Wednesday, 21 November 2012

22 November - In Australia

I did decide that this blog would end in Sydney as it was meant only to cover the trip from London to Sydney. I have been told by various people that they want it to continue as I am still travelling. At this point I have no fixed idea as to when I will return to the UK. Since leaving the others in Sydney I have been up to Papua New Guinea for three weeks and have now returned to Australia to see various friends in this country. This will take as long as it takes and then I intend to return to Bali and make a trip to see the Komodo Dragons in Java before going back to Singapore to visit my family there. I will continue the blog as soon as I am able as I do not have my laptop with me and rely on the use of friends computers or internet cafes.

22 October - MADVENTURE/UKTOOZ Comment Form

To those reading this blog I should explain that the comment form below was sent to everyone on the trip while we were in India. This was because there had been so many complaints as to what was going on during their trip that one member requested the form early as it would normally have been sent while we were resting in Nepal. Since the completion of the trip there has been no contact by Madventure with anyone on the trip as far as I am aware, it's as if we no longer exist. They took our money and that was all they were interested in, is what I think. The completed form, which has been sent to Madventure, is shown below.

(I have looked at the Madventure site for the official trip blog which stops in Singapore on 6 October. No mention has been made of the journey from Singapore across to Indonesia and Bali or indeed the ride from Darwin to Sydney. Up to Singapore the blog indicated everything to have been perfect and one could have not expected anything less as it was written by our illustrious leader's 'item'. They did travel as far as Bali then left everyone else while we continued to Sydney. Again I think that failure of the blog to indicate the true conditions of the trip and not complete the trip is an implied comment as to the poor quality trip as a whole. Indicating on the official blog that everyone should "Follow us on the biggest road trip ever" was a big mistake made right at the start).

What were your first impressions of the truck, the equipment and the set up?

Having had no other experience of a trip of this sort I had nothing to compare them with.
Now I am concerned that with the overhang on the rear of the truck that it is fit for purpose in that when driven fast and hitting a bump the driver has a job maintaining control of the truck. As I sat mostly at the rear I have felt that there has been occasions when the truck has nearly turned over due to the highly exaggerated movement of the truck.

No thought has been given to the sleeping arrangement when people have to sleep on the truck such as supplying boards to fit across seats so that people can stretch out. Also, there has been no thought given to ventilation when sleeping on the truck in very hot countries. I have slept on there once, never again! As I assume that the truck has been in use for a number years without comment from others then you will probably disregard such a comment as this. 

The seats are not very comfortable. The only saving grace with regards to them is the fact that the truck was only half full so we had two seats each. If the truck had been full it would have been most uncomfortable. Some of the seat back hydraulic devices were not working when we left London.

How did you find the layout of the truck?

If by layout you mean the lockers etc. then I have no real comment.

The tables were heavy and awkward and with all girl cook groups very difficult for them to handle. Can they not be smaller? I also do not understand the fascination for putting them away after every use, especially overnight in a bush camp (and perhaps at other times). Why can they not be chained to the truck in those circumstances as anyone trying to move them would be heard. This applies to the BBQ/fire grill as well. Who in their right mind would want them anyway?

How did you find the day to day itinerary on the trip (time spent in each place)?

Obviously this depends on personal choice. Generally, if it takes only one day to see the sights why do we stay there for two days? Is it necessary to spend so much time in Bangkok, Thailand? Dharmasala was a waste of time especially taking into account the seven hours from the highway and back to the highway, and more time would have been useful in Delhi and Istanbul.

Is there anything you would like to see removed from the itinerary?

Definitely Pakistan. I consider that the transit across that country was not necessary and certainly dangerous and a foolhardy enterprise. The fact that we signed a piece of paper accepting the risk and even had Pakistan visas was remiss on your part as you in now way explained the possible consequences of such a venture. With what has happened in the weeks after we left the country, the bombs in Quetta and Lahore, I consider that we were very lucky to get through Pakistan without incident. When I was asked by the police escorts why were we travelling in such dangerous parts of the country I had no real answer especially as they seemed to be concerned for us.

With the uncertainty of being able to visit Tibet I think this should be removed as well. People go on this trip to visit this particular country and I think it gives false hopes to them. You indicating if or but does not excuse the fact that the chance of getting into Tibet is reducing all the time and is probably nil for the foreseeable future.

Is there anything you would like to see added to the itinerary?

After you receive the replies from this questionnaire, and consider the replies from previous ones, then only you can answer that question.

Was the food you bought and cooked on the trip satisfactory overall (IE. Did you have sufficient portions and healthy options where ever possible)?

No. I, and other person on the trip did not buy any food as our leader decided what we were to eat and kept all the money to herself. We had very little choice in the matter. 

There has been an excess of pasta and a preponderance of vegetarian food. Breakfast was toast and jam, often no butter/marge and the watery milk was tasteless. People try it now and then and being so bad excessive food is thrown away. The cheapest of everything was bought with the result that taste goes out the door. Spices, chillies and curries are not always the answer to cover the blandness of the food. The size of portions varied a could be expected but the consideration as to whether the food was healthy probably was never taken into account. Thee only criteria appeared to be the cheapest cost.

If food like we were given was supplied to inmates in the UK prisons I believe this would probably have caused them to riot within a week!

We know that nothing ever goes to exact plan on these kind of expeditions but do you feel your tour is well organised overall?

On paper and when sitting in the UK all looks fine. With so much depending on the leader I think this trip has failed to show any organisation at all. Blaming all the faults on it being a budget trip, as you have so often pointed out when receiving complaints, is an excuse and I think that you should be be condemned for a remark such as that.

What is your overall opinion of your Expedition Leaders capabilities (organisational skills, ability to cope under stress etc)?

There was no sign of anything you wanted an opinion of in my opinion. Useless, incapable, are not strong enough words to describe her conduct during the trip.

Not long after leaving London she told us that she was not a guide and would not supply any information about where we would be stopping. She would be in the cab with Adam and our domain was to be the seating area of the truck. When the truck stopped we were not to get out until she said we could, safety reasons being sited and accepted, but once out of the truck we would be on our own. (This was something I never expected to hear from a leader of a group such as this). She has been very good at this as we have stopped in places and not even known what part of town we have been in. She has made no effort to point out where the nearest internet, bank, shop, supermarket or sites have been but has cleared off from us as quickly as she could. When one of the passengers became her 'item' things became markedly worse.

Possibly the best example of this was the last stop before Pakistan. Keeping in mind the danger associated with the area she said that we would park at the last police post or by the side of the road near there. The police would not allow this so, at 8pm or about, we went into Mirjaveh driving round looking for somewhere to park. Most places refused entry except for what was called the ‘Police Hotel’. Prior to arriving here Polly told the girls that they would have to sleep on the truck, it being a stinking hot night as well, as last year the girls had camped there and someone had tried to get into their tents. If they wanted to go to the toilet they had to go in pairs or wake one of the men to go with them. This really gave them confidence! She went into the hotel coming back out to say that there were two air conditioned (?) rooms available and she and her item were taking one, telling everyone that they could do what they wanted, then vanished, not to be seen until the morning and leaving everyone else to get on with things. 

Why did she not get the other room for the girls? Everyone was angry that all she could think about was herself and her item. We did learn that there may have been other rooms available but everyone was dispirited at the time and just couldn't be bothered.

In Dogubeyazit she went into the office and then announced that there were four rooms available, she was having one and the rest of us could do as we pleased. As the campsite was half a tip and the communal toilets were foul there was unhappiness around. I did get a room and offered others the use of the toilet in the room.

I did not understand her working relationship with Adam (the driver). I believe that there was none.
As a general rule, and there has been a few exceptions, when we turned up at a town or city where no arrangements had been for accommodation, Polly would run into some hostel to find out if they have room. She had not even phoned before arriving to check out if accommodation was available. The cry that she will not know anything until we arrived was rubbish, she has a phone and access to the internet. With regards to accommodation, whether it be camping, hostel or hotel, it is my considered opinion that she looked for the cheapest and would squash as many into a room as she could get away with.

She could not have been stressed as she hid away from everything.

If Polly was there to keep YOUR clients happy so that they do another trip or recommend YOUR company to others then in my opinion she has failed miserably. 

Do you have confidence in your Expedition Leaders ability to run the trip, solve any problems that arise and her professionalism?

What professionalism? In my opinion she had none. After Istanbul all she was interested in was sleeping with her 'item'.

What is your overall opinion of your Expedition Driver’s capabilities (driving ability and safety)?

I have chosen not to answer this question as there were two sides to Adam which were completely opposite.

Do you have confidence in your drivers ability to control a situation relating to his role, his ability to perform under stress and professionalism etc?

The driver was stressed because of the friction between him and Polly, the excessive driving hours which would have been completely illegal in Europe and the poor care taken of him for sleeping. If there was anyone who should have been looked after with a decent room to sleep in it should have been him as we trusted our lives to him everyday that he drove the truck. I think that you really are not interested in looking after your staff.

Would you recommend this Expedition to a friend based on your experiences so far?

I will never recommend this trip with Madventure to anyone and will never recommend to anyone that they travel with Madventure for any trip at all.

And finally if you would like to add any comments about any aspect of the trip, office admin, pre departure information, the vehicle, your crew etc. please do so as we value your opinion.

I think that you were guilty by omission before the start of the trip in that you failed to clarify the dangers of driving across Pakistan and the high percentage chance of not being able to get into Tibet.

Polly represented Madventure and failed in what I think the majority of your clients expected of her. It is up to you to decide what is to to be done now. I would hope that no-one else will ever be treated as I was, but personally, I do not expect anything to change. You rarely answered complaints in a professional manner preferring to comment that all complaints and problems were due to the trip being a 'budget trip' and that we could expect nothing better.

Twenty-four people were expected to finally arrive in Sydney but only fourteen arrived. That says much in itself.

Why did I not leave? I paid good money for this trip and do not want to hand what is left to you or Polly. I believe that once you had the money you were no longer interested in me (or others on the trip). I believe that your one goal was to spend as little as possible so as to maximize your profits at the expense and comfort of your clients. I actually do not consider that the trip was value for money.