A Day In The Life On A Big Yellow Truck

Day seven of the attempt to write a blog post a day in May – time to take a break from coherent, organised paragraphs and revert to lots of bullet points. Sort of.

AT some point on a long overland journey you will need to fill in a form asking for your address, be it applying for a visa, booking a flight home or merely a feedback form.

The temptation is to put Back of a Big Yellow Truck (or whatever colour vehicle the company transporting you use) because, to all intents and purposes, that is your home.

Everything you own during this trip is stored there, all your food, all vital equipment. It will be your transport, your shelter, the heart of your world. Look after it and the truck will look after you.

And at some point or another, you will spend a long day eating up the miles on that truck so get used to life on board.

What follows is a rough guide (very rough on some roads) of what lies ahead on a day of travel, without hitting a major point of interest or destination. That will come as your reward but embrace truck life and it can be a reward in itself.

6.45am It is a standard day so you are not on cook group, make the most of a bit of extra half hour in bed. Pull yourself out of your tent and use the facilities. Such as they are.

7am Breakfast is served, grab what’s on offer and make yourself a hot drink from the kettle steaming on the fire. Catch up with your travelling companions and any news and gossip from the night before you may have missed.

7.15am Wash up and start packing your stuff up. Do your best to find something relatively clean to wear. Or decide that what you’ve got on is not too bad and will do another day.

7.30am You are packed up and breakfast is over, lend a hand finishing the washing up and packing things away on the truck. Fill up water bottles from the stocks on board.

7.55am Kitchen’s packed up, use the facilities (look, we’re being kind – this is bush camping, there aren’t any facilities) and hang around the truck waiting for the last people to be ready. Bar the changing cook group, they will be the same people every day. Some will have staked out their seats for a while.

8am Time to roll, last ones on board (further back you sit, higher you fly if the truck hits a bump – although you will obviously have your seatbelt on). Buzz the driver to let him know it is time to roll.

8.05am Unless there is some spectacular scenery grabbing everyone’s attention or the road (if there is one) is a bit too rough, much of the truck will be falling asleep or listening to music. Or both.

10am The driver gets buzzed again – one buzz for a comfort stop somewhere quiet on the side of the road. Someone will have been hanging on for ages waiting for an acceptable time to be the first one to ask.

10.03am The boys are all finished and hanging around the back of the truck, waiting for the girls to finish a rather more complicated procedure.

10.10am Everyone back on board. The options for passing time are slightly wider – some might even be taking notice of the scenery. Increasing amount of waving at the passing locals. Enviously keep an eye on the person reading the one decent novel on the truck you are yet to read, try to work out how much longer they have left.

11.30am Lunch is an hour or so away and someone couldn’t wait – second buzz for a stop and another pit stop along the road or, if you are lucky, at a garage with a toilet. Actually, that’s not always so lucky.

12.30pm Stop at some secluded spot for lunch. At least you think it is secluded – from nowhere someone will appear, usually to watch from a safe distance. Jump into action and get the kitchen set up so cook group can provide the third and final meal of their duty, usually prepared last night.

1pm Kitchen packed up and back on the truck ready to roll. Less sleeping, more noise. Conversation breaks out and the major daily debate – who wants music over the speakers and, if so, from which person’s iPod? Game of cards or general chatting breaks out. May be a film being watched somewhere.

2pm Truck rolls into a village or small town with a market. Cook groups for the next two or three days dispatched with their share of the kitty to buy enough for three meals. While they try to work out what to buy, the rest head round the market, stay on truck guard duty or get roped into the most important search of every stop – ice.

2.15pm While the food starts arriving back at the truck, the rest tuck into or unload whatever goodies they have found in the market into their lockers or the cool boxes (used equally as food rests and known by any number of names by your international travelling companions).

2.30pm Back on the road. The post-stop, afternoon lull sends a few more back to sleep. The rest watch the world go by. Or take pictures of their sleeping friends.

3.30pm Everyone’s fully awake and chances are the music is on. First look at the watch to work out when is acceptable to ask for another stop.

3.45pm Another comfort stop. If it is in civilisation, may be chance to fill up the water.

5pm The truck rolls off the road and heads into some secluded area – either one saved into the satnav or one the crew has stumbled upon. Everybody off into action for the first job, collecting firewood. Easy in some places than others, in the middle of a desert it is down to what you have collected along the way.

5.20pm Fire started, kettles on, kitchen set up. Cook group start work on the evening meal, previous cook group start their final duty – truck clean. Once they have stopped people climbing on and off the truck while they do it.

6pm Light has almost gone, time to set up camp. Handy tip: let the snorers pick their spot and go somewhere else. You all scatter, we are going to be near at least one of you.

6.30pm Tents are up, food prep done and things are cooking. Music choice in camp is the cook group’s, the beers coming out of the cool boxes, time to take advantage of not being on cook group (once you have made an offer to help) and chill out.

7.30pm (now the times really are getting guesswork, some cook groups are quicker than others) Food served – two simple rules, make sure it is edible and make sure there’s enough. Comes complete with what is coming up the next day, time to leave and any questions – all while the hungry are eyeing up second helpings.

8pm Food finished, wash up and pack the kitchen away.

8.15pm Bush camp bedtime – first people vanish to their tents. Others sit around talking and making the most of having some ice to keep those drinks cold. Chances are, a bottle of Captain Morgan will be around somewhere.

10pm Most people have turned in, few sat around what is left of the fire chilling and chatting. There’s worse ways to spend an evening.

All timings very rough and based on a day with bush camping at either end on the Oasis Overland Trans Africa 2014-15 – every trip differs around the edges.

This is a travelling day. They are days off to be savoured, rest days. You may get two or three together – particularly in West Africa – but it will get you somewhere worth visiting.

That’s the joy of overlanding.

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