Trans Africa A-Z – Part One

FOUR years ago, the most-read post on my London to New York blog was the A-Z of the trip (written, for some reason, while stood in a toilet block in the middle of California’s Redwood National Park).

So in a vain hope it will repeat that success and provide some clue to anyone who accidentally overhears any of our conversations, here is the A-Z of the Trans Africa. So far.

Africa Pants: Brightly-patterned, loose-fitting ethnic trousers appearing throughout the group. Ideal for wearing on the truck and in the evenings when the mosquitoes start buzzing.

Ay Carumba: Phrase we are desperate to get native Spanish speaker Ale to use at every opportunity, despite her insistence it is not an oft-used Spanish phrase.

BBB: Best left unsaid, but if you see any, let Karla know.

Beach: Raised area at the front of the truck. Ideal viewing platform and perfect spot for anyone feeling under the weather or in need of some recovery time. Also Joe’s bed, so best not to leak pumpkin juice or anything else all over it.

Blow-outs: Terminal damage to a pair of flip flops.

Bracelets: Growing in number on wrists of large numbers of the group. Only a hardened few are still pursuing plan to get one in each country after realisation they would be almost up to their elbows. Do not make typing easy.

Bread: Staple which makes cook group’s ability to create three meals on a tight budget a lot easier. Matt loves bread.

Not A Bus - And not exactly on the road either
Not A Bus – And not exactly on the road either

Bus: It’s not a bloody bus, it’s a truck (unless putting bus on an official form is easier or cheaper).

Bush Camp: Any base for the night with no facilities where we attempt, with mixed results, to avoid detection from the locals.

Buzz: The signal to the driver we are all installed in the back and ready to go. On the move, single buzz is a request for a comfort stop, two buzzes is because we want the sides up or down and one continuous buzz is for an emergency (medical, not somebody’s hat blowing off). A longer series of buzzes is for Code Brown.

Cook Group: Team of (usually) three who shop and cook (over an open fire) for 19 people once every six days. Evening meal followed by breakfast and, usually, lunch the next day – all for about €1 per person. Groups changed every few weeks when everyone wants to be with people who have the slightest idea what they are doing.

Embassy Shirts: In theory, smart shirts (and clothes in general) worn to embassies in search of visas. In reality, whatever is reasonably clean, even if it has been shoved into a backpack since the last time.

Eskies: The cool boxes (or chillies, if you come from New Zealand) which act as footrests, card tables and, most importantly, keep food and drink warm. Drink eskie kept as full as possible with beer, soft drinks and, whenever we can find it, ice.

Not the idea of fire group

Fire Group: Team charged with getting the fire going for the cook team, kettles filled and keeping the flames alive as required. Job done by the next day’s cook team. 

Flapping: Method of drying after washing up. Involves standing and waving whatever is in your hands vigorously until it is dry. More popular alternatives involve holding over the fire or in direct sunlight.

Flip-flops: Standard footwear across group. Some more adept at wearing them (and putting them on without using their hands) than others.

Fridge: It’s a fridge. What else would it be?

Jo’s Blanket: Immortalised by Reto’s request to see it, which had rather more innuendo attached to it by us than was ever intended.

Locker of Doom: Sam and David’s locker which is crammed to overflowing with their gear. Or was, until they packed a lot of it up and sent it home. Only to immediately buy a cow’s head, complete with horns.

Beautiful Friendship – Malcolm wears Martyn for the day

Malcolm: Cuddly monkey awarded to the “Numpty of the Week” to be worn in public at all times for 24 hours. Democratic decision made entirely by a show of hands after nominations from across the group. Mistakenly referred to as Martyn on more than one occasion for some reason.

Maria: Ale’s real first name which she never uses. But we do. Just to be annoying.

Mosquitoes: Nasty, evil, buzzy little bastards.

Numbers: Easiest way of checking we are all on board before giving the signal to go. We all have a number (some of which are now being traded and are likely to form part of our tour T-shirts) which we rattle through with a mixture of eagerness and ill-disguised boredom.

Seatbelts: Oasis Overland recommend you wear your seatbelt at all times.

Skippy: Tour mascot. Travels in the cab, emerging for photo opportunities. When we remember.

Shovel of Shame: Vital truck equipment when bush camping. Seen vanishing into whatever cover is available in one hand with toilet paper and wet wipes in the other. Some prefer the more heavy duty fire shovel option.

Mr Smooth – Honest

Smooth: Reto. He just is.

Socks: Items of clothing dispensed with weeks ago by most of us.

Suspicion: Feeling with which we greet everything Steve says.

Three-second Rule: Group law which allows anyone to move in to an empty seat once it has been vacated for three seconds.

T.I.A: This Is Africa. Simple explanation for anything crazy.

Truck: It’s a truck. It’s never a sodding bus (unless it has to be…)

Truck Clean: Final duty of the previous night’s cook group before they get a few days off. Involves cleaning the eskies and whatever mess we have managed to make in the back of the truck during the course of the day.


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