Thursday, January 28, 2010

Michael Olsen - Reseating a tyre using butane gas and other handy hints.

Michael Olsen has a number of very good tips and handy hints. Here's his latest one from his video updates:

Reseating a tyre (tire) using butane gas and other handy hints.: "
Reseating a tyre (tire) using butane gas and other handy hints.

Here's a little compilation that was the result of experimenting with windows movie maker. It's a few bush remedies for overcoming difficulties in the outback. I don't endorse this method but it does work. The later sections reveal the minimum I travel with these days to overcome outback tyre disasters. Hope you enjoy it.
 Cast: Michael Olsen

Click here for more of his excellent Australian outback videos

Friday, January 22, 2010

Gabon Overland - May 2005

BigSky Adventures - Gabon 2005

Our route South from the UK to SA took us via Cameroon, into Gabon, over the equator and South through the Congo.

For our short traverse across Gabon, the country was and still is, awesome.  It offers the overlander a chance to experience the jungles of Africa in its full, plus the very controversial logging operations.  In the video clip below, you will notice the size of the trees that have been cut and loaded on the trucks.

When the roads get bad, they become adventurous.  We had seven sections of mud to traverse -  the first was the worst but luck was at hand.  Enjoy the video clip and selection of Gabon photos:

A selection of photos:

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Unusual Overland Vehicles - From a Tractor to a Sidecar

Seen any unusual Overland Vehicles lately?  In this blog I list the most unusual types of vehicles which have been use for an overland trip. The vehicles range from an old French van, a tractor and even a Tuk Tuk.  Missing from the vehicle list is a quad bike!

Here are a few examples:

Citroën Hy
What an interesting vehicle... “Sur les chemins du monde” (The world is your oyster) opted for this 1969, 3 gears, 70 horses power, original 1.9l fuel engine to complete a world trip.

Quoted from the website:
Hachille, a real 1968 Citroyen type HY72, is going to be Géraldine’s travelling mate during this world tour! It used to be France’s most used utility vehicle. Used as national police vehicle, on the one hand, or transport van for small businesses, on the other hand, the famous Type H, which is often called Tub, experienced its hours of glory between 1948 and 1981.

If you have time, then crossing Africa in a Tractor is the way to go. Manon drove her tractor from NL to ZA and wrote a book and a website about it. Her aim was the South Pole.  Very impressive.

This is another unique vehicle choice for an overland trip.  Tuk to the Road, was the name of the website about the trip from Bangkok to Brighton driven by Jo & Ants.

We stopped for lunch at a roadside café and pulled up next to a wedding party. They spotted TT and came over to have a photo shoot with her. The bride was wearing a flowing white gown and TT made her look even more stunning. We went inside the café and ordered a pretty basic lunch...

Ural Sidecar
Dating back to 2000, a couple departed South Africa with a Sidecar - an Ural Sidecar to be precise. Mullie & Nobile created a website to record their trip via East Africa.  A quote from the Zambian diary:

The bike is still running flawlessly, despite the off road adventures we had in Zambia. On our way from Livingstone to Lake Kariba, we had our first flat. Luckily, it happened right when we entered a small village called Choma. Luckily because my jack died when I tried to use it (stripped threads). I was able to lend one from a local garage, but immediately one of the locals who happened to be passing by in a car brought his own jack and helped us through the entire tire fixing process. In addition, it looked like it was not only the first flat for us, but also for the entire village considering the amount of people (esp. children) surrounding us when we tried to fix the flat. BTW, the Russian glue and patches didn't work that well, so I simply replaced the tube with a spare one.
Beach Buggy
Tom & his Red Buggy - a unique combination as pushed the Red Buggy South from EU to ZA.

Bicycles are often used for adventure cycling and overland trips.  Tandem bikes included.  However, a Penny-Farthing is unique.  Joff headed around the world on his!

Mercedes 300TD
This unique overland prepared Mercedes W123 300TD popped up on the Africa Overland Network website.  I liked the way Jurgen had prepped the vehicle with a rooftop tent and all the additional expedition accessories. For more information see Jurgen's weblog.

Quad Bikes
Thanks to a comment posted by Alex, I can now add an overland trip by Quad bike.
Josh and Anna completed their trip in 2008 and set a Guinness Record for the trip.

Even as I type this, I am amazed how many different vehicles people have opted for. All of them have a story to tell along with plenty of adventures.  Enjoy your reading!

Feb 2010 update:
Updated the Quad trip after a comment from Alex

If you enjoyed this article, perhaps these vehicle related posts might be interesting:

Friday, January 15, 2010

Tracks4Africa - Digital & Paper-based

Historically, printed maps were the only choice for an overland trip.  However, as digital maps have become more detailed and have offered routing options, a number of digital mapping providers have emerged.  The best provider of these digital maps are the Tracks4Africa team.

I have recently been in touch with Andre B (Cabex Maps) regarding the printed version of the Tracks4Africa maps.  Currently the maps are available for download and will enable your GPS (device depending) to view the maps and plan routes.

About T4A:
Tracks4Africa (T4A for short) is a organisation run by ‘Environmental users’.

What lies at the core of our business? Our core business is MAPPING AFRICA. More specifically, Community Mapping because the only way to map Africa accurately, reliably and environmentally correct is to put the task of land surveying in the hands of experienced and responsible eco-travellers who are in touch with conditions at ground zero.
What’s the main focus? Our main focus is the GPS mapping of eco-destinations in rural and remote Africa.

Folded Maps
There is nothing better than holding a map, or spreading a map on the bonnet of your expedition prepared vehicle.  The hours of route planning can be very entertaining...

The good news is that T4A are now producing paper based maps for those essential planning evenings and for sharing routes around the fireplace. Andre kindly provided the following update:

About me: I refer you to my travelog on, where I have written about our trip from Stellenbosch/Cape Town to Amsterdam (via Emirates/Oman/Iran/Turkey) and back (via Italy/Turkey/Syria/Jordan/Egypt/Sudan/East-Africa) in 2005, as well as some later trips. As I said, on an earlier occasion (1979) I drove from Amsterdam up to North Cape and back, but I lost all records - written and photographic - of that trip, due to a car break-in in Stockholm, while on the way back. I'll have to re-do that part some day, I guess.

As to my maps: I make them for Tracks4Africa, the organisation that produces GPS maps for the African continent, with an emphasis on the Southern and Eastern African countries.  Our first map was for Botswana, scale 1:1,000,000 on a large folded piece of paper. The first edition was sold out in a matter of months and we are currently printing a thoroughly updated version, on non-tear and waterproof 'paper' (poly-art), which will be on the market by end of January 2010. We are printing in Italy, and a portion of the maps will stay in Europe for distribution there.  A preview of the map is available at

At present I am working on the map for Namibia. It will be at the same scale, 1:1,000,000 and it will have the latest roads/tracks for Namibia, as driven and recorded by members of the T4A community. 

The great thing about our maps is: since all the road/track data was recorded by GPS and concatenated into a big database, we can annotate the roads not only with distances, but also with travel times, which, in Southern African countries is a great help in trip planning. It is in my opinion a WORLD First. I have never seen maps that have that kind of information. 
Secondly: Although the maps are large (1 m x 1.265 m), they are folded the same way as the famous Michelin maps, which you can open inside the car only to show the area where you are currently traveling and yet it can be spread out on the bonnet to show the entire country. 

We are planning to produce maps for Mozambique, Zambia and probably Kenya this year, to be followed by Tanzania, Angola, Zimbabwe, Malawi next year, so it will be a magnificent range of maps in the end. Also we endeavour to update maps on a yearly basis, since our forum members constantly send in updated information on roads and tracks. In other words it is a very dynamic project. 


Thanks to Andre for proving the above information. If you are interested in knowing more, please contact me and I will forward your information to Andre.

About Cabex:
CABEX MAPS is the sole agent working together with Tracks4Africa, to create the well-known T4A Tourist maps. Based on the GPS data which are at the heart of the superb digital T4A GPS maps, paper maps are now being created to provide the tourist with a large scale travel map, showing the exact same information that is found in the digital GPS version.

Story time
In 2005, during our trip through Cameroon, we were choosing a few of the lessor known roads.  One map, out of the four we had, showed a route between the towns of Mbonge and Idenao.   We drove that route and enjoyed a fantastic route which offered river crossings, muddy roads, sandy tracks and outstanding views of Mt Cameroon.  You can read about the days event here: BigSky Adventures - 8 May 2005

Additional photos from 8th May 2005:

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Accidents & Bush Mechanics

Accidents happen.  Unfortunately, that is.  Adding people into expedition prepared vehicles and vehicles onto roads can lead to accidents occurring.  When they do occur, injuries and damages to the vehicle often cause major stress, or in the worst scenario, an urgent rush to the nearest hospital.

I don't want to write about accidents that involve people and the difficulties that arise from this.  In this blog, I want to share a few vehicle related stories and the lessons learnt from those experiences.

My old Land Rover Defender (currently on her 6th trip) was recently involved in an accident whilst in Guinea. Noel, the current owner, was heading down a deserted road then the vehicle seemed to hit a major hole and ended up in a ditch.  See Noel's website for more of the story: Nomad Adventure

Bush Mechanics to the rescue.

That's the beauty of Africa.  With very little equipment, the local mechanic has the ability to fix anything and everything.

If, on your next adventure, you feel that you are slightly underprepared for the mechnical challenge - fear not, a mechanic is ready and waiting in the next village.

Monday, January 11, 2010

UK Hampshire and Berkshire 4x4 Response Group

Recently the UK has been hampered by very unusual winter weather which has resulted in the country being blanketed in snow.  According to the UK Met office, the last time the UK experienced this level of freeze was 30 years ago.  As a result of the snow, the country came to a grinding holt but luck was in hand-  A group of volunteers had formed a 4x4 response group (now segmented into different counties) to assist with the transport of hospital staff, care workers and the misc recovery incidents.
I responded to an advert asking for volunteers in the Hampshire & Berkshire area.

The UK Hampshire and Berkshire 4x4 Response Group
The team of volunteers all have one thing in common - a 4x4 of somesort & the desire to contribute to the community through a volunteer program.  The website ( provides a good overview of the organisation.

Assessment Day 
Prior to starting the volunteer service, each member needs to attend an assessment day.  During the morning session, one of the committee members will ask about your experience with a 4wd vehicle, review your recovery equipment and provide general thoughts on any subject ranging from vehicle preperation, recovery equipment and effective use and the type of responses encountered.

I arrived at the morning session in my Toyota Land Cruiser (Colorado 3.0TD) and parked next to a TD5 Defender.   About 18 vehicles arrived in total - most where Land Rover Discovery's and Defenders but there were a spattering of other makes, namely, my Toyota, a Jeep Wrangler, a Nissan double cab and a Mitsubishi Delica.

As the snow continued to drift down, we had a quick briefing about the Response Group, following by the vehicle assessment and a drive around the snow covered field.

Next Steps
After completing the assessment, you will be allocated a call sign (username) and will be ready to respond to any requirements.

That's it from my side - I will keep the blog updated on any responses I am able to respond to. In summary, I was impressed with the teams commitment to helping the community when needs must.  I am looking forward to adding my vehicle to the fleet of volunteers.

Please visit the website for more information.  If you are a business that depends of mission-critical staff (doctors, nurses, public service etc), I recommend that you contact the team as they can assist in coordinating the volunteers to provide you with a service.

Selection of photos:
Click for more photos:

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Twitter Update - Man 8136 Truck by Chris Scott

A good article by Chris Scott on his Man Truck preparation -

Choosing an overland route

Which route is best for a Trans-Africa trip?  Is it West Africa, East Africa or perhaps a combination of both? In this article I outline the primary route options.  These options are available regardless if your preferred option is North to South or visa versa.

I am in no way a guru on the finer details of the various routes, however, through The Africa Overland Network site, I have come to recognize the most common routes people have travelled.

Heading South or Heading North?

Majority of overlanders tend to head South from Europe rather than North from Southern Africa.  Either way, there are two major route options.