Tuesday, September 29, 2009

What is exploration?

A topic proposed and posted by Alastair Humphreys - an interesting topic and one that I briefly blogged about a few weeks ago...

Enjoy the following thought...

What is exploration?: "
 What is exploration? Alastair Humphreys Motivational Speaker Adventurer Explorer

Sunset high in the Andes above Nazca Peru

What is exploration, Benedict Allen style?

“In a nutshell, it’s about leaving things at home! Your GPS, satellite phone, modern transport, sponsorship and companions – all these things may well be useful, but they each get in the way. They impose a cost on your objective: they keep you in your comfort zone and prevent you from engaging with, and therefore understanding, alien terrain. I‘m not talking here about scientists, who of course need these devices to further a serious mission, but for all the rest of us who are trying to get to know a place. And especially the professionals: how else can we in this day and age claim to be “explorers” if we aren’t truly face-to-face with the environment we are “exploring”? We become less and less explorers, and more and more like adventurers or athletes. Incidentally, all this backup also of course undermines any physical achievement. If you’re dependent on these aids, are you really “unsupported,” or “solo” as you plod on through the wastelands? I know I’m being harsh, but it’s also the sad truth: with such backup at your disposal how do you know that what you’re doing is through your own ability? Maybe you shouldn’t be tackling Everest, but a nearby hill!”

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 What is exploration? Alastair Humphreys Motivational Speaker Adventurer Explorer

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Friday, September 25, 2009

The cost of overland trips...

Ollie & Jenny are currently enroute to Australia... They have recently published a spreadsheet on the cost of overland travel. I have questioned a few line items, namely, accommodation and shopping vs eating out.
I would have hoped the Asia route would be more suitable to camping rather than trying to find accommodation. Trans-Africa trips, in my opinion, are better suited for wildcamping and I do believe are cheaper to do. Fuel costs on a trans-Africa will be higher, but visas should be lower.

Enjoy the following open and honest blog report from Ollie and Jenny.

Updated - Ollie sent through this update based on my questions:
The accommodation is probably skewed a bit by a few very expensive hotels we have stayed at, as treats. But also we had a budget of £80 a day, which would last us 3 years on the road, and since we are nowhere near that, we have become less careful with where we stay. I think we bush camp about
1/4 of the time, but it is getting less and less in Pakistan, and will most likely be non existent in India.

I think that with a different attitude we would spend less on accommodation, but a camper van style would lead to easier camping, but not a lot. Home cooked meals come in under shopping, so eating out really is us out of Dino and eating at a restaurant of sorts. It's so cheap in Pakistan, we can stay in a decent hotel for £5 and have a eat as much as you want curry for 50p.


Blog 60 - Pakistani Smiles: "Before setting out for this trip, one of our biggest concerns was how much was it going to cost us on the road. We had a good idea how much we would spend in advance, and our final pre-trip expenses were just what we thought, but we had very little idea how much we would end up spending on the road. And although the web was full of almost all the other information we needed, we found very rare comments on the actual on the road expenses.

So to give people who follow in our footsteps a better idea than we had, we have tried to keep a very close eye on our budget and record the details in excel. This is published below, and I will update the spreadsheet periodically."

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Today in Overlanding History

I thought it would be a good idea to see where past overlanders had been today in history:

Cyber Diary - (Agadir, Morocco) the ride back south on an already known road is about as boring as todays entry into this diary...

2002 - Can't find today listed on any website.

Jepps Overland - (Egypt) All up and ready by 5.30am (this is a very rare occasion) and we went and joined the rest of the convoy. The convoy set off at 7am with a police van leading the way followed by all the small minibuses, then the landrovers and then the very big coaches.

AfricanSnailAs the mid-day heat became too intense we retreated to a terrace cafe for lunch. Tried a cous-cous dish and a veggie tajine (stew cooked in a traditional earthenware dish). Then we sat and sweated for a while!

BigSky Adventures - On the road to Murchison Falls, Uganda

DuKs JourneyAt 15:11 on 23rd September 2005, after 72,900km and over 20 months on the road, the DuK, Kat and I journeyed into the Suez tunnel pasing under the Suez cannal and in so doing left the continent of Africa.

Border-Crossings - The last 70kms out of Mali to Burkina were a rocky one, but the border-crossing was a breeze. We interrupted lunch for the officials, but they didn't seem to be too bothered by it, gave us our stamps, a wave and sent us on our way.

2007 & 2008 - proved to be difficult to find!

2009 - Today
Listen to Africa - About to get back on the bikes after a month off in senegal. It’s a bit like starting the trip again. But with a suntan. And less money.

Tiffany's Travels -  I spotted a lone hordeman herding his cows and asked him about petrol (benzine) - but despite smiling nicely the answer was ugui (no in Mongolian), 500 metres further on and I completely ran out of fuel. Evening was fast approaching so I put up my tent and waited for someone to pass- nothing came. I wasn't too worried as I always carry a few days food and water with me and also the horseman's ger wasn't too far away if I did need something (as long as it wasn't petrol).

In the end it was 18 hours until a vehicle appeared - a slow, lumbering b

Monday, September 21, 2009

Overland-Conversions : The Bongo

There is no doubt about it – a vehicle parked in the bush needs to look like it’s been there before!

That said, nothing looks as good a fully kitted Defender blending into the bush with a rooftent, wheel on the bonnet and dust on the dashboard.  Land Rover might have opened up the continent to exploration but the reliability and distribution network of Toyota has claimed the market.

My question today:  Is a fully kitted 4x4 required for an overland journey?  Fitting long range fuel tanks, huge spotlights, and chunky mud terrain tyres needed?

There is no quick YES or NO to the above question.  I will add that this topic has been debated to the n’th degree and often leads to fireside chats about the bests overland vehicle. 

I want to add a few comments today about the alternative option to the standard Land Rover or Land Cruiser.

The Requirements:
A few requirements are essential in overland travel – a comfortable place to sleep;  good cooking equipment (Fridge & Gas); fresh water tank; packing space
A few non-essential items – winch; spotlights; long range fuel tank; 2nd spare wheel; Hi-Lift Jack;

Here’s my thought – Why not take a factory fitted campervan, built to Japanese reliability, and transform it into an overlander.

Introducing the Mazda Bongo Camper Van.

First introduced back in 1966, the Mazda evolved until the recent launch of the Bongo in 1995 and a facelift in 1999.
As part of the SG Platform, the Mazda Bongo and Ford Freda share the same design. 
The Mazda Bongo is fitted with a 2.5l Diesel engine and has a 4wd drive train, and automatic gearbox.  The engine is the same engine as fitted to the previous range of Mazda doublecab vehicles.
The 4wd does not offer a low range combination which might be a hindrance depending on the route.

The benefits of this vehicle are numerous – factory fitted pop-up roof bed, fridge,  inbuilt water tank and plumbing;  gas hob; blinds on all windows; storage space; air conditioning.

The upgrades required:
A host of modifications are available – a few that I think are beneficial.
  • All Terrean Tyres on larger rims
  • Rear Diff lock
  • Spare well on exterior of vehicle

Watch the following sales YouTube clips for a visual overview of the vehicle:

Mazda Bongo & Ford Freda Standard Equipment

-Twin Air Conditioning climate, front and rear
-Automatic Gearbox With Overdrive.
-Power Steering
-Electric Windows
-Electric Folding Mirrors
-Electric Elevating Roof with 2 berths
-Central Locking all round, with power lockdown
-Fully trimmed interior
-Spot Lamps
-Side Window Blinds.
-Rear Heating

Mazda Bongo & Ford Freda Optional Extras
-ABS (1996 on)
-Drivers Airbag
-Alloys Wheels
-Towing Kits
-Cd Changer
-Front NudgeBar

Mazda Bongo & Ford Freda Measurements and Weights
Length 4.60 Mtrs
Height 2.10 Mtrs
Width 1.70 Mtrs
Weight 2325 Kg,s
Towing 2800 Kg,s

Interior Layout of both the Mazda Bongo and the Ford Freda
2 Front seats/Driver and Passenger
Central sliding Bench (reversible)
3 seat 60/40 with belts.
Rear split sliding/folding bench
3 seats.

Upper birth sleep 2 adults 7'0 x 4' 2
Lower birth sleep 2 children 6'2 x 4' 2

Mazda Bongo & Ford Freda Technical & Engine Specification
SGL 5 Model is 4WD (Permanent)
Engine is in line 4 Cylinder
Mpg Urban 28, Extra Urban 34.
Source: http://www.algysautos.com/BONGO_TECHNICAL.html

Any comments on whether this vehicle has the capability to complete a full Trans-Africa trip…

Friday, September 18, 2009

Being Unprepared...

In the last blog I briefly mentioned that being unprepared for an overland trip might be the way to go.  There are elements of the preparation that are critical to do before the journey begins - namely, ensuring that your vehicle has a carnet and that your passport is valid.  Besides for those two elements, the rest of the journey can be completed without the aid of internet updates, GPS technology, tracking devices and mobile phones.

Here's why I say that:  It was only ten years ago that internet first starting appearing in African capital cities.  Prior to that, all the above mentioned technologies did not exist which meant that any overlanders travelling simply relied on the tried and tested Michelin Africa Maps, word of mouth and Post Restante services.

Travelling without knowing how far to your next GPS bushcamp, or without the knowledge that your satellite phone is charged and ready for that emergency call, does add to the adventure of a Trans-Africa trip.  It brings an excitement of the unknown, an excitement about the fact that you are not sure where you will sleep tonight as your GPS is turned off and no waypoint logged.

In summary, if you don't have the budget available for the latest GPS, satellite phone or computer, simple forget those items and buy a Michelin map.  Begin your journey knowing that each bushcamp, photo taken will be unique to you.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Desktop day dreaming.

Another day and another desktop image (photo taken of my monitor)

Overland Preparation:
I am relatively impatient.  When I get an idea, I want to go out and do it.  Forget the training - I want to do it now.

However, reality is not quite like that.  In my quest to prepare for http://www.bigsky-adventures.com, I came to the conclusion that preparation is part of the trip.  In the analogy of an amateur athlete, getting to the start line is the hard bit.  Like wise in preparing for an overland trip.
At the time it seams like hard work as the departure date seems to take forever to arrive - but my key point is this.  Preparation time for an overland journey adds to the time off.  It enhances the journey as you scan maps, read blogs, watch videos and get inspired by other overlanders.  It's important to stop and relax and enjoy the thought that you are about to go on an overland journey.

I am a keen advocate on planning and preparing well - however, there is an element of over planning... more on that thought later.

Dynamic Content

Independent Overland websites exist - fact.   On each of these sites, content is added yet my issue is that the content is often lost, forgotten, outdated which, as a result, we loose.
This impacts the historical aspect of overland travel.

This blog aims to add overland updates that don't feature RSS feeds. i.e they use standard email distribution to add content.

More later...