… with overlanding advice you can’t ignore
Sam shares top tips on storing roof tents, how to cook Christmas dinner on a campfire and reveals how a social media SOS saved some overlanders
Love it or hate it, social media is now inseparable from the modern world – and from the world of Land Rovers. There’s always someone around on the popular Facebook Land Rover pages, and this can be very useful. Recently in the wet season a group of overlanders drove into the mud pan at Lac Maider in the desert of southern Morocco and misjudged ground conditions. All their vehicles (including a Defender) got stuck in thick glutinous mud caused by heavy rains.
In desperation they messaged a friend on Facebook, asking if anyone was able to help them. The friend was 340 miles away in Essaouria and too far to help physically, but he in turn put a message on the Overlanding Morocco Facebook page asking if anyone could assist. More than 4600 miles away (and three hours ahead in time difference) in Dubai I was online, saw the message and sent a text to a Moroccan Berber friend who lives in Tafraoute, about two miles from Lac Maider itself. He runs a small garage in the middle of the oasis village, and he was able to drive out to the mud pan and recover the stricken vehicles. All thanks to Facebook. There’s always someone around who can help, so never be afraid to ask.
Going through the roof
It’s that time of year when many of us take roof tents and awnings off and put them into storage for the winter months. It’s also a good time for a bit of preventative maintenance – they are expensive bits of kit, after all. When storing a tent, especially a roof tent, putting laundry dryer sheets inside (sometimes called fabric softener sheets) as you fold it away can prevent the smell of stale cloth that can build up in some models. Zip fasteners can oxidise or seize up during periods of storage so, to prevent this, treat them with beeswax, silicone paste or silicone grease. Silicone spray or WD-40 (or similar) also works, but it can discolour fabric. To clean dust out of a tent zip use a toothbrush soaked in WD-40.
Don’t put roof tents away wet. If you do have to, open them out to dry (ideally in sunlight) as soon afterwards as you can. If mildew stains occur because of damp storage, wash them in a solution of Dettol (or Lysol) and hot water, brush clean, and then rinse in a solution of lemon juice and salt in hot water. For best effect, allow to dry in sunlight – the ultraviolet component of sunlight will help remove residue. However, you may need to waterproof the tent again after this treatment.
Opening for business
Three years ago the interior of the Egyptian desert became off-limits for overlanders because of security concerns, and so removed some of the best off-roading in the world from the options open to potential travellers.
The first signs of the relaxation of this restriction are starting to appear. The President has assured the media and local residents that the White Desert and the Great Sand Sea will fully reopen ‘soon’, and limited desert travel is now possible around the oases of Siwa and Bahariya in addition to the widely travelled areas of northern Faiyum and Wadi El Rayan. The man to talk to if Egypt is on your planned route through Africa is Nick Rockingham, a Brit who runs We Know Egypt, a safari company based in Maadi in southern Cairo. His email is [email protected]knowegypt.com – Nick is an experienced desert driver himself, and is accustomed to dealing with overlanders and helping out with guides and permits.
Cooking up a storm
I spend a lot of time at the moment exploring the mountains and wadis of the eastern UAE, and tend to cook with a campfire. Campfire cookery is not as easy as you may think, but a few experiences have passed my way that may be interesting for those having a go or even those who are old hands.
Burning sage on a campfire creates aromatic smoke, which repels mosquitoes. If you are a fan of bacon and eggs but hate washing up, take a paper bag, line it with four pieces of fatty bacon, crack two eggs into it, place it on a grill and heat slowly over red-hot coals. The fat will melt and line the paper bag, and the bacon and eggs will cook nicely. Burn the bag after eating – no washing up! Do put the bag on a plate or something when eating, as the fat can escape and stain clothing.
If you’re one of those people who always burns the meat on the barbecue or in the coals of the fire, wrap the pieces in cabbage leaves. It keeps the meat moist and it won’t burn as easily – works with Christmas turkey too! On that note, if you do happen to be overlanding during the festive period and want to cook Christmas dinner on the campfire, it’s easiest to make foil parcels of a turkey breast, a cup of stuffing, half a cup of gravy, a cup of veg, dried cranberries and salt, pepper and thyme. Spray the inside of the foil with fat, and cook each one in the embers for about 20 minutes. Merry Christmas!
‘Recently in the wet season, a group of overlanders misjudged the conditions and got their vehicles stuck’