You know, people can be ignorant. Common sense doesn’t seem so common anymore and the ability to look at the big picture seems to be a skill in short supply.
How is it that you assume your Guidebook, printed a year or more ago, and possibly written by a person who has never been to that destination, knows more about ‘dates and rates**’ than your Crew/Guide/Tour Leader who traveled through there last week or at least within the few months!?!? How does that even make sense to you?
I distinctly remember being in the middle of one of my last southbound trips through the Middle East, middle of Syria on the way out to the desert. After less than 3 weeks on the truck I lost it, completely. I asked my passengers for their Guidebooks (about 50% had them), put them in the fireplace, poured a bit of kerosene on them and lit the lot. Needless to say that was the last time I had to justify or explain any information I volunteered to the group.
Don’t get me wrong: I am not ‘anti guidebooks’. They serve their purpose to give you a overview of your destination, pretty good recommendations and some helpful advice. I particularly like the boxed text sections in the Lonely Planet – very interesting. But keep in mind that the Lonely Planets, Rough Guides, Bradts of the world are written as a guideline only and are as accurate as possible. But specific information about transport, times, days of the week, opening hours and prices should not be classed as set in stone.
Most Overland Crew are not qualified Guides and nor do they proclaim to be, advertised as such or what you signed up for on your overland trip. When you run a 5 week or 6 month trip through 5 – 15 different countries how can you be? Local Guides are hired almost everywhere to give you the in-depth tour of your chosen destination. This supports the local community as well as gives you a better local insight into the highlight you are looking at. (Never mind the legalities us foreigners have to deal with as well….)
HOWEVER, most Overland Crew make an effort to listen to these Local Guides and learn as much about as many places as possible. One, for their passengers sake, and 2, because most of them are truly interested themselves. They read the books, ask the locals, get enthusiastic about the history and if they can, pass the info onto you. Like the commercial guide books of the world, this is a good way for you to understand a brief history of the place, or specific points of interest, interesting facts and funny stories. All this historic information will be comparable to your guidebook.
What won’t be comparable to your guidebook is the ‘dates and rates**’ and that is where you ought to pay closer attention. Not only were your Overland Crew just there a few weeks ago, (for the 5th or 23rd or 66th time), they have checked it out with other Crew coming the opposite direction, or asked the local campsite/hotel owner if anything has changed, rung and confirmed their local Guide where necessary, and got their ‘ducks in a row’ before letting you know.
So when I say ‘the train to Aswan leaves at 10pm, we need to leave here at 9 to meet it’, don’t pull the whiny “but my guidebook saaaayyyss….” crap with me. If you think you know better, I’ll meet you in Aswan. We’ll be at the Funny Mummy Hotel on the main street – 24 hours before you.
** ‘Dates and Rates’: Generic travel industry term for dates and times for public transport, opening hours of sites etc. Rates refer to the current price of the item or entry ticket etc.