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 28 week trip to Australia

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Derrick241
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PostSubject: 28 week trip to Australia   Mon Apr 08, 2013 4:51 am

Now this review is just MY opinion, I am not telling anyone NOT to go on the trip

You will visit countries you have never been too or in some cases never thought of visiting

This is a review of my 28 week trip to Australia with UktoOZ (Madventure)

It was a 28 week adventure going across Europe, Asia and ending up in Sydney, Australia

I will try and be as informative and as unbiased as possible

We were greeted by the owners, the driver and the expedition leader at Hammersmith

Our bags, tents were put on the bus/truck, last minute forms signed, payments made, travel insurance/passports checked

We left Hammersmith at 6am; we set off for Dover, where we took the ferry to Calais

On the way to Dover, our expedition leader informed us she was just a leader and not a guide, she had no idea or knowledge about the places we would be going to or visiting, all information regarding food, accommodation would be supplied to her via email from the UktoOZ office

We were told that it would be expected to assist the driver with map reading, truck break downs, as he was just a driver, these weren’t part of his job remit

We were told that if we were ever stopped in Europe by any authorities, we were to say we were just a group travelling together, the bus (more on the ‘bus/truck’ later) was unwritten, no information on who the company was, and travel through Europe was ‘free’

We were shown where the ‘safe’ was and 2 people assigned the keys for it

I don’t know if we were insured during our travel across Europe, but we all had travel insurance for the 28 weeks were would be travelling

We were told this was a ‘budget’ trip and constantly reminded of it

We were organised into cook groups and fire making groups, bus/truck cleaning groups

We had gas on board, but most fires would be with wood (no wood was purchased on the trip)

We would be camping in Europe and in other countries, with hostels where camping was not possible

Most of the camp sites we used were on rubbish tips, very few camp grounds

We were fed on a $1 a day, (2 meals a day, we had to provide our own lunch) our leader did the shopping with the cook group, we always got the cheapest food available, usually from a market, but in Europe, and super stores were used (Tesco, Carrefour) there was dried food, condiments already on the bus/truck

Breakfast consisted of toast, muesli, maybe porridge, tea/coffee/water; our evening meal was generally pasta, rice, vegetables, potatoes, whatever was bought by the cook group, any fruit was bought by the individual for their own consumption

The bus/truck was on a extended cement mixer chassis with a box on the top to accommodate passengers, the bus/truck was capable of carrying 40 passengers, there were 20 on our trip of various ages, occupations, the seats all faced forward, like a bus, there were curtains on the front windows, there were charging stations for laptops, iPods, phones, cameras, kindles

There was no heating, AC in the bus/truck

There were various books, travel guides provided; some people ‘donated’ other books, guides

There was storage beneath the cab for ruck sacks, tents, sleeping bags, tents, cooking gear, dry food, there were eskies provided for fresh food bought along the way, there was no fridge, ice was bought along the way (not by the company though, passengers were expected to buy this)day bags were kept with the individual

There was a ‘local’ payment to be used for food, accommodation, public transport, extras, the accounts for expenditure was never seen or discussed

When we made a lunch stop, they always seemed to be in places that were either ‘fast food’ or next to an open sewer (mainly
in India/Pakistan) the chances of getting good food was very minimal

If anyone left the trip no refunds would be given, any local payment wouldn’t be used to improve the remaining members of the group

We were responsible for getting our own visas, but our guide would provide any information required and get them if required, with our payment, passport and photos

If there was any disruption on the trip and we weren’t able to get into a country, we would be responsible for booking our own flights/accommodation (Iran, Pakistan, Tibet, China) we would be sent an email by the tour leader when to book flights

Any other trips (parks, volunteering, activities, paragliding, museums, sights) we did we would pay for them ourselves, if we left the trip to do anything or our application for a visa wasn’t granted we had to sign a waiver form absolving them of any responsibilities to us

The Chinese closed the border to Tibet, so we lost the bus/truck/driver in Kathmandu, all onward travel would be on public transport, paid for by the ‘local’ payment, we would be using buses, trains, sleeper buses, sleeper trains, taxis, tuk tuks, walking and aircraft (the flights weren’t paid for by the company though)

This seriously affected the group, they would only have what they could carry, and tents, sleeping bags, extra clothes, and gifts were sent home from Kathmandu there would be no more camping, all accommodation would be in hostels, and they would be the cheapest/most basic available (regardless of the condition, cleanliness,) no food was provided while in hostels

Some people sent their tents, sleeping bags, mattress home or onwards to Darwin, this was extra costs some couldn’t afford

There were several people that fell ill on the trip in India, Pakistan; they went down with dehydration, heat exhaustion, sickness and vomiting, diarrhoea, some had to visit hospital, a couple decided they couldn’t continue with the trip and went home, they got no help/advice/sympathy from the leader/driver/company (this would continue throughout the trip with anyone who left the trip or was ill,) we had to rely on the rest of the group for help, getting medicine’s, food, water, hydration packs, bag carrying, getting them to our transport, this wasn’t our leaders job (I did help quite a few people on our trip, I never suffered from any illness)

Some couldn’t get a Pakistan visa and had to get a flight to India, where we would meet up, (their flight and accommodation/food would be at their own cost) at a point designated by our leader

We were sent a ‘feedback’ form in Kathmandu; several people told them about the conduct of our driver, leader, (which wasn’t very professional,) the accommodations we used, the food (several people lost a lot of weight during this trip, in excess of 10kilos) which was quite appalling in the majority of cases, the diet was mainly rice, pasta dishes, the vegetarians got very little protein in their diet (ours wasn’t much better)

We had armed guards during our travel through Pakistan, the guards were changed every few days (they would have been no use what so ever, their weapons were filthy, the guards were old men) I had to show the 'no fear' special forces police how to clean their weapons, as far as I was concerned they werent weapons, they were expenxive clubs

We had a government guide in Iran; we had to check in at police stations along the way, our guide was very good, but run fouls of our driver and leader and was dumped at the side of the road after a row between them

While we were in Iran, some bought rugs and carpets, our leader got a very good commision from any shops where they were bought, we could only use shops she 'recommended or were taken too, I found my own shops throughout the trip

The hostels we used along the way, some were very good, some were rat/bug infested hovels, most were dirty, some had showers, cold water, a European WC, some a hole, some just had a cold water outlet for a shower, and some had A/C, some just a fan we could upgrade to a better room (a room with A/C, a shower with hot/cold water, beds with sheets, pillows), but that would be at our own cost, I did upgrade just to get a cleaner room

There were quite a few dormitories in the hostels we used, mixed dormitories were the cheapest and used quite often

There were rats, bed bugs, mosquitoes, various biting insects in most Indian, Pakistan, Asian hostels, mosquito nets were bought, or insect repellant, most were filthy, the beds were just mattresses on the floor in most cases, mixed dormitories were used a lot, regardless of age, sex, religion

The ferry we used from Singapore to Indonesia was ridden with cock roaches, rats and bed bugs, flies, mosquitoes, but there was an opportunity to ‘upgrade’ to a shared cabin, we were assigned to 3rd class beds

The sleeper trains/buses we used would be at night, there would be a saving on accommodation this way,

Our leader would assign rooms, give out keys, then leave us to pursue her own activities, she would leave a note at reception about our onward travel, time to meet, we would get an email about our next countries itinerary (this would come from the office in the UK)

We were told that we could book our flights to Darwin, but at the time we were told, the airfares had trebled, the information was available in China, but not sent to us, as she had not got word from the company

This caused quite a bit of hardship/disappointment among some on the trip, they couldn’t afford the onward travel to Australia so had to go home or other destinations, of the 24 that started the trip, 12 made it all the way to Sydney

We arrived in Darwin, Australia, by our driver (who had left us in Kathmandu) he would now be responsible for food shopping, arranging park tickets, but we never had our bus/truck, they had hired a 15 seater bus with a trailer which held all our bags, cooking equipment, food, eskies, again no ice was bought by the company, but the quality of the food improved, but still only 2 meals a day, we never spent long going across Australia

We did the journey in 12 days, with a lot of time spent looking out of the window, when we did stop anywhere it would be for a few hours only and usually was just food shopping, with very little time to look around, and other tour companies take 22 days

The bush camps was a lot better, they may not have been on camp sites, but were fine and not on rubbish tips, only drawback was there were no showers, washing facilities for the 12 days travel across Australia

We arrived in Sydney and unloaded the mini bus, trailer and everyone departed to their own destinations or continue travelling onward, there was no welcome email or well done from the company, in fact I haven’t heard from them since the feedback form was sent in Kathmandu

..................................................................................................................................................................

Now this is just on a personal note

I was told this was a budget trip, no frills, this I can accept,

I did expect to be fed good, healthy, nutritious, tasty food (as they stated on their website)

But the conduct of our leader, driver and the company wasn’t very professional, by their dress or attitude, the leader started an affair with a passenger in Istanbul, she lied about the ‘local payment’ expenditure, she told us she never discussed the itinerary with anyone, but was caught many times discussing it with her boyfriend/passenger, she was never interested in the welfare of the passengers, I don’t know if she was sacked or left the company in Bali, but when she started her affair, the trip went from bad to worse, but she left in Bali when we flew off to Darwin

Her daughter/ boyfriend joined us in Thailand, again no one knows if she paid for any of the services provided by the company or local payment, but she stayed at the same hostels, used the same method of transport

Her (our leader) attitude did change nearer to the end of the trip, she was expecting a tip from everyone on the trip (this was explained in the notes on the UktoOZ website, a $1 a day was expected, a tip is given when someone does a bit extra, goes the extra mile, or just shows an interest, she did none of them,) she never got a tip from anyone

The driver was just that, he had no idea about truck maintenance, he always needed help with changing punctures, blow outs, only ever bought second hand tyres, (without knowing the history of them,) he dressed in clothes that weren’t fit for a dustbin, he never joined in a cook group, truck clean, he bought his girl friend along on the trip, no one knows if she paid for the trip (the driver was expecting a tip at the end of the trip as well, but he told our guide and guards in Iran and Pakistan, he didn’t give tips to people doing their job, he never got a tip either at the end of the trip)

The attitude of the company and owners was quite appalling, both with their response to questions and replies to the feedback, their attitude was ‘we have your money, now get on with it’ all hostels were cheap (okay even that I can accept) but they should be clean and provide basic accommodation, not a mattress on the floor and a room for 2 being used by 4 to keep costs down

Mixed dormitories should never be used

All the accommodation we stayed at was at the cheapest end of the market, any travel arrangements was the cheapest available (it saved money if we travelled at night on a train or bus

The owners of the company started another trip, so information coming from them was slow or late (our guide wouldn’t/couldn’t do anything without their say so)

The information from the company was minimal with regard to health, countries visited, security

They rewrote the terms and conditions halfway through our trip, (print them off BEFORE you go) to reflect some of the peoples taking them to court under EU law

The bus/truck was very uncomfortable to travel in the layout not very good for conversation, making friends or even just sleeping, there were hours spent just looking out of the window, the itinerary was cast in stone, it would never changed or altered, we arrived in Darwin on the specified date and time

We spent just a few hours in some really interesting places, but days in places that were either miles from anywhere or just had nothing there, we had a 2 week stopover in Kathmandu, but it increased everyone’s expenditure, we had to pay for our own food and accommodation for the whole time, I thought it was a waste of time

There was no welcome back email or feedback form from them, which I found very disappointing, as most companies get more travellers by improving their trips or complimentary reviews, I couldn’t give this company a good review, and I would never use their services again, even though they are the only company that goes all the way to Australia

Once you have handed over your money that is about it they have a complete disregard of duty of care, health, security

Before you book with them, be very, very sure you know what you are getting into, what the companies responsibilities are, what yours are, who pays for what, because after a payment is made;

There will be no refunds for any reason

The trip just gives a snap shot of places, countries you visit, you don’t see the best of each country, you see the worst, poorer parts, you have no choice in places you visit, stay in, trips they have,

I would say do the trip (at your own risk) and revisit the countries you like, enjoyed, but at your own speed, and leisure, and better accommodations, transport, cheap is good, but you don’t have to stay in a rat, bug, insect, mosquito infested rat hole that is called a hostel


These are the vehicles we used, they are elongated cement trucks with a cabin bolted to the chassis, we were told these are 'custom' built (by Stevie Wober and Ray Charles I presume)

We used the Scania truck, the other was left in Chitwan, it had been there a year, there was a problem with the gear box, but it wouldnt start when that was tried



The storage is in the lockers below the passenger area, this contains our bags, tents, dry and fresh foods, cooking utensils



The gas bottle and untensils




Storage crates for food




Food preparation



Last edited by Derrick241 on Mon Apr 08, 2013 5:30 am; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : phpyp additions)
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Derrick241
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PostSubject: Re: 28 week trip to Australia   Mon Apr 08, 2013 5:03 am

The insides of the vehicle, spend 28 weeks travelling in this

The rubbish area, brushes, bins, and water bottle storage



Front seats



looking at the rear seating area



Firewood storage and rear entry



Rear seating area (the worst place to travel on this truck)



the front seats, the best place to travel, also the hottest, it could get upto 45C= here



24 started on this trip, 12 eventually got to Australia, it was the lowest ever on a trip like this


Last edited by Derrick241 on Mon Apr 08, 2013 5:35 am; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : additional information about the bus)
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PostSubject: Re: 28 week trip to Australia   Mon Apr 08, 2013 5:56 am

this is the vehicle we used in Australia, a Toyota bus, there was seating for 15 people there was 12 of us, and our bags, it was very cramped

The trailer was for the cooking gear and water, we did manage to get our tents in there, but it was very dusty, it wasnt sealed






Our driver was told not to drive on soft sand, he refused to listen, of course he knew better, and we got bogged down, we had to empty the trailer, push the bus, then carry everything from the trailer to the road, the driver meanwhile checked the bus was okay

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PostSubject: Re: 28 week trip to Australia   Mon Apr 08, 2013 10:57 am

Wow! Whether the trip was good value or not, legal or not (it obviously wasn't), those on board loved or loathed it, the one thing you can't deny - it was a memorable adventure. Whether you would want to ever repeat the experience is another matter entirely, but I for one am jealous I never had the opportunity to join in something like that. INCREDIBLE!

... and thanks for sharing it with us. thumbsup

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PostSubject: Re: 28 week trip to Australia   Mon Apr 08, 2013 8:38 pm

It was a good trip/trek

Saw a lot of places I never thought of going to

But the trip could have been made better by having a proper guide rather than a leader, a driver who had a bit of mechanical knowledge

It is unfortunate you cant pick the people you travel with

Some had never been on a trip like this, some didnt know how to cook for a group, some didnt know how to light a fire, one girl hadnt even taken her tent out of the wrapper and had no idea how to put it up :shock:

The ages ranged from 18-70, some complained on the whole trip

Anyone should be aware that things dont go to plan (flights will go up, the accomadtion will be at the lower end of the market, there will be extra expenditure, one you have paid your money, the owners will wash their hands of you

There are laws the owners disregard with reference to money, the company is bust and is running on a wing and a prayer with every trip, there is very little margin for error, if you pull out for any reason there will be no refunds

Anyway here is a photo of the group that went, we picked up 2 more in India, some didnt get all the visa's required and had to fly over those countries


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PostSubject: Re: 28 week trip to Australia   Tue Apr 09, 2013 2:26 am

Looks like a 50/50 gender split. Bearing in mind it's a 'family forum', was there any romance NAH!!! Was there any 'naughties' between the participants? Twisted Evil

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PostSubject: Re: 28 week trip to Australia   Tue Apr 09, 2013 2:57 am

Only Romantic 'liason' was betwwn out leader and a passenger,(and yes there was plenty of 'naughties with them)

But there was some strange people on there, some happy go lucky, some pretty ordinary and some really grumpy people, there was one couple having an extended honeymoon, a retired police inspector and his wife, an outward bound instructor who didnt know how to light a fire or cook on a campfire

A lad who was deaf, too many people who had never had a job and were straight from university (and of course ran out of money, got homesick, fell ill)

I got fed up taking people to hospital, just for dehydration and bad stomachs (all they had to do the same as I did, wash your hands as often as possible, was all fruit, even if it does have a skin on it, only eat 'street food' if you have seen them cook it)

There was one Canadian (female), one Australian (a bloke, 2 Germans (a couple) who flew from Poland to India (which I found quite funny)

But there was no blokes trying to pull the girls (they werent that good or worth the effort)

I ended up teaching people how to light a fire, but most used a whole box of matches, I dont understand that, it only takes one match to start a forest fire lol!




(I have an entry for getting to Everest Base camp to post, I did that while I was on this trip, I did it with the candian girl) Smile
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PostSubject: Re: 28 week trip to Australia   Tue Apr 09, 2013 4:19 am

Very good read, and that you got to the end.

look forward to some more of your travels. clinking teacups

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PostSubject: Re: 28 week trip to Australia   Tue Apr 09, 2013 6:13 am

"an outward bound instructor who didnt know how to light a fire or cook on a campfire"

and

"But there was no blokes trying to pull the girls (they werent that good or worth the effort)"

Priceless! laughing pound

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