This is a collection of stories about my very first experience of 'overland travel'. As a traveller as opposed to a tourist or holiday maker. It also includes the subsequent trips of a similar nature.Collectively, I call them my Grand Tour.
My Grand Tour is not the traditional Grand Tour of Europe preferred by certain English young gentlemen. It served as an educational rite of passsage for the wealthy. This was part of my education.
There where esecentially four trips in Asia, two trips in Africa, together with various layovers and outings that constituded My Grand Tour. In addition there are short wanderings to Europe and USA.
First Trip to Asia
Overland to Nepal and fly back to Great Britain
Most of the early travels which constituted The Grand Tour were self organized, without any input from travel companies.
The exception to this was the ferry to get across the North Sea, the international driving licenses and the Carnet de Passage. The latter two were obtained from the RAC.
At the time you needed a special license to drive a Heavy Goods Vehicle, HGV. However, if it was not used for goods, for hire or reward, then it was just a private car, albeit a large car. There was no restriction on how large a car could be. Hence a international driving license for a car was sufficient. (Not all countries agreed with this, which you can read about in the stories.)
The ferry route we decided to use for our first trip, was from Dover to Zeebrugge. This was mainly due to the location of the ports. Memory suggests that the ferry was one of the British Rail Ferries, operated as Sealink. Citation required.
The next time we used a travel company was to book a flight from Nepal to Bangladesh, as a holiday within a holiday. The booking was with (Royal) Nepal Airlines. However, we never used those tickets. See the trip story to find out why. The next time was again with RNA, but for the flight home as we had sold the truck.
Second Trip to Asia, and return for the third Asian trip
Overland to Nepal with two vehicles and drive back to Great Britain with one, and passengers.
Despite being separated by a couple of years, the situation was similar for the second trip to Asia, as it was for the first. There was again the need for international driving licenses for Pete and I, but they were still valid from the first trip. Two new Carnet de Passage were required, one for each vehicle, which were again procured from RAC.
This time the ferry was from Harwich. .... more details to come.
We were more successful with our holiday within a holiday this time and actually managed to use the tickets we arranged with Nepal Airlines. This time it was to Siliguri. We found a hotel on arrival, eventually. Then the reason for the short break, off to the railway station for a trip on the steepest non-funicular railway in the world, to Darjeeling. I understand that Kathmandu to Siliguri is now a difficult route, I don't recall that being the case at the time.
We only sold one vehicle this trip so there was no flight home to organize. We travelled back with the coach and picked up passengers on the way. No travel companies involved it that, unless we include ourselves.
Upon getting to the channel we booked the next available ferry and came across without passengers. One of the earlier passengers left something which gave us a bit of grief at the UK boarder. More of that later.
Pete and I applied for driving jobs in Germany on the way through, and following a brief spell in England, returned to Germany separately. Pete got work driving trucks but I did not, and so continued to travel. I went to Amsterdam and stayed with one of the passengers and his girlfriend.
Whilst there Pan Am launched a new service between Amsterdam and Boston, at a very reduced price of 115 guilders. I already had an America Visa and so was ready to travel. An opportunity not to be missed. I was living out of a rucksack already, so it was just a case of persuading Pam Am that I would successfully gain entry to USA, and a one way ticket was bought. I was flying to USA without a plan of any sort.
I don't recall using any travel companies in the US until I got to the airport in New York, and bought a ticket to fly home.
Fourth Asian trip, and African trips, Southbound and Northbound
Encounter Overland Expeditions towards Nepal, and London to Johannesburg (Southbound) and return to London (Northbound).
I then bumped into Encounter Overland in London. I hit it off with the owner and found myself employed, mainly I suspect because of my previous experience travelling and some of the ideas we discussed.
Encounter Overland was such an important and integral part of my travelling that it has it's own section. Trailfinders were on the same street as EO and get a mention as they provided a significant proportion of EO's clientele.