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Central Asia? A few helpful tips to help you decide your next destination…

Vodka

Just to clarify, we’re talking about the locally produced smooth, fragrant, warming alcohol; not your local pub’s house bottle which you have to drown in lemonade. It’s a local delicacy – one that many people are proud of.  Vodka is shared between friends, tipped into you at parties (where, as a tourist, you’ll become the centre of attention very quickly!) or sipped slowly around the fire while exchanging stories.  It is part of the culture, so that surely means you have to sample it, right? A helpful tip: the more you down the contents of your glass, the more it is refilled. Learn to sip!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Camels

Do you like camels? Who doesn’t? They’re majestic, calm, haughty, and they are relied upon by local nomads to transport their home.  They are also farmed in countries like Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan – they provide families with milk, fur and meat.  It’s a fantastic sight to see camels at the side of the road; it really makes you feel like you’ve stepped back in time and are travelling the ancient Silk Road.  If you do want to get close enough for photos, make sure you give them a decent amount of personal space – in case they spit at you!

 

 

 

 

 

 

History

I’ll be honest; I’m not much of a history buff.  I only like certain museums, and my historical knowledge of anything pre 19th Century is fairly poor.  BUT! The places we saw and explored blew me away!  We visited places that the Mongols rampaged over (even I know about Genghis Khan), and cities that Marco Polo saw in the 14th Century!  I was barely aware that the ancient Silk Route is how the Western world met the Eastern world.  It’s how religions spread, how spices travelled; it’s how silk became known to the West, and, more sadly, how the Black Death spread to Europe.  This part of the world is so interesting – and yet so relatively unexplored by tourists.

Kyrgyzstan

I could say something about all the countries Oasis travels to in Central Asia, because each of them have something special.  Turkmenistan boasts the Darwaza gas crater; Uzbekistan the ancient Silk Road cities, for example. But trip after trip, Kyrgyzstan comes up trumps with our travellers.  It’s a truly special place.  It could be to do with the stunning snow capped mountain range that runs through the country, or the beautiful “Lake of tears” that means all traffic has to route around.  It could be the gentle nomadic people, some of whom are still living as their ancestors did hundreds of years ago. It could be the nights spent in a traditional yurt, and the star gazing the unpolluted skies afford.  It could be the incredible hikes and breath-taking horse rides you can go on. It could even be that in Bishkek, one of the only 2 cities in the country, they serve really good coffee and cake! For whatever reason, Kyrgyzstan polls as the favourite country of the expedition time and time again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No tourists

This is possible one of the biggest attractions about travelling to Central Asia. As a region still considered off the beaten track, it’s usually only achievable at a premium (thank goodness for Oasis!), and the number of tourists you see while on the trip pales in comparison to most destinations. You’ll meet other travellers at hot spots such as Bukhara or Samarkand, but numbers are nothing compared to, say, the Taj Mahal.  Tourists are still a novelty; they are still welcomed and there is just enough of them to justify the beautiful souvenirs available to buy (it’s not that remote!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There’s a bit of everything

Still not convinced? Well, take a look at the links below, and you’ll find that you don’t have to choose just one of the above for your holiday – all of this is available to you by travelling on an Oasis trip!  You can traverse a desert, climb a mountain, and visit ancient cities – all in one trip!

If you’re short on time, you could choose to dedicate your holiday to Kyrgyzstan.  Check out our 15 day trip – you won’t be disappointed!

If you want something that encompasses the brightest and best of Central Asia, then check out our Silk Road Highlights trip

For those who have more time, and who really want to immerse themselves in the beauty and rich culture of this region, check out our big trip – The Trans Asia from Istanbul to Singapore for 25 weeks.

Happy Travels!

 

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Victoria Falls Carnival, Zimbabwe 29th – 31st December

What better way to start 2019 than a festival at one of the ‘Seven Wonders of the World!’ The Victoria Falls Carnival! Described as the party that will ”top your bucket list”  there are three days of  music, both local and international,  and non-stop entertainment!  The festival brings in travellers from all over Africa, and the world, and there’s a great warm atmosphere. The event kicks off with the legendary party train – a train ride like no other- with DJ’s on board, through the veld , stopping in a secret bush location for an unforgettable night under the stars with back to back DJ’s .
New Year’s Eve itself culminates in a huge party with a host of great live music and fun-loving, affable party-goers!

To top it all, your days can be packed full of superlatives too. Victoria Falls is one of the world’s top adventure/ adrenaline destinations. White water raft the Zambezi; bungay jump from Victoria Falls Bridge; gorge swing/zipline or bridge swing , or simply take in the magnificence of the largest Falls in the world!

To join the celebrations and experience a New Year like no other, the following trips visit Victoria Falls at this time

Victoria Falls to Cape Town (22 days) Deserts & Gameparks starting in Victoria Falls on 31st December
Harare to Cape Town (34 days) Deltas and Dunes departing Harare 19th Dec
Nairobi to Victoria Falls (34 days) Savanna Dawn departing Nairobi on 10th December
Nairobi to Victoria Falls (53 days) Apes and Lakes departing Nairobi on 21st November

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Crew Focus: Driver Grant and Tour Leader Andi

How long have you been overlanding and where have you worked? Grant, since 1995. Andi, since 1999. We’ve worked in Africa, Central Asia and the Middle East. We’ve actually done seven Trans Africas together!

What was your first overland trip? Andi – my first trip was an Africa Coast to Coast trip in 1995. Grant – my first trip was a Nairobi to Harare trip in 1995. We somehow managed to make a slight incursion into Zaire (as it was then)! Both our first trips were as travellers. Our first trip working together as crew was in 1999. This was a millenium two truck trip.

Unique Overlanding Memory: this isn’t a memory from a trip, but when I was getting a truck ready for a trip once. I was at the Oasis workshop, at the time, in a remote spot near Cirencester in the UK. There was a farm nearby and a visitor to the farm stopped and had a chat with me for about 10 minutes. He looked very familiar, but I couldn’t work out where I knew him/ recognised him from . He asked me all about overlanding and told me he’d been to Africa. The next day he passed by again and I gave him a quick wave, much to the amazement of my colleague! It turns out it was Prince Harry!

Happiest overlanding memory: There are so many, but what stands out recently is Easter weekend this year. We had a 20 year reunion for all Oasis crew (who could make it!) in New Zealand. There was a fantastic turn out and a great weekend with a few(!) beers and a BBQ.

Favourite places/activities: there are so many favourites it would be impossible to list them all. Every country has many unique places of interest. As far as activities go, Southern Africa has great adrenaline moments to be had.

Where would you like to travel next: Algeria, Niger, Chad, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Sudan………..in 2020!!

Best truck meal: A medley of mixed game meats – giraffe, zebra, kudu, oryx fillets barbecued, with roast potatoes and greens

Final Words of Wisdom: You can look at your phone when you are at home – so enjoy your trip without one!

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Focus on Namibia

The name ‘Namib’ translates as “vast place”, which is apt given that Namibia is one of the least crowded destinations on the planet (with a population of 2.6 million people). Situated, in southern Africa, between the Namib and Kalahari Desserts, it has the least rainfall of any sub-Saharan African country. The country is rich in diamonds, wilderness, and wildlife, and is home to some of the most spectacular scenery on Earth. Here are a few reasons we think you should visit

  1. Nearly half of the country is protected. Namibia takes conservation seriously. In fact, more than 40 percent of the country is under conservation management. It was also the first African country to incorporate environmental protection into its constitution. Hence its bountiful wildlife. Renowned as Namibia’s top wildlife destination Etosha National Park is considered one of the best places in the world to spot the endangered black rhino, as well as other rare African animals like the cheetah and the black-faced impala

2. More cheetahs live there than anywhere else. In fact 25% of the world’s cheetah population and 40% of Africa’s population live in Namibia. If you’re hoping to catch a glimpse of the fastest land animal on the planet, Namibia is the place to go. Etosha National Park is probably the best place to see them, though eagle-eyed visitors might spot them throughout the country.

 

 3. After Chile and Hawaii, Namibia is considered the third best stargazing destination in the world due to a relatively cloudless sky and its lack of artificial light and air pollution

4. People – Namibia has a rich diversity of people. Many still living traditional lives. The red ochre covered Himba people with their unique hairstyles and jewellery bathe in smoke.  In the 1800s, European missionaries arriving in Namibia were scandalized by Herero women’s scanty clothing and urged them to cover up. Today, many Herero women still wear distinct, layered Victorian gowns and headdresses in the style introduced by the missionaries.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5. The Skeleton Coast –  famous for shipwrecks due to blinding fog. Over 1000 ships met their end here.  The Bushmen refer to it as The Land God Made in Anger. The Portuguese refer to it as The Gates of Hell. It’s also home to one of the world’s largest seal populations with almost 100,000 seals!

 

 

 

 

6.  Namibia lays claim to the highest sand dune in the world. Rising dramatically from the Namib Desert, the impressive mound – known simply, as Dune 7 – stands at around 383m.

 

 

7. Adventure Activities –  from tandem skydiving, sandboarding (lying down or standing up!), paragliding, quad biking or horseriding, Namibia has it all!

If you’d like to see a bit more of this star-clad, cheetah- filled country have are just a few of our trips that include Namibia.

VICTORIA FALLS to CAPE TOWN (22 days) Deserts & Gameparks. If you do our 31st December departure you can start the trip, and your year, with the Victoria Falls Festival

NAIROBI to VIC FALLS (34 days) Savanna Dawn

NAIROBI to VIC FALLS (53 days) Apes & Lakes

VICTORIA FALLS to VICTORIA FALLS (58 days) Southern Africa Circuit

 

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What do you know about Russia…

What have you heard about Russia? It’s the world’s largest country?  Tick.  They drink lots of vodka?  Tick. “It’s cold, the people are rude and there are lots of secrets”, is what one friend told me.  Oasis Overland have recently launched a new exploratory trip which begins by travelling from London to St Petersburg, and I for one am keen to learn more about this country characterised by so many stereotypes.

After a week of train travel through Berlin, Poland and Ukraine, the trip reaches Moscow.  Wikipedia tells me that “Moscow is the northernmost and coldest megacity and metropolis on Earth”.  Even the word ‘megacity’ intrigues me.  The fact that it has 4 international airports doesn’t interest me (although 4; really?!).  I’m much more fascinated in gawping at St Basil’s Cathedral, one of the most colourSt Basils Cathedral in Moscowful religious buildings I’ve ever seen.  The bubble tops look like marshmallows!  I want to wander in Red Square and travel back in time to where the Tsars used to have their coronations, or stand in wonder before the Kremlin; a building which conjures up all sorts of secretive mafia nightmares. It’s currently home to the big man in charge – I wonder whether he rides horses bare chested on the grounds?

St Petersburg, for me, is the main attraction.  It boasts to be the cultural capital of Russia, founded by Peter the Great who was so different from every other Tsar. Having researched him a bit, I have a semi-crush; he was the black sheep because he preferred culture to boozing and schmoozing. He was also obsessed with ships and sailing, hence the city’s location on the Gulf of Finland.

The Hermitage is one of the biggest art museums worldwide, you could spend days there and not see everything! I don’t know much about art, but even I know this place is a big deal.  The main reason for my fascination with this city, though, is its other claim to fame as one of the most besieged cities of World War Two.  The Germans almost succeeded in starving the city to death, and over a million people died.  Together with those who were evacuated in time, or who were lucky enough to escape, the city’s population was decimated.  Some seventy years on, St Petersburg is now the second biggest city in Russia – talk about a 180!

Oasis Overland group bush camping in RussiaI travelled to Russia this year with Oasis on a private charter, and laid to rest some of my preconceived assumptions on the Russian people. Unfortunately they are usually portrayed as a serious, unsmiling and rude people, who shout a lot, even when happy.  The people who I met were incredibly different; they were kind, helpful and generous.  We travelled through the lesser known areas in the South near the Georgian border and were really touched by how excited everyone was to see a big yellow truck driving through. We did see evidence of one stereotype though: vodka. It definitely is the drink of choice out there, and I quickly learnt to never empty my glass; an empty vessel indicates you’re thirsty!

For many people, Russia is a far away land full of mystery.  For me, too. But this trip gives you an opportunity to find out more about it’s history, it’s culture – and take a high speed train from Moscow to St Petersburg! 635km in 3 hours 50 minutes? Wow!  Russia is only the beginning, too.  The trip travels for 24 more weeks; through the ‘stans of Central Asia to China and Tibet, across the Himalayas of Nepal and Pakistan; passing through the ancient Persian Empire that is now Iran, and ending in the bridge between Europe and Asia, Turkey.  Who’s up for an adventure?Sign post to Mount Everest base camp

Take a look at our exploratory overland adventure!  LONDON to ISTANBUL via KATHMANDU (26 Weeks) – Ultimate Asia Overland

Posted in Central Asia.

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Five Best Sights in Singapore

South East Asia has always been an incredible place to explore, and our adventurous team at Overland Oasis are constantly recommending it to fellow travellers. From the diverse cultures to the wonderful food, there’s so much on offer on this half of the continent! One place in particular that we want to tell you about is Singapore, an island off of Southern Malaysia that’s bursting with colour and life. To give you a little insight into what a trip here could be like, check out our top 5 sights!

Singapore Business District

Gardens by the Bay

This incredible horticultural triumph was opened in 2012, making it a pretty new addition to the Singapore landscape. Essentially, Gardens by the Bay is a park in the city, sitting on the waterfront and made up of 3 separate gardens spanning 101 hectares. The ‘super-tree’ figures that erupt into the air are like something from an alien planet, whilst the lush greenery and tropical plants are truly breath-taking. The futuristic Flower Dome and Cloud Forest add to the appeal of this wonderful place and are a great place to visit if you get hit by a tropical downfall.

Gardens by the Bay

 

Orchard Road

Orchard Road is considered one of the best shopping streets in the world, up there with London’s Oxford Street and New York’s Fifth Avenue. With 3-miles of shops, including 22 modern malls, 6 department stores, and plenty of high-end brands and exclusive labels, you can spend well over a day browsing the shops!

Singapore Botanic Gardens

Take a stroll through Singapore Botanic Gardens and enjoy the acres of greenery and blissful serenity of the great outdoors. Get active in one of the many exercise classes, including 8am tai chi, which is one of the best ways you can start your day in our opinion. If you’re a fan of orchids, you’ll be over the moon when you discover the National Orchid Gardens, home to over 20,000 beautiful plants.

 Orchid Garden - Botanic Gardens in Singapore

 

Marina Bay

Marina Bay is a luxurious, modern spot in Singapore that’s become an iconic destination for travellers. With impressive buildings soaring high into the sky, including the gargantuan Marina Bay Sands Hotel, outstanding city-wide views from the observation deck in Sands SkyPark, and plenty of artistic sculptures along the waterfront, it’s well worth a visit. Come during the day for gorgeous, sun-soaked views, enjoy a meal at one of the many dining spots, before watching the city light up from this perfect vantage point as the sun sets and the stars come out. Marina bay Sands also put on a daily light show on the bay called Spectre – this is free, and is well worth a watch.

 Merlion and Marina Bay Sands

Chinatown

Discover how other cultures have been welcomed into Singapore in Chinatown (or check out Little India), a colourful area filled with culture. Visit the Chinatown Heritage Centre, meander through the street-side stalls on New Bridge Road, and enjoy many Chinese delicacies. It’s also home to the oldest Hindu temple in Singapore, Sri Mariamman.

If you want to explore the wonders of Singapore and South East Asia, check out our trips at Oasis Overland. Our experienced tour leaders will be able to show you all the top spots and hidden gems, and you’ll be able to share your experiences with a whole group of people just like you.

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Tour Leader Kate

Many of you will know Kate both as a Tour Leader and from her time working here at the Oasis office.  Its 12 years since Kate’s first trip and she is finally moving on to pastures new – and today is her last day at Oasis!

Kate first jumped on an Oasis Overland truck in 2006 and since then she has led trips in all the continents we operate in.  Her Oasis tour leading resume looks something like this:

After 12 years of preparing trucks and equipment, booking accommodation, organising activities, being a leader, friend, mentor and counsellor, helping cook groups, being the cook group, answering questions, dealing with local officialdom, completing trip paperwork and accounts, showing up at travel shows, swapping tour leading for being an office bod, making the tea in the office, being the last one up at night and the first up in the morning, smiling a lot and singing ‘everything is awesome’… it’s time to say goodbye!  (Although we’ve been here before and we’ve managed to entice Kate back!)

Thanks for all your hard work and dedication over the years Kate, you are welcome back any time!

Trip preparation at Oasis HQ

Trip preparation at Oasis HQ

Kate in the Saklikent Gorge in Turkey

Kate in the Saklikent Gorge in Turkey

There’s so much we could say about Kate but we think the following images say it all!

On the road in Kyrgyzstan

On the road in Kyrgyzstan

Kate at a London Travel Show with Jon and Danny

Kate at a London Travel Show with Jon and Danny

Ice cream in Iran

Ice cream in Iran

Kate and Cary on the Pamir Highway

Kate and Cary on the Pamir Highway

Kate and the Oasis team at HQ

Crew catch up in South America

Crew catch up in South America

Kate or Katie?!

Kate or Katie?!

Food's ready!

Food’s ready!

Posted in Africa, Central Asia, Middle East, South America, UK News.


5 Reasons to visit Laos

Nam Kham River, Laos

Landlocked Laos, in the heart of Southeast Asia, is often overshadowed by it’s larger, more extrovert neighbours. Laos retains many of the traditions and purity that have disappeared in a frenzy of development elsewhere in the region.  Travellers here experience a country, untainted by mass tourism and Asia in slow motion! With a population of 6.8 million Laos is about the same size as the United Kingdom. Nearly three quarters of the country, however, is covered in mountains and forested hills and is too steep to live on. The country gained independence from French rule in 1949, and the French influence is still quite apparent.

  1. Stunning Scenery and Wildlife – With nearly three quarters of the country covered in mountains and forested hills Laos is nature’s marvel, where you can explore mountains, travel on, or swim in, it’s rivers and drench yourself in curtain-like waterfalls. Rural life, itself, with it’s stilt houses and paddy fields has a timeless quality with scenes that look like they are straight out of a movie set. The life giving Mekong river is central to the country’s functioning.
  2. Fascinating Architecture – the mix of beautiful Buddhist temples, stilted wooden rural houses and French inspired capital city Vientiane make for a fascinating architectural diversity.
  3. The People – 65% of the population are Buddhists. This is so apparent in the simplicity and calmness of everyday life and the gentle, warm welcome visitors receive.
  4. Cuisine– the Laos diet is typically made up of rice, sticky rice to be exact! Street food is also huge in Laos and you will be offered some of the freshest and most delicious food in the world. The French influence also means that fresh baguettes and croissants are available nearly everywhere. Make sure you try ‘Larb’ – a spicy mix of marinated meat or fish, served with fresh herbs, greens and spices.
  5. Activities – Laos offers travellers a whole range of activities including hiking, biking, rafting, cooking courses, overnight village stays, exploring UNESCO World Heritage sites and temples .

If you are inspired to visit this fascinating country have a look at the following trips. Our next departure is 5th November, 2018 and we still have a few places available

Xi’an to Ho Chi Minh City (32 days) Far East Explorer

Xi’an  to Singapore (73 days) Indochina Encompassed

 

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Want to win £100??

Write a Trip Review and there’s a chance to win £100

Jumping for joy on the Salt Flats, Bolivia

For many of us, online reviews help us make decisions about where we go, what we purchase and who we do an overland trip with!  Our website allows you to review any trip you have undertaken with us. These reviews help future Oasis travellers plan their travels.

As a little incentive, to encourage you to complete a review, any reviews submitted between now and 21st October, 2018 will be entered into a prize draw with a first prize of £100. The winner will be selected at random on Monday, 22nd October and the reviewers name will be published on our website. If you’ve done more than one trip, each review will mean an additional entry to the competition. Post your reviews here.

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Crew Focus : Driver Paul

How long have you been overlanding? For seven years, but three of them were in Australia. I’ve worked in overlanding on 4 continents.

What was your first overland trip? Southern Trans Oceanic (Quito to Rio via Buenos Aires). My strongest memories from that trip were a 9 person spoon in a tent(?!); our group purchasing bright alpaca jumpers in La Paz and truck parties!

Happiest overlanding memory: Rio Carnival week

Favourite places/activities: Death Road in Bolivia; camping in Namibia; and hikes in Patagonia

Where would you like to travel next: West Africa

Best truck meal: Argentine steak cooked over charcoal!

Advice for Oasis travellers : Join the trip with no expectations and enjoy every moment as an adventure

Final Words of Wisdom: Life’s too short to be working 9 – 5 !

If you are interested in travelling with Paul on his next trip, there are a few places still available on the following sections

Lima to Santiago 35 day Cordillera Trip departing Lima on 5th October

Santiago to Rio 51 day Coast to Coast, via Patagonia departing Santiago on 10th November

 

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