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Africa by Overland Truck - Two

TANZANIA | Thursday, 7 December 2006 | Views [2836]

By chance I caught up with the ATC truck I’d been traveling on when I saw it stopped at lights in Dar es Salaam; I then spent a day with everyone at a beach on Zanzibar. What was surprising was the contrast to the experience I had had and the current moral of the passengers and crew, which was very low indeed. Lots of people did not seem to be enjoying themselves at all and were planning to leave the trip early. This had been bought to a head by a group of people the previous evening when there was a large row which ended with the tour leader saying she wanted to resign.

There seemed to be various reasons for this. Most of the passengers who left Victoria Falls consisted of small groups who had got there on other trucks. They had made their own friendships (mainly based on nationality) and a communal spirit was very lacking. The consequences of this was that jobs like taking down the camp each day took longer and this had a knock on effect, on one day the truck didn’t reach camp until nightfall which meant everything had to be put up in the dark. On my trip everyone started together in Cape Town. Anyone considering joining a tour at the mid point should bare this potential problem in mind.

Another factor was lack of clarity in the itinerary, which as I’ve already mentioned should be studied carefully. Many people were not expecting the long drives that are part of traveling in Africa. The itineraries usually say, ‘Today we shall travel from A to B’, what they should be saying is, ‘Today we will be spending seven hours driving on crap roads to get from A to B’. This may deter a few people from signing up but at least those that do will have no illusions about what to expect. What should be obvious from the current itinerary is that you are on a tour and touring across a very big continent and this means pretty much constant movement. This is one aspect I myself found quite wearying (like being on exercise in the Army) so think carefully before signing up for the full seven week experience.

Traveling for seven hours on crap roads and it’s pouring with rain the whole time makes the experience even more dreary. It may sound obvious but if you are going to sign up for a three week camping trip – anywhere, it helps to know in advance what the weathers going to be like. As the wet season has now started in East Africa there was a lot of having to take down and put up tents in the rain. In those kinds of conditions everything becomes damp eventually – which is depressing.

The group also suffered from a disproportional number of injuries, none of them serious but this led to further delays as people were taken to hospitals for treatment.

There seemed to be some very unrealistic expectations made of the tour leader who to some people should be everything from social role model to surrogate mother. A clearer defining of the tour leaders’ job and role at the beginning of the trip would probably help all concerned. For example, they cannot normally deviate from the route or stay at campsites not designated by the company, although some people expected this. There was also some bad feeling as she did not accompany the injured people to the hospital, is that part of the role?

I would imagine that none of these problems are new as ATC makes each passenger sign an Indemnity form so that everyone is aware of what they are letting themselves in for. This form is very useful in spelling out exactly what to expect and it say amongst other things – there are long driving days, roads are very rugged and tough on vehicles and clients, you will be living in tents, the cook may not always be able to buy food and that the tours are frequented by young people. The core of it is summed up in one sentence, “If you approach your trip with a spirit of adventure and a positive attitude, you and your fellow traveler’s will get the most out of the journey”. Obviously, some people either did not read or understand it or they just left their positive attitude at home. 

Tags: Observations

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