Showing posts with label planning. Show all posts
Showing posts with label planning. Show all posts

Monday, 2 June 2014

Space at a Premium (Packing notes)

(Just a short rundown of how I’ve packed for my lon-term South American trip that starts with a 1-way ticket to Brazil)

Packing a backpack for long-term travel can be challenging and that’s putting it mildly!  My backpack is a travel-bag i.e. the straps are covered for when the travel is by air or road (bus/taxis). Quite handy this as there’s less risk of the straps being used to catapult your bag to the other side of a packing area. 

These bags do present a small problem though when packing pre-flight as a sleeping bag is best off inside the bag. Personally I don’t feel like getting my bag back minus the sleeping bag at the other end. Once out walking or trekking, it can be attached to the bottom of the backpack. With the sleeping bag inside though, space is suddenly at a greater premium than before.

I’ve managed to squeeze quite a bit of things in mainly made possible by rolling clothing items up really tight. In addition to that, what many people won’t have, my SMB & reel (inflatable buoy & reel for diving) and dive log are in there as well. You want to take certain things with, you have to be willing to compromise on others. So here’s photos showing the 3 levels of packing that I went through with the back pack…;


In this bag other than the sleeping bag, clothes, and the mention dive log and reel, there’s also a small 1st Aid kit, Mozzie net, Sleeping bag liner, gaiters, rain trousers, toiletries (including a few extras/spares) and a few smaller bits and bobs like small screwdrivers, AA batteries etc.

As for the tripod, Manfrotto have a really cool bag for their tripods which I’m using to put a few other bits and bobs plus a hiking pole in. This is in a ‘net’ dive bag which could later on serve as an extra bag if needed. If airline allowances only allow one bag, then I just strap the tripod bag to the backpack.


Cameras, lenses, hard drives, other gadgets and laptop go into my day pack that’s my carry-on for the flights. Obviously, also a clear plastic packet with my travel size toiletries (as required for security checks after checking in).

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Friday, 30 May 2014

Permiso por favor? (International Driver’s Licence)

IDP for the 1968 Convention
If you driving anywhere on your travels, it’s almost certain that you’ll be asked this question “Driver’s licence/permit please?” Not necessarily in Spanish but you will be asked to produce that little favourite fetish of all traffic cops around the world. Unless, you’re European and driving around Europe, South African driving in Southern Africa, (or other similar regionals allowances) you’ll need an International Driver’s Licence (IDP).

“That’s simple!” you say. Oh, of course - if you’re travelling only to one or two countries or by coincidence, countries that have all ratified the same international Convention on Road Traffic. Thing is that if you’re deciding to travel your way around and through a continent the chances are slim that the one IDP will be valid for all the countries.

Where do I get an IDP?: In South Africa this can be done through the AA (Automobile Association) who have various Travel Shop’s throughout the country - except in North West Province for some odd reason! Thus in other countries, if there is an AA or other equivalent Automobile Association, contact them for information on IDP’s. Worst case, they’ll tell you where you can get the IDP. Keep in mind that this is one document that can only (officially anyway) be issued in your country of residence.

How much will it cost?:  In South Africa, and now May 2014 when I went to get my new IDP’s, it cost ZAR 265 each, so c.US$20 each. As far as I know this more or less the average price for an IDP in other countries too.

List showing countries of the Americas and which conventions they've ratified.

Which IDP?:  Getting my IDP for South America turned out to be a similar ‘debacle’ where no matter how I tried to work around it, there would be at least one other IDP for Brazil and Uruguay. Two conventions i.e. 1943 and 1968 are applicable here. The former also being the one will help you through most of the America’s. The countries that ratified the 1968 convention (very handy one this as it’s validity is up to 3 years, subject of course to the expiry date of your driver’s licence from your country of residence) overlap some of the 1943 signatory countries - what to do? Well, get both! So once again I embark on a trip with two IDP’s with one valid for 12 months and the other till August 2016 when I need to renew my South African driver’s licence.

IDP for the 1943 Convention
Checking your IDP:  Before you leave the issuing office, you have to check that all details have been entered and the relevant stamps applied to the umpteen spots requiring rubber stamps. Ensure that you’ve signed your IDP - the consultant will show where the dotted line is. Your photo must have at least one rubber stamp that is over the edges of the photo edges, and then the relevant vehicle class(es)/codes will be stamped. In some IDP’s, every category that you’re qualified for has to be stamped.

Expiring IDP while travelling:  Going back to your home country to get a new IDP every 12 months is royal pain in the proverbial! In case you think you’ll be out of your home country around the time your IDP expires, leave certified copies of your driver’s licence, passport, national ID and some passport size photos with a friend or family member. A month before your IDP expires, you set the wheels in motion to let the friend/family member apply for your new IDP which they can then send you wherever in the world you are.


Safe driving! Remember to make sure which side of the road you have to drive too!
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Thursday, 3 April 2014

Why I travel and live on the road

This is something I get asked a lot when asked about my travels and usually after I mentioned that I have no return date in mind. The replies and questions (accompanied by looks of shock) range from
"...but where do you live? ME: Where I sleep that night."
"...won't you miss home? ME: How can I when 'home' is where I am at the time?!"
"...where are you going to stay? ME: I'll figure that out when I get there."
"...you are mad! ME: Probably, I've been called worse than that before."

As a youngster I made myself a promise that I would never do anything I don't enjoy. So now in the event I reach the point I don't enjoy something, or realise I will reach that point soon, I pack up and go! Yes, there are things I do that might as a whole not be that enjoyable but I find the part of it that I do enjoy and focus on that - AND use it as a tool to reach or achieve another goal.

Now travelling is something that as a kid I always said I want to do especially being paid to travel. Since leaving school, my jobs have always had some form of travel aspect in it or as in the last 13 years - travel is an integral part of the job i.e. I'm living out my childhood dream which fuels my passion for travelling even more. But what in travel is it you're looking for you ask...well, it's firstly about getting out my comfort zone. Over time this has come to be the best part of it, from the planning through to the actual travel is to new places and/or via new routes and invariably, comes with new challenges.

You see, I don't do 'bored' and I need to the challenges - that's my drug if anything. Travel presents challenges all the time, it's about you approach and deal with them that makes the reward great. Just the planning for the next phase/trip itself presents challenges. This is one of the times that I'm at my happiest and most content and the planning just takes over my thoughts everything right up to D-day when there's at least a hint of butterflies in the stomach - that little addictive drug called adrenaline!

The other thing is that I've always enjoyed learning new about new cultures, people and places - this is what travel gives you; whether you actually choose to learn from it is obviously up to you. I'm one of those travellers that seldom go and look up expats from my own country, not that I'm averse to it (they have some great advice and tips sometimes) but if I wanted to meet South Africans I could just stay in the country and not leave its borders.

Travel also feeds my other passions i.e. birding/wildlife, diving and photography. There's always something new to photograph, a whole new set of birds and wildlife to see and enjoy and then places to dive with different conditions, new wrecks etc. Whilst these passions can be fed, I'm as happy as Larry and not much will convince me otherwise. When I feel down in the dumps (yes, it does happen), these passions are the things that keep me sane. I'll go out and spend hours alone with my camera or, - dive and spend some quality underwater time with my own thoughts.

Then there's my life wish-list of places to go and things to do. This is the headline of it all pretty much; travel to see places and do things I've dreamt about and this will culminate in me indulging in my other passions of birding/wildlife, diving and photography. Mid-2011 was a big one for me as I did the solo trip from Zimbabwe to Mali through West Africa. This was a childhood dream come true and had been No 2 on my life wish-list - driving into Bamako, capital of Mali, at the end of that trip was one of the most incredible moments of mixed emotions. Sad that the trip was over, overwhelmed that I had just realised a childhood dream and thankful that I had made it one piece with no/little physical injuries or worse.

Just remember, and this is what I believe, one only gets an opportunity ONCE - you don't take it, you will not get the opportunity again. Maybe something similar but it won't be that one plus you'll always wonder  What if...? A question I refuse to allow into my vocabulary - just No "what ifs"! Yes, there will always be risks, so what! There are risks when you cross the street, a substantially bigger risk than all the others we try and convince ourselves of. It must be about a half-full glass, not a half-empty glass.

So the moral of this little 'story'? Start doing what you enjoy, it will feed your passions and waking up in the morning will always be a happy affair (not referring to feel crap because you have a hangover or whatever) - happy because you're doing something you enjoy or is getting you to a long-sought after goal.
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Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Trip Planning (Personal docs 2)

Now we have the personal contact sheet, what's the next batch of documents we need for a trip? Keep in mind that these tips relating to documents are generally in respect of a multi-country trip but is just as applicable for a visit to just one country. The copies of the documents below should be made into batches and then spread the batches around your bags, one batch in each bag at least including carry-on luggage and then one that is always at hand. It would be worth scanning (with a smartphone will do) all the documents and e-mailing one set to your e-mail address
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Africa Trip Planning (Personal Docs 1)

Crossing Africa by whatever means has been the attraction for many an explorer and intrepid traveller. The "Dark Continent", as it is still referred to by those who have not experienced the delights, spills and drama Africa provides, can be very much in your face. Most will either fall in love with it or just hate it straight out with the minority of travellers falling into the latter category. My saying has always been "...the only constant in Africa is that nothing is constant!"
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