South America Overland Review - southamericaoverland.com
Replies: 6 - Last Post: Dec 13, 2012 10:54 AM Last Post By: enroutesiglo
Nov 29, 2012 11:12 AM
South America Overland Review - southamericaoverland.comIt’s cheap. What were you expecting?!?
Overall experience: Above average (My expectation level was low).
The Truck: The truck can be slow-going. A journey that takes 4 hours by car or 6 hours by bus would take about 10 hours on the truck. Road conditions, lack of local knowledge (getting lost), toilet/photo/smoko and meal stops contribute to long days. The truck is not a turbo diesel and was overloaded (at various weigh-stations the passengers were required to run back-and-forth as each axle slowly went over to manipulate the scales to avoid a fine/delay) so you’ll notice every incline. On the other hand, you do get to visit some out-of-the-way places. The truck’s library is equipped with travel guides (Lonely Planet, Footprint etc.) - use them – especially when it comes to optional activities. Due to the long days some complaints were that there is no time to organize activities for yourself and are ‘locked in’ to doing SAO activities which are generally more expensive than what one can find on the street. The easiest solution is to get a sim card which costs about USD1 and book ahead. Calls are cheap and coverage is generally excellent. The tour leader will more often than not give you dates you are expected to arrive at places so it is certainly possible to shop around. All seats face inwards which means that while you aren’t facing forwards at least there’s plenty of leg space. At one stage of the trip, every seat in the truck was occupied and incredibly uncomfortable on the 12-13 hour drive days. Tents storage has been moved inside the truck and inconvenient to access. With a full truck, there are only 3 sockets for charging on board – don’t rely on it. Truck duties are not burdensome with so many people and a truck clean only took a few hours out of the day once every few months.
The Food: The food budgets in Ecuador, Peru, Chile and Argentina have been very reasonable. Depending on the number of passengers on the truck and the amount of camping will determine how often you have to cook. There was no cooking in Bolivia. The practice of the cook group eating last doesn’t help with ensuring every passenger gets fed. It means that some groups dish out measly portions. This is not because of the budget. The budgets aren’t always being fully used or are spent on imported or more expensive items rather than available produce. Also, there are too many meals cooked from the truck ostensibly because staff gets their food included. When camping in towns it has been expected that we continue to cook from the truck kitchen. This contravenes the company promoting new culinary experiences by dining in local establishments. There is an issue with a lack of gas. While preparing toast is a waste, usage has significantly increased when there are 28 people onboard! Finally, a good standard of hygiene in the kitchen is not always maintained. I recommend washing your cutlery and bowls before you eat.
The Kitty: Each person has a separate kitty account. You can view your account at the convenience of the tour leader. That being said, the kitty account can be easily manipulated (e.g. with an unfavorable exchange rate as everything has to come back to USD). There seems little incentive to negotiate – items such as firewood which you don’t really think of being split over 20 or so people at $1.50 a head ($30 in total!) seemed much too high. At least with the kitty system if you don’t use it, you don’t lose it and you get back the leftovers at the end of the day (or pay more into it!!).
The Accommodation: The type of accommodation selected by SAO is limited by truck access (it is quite high), the number of passengers to be accommodated and availability in some areas. If you don’t like it, you can book your own. As long as you give enough warning to the leader your kitty is not affected.
Luggage: There is a generous amount of locker space on the truck that equates to about 70 litres per person. Each locker is shared by 2 people. The opening to the locker is small. This means that full backpacks generally don’t fit through the narrow opening (you just have to empty them a little). Due to the type of weather – we camped in -18C in Bolivia and well over 30C nearer the coasts – bring a good sleeping bag that compresses. Sleeping bags purchased on the tour simply did not fit in the lockers with other gear. While there haven’t been any security issues thus far, the lockers aren’t as secure as stated on the website (some windows don’t lock – it’s not a matter of shutting them properly). Like most overland trucks it leaks in heavy rain. Lockers near the front were the worst for this. Garbage bags were provided; wrap your bags in this!
You think you’re travelling with like-minded people. Sometimes this is the case. More often it’s been with a group of diverse easy-going individuals (i.e. easy-going until something doesn’t go their way).
Nov 29, 2012 12:58 PM
Nov 29, 2012 2:14 PM
Nov 29, 2012 5:19 PM
Nov 30, 2012 5:57 PM
4I seriously don't get traveling like this in South America. There are good, reasonably comfortable buses almost everywhere. If you want to get really off the beaten path then you can get a taxi or driver for a couple of days and go exactly where you want. Much more cost effective than this idiotic tour.
Dec 13, 2012 3:52 AM
Dec 13, 2012 10:54 AM
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