Overlanding: Frequently Asked Questions

Day 19 of the blog post a day in May and time to let somebody else do the heavy lifting

HAVE spent a lot of time over the last nine years or so writing or talking about travel, overlanding in particular (apologies about that).

A lot of this site has tried to explain aspects of the trips which are difficult to understand without actually being a passenger, but still get asked a lot of the same questions.

So time to answer a few of them, both from people have chatted to about them and people enquiring about trips during my time working for a travel company.

What are you doing?
The most common question when people first hear about a trip. Put simply, jacking my job in (again) and, this time around, heading off to South America for 31 weeks on a big yellow truck.

No, seriously, what are you doing?
The follow-up is usually a variation of this which leads to some sort of explanation of overlanding. Or ‘which part of South America?’ to which the answer is pretty much all of it.

How many other people are there on the trip?
No idea, will find that out in Quito in September. The truck holds up to 24 and people may come and go – the Oasis trip to Africa varied between 14 and 20-odd (plus a couple of crew) as people came and went.

Who are the other people?
Again, will find that out come September and spend the next seven months learning it in more detail. Over two overland trips have travelled with people aged 18 to 81, from more than a dozen countries and a pretty much even split between men and women. And out of about 40 people, probably only one, two at most, just could not get on with.

Can you get some time to yourself?
It is not always easy – hard to escape people during a long day on the back of the truck – and you can be reliant on each other when out in the wilds, but reach some form of civilisation and you get some breathing space. However well the group gets on, it is advisable.

Can you leave the trip and come back?
Yes, it’s your trip. There may be an optional side trip you may want to do or you need to head home for some reason or head off for a day or two. If you know beforehand, you can work it out with the tour operator – who can advise what alternative start and finish points are available – and on the trip you just need to be at an agreed meeting time and place. The trip will not wait for you.

Have you got to follow the itinerary all day, every day?
If you are travelling then yes – you are on the truck – and certain things (National Parks or attractions) are included. But nobody is going to make you do anything and it is up to you what you do and where you go when you reach a destination.

How long do you spend travelling each day?
There can be long days – there are a lot of miles to cover and there may not be many places to stop for a day or two. Other days may be shorter with a stop somewhere along the way while you may not travel for a day, two or longer.

What’s included in the price?
It depends on your tour operator, but the standard cost is accommodation, transport on the truck, crew and included attractions. A local payment in cash as part of the cost will cover food when not eating out (and maybe the odd restaurant meal).

Will there be WiFi?
One of the first questions at any stop is “what’s the WiFi code?”. One of the delights of bush camping is you are off the grid.

What is the food like?
The group will be cooking when out in the wild, so it is up to you – if you can find it in a market. And most major stops will have a wide range of options – street food always a good, cheap option. Vegetarians or food intolerances can usually be catered for, fussy eaters may find things a bit more difficult.

I don’t like Chinese food, will I be able to find food I like in China?
Seriously, got asked that one. Not sure he quite got the gag that Chinese food is just called food in China (original joke courtesy of Friends). Simple answer is yes, in the cities, but it would be a crying shame to limit yourself.

Will I be able to find a KFC?
Same person. Was able to assure him that you can give directions around Tiananmen Square using fast food joints. Service is better than back home as well.

What’s the weather like?
You are away for months, travelling through thousands of miles and entire seasons. Work it out.

Do I need to be fit?
If your idea of activity is picking up the phone to order a takeaway, you may need to put in a bit of work. A certain level of fitness is not a bad idea, but how fit you need to be depends on what you plan to do. Was not as fit as planned for Africa but was rarely too much of an issue, will be fitter for South America.

Can I arrange this trip myself?
Yes, probably. If you are really, really organised and have the time, cash and energy to throw at it. These guys know what they are doing so unless you have a distinct urge to go it alone, this is the easier way. Although it may not seem like it working through the to-do list.

Is it safe?
Any travel comes with a touch of risk and, yes, you can hit some places that may seem bordering on the dangerous, while some spots may be lacking in the sort of infrastructure we take for granted. You can never remove the risk but take the usual precautions and there is not too much to worry about.

Did you ever feel in danger?
Ten months in Africa and only a couple of times – mainly when debating which would get me shot quicker, being sick over the man who had just come on the truck with a gun or jumping off and giving him a nice easy target. Scariest moment (not including lying in a tent in the Serengeti listening to lions roar) was a late-night car ride through Bulawayo. Largely on the wrong side of the road.

Did you get ebola?
No, it was possible to journey through Africa without contracting ebola, whatever people had decided before the off (and while there). And no, we were in absolutely no danger of catching it in Papua New Guinea, what with it being nowhere near Africa. That was a serious question.

You won’t be going to Venezuela, will you?
That’s the current favourite. Simple answer, don’t know. It’s on the route but not until next spring so we’ll worry about that one nearer the time.

Will I get voted off the bus like on Coach Trip?
Seriously, got asked this by a prospective customer. Not sure whether she wanted it to be an option or not.

What are you going to do when you get back?
No idea. Last time pretty much replaced myself in my old job. As for this time, who knows?

But if anybody’s got any writing, subbing or travel jobs starting around next May…

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