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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!

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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.


The Wonder of the Galapagos Islands

Nestled in the waters of the Pacific Ocean are the beautiful Galapagos Islands, part of the South American country of Ecuador, which sits around 1,000km away. There are 13 main islands in the group, 5 of which are completely uninhabited, and all of which hold plenty to explore.

If you’ve heard of the Galapagos before, it may be because of Charles Darwin’s famous trip to the Galapagos Islands where he began to work on his theory of evolution. Or, maybe you’re an animal lover and you know about the biodiversity here, or you’re just a keen traveller, and you’ve seen them for yourself!

boobies in Galapagos

Either way, the Galapagos Islands are a wonderful place to visit, and a bucket list destination that we think is incredible!

Why Visit the Galapagos?

There are a ton of reasons to visit the Galapagos Islands. For starters, the incredible abundance of wildlife is like nowhere else. They roam freely, unafraid of humans and not a threat, creating a wonderful feeling of harmony between man and animal.  It’s also one of the remotest groups of islands in the world, meaning that much of the natural life has remained untouched, creating a completely unique experience for visitors.

giant tortoise standing next to human in Galapagos

 

It’s wonderful for snorkelling, has plenty of clear blue ocean, and the beautiful landscapes will certainly take your breath away! Lounge under the sun, and hike up volcanoes, getting to grips with these stunning places that you’ll certainly never forget.

To really experience the Galapagos Islands and get the most out of your trip, why not join Oasis Overland’s 8 Day Cruise? It’s the ideal way to explore the area with an expert guide – and you’ll make plenty of new friends to travel with, too!

tourist cruise on the sea with blue sky

 

Oasis Overland 8 Day Galapagos Island Cruise

 

Spend just over a week travelling around the Islands, taking in all they have to offer. There are lots of action packed and fun activities to do, including:

  • Snorkelling with marine life
  • Travelling by ‘panga’ – a Galapagos amphibious craft, to see sea life such as turtles, penguins, mola-mola, and nazca boobies
  • Encountering lava flows on hikes
  • Visiting the world-renowned Darwin Lake
  • Getting up close to tortoises at Breeding Center Arnaldo Tupiza
  • Taking strolls over sandy beaches at sunset
  • Floating in the hypersalinic lagoon

sea turtle in the Galapagos

 

This trip is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and totally different from your average holiday!

If you’re interested in joining the Galapagos Island group adventure and have any questions, get in touch with our team today.

 large lizard

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Did you know that we run a trip from Johannesburg to Victoria Falls?

This action-packed overland adventure travels through South Africa, Swaziland and Zimbabwe; it’s an amazing trip visiting renowned gameparks, enjoying spectacular views and finishing in an adrenalin heaven!

The 19day trip includes 50% accommodation in lodges and hostels and 50% camping so perfect for travellers who want to experience overlanding but don’t have a lot of time to travel and would rather not camp for all of it!

Starting in Johannesburg, South Africa  – you have the option to take a tour down a Goldmine at Gold Reef City, visit Soweto and the former home of Nelson Mandela, local shabeens (bars) or the Apartheid Museum.

Moving onto the mountainous kingdom of Swaziland you will visit Mbabane the capital and Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary.

Kruger National Park is next where you will go on an afternoon game drive in the overland truck and have the chance to spot some incredible wildlife!

After Kruger, the truck will move onto the Hot Springs of Tshipise where you can swim in the naturally hot swimming pools and take some time out to relax before continuing your adventure!

Crossing into Zimbabwe, you will then stay overnight on the banks of Limpopo River which includes a wildlife drive through bushveld.

Chimanimani National Park in the Eastern Highlands is next. Here you can hike through this vast beautiful mountain wilderness area bordering Mozambique or the chance to visit Bridal Veil falls and enjoy the surrounding scenery from this sleepy village.

The trip then moves onto Great Zimbabwe Ruins – this ancient ruined city, is the largest stone structure ever built south of the Sahara and is where the name ‘Zimbabwe’ comes from which means ‘houses of stone’

Following this you will visit a privately run game reserve, where you have the option to go game viewing on horse back, amongst other activities – which makes for a very different experience!

A safari with a difference at the Matobo National Park comes next! Allowing you to game walk to get up close and see the elusive Black Rhino along with visiting Cecil Rhodes’ Grave and the chance to check out some Ancient Rock Paintings.

At Hwange National Park you will get another chance to do more wildlife spotting on a morning game drive and guided walking safari in search of large elephant herds. You will also be able to visit a Wild Dog Sanctuary.

Finally you will reach Victoria Falls which is one of the most spectacular places to end your trip!

Viewing these spectacular falls from the Zimbabwe or Zambian side is a must. For the more adventurous Victoria Falls is an Adrenaline Heaven  with a number of different activities to try your hand at including; grade 5 whitewater rafting, and kayaking trips or Flight of Angels (microlite or helicopter), sunset cruises, gorge swing, abseil, bungy jump, jet boating and more!

 

This 19day trip can be booked on its own or part of the longer 35day Southern Explorer trip which starts in Cape Town or the 93day Grand Adventurer.  

 

 

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The Best Hikes On Trips with Oasis Overland

Worried about losing your fitness while you’re on holiday? Here’s some of the best ways to get out and about and get that heart racing! 🙂

  1. The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, Peru

The ancient city of Machu Picchu is one of the biggest draw cards to Peru. There are various routes to get there (including a train option for the non-hikers!) and all of them include stunning vistas through the Andes. The Classic Trail is the most popular, but those in the know also argue for the Salkantay; it really does take you up to the snow capped peaks. Others vote for the Lares trail, where you discover more local villages and get a snapshot of Andean rural life. However you get there, you’ll be following in the footsteps of the Incas, and the site of their ancient community awaits you. It’s a magical place.

 

  1. The W Trek, Chile

Possibly the most famous trek in Patagonia, this trail through Torres del Paine National Park in Chile doesn’t disappoint. With jaw-dropping views at every turn, snow capped peaks and ice blue lakes punctuate every photo. It’s not for the faint hearted, however; there is some serious uphill during the 4 day hike. You can choose one or two of the days hikes, – The Towers is a popular one. It’s tough-going, but the reward of the rock pinnacle “Towers” at the top, reflected in the glacially-cold lake, is definitely worth it. If you’re on the crazy side you could also go for a dip!

 

  1. Mt Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

While not technically during a trip with Oasis, this expedition to the highest mountain in Africa can be added onto your African Adventure before you begin your overland trip. You’ll journey up to 5895m and back over a week, and it most certainly will test you. Rising above the cloud line is an incredible feeling, as is the sight of millions of twinkling stars in the unspoiled night sky. It’s a challenge, but the feeling of accomplishment (and relief!) when you make that signpost is almost impossible to put into words. Until you realise the locals can run up in under 10 hours…then you don’t feel quite so tough!

 

  1. Trail to Mt Fitzroy, Argentina

Walking the trails from the small town of El Chalten to the lake at the base of Mount Fitzroy, while not lauded as one of the “must dos” in Patagonia, remains one of my favourite things to do there. It’s a beautiful and relatively gentle walk, with lovely scenery along the route. If you’re lucky enough to have sunshine when you reach Mt Fitzroy, it’s a stunning scene reminiscent of the Towers in Torres del Paine – rocky outcrops dusted with snow looming over a glacial lake. If you’re lucky enough to trek in autumn, the colours of the trees make for wonderful photos 😉

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. *Chimanimani National Park, Zimbabwe

Not many people dream of travelling to the beautiful country of Zimbabwe, and even those who do have rarely heard of Chimanimani National Park. The East Highlands form the boundary with neighbouring Mozambique, and are home to some incredible formations. A land largely covered in huge boulders, these mountain passes played a significant part in the independence war in Zimbabwe. Many people trek to Bridal Falls, a lovely waterfall and picnic spot; but if you’re up for a bigger adventure, lose yourself in the dramatic, wild landscape of rifted peaks, spectacular gorges and natural pools. Just a word of warning, if you go for a swim, it’s rather chilly…!

*This article was written before the recent Cyclone Idai devastation of the area. Our thoughts are with the people affected by this disaster. We didn’t want to remove this section as we want to keep this are in peoples’ thoughts and to acknowledge that our trips will return there as soon as we can. We are currently looking into ways to support the region during this crisis.

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Altyn Arashan, Kyrgyzstan

Another country slowly emerging as a jewel to visit, Kyrgyzstan is filled with mountains to climb and valleys to traverse. There’s rolling green hills dotted with yurts and homesteads, and herds of horses, cows and sheep roaming for the best grazing lands. Few vehicles can successfully travel up to Altyn Arashan, and this makes it extra special – when hiking up here you really do feel as if you’re the only one around. The trek towards Ala Kul lake takes you into the heart of the mountains, although unless you want to set off super early, don’t set the lake as your destination – it’s a loooong round trip! The best thing about any of the hikes here is relaxing in the hot springs by the river at the end of them – bliss!

 

  1. Villarica Volcano, Pucon

You may have seen it on the news; this still-active volcano has exploded a couple of times in the last decade! Hauling yourself up these steep slopes is a fantastic way to earn the views at the top: they are stunning! Those who don’t want to walk the whole way can take the cable car for the first half of the climb, but then everyone has to strap on their crampons and trudge through the snow to the top. The way down, however, is a little more speedy – and tremendous fun! You sit on what is essentially a plastic tray, are handed a pick axe as a ‘brake’, and take off down ice shoots as fast or as slowly as you like! Amazing!

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Trekking the Mountain Gorillas, Uganda

This is one trip that nobody ever regrets – however far you’ve had to walk. Everything depends on the apes, and how far they’ve moved through the jungle overnight. Some people find themselves trekking for hours up and down the mountain sides; others are pleasantly surprised with a gentle stroll through the rain forest. Wherever you are on the scale, you’ll have your time with these magnificent animals to treasure forever 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Aksu-Dzhabagly Nature Reserve, Kazakhstan

Travelling East across the ancient Silk Routes, this Nature Reserve is a true gem. You’ve left the desert and the dust behind, and emerged into rolling green hills and mountains covered in horses. This is the oldest nature reserve in Central Asia, and a beautiful place to take a walk. Options include hiking on foot or travelling on horseback, and both are rewarding. It’s a long walk, not particularly challenging in gradient but you’re rewarded by fantastic views and once again, that feeling that no one else is around. You also have the opportunity for some wildlife spotting – we saw ibex last time, and I still hope for a glance of a golden eagle!

 

  1. Table Mountain, South Africa

While most people choose to take the cable car up this iconic mountain, it’s also a great hike up! There are various routes you can take, some more scenic and some more direct – all of them will take you up the kilometre or so to the top. It’s an adventure for those who like to challenge themselves; if you’re content with the circular walk on top of table mountain (yes, there’s still a walk!), which boasts much better views, then the cable car is for you. It is (usually) the end of your trip after all…

 

  1. Cappadocia, Turkey

The various valleys around Cappadocia host fantastic short walks through dramatic, fairytale like rock formations. The Rose Valley is one of my favourites, where you can see fairy chimneys (which change their colour depending on the time of day!), rock churches and mini vineyards along the way. The valleys all lead into one another so you’ll have amazing views wherever you walk, and there are so many ancient caves and rock churches, you’ll never run out of new things to see. Hiking through the Ihlara Valley deserves a mention too – the cave churches are wonderful and walking through the farmers tilling their fields as they’ve done for hundreds of years, you really feel like you’ve stepped back in time!

 

  1. Dune 45, Namibia

I felt this deserves a mention because where else can you hike up a sand dune?! It may only be 170m in height (other sources say 80m; it’s somewhere inbetween!), but treading through sand is hard work – especially when you’re doing in uphill! It’s totally worth it though – watching the sun rise (or set) from the top of the dune is magical. When you realise that the sand grains you’re perched on could be up to 5 million years old, that makes it all the more breathtaking!

 

 

For more information on one or all of these hikes and what trips they feature in, please email info@oasisoverland.co.uk or give us a call. There’s nothing we like more than chatting about our trips – 01963 363400

Happy Travels! 🙂

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Crew Focus: Tour Leader Alexis

How long have you been overlanding and how did you get into it? Which Oasis areas have you worked in?

I’ve been overlanding for almost five years, and I got into it after a passenger trip from Nairobi to Cape Town — a trip I’ve since led many times! During a sunset cruise in Zanzibar, with a cold Safari beer in hand, as palm trees swayed on the Indian Ocean coast and live African drumming filled my ears, I realized life couldn’t get any better. A few months later I was officially Oasis crew! I have led truck trips in Africa and South America and public transport trips through Southeast Asia from China to Singapore.

Where are you now? Next trip?

Having just completed an awesome Xi’an to Singapore trip, I’m taking a couple months off at a ranch in Uruguay, midway between Montevideo and Punta del Este. A lifelong friend has asked me to help turn her family farm into a really special destination. We’re planning to offer campgrounds, hostel space, gaucho day trips and yoga retreats starting in December 2019.

My next Oasis trip is a big one — Cape Town to Cairo from June to October 2019. I am so excited to get back to Africa, get back on a truck and especially to explore Ethiopia and the Sudan for the first time.

What was your first Overland trip? Any particular memories?

My first overland trip was an Istanbul to Cairo trip with Oasis in 2010. It was the midway point of my first round the world trip, and I arrived sorely unprepared. With no sleeping bag or mat, I ended up sleeping on the ground outside during a bush camp at Mt. Nebo, a holy site in Jordan. I woke up to shepherds and a flock of about 200 sheep walking over me!  

Funniest overlanding moment:

I laugh a whole lot on every trip, but unfortunately I’ve been sworn to secrecy about the best moments! One shareable moment was while we were celebrating a birthday on the train from Bulawayo to Victoria Falls. Gloria Estefan’s Conga hit the speakers and the group naturally decided a Conga line through the train was in order. I needn’t have worried about disturbing other passengers, as the whole train joined in and made it party to remember!

Happiest overlanding memory:

Traveling all year long is amazing, but it also means a lot of holidays and birthdays on the road. I wasn’t expecting anything at all for my birthday, which came in the middle of a long drive day and bush camp in Tanzania. Little did I know that the whole truck had worked to find decorations, plan a party and even have a cake and presents! I was so touched I didn’t know what to say. I may or may not have cried, but it’s still my happiest memory.

Favourite places/ activities:

There are just too many, but that Zanzibar sunset cruise that started my tour leader career has a special place in my heart. Some of my other favorites are the hike to see the orangutans in Sumatra, Indonesia, horse riding and asado in Argentina (Gaucho day!) and sleeping under the stars in Spitzkoppe, Namibia.

Where would you like to travel next?

The country that has been on my list for the longest is India. I dream of doing the “Rickshaw Run” one day. I’d also love to explore more of Central America and Central Asia.

Best truck meal:

There are two truck meals I absolutely love:

One is our game meat BBQ in Spitzkoppe with crew and passengers cooking up a storm to enjoy Oryx and Kudu in one of the most incredible and primeval landscapes of the Nairobi to Cape Town trip. 

The other is hog roast day in Kande Beach, Malawi! I call it “Truck Christmas” because it closely resembles the Cuban Christmas, or Noche Buena celebration I grew up with. A whole pig on a spit done to perfection by my friends Banjo and Harrods, always amazing and creative sides by cook group, and of course an immensely entertaining fancy dress party. Great food and a whole lot of fun!

Advice for Oasis travellers:

Come with an open mind and sense of adventure! Every part of the trip is an experience of a lifetime, whether you are staring down a lion in the Serengeti or pitching a tent in the rain!

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10 fun facts about Vietnam!

With a diverse mixture of bustling cities, incredible landscapes, fabulous cuisine, a rich culture and the chance to relax and unwind; Vietnam is a destination travellers should have on their must  visit list!

Here are 10 fun facts about Vietnam:

1 – In many countries around the world, the capital city is usually the largest one in the whole country. Vietnam however breaks away from the norm as Ho Chi Minh City (also known as Saigon) has a larger population than Hanoi (the capital)!

2- Halong has over 1500 islands and islets, and Halong Bay is Vietnam’s natural wonder near the Chinese border. It is a UNESCO world heritage site, popular among visitors for its biodiversity and scenery.

3 – The Mekong Delta is Vietnam’s rice bowl, and is popular to visit due to the region’s diversity including a huge maze of rivers, swamps and islands. Home to floating markets and villages surrounded by rice paddies.

4 – Motorbikes are the most common form of transport in Vietnam with over 45 million registered motorbikes.

5 – Vietnamese cuisine combines fragrance, taste, and colour which make it such an exquisite cuisine. Traditionally Vietnamese dishes include the five fundamental taste senses; spicy, sour, bitter, salty and sweet, corresponding to five organs: gall bladder, small intestine, large intestine, stomach, and urinary bladder.

6 – Vietnamese street food stalls are well known around the world and are a must to visit when there. The food is as authentic as you can get as well as fresh, delicious, atmospheric and adventurous!

7 – The Vietnamese drink snake wine Ruou ran, is made by placing a pickled snake (preferably venomous) in rice wine and is commonly drunk for health, vitality and restorative purposes.

8 – Vietnam is fabulous for coffee lovers as it’s the second largest producer of coffee in the world after Brazil and is a major source of income for the country since the early 20th century.

9 – Vietnamese egg coffee is traditionally prepared with egg yolks, sugar, condensed milk and Robusta coffee. It is generally attributed to a bartender working in Hanoi in the 1940’s.The legend goes that fresh milk was in short supply and so whisked egg yolk was used as a replacement.

10 – Lizard fishing is one of Vietnam’s most widespread hobbies. The traditional way of catching the lizards is by setting a hook on a long bamboo fishing pole and dangling bait from the top of a boulder until the reptiles strike.

If these fun facts have tempted you to visit Vietnam check out our

73 day Indochina Encompassed tour or

44 day South East Asia Highlights tour

Posted in All Blogs, Southeast Asia.

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Trucking through Tajikistan

Retracing the ancient Silk Road was something I’ve been lucky enough to do a couple of times, but this didn’t do anything to quell the excitement of driving the Pamir Highway.  I’d heard all about the stark beauty of the road across the “Roof of the World”, not to mention tales of the “interesting” road conditions.  I was ready for it all!

The Pamir Highway, named by the Soviets as M41, snakes a path through the high Pamir Mountains.  Due to the impenetrable nature of the terrain it is the most popular route through, and has been used for centuries.   The road rises over 4650m, making it the second highest altitude international highway worldwide.

I was travelling with Oasis Overland, running a private charter trip.  We planned to drive the Pamir Highway from Osh, through Tajikistan, and into Uzbekistan.  We would leave the M41 in Termez, although some argue that the ‘real’ Pamir highway continues to Mazari Sharif in Afghanistan.

Our first glimpses of Tajikistan were incredible: snow capped peaks stiff against a powder blue sky.  Even the grey storm clouds that threatened to crash down on us were broken up with shards of sunshine; a good omen for our early start the next morning. 

 

We left eagerly; the group buoyed with excitement and apprehension about the high pass ahead.  The border between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan is over 4000m, and begins the start of the weaving mountain pass.  Leaving Kyrgyzstan was simple, and as we started climbing we all added an extra layer of clothing against the sharp chill.  As we drove deeper into No-Man’s land, the landscape changed colour and a deep sienna red marked the beginning of the crazy colours these mountains would display.

The crossing was pleasantly simple, and we were welcomed into the new country by smiling officials.  The locals, it seemed, had a much tougher time than us; we saw land rovers piled high with goods being made to unload each and every item.  We were lucky to only have a brief search, more out of curiosity than anything official.

The views that unfurled over the next 12 hours were breath-taking.  We drove through crimson dusted hills, snow capped peaks, blue sky stretching out from the sandy outcrop beneath – it changed all the time!  We followed the Chinese border for a while, smiling at the strategic holes in the fence where people have obviously sculpted their own short cut.  Evidence of the road’s alter-ego, the “Heroin Highway” perhaps?

Our first section was from the border to Khorog, one of the most popular treks along the highway.  We passed the twinkling jewel of Lake Karakol, and the overlanding-popular stop in Murghab.  Every day we past teams of cyclists, picking their way around the pot holes; sand covering their faces against the dust.  While the road quality varies along the highway, I think all of us agreed it was ‘sub-par’.  We actually preferred the gravel and its dust clouds to the paved-but-pot-holey sections.  Damaged by erosion, earthquakes, avalanches and landslides, this highway suffers, and it’s very evident!  Along the way we saw pockets of civilisation, but it’s a harsh and unforgiving landscape.  The yurt camps were small and sprinkled far off the main road, but their inhabitants were kind and welcoming, and very excited to see us.

Khorog is a charming town nestled in the mountains.  It’s a tourist hub where most people prepare themselves for journeys into the Pamirs.  You also have a direct view into Afghanistan across the river.  We were tempted to dip a toe into this forbidden country, but the Afghan bazaar is unfortunately only on a Saturday.  This bazaar is where both Tajik and Afghan people can come to sell or purchase goods, and tourists can come to watch too – all without a visa.  May be next time….!

Our next step of the journey was 2 days to Dushanbe, following the road as it snakes north along the Panj River.  This part of the highway has been carved out of the sandy-coloured rock, and hugs the river as it twists and bends.  We crawled under overhanging rocks and edged round sharp corners, all the while waving to villagers in neighbouring Afghanistan.  Life across the water looked like it hadn’t changed for millennia, with donkeys loaded up with straw and people on horseback herding their goats.

Dushanbe was our last stop in this beautiful country.  It was a modern and clean capital city, and a world away from the rest of the country.  Eastern Tajikistan, where we’d trundled through, accounts for 45% of the country, but a mere 3% of the country’s population lives there.  This bustling city was a shock, but not an unwelcome one – you could get great coffee 😉

I recently read that the Pamir Highway boasts 1250 kilometres of spectacular landscapes.  Judging by what I saw, I totally agree.

Oasis Overland are running an Exploratory Expedition from London to Istanbul, via Tajikistan and the Pamir Highway in 2020. Click here for more details!

Posted in All Blogs, Central Asia.

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Colombia: An Overview

Tell anyone you’re travelling to Colombia, and you’ll inevitably get the raised eyebrows, widening of the eyes, and a slight pause, before they respond. Forgive me if you surround yourself by well-travelled/news-clued-up people, but if like me, most of your friends and colleagues don’t travel, or at least not to “dangerous” countries, you should prepare yourself for this type of reaction. Again and again.

What do people imagine when they think of Colombia? Cocaine? Pablo Escobar? Guerrilla warfare? FARC? I suppose this is understandable; these negative media storieImage result for Narcoss are probably all that people have heard about this beautiful country in the North of the South American continent. Netflix has also fuelled the bad reputation with its hit series Narcos, detailing the drug lords of 1980s Colombia and their war with the law. It’s gritty, violent, raw and makes compelling watching. It does not, unfortunately, encourage the audience to visit Colombia.

Let me help you to change your mind. Colombia is now considered a safe country to visit in South America, but not only that, is undoubtedly one of the friendliest. Perhaps because tourists have stayed away so long, or perhaps it’s just their general demeanour, but Colombians are wonderfully hospitable and an incredibly kind people. The country itself is truly beautiful: you’ve got mountains, tropical rainforest, stunning tropical beaches, and dive-worthy coral just offshore. Team all that with the vibrant, metropolitan cities of Medellin and Bogota, and you’ve got yourself an adventure-filled destination!

 

I visited Colombia in 2015, and have been extolling its virtues ever since. I LOVE Colombia, and would go so far to say it’s in my top 3 in South America. It’s where I started to like coffee; where I trekked to ancient ruins and came across a still largely undiscovered people, and where I had the best horse ride of my life! Big claims I know, but all true.

 

So where to go? Well, that depends on how much time you have, and also what kind of trip you are looking for. Many people I met spent almost their entire trip in the North, relaxing on the white sand beaches of the Caribbean coast, occasionally taking a dip in the beautiful turquoise water. That’s definitely an option – just make sure you leave a couple of days to explore lovely Cartagena, the colonial town of the North with history and beauty in bounds.  If you need to earn your beach time, you could include a trek to Ciudad Perdida, or “The Lost City”. This 4-7 day trek takes you into the deep (sweaty!) jungle, to one of the most mysterious and one of the largest pre-Columbian towns discovered in the Americas. For me it was more about the journey through the jungle and the Tayrona people I met along the way, but it definitely left a lasting impression.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bogota was a highlight for me too, even though I’m not usually a “city person” – I’d definitely recommend the free walking tour you can do of the old part of the city. There are hidden gems of cafes and bars, and the Museo del Oro was stunning. I also loved the Museo Botero which hosts the work of Colombia’s most famous artist Fernando Botero: a celebration of all things chubby! 🙂

And definitely try to include a visit to the Zona Cafetera! Salento remains a jewel of a town in my memory, especially when I walked through the Valle de Cocora. While famous for all the wax palm trees, it was the wonderful hummingbird feeding stations that captured my attention; that and the local “hot chocolate with cheese” delicacy….hmmm.

 

 

 

 

 

I could go on and on. Having mentioned my best ever horse ride, I feel I have to tell you that it was in St Agustin, in the South of the country. This small town is famous for its ancient volcanic statues and all the associated legends.

This country really does have so much to offer every traveller, and while on one hand I’m happy that it’s still off the generic tourist trail, I also feel it deserves so much more than the negative reasons it’s famous for.

Oasis includes trips to Colombia on a few of their South America expeditions; do yourself a favour and sign up! There’s something for everyone, and I promise you won’t regret it!

Happy Travels 🙂

Cartagena – Quito (22 days) Colombian Adventure

Manaus – Quito (50 days) Venezuela and Colombia Overland

Cartagena – Rio (18 weeks) Kingdoms & Carnivals

 

Posted in All Blogs, South America.

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