relax under the beautiful starry skies. Not only is this trek filled with traditional culture that can rarely be experienced so closely, it also shows you the wonders of Morocco’s landscape through the eyes of those who use its land. It really is a trip like no other!

Morocco provides a never ending trail of excitement and places to explore catering for all needs in your group and is particularly suitable for family holidays. We have 3 trips that cater for families,

Souks and Sand Dunes and Souks, Sand Dunes & Surf for those with children aged 5 to 16 years and the Marrakech and Sahara Teen Tour for 12 year olds and above.

Our trips are run in conjunction with a local operator. All of the guides are English speaking and experienced. They are knowledgeable and passionate about the history and culture of their country and are always ready to provide information and explanations of what you are seeing and experiencing.

Contact us today to find out more and to book yourself a lifetime adventure with Oasis Overland to the magic and excitement that is Morocco.

 

Posted in Africa, All Blogs, guided walking morocco, walking high atlas.


What’s your Excuse?

Have you ever wanted to jet off to far flung exciting places, only to be held back by, well, yourself? Travelling solo can be scary, but here’s the way to do it.

If I had a pound for every person I met who told me “I want to go, but I’m scared to go on my own”, or “I couldn’t afford the single supplement”, or sometimes “I’m worried about travelling on public transport”, I’d be rich! Sadly I’m far from it, but on the plus side, there is a way to travel and avoid the problem of extra expense or the stress of logistics: join an Oasis Trip.  Even Wanderlust Travel Magazine agrees – they recently listed overlanding in their “Top 10 ideas for solo travellers”.

More than ever before, the world has opened up to all sorts of travel, and people wanting a spectrum of different experiences can be accommodated. A lot of people actually travel to meet people, but taking those first few steps is the hardest part. Travelling in a group gives you ready made friends with a similar mindset, support when you need it, but also allows you to take time out and do your own thing. Overlanding Trips encompass all of this, with the added benefits that others on the expedition are also single travellers with the same apprehensions and doubts as you.  Oasis also doesn’t charge a single supplement either, so you don’t need to worry about an extra cost of wanting your own adventure!

Group Sandboarding Peru

Another myth I feel I have to debunk: it is definitely not true that people who want to travel on their own have no friends! Most of our solo travellers are very sociable people, and some travel alone because their friends and/or partners don’t want to come along. My Dad travels alone because Mum has no desire to explore the “crazy destinations” my Dad craves, and they enjoy a happy marriage. My brother has a lot of friends, but they are working towards house goals/career goals/children goals – and he just wants to spend his time off exploring South America!

Various travel companies have reported a massive growth in solo travel, with some reporting over 50% of their clients as singles. Travelling with a group allays other fears too – there’s safety in numbers and overlanding, even to the distant corners of Africa, means that personal security becomes shared: someone can watch your bag while you pop to the loo, come with you to travel to that historical site off the beaten track, or even keep an eye on you if you’re feeling under the weather.

Overland travel brings people together in a way few other trips can rival -the number of Oasis weddings and children is tantamount to that! You end up getting to know your “truck family” very well, often better than friends at home, due to the nature of the experiences you share, the adventures you do together and the time you have for deeper conversations.  You meet people from different countries and different backgrounds; people who you wouldn’t otherwise have encountered in your safe life at home. Working as a Tour Leader for Oasis, I frequently met travellers on my trips who were initially nervous and unsure about many things (cooking often being one!), but finished their trip more confident, with more friends and a long list of new travel destinations!

Interestingly, the increasing trend for solo travel isn’t biased towards a certain demographic, or age range; it seems to be for everyone! Currently it’s still more women than men who elect to go solo (men, take note), and that seems to be the case across the statistics.  Perhaps The Telegraph has an answer: they published an article on solo travel in May this year, and asked whether the growth in popularity could be linked to people staying single for longer? (You might need more than one overland trip to meet your future “one”!)

Whatever the reason, solo travel is good for you, fun, educational, it is doable, and overlanding is a fantastic way of doing it.  Stop making excuses and get out there and travel!

See you on the road 🙂

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Central Asia: Why it’s the Next Big Thing

Three weeks, four countries, and a trip into the deep heart of Central Asia. Sound like your type of trip? Read on to discover more about our Silk Road Highlights Expedition to one of our favourite destinations.

Many people have heard of the Silk Road, but most of them struggle to name the modern-day countries that the ancient trading routes now travel through.  Uzbeka-what? Turkmenojikistan?!  This legendary network of paths and roads once made up the bridge between East and West, and the everlasting history encapsulated in this region is felt by all who travel through.

In stark contrast to the elegant antiquated jewels of cities you associate with Central Asia, your first stop on this trip is modern day Ashgabat, Turkmenistan’s capital. Built almost exclusively in white marble, this city is often referred to as “weird”, or “bizarre”. With its airport designed as a flying bird, it’s well worth your time.  A city tour is included – and needed, just for someone to explain why there are so many gold statues of the president, or why there is a ministry dedicated solely to horses…?!

Cities not your thing? Not a problem; the Oasis Silk Road Highlights trip does what it says – it visits all the highlights of this magical region, including those more off the main path. And you really do experience the meaning of ‘remote’ when you travel to Northern Turkmenistan.  Orange sand dunes, sand speckled shrubs and herds of camels are the scenery that greets you throughout your journey to the Gates of Hell.  Darvaza Gas Crater continues to attract a steady chain of interest, despite not appearing on the ‘suggested’ government tourist schedule. Once night falls, you’ll realise just how worth it the drive was. Getting close to this intense burning crater of fire is a feat if just for the temperature, and it’s unlike anything else in the world.

Your desert experience will test your endurance as you continue through the sand to Uzbekistan.  The previous life-giving waters of the Aral Sea have been diminished to almost nothing, and the remaining ship carcasses make for incredible photography (and a playground for those who like climbing!).  History is still a touchy subject in this region, but again, you’re travelling far off the beaten track into forgotten areas of countries that once served such as part of such an incredible trade exchange.

While the legacy of Soviet Control still exists in many parts of Central Asia, the history and mystic of Khiva, Bukhara and Samarkand shine through. While there’s less of the trading post and more of the modern city feel about them, these cities in Uzbekistan still cultivate their older parts of town where the tourists congregate. Bursting with mosques, medrassahs and minarets, these sites are famed by their blue tiles of all hues glittering in the sunshine. The local markets here are some of my favourites along the whole route.

 

 

 

 

 

As you travel further East, the dusty expanse of desert gives way to green rolling hills and horses start to populate the view. Kazakhstan also features on this trips’ itinerary, where travellers try their best to spot the elusive golden eagle and ibex while hiking or horse riding through the beautiful Aksu-Dzhabagly nature reserve. The Mongols boast a lot of history of this region, and who doesn’t want to pretend to be as masterful as Genghis Khan?!

The Tien Shan mountain range (locally known as the Mountains of Heaven) in Kyrgyzstan provide an incredible backdrop to your adventure here, whether you choose to end it in Bishkek for our 20 day adventure, or extend your trip to include more of this fabulous emerald of a country. Always a favourite, its snow capped peaks host horse riding, hiking and all manner of outdoor activities – you can even enjoy the thermal springs! You’ll bunk down in a traditional yurt to really experience life like a traditional nomad, and it’s worth braving the cold to gaze at your star studded ceiling. Survival out here relies on horseback, and our travellers are often able to catch a game of Kokboru or Buzkashi, Central Asia’s famous goat polo.

My only advice: make it quick! Central Asia, despite its countries being unpronounceable by most, is slowly starting to emerge onto the radar. Tourists looking for “something different” are starting to sit up and take notice. By all means join them, but do it overland with Oasis, where we can ensure you experience the best the Silk Road has to offer! Contact the team to find out more or for inspiration on doing a longer trip with us!

Bishkek to Ashgabat (20 days) Silk Road Highlights

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Crew Focus: Driver Talbot

How long have you been overlanding and how did you get into it?

Back in 2010 I missed a bus in the Outback, Australia so went to couch-surf for the night; the host’s son was an overland driver at the time which encouraged me to book a trip to West Africa that night and the rest is history.

Which Oasis areas have you worked in?

I have been overlanding for 8years – 4 of those years have been with Oasis Overland in Africa.

Where are you now? Next trip?

I’m on the way to Central Asia for a 6month trip through Iran and the ‘Stans

What was your first Overland trip? Any particular memories?

My first trip was as a passenger from London to Cape Town through West Africa. Mali holds great memories (Mali not Bali!)

 

Funniest overlanding moment:

Kande Beach fancy dress

Happiest overlanding memory:

Feeling like a very lucky man in Egypt when I was walking around with ‘my three wives’!

 

 

 

 

Favourite places/ activities:

Zimbabwe is my favourite country – as it has a diverse landscape, friendly people and tonnes of adrenaline activities!

Where would you like to travel next?

I would like to visit Pakistan – it my last ‘Stan’ to experience and I’m keen to see Trango Towers and do some climbing.

Best truck meal:

Definitely the 2018 Christmas dinner in Uganda prepared by Cass and Wendy! Homemade stuffing!

Advice for Oasis travellers:

Book your trip now! Make Africa a priority.

 

 

Final words of wisdom:

If you book a trip and I’m the driver – please bring Vegemite!

Posted in Africa, All Blogs.

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What to Pack?

Packing for a camping trip that’s going to take you through the deserts of Africa, the mountains of South America or the captivating culture of the Ancient Silk Road is

tough! How many pairs of trousers do you need? Are 3 t shirts really going to be enough? And will you really need a dress/nice shirt?! When you travel with Oasis we provide you with a suggested packing list which covers the basic essentials – check it out by clicking on the ‘before you go’ tab on any of our trips and clicking on ‘What To Take’!

But there will always be extras you want to squeeze in your bag. Here’s a few suggestions for any extra room you might have.

  1. Something Personal to You

When I first started travelling many moons ago, the best advice I was given was to take something comforting, or something that makes you feel like the ‘you at home’. It’s different for everyone, but for me it was (bizarrely) face cream. I’m a tad obsessed with my night time routine and knowing that I could take a moment for myself, to sit and put the cream on my face before bed (even if ‘bed’ was a sleeping bag in the desert), helped me cope with being away from home for the first time. It will be different for everyone – sometimes it’s a mascot, or a favourite top, or even photos of home. But don’t underestimate the value of having something just for you when you need it. Just make sure it’s small…and legal.

  1. A Camera

I’ve met a few people over the years who haven’t bothered bringing a camera, or who couldn’t afford one before they began travelling. All of them regretted it. Sure, they managed to persuade their fellow travellers to take photos for them, and everyone shared their photos at the end of the trip so they created a collection then. But the photos weren’t theirs. And of course there are times when you’re on your own and you just see something that you want to capture. Yes, the mental picture you store in your memory is precious; but so is showing off to everyone at home when you get home about how close you were to that lion!

  1. Enough Money

This is a REALLY important one! And it sounds obvious, but some people don’t bring enough, and it really does suck when you can’t do everything you want to. You already know you have to pay your local payment on Day 1 of your trip, and you’ve already paid for the trip before travelling. But have you gone through the optional activity list to see just how many things you’d like to do? Don’t automatically assume you won’t be up for horse riding or bungee jumping – it’s amazing how peer pressure can change your mind on just about everything (in a good way)! When the whole group have decided to sign up for something, it’s such a shame when people miss out only because they didn’t think they’d fancy it when they were sitting at home with the list!

Pay attention to the suggested weekly budget as well – if you know you’re going to enjoy at beer (or 3) most nights, may be give yourself a bit extra. I know we can all have fun without alcohol…but it helps! 😉

  1. A journal

Writing a diary isn’t for everyone in their regular daily lives, but it’s amazing how many people choose to keep a travel log of all their adventures. There are people who write essays every day, not wanting to forget a single moment, and there are others who keep it to one or two lines, simply documenting place names and activities. Some people start the trip writing every day, others decide it’s a good idea to start half way through their trip! Whatever kind of traveller you are, it’s worth thinking about packing something to write with and on.

  1. A great book

We have a truck “library” on board, but it’s always great to get more (recent) material! Even self-confessed “non-readers” can find themselves picking up a book to get them through some of the longer drive days, and your crew will love having access to a vast spectrum of reading material. I’ve read books I might otherwise never have heard of/chosen because people have brought something new and interesting. Travelling is always a great excuse to catch up on those books you’ve heard of recently, or always wanted to read. Make sure you pack them (and not just your kindle!)

  1. Marmite

Love it or hate it, there’s always someone who can’t live without it! While a random jar can occasionally be found on some of our trucks in Africa, it’s hard to find in South America and Central Asia, so if you love it, bring your own! I should mention Vegemite here too – the Aussie equivalent to marmite. This remains elusive on every continent apart from its own, so make sure you pack your own stash!

  1. Decent tea bags/Good coffee

If you are a hot drink snob – and let’s be honest, a lot of us are – and really can’t function in the morning without your special brew, then make sure you reserve space in your pack! Twinings, Nescafe Gold…even percolators have found their way onto my trucks! You might be at the risk of offending your well meaning Tour Leader, who does her/his best to stock up the truck with essentials, but one has to remember that they are shopping on a budget and have to cater for a lot of people. They’ll be cool (for a fee 😉 )

  1. Binoculars

You might be thinking, really?! But these are a godsend when someone’s pointed out a leopard from the side of the truck and you’re straining your eyes trying to determine cat from shrub. Binos aren’t just for the bird geeks (I am one so I can say that); they allow you to really get up close and personal with the wildlife, all the while remaining safe in your vehicle – you will be asked to lend your “extra-eyes” to most of your fellow passengers. Think up a good trade in advance!

  1. External Power Source

Even if you think you’re getting away from all the trappings of technology, you’ll soon realise that leads and chargers take up way space than they should! There’s a gadget for everything, and some people bring them all. Do yourself a favour and save queuing for charging ports; bring a power bar that you can plug into and charge your phone/camera/ipad with – it’s a game changer! Just remember that most airlines now ask you to pack battery packs in your carry on – you might find yourself being called out of your gate and questioned if you try to leave it in your main bag. Maybe, I wouldn’t know, this is just hypothetical, obviously….

  1. A proper towel

Mircofibre, quick drying towels are all the rage at outdoor stores. They come in fun colours and various sizes for your convenience. They do what they say: pack small and dry quickly. But they also smell after prolonged use, and they don’t actually dry you! If you want to bring one item of luxury, make it this. The feeling of a real towel against your skin after yet another cold shower is truly wonderful. Truly, yes, it will feel that good – you won’t believe how your priorities will shift…

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What’s it like on an Oasis Pakistan Tour?

Northern Pakistan is an incredibly beautiful and friendly place to visit and I was lucky enough to join our PAKISTAN Karakorum Highlights & Chitral Valley (21 days) tour.  Here are a few pointers on what to expect.

Safety

Let’s cover this one first and it’s most people’s biggest concern about travelling to Pakistan.    The FCO have advisories in place regarding certain areas of the country, some of which are included on our itineraries.  My only slightly unnerving experience occurred when a police truck appeared seemingly out of nowhere and escorted us for an hour on our drive approaching Chitral.   Driving in front of us, our view was of a police officer in the back of the pick up with AK47 at the ready.  The Gilgit-Baltistan Police (who cover the Karakorum Highway area) have established a new “Division” especially for the protection and safety of tourists.  In some areas it was compulsory that a policeman accompanied us although local people we spoke to felt it was unnecessary and more likely to put tourists off than encourage them. 

Personally I never felt unsafe anywhere in Pakistan but ultimately it’s for the traveller to learn about the risks of travelling to any country and to make an informed decision themselves. 

 People

The Pakistanis are amongst the most hospitable you will meet anywhere and we were regularly invited into people’s homes for tea.  You will find a lot of tourists from Karachi in the north of Pakistan and may well find yourself the biggest attraction with a queue of people eager to have a selfie taken with you!  As a female traveller I have often got a lot of unwanted attention when travelling alone in Muslim countries.  Although travelling with my partner this time, I did venture out alone on occasion and was never hassled in any way.  And although men would often prefer to talk to Steve than me, he received the same treatment when we met women who would totally ignore  him and drag me off to learn my name, look at my jewellery and attempt to teach me some Urdu.

 Willys jeeps

Our transport was in a 1970 Willys jeep which I loved, not just because it was the same age as me.  You really need an open topped vehicle to take in the mountain views as these tower sky high at close proximity.  The 360 degree outlook from the jeep is fantastic and when it’s slower going, you can stand up for an even better view.  There is a cover for when it’s extremely hot or cold or raining!  They are perfect for the rough roads you encounter in this part of Pakistan.

The mountains

What can I say… the mountains of the Himalaya, Karakorum and Hindu Kush ranges are incredible, impressive and stunning with an awful lot being over 7000m high.  Sometimes they are cloaked in clouds which is annoying but can’t be helped and can actually make a great photo.

 

 

Pakistani food

I’ve met would-be travellers to Pakistan that are worried the food will be really spicy.  Mostly it wasn’t, so don’t worry!  Porridge, eggs or sweet bread with jam were generally on offer for breakfast.  Chicken was commonly on the menu, occasionally mutton or fish and vegetables dishes were plentiful including okra, kale, potatoes and dahl and rice and chapatis accompanied every meal.  In the far north there are Chinese influences and in the west Afghan flavours.  Meals were huge and we usually had two tea stops each day – you will not go hungry or thirsty!

Clothing

On our Pakistan tours you are provided with two sets of Shalwar Kameez, the dress of choice for both men and women in Pakistan.  We wore ours all the time as they were so cool to wear in the heat (we travelled in August) and generally comfortable for travelling in.  In more conservative areas these are essential to wear to avoid being disrespectful.  I struggled a little to keep my headscarf from slipping off my head but a small child in Chitral gave me some helpful instruction which helped for the remainder of the trip!  Local people clearly appreciated us wearing traditional clothing and Steve was frequently complimented by strangers on how smart he looked.  We even wore it to our local pub on our reluctant return home, much to the amusement of the rest of the village.

 

If you are interested in travelling to Pakistan, take a look at our tours below or contact us with any questions.

Pakistan Karakorum Highlights (15 days)

Pakistan Karakorum Highlights & Chitral Valley (21 days)

Pakistan – Domes & Deserts of the Indus – Northbound (17 days)

Pakistan – Domes & Deserts of the Indus – Southbound (17 days)

Posted in All Blogs, Central Asia.