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EO truck on dirt road

Africa - Encounter Overland Expedition 1979 Southbound

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A story about my overland trip from London to Johannesburg, Southbound, with the layover in Southern Africa, and back to London covered elsewhere. The first chapter.

 

EO London to Johannesburg departure 3 Feb 1979

On board WBH 646S in orange

I was one of the Expedition Leaders/Drivers, L/D for an Encounter Overland trip from London to Johannesburg in South Africa. The trip left London on Saturday 3rd February 1979 and was planned to take 16 weeks. At the time Encounter Overland operated a single staff member with an expedition team of about 20 people. Otherwise known passengers, customers, punters, or officially Expedition Members, EMs. Whatever they are called they are most definitely not passengers. Having only one staff member ensures that the L/D has to fully engage with the Expedition Team and not able to bump along with with another staff member. Another advantage of course is that there is an additional seat to sell. Our trip was something different from that norm, just as well.

The Expedition Leader was normally therefore, driver, mechanic, navigator, guide, concierge, facilitator, medic (unqualified), confidant, aide, peacekeeper, negotiator, and many other things as well. The Expedition Team had to make camp, cook, wash up, shop for food, assist the Expedition leader in most things, as required, apart from driving. On top of that they had to look at the scenery, engage with each other, and the locals and generally enjoy the adventure. They were normally in the age range of 18 to 30-40. There was no formal upper age restriction, but trips like this are tough both physically and mentally. Pushing a heavy truck through soft sand, and running round from back to front with sand mats before the truck loses momentum, is not an easy task.

Some of the team were couples, others small groups of friends, and frequently they were travelling on their own. It is very interesting and challenging whichever group you fall in, to suddenly be spending 24/7 with either your partner, friends, and people you have never met before. It makes for some very interesting dynamics. The Expedition Leader has to help all of the different temperaments get along with each other and resolve any areas of friction. A collaborating team can be a happy and safe team. A happy team makes for a happy and memorable trip. Something to remember and be proud of for life.

The date was 3rd Febuary 1979, a Saturday. It was not long before everyone had arrived. It was time to get underway. However, not together. I would drive the truck down to the ferry and the EMs would travel by coach. English Public Service Vehicle laws were difficult for a truck in those days and near impossible these days. For instance, how do you construct a truck that has both a low skirt, like a coach for UK roads, and a high ground clearance for the off road segments? We would join up again on board the ferry.

 

Tom Coville accompanied me to Tunis, as Alan was ill. We met up with Alan in Tunis and Tom returned to London. Alan stayed with the group until Zambia.

I arrived with the Expedition Members, albeit in a different truck than left London, in Johannesburg on Tuesday 5 June 1979, a mere 11 days late, with a happy and contented group. The trials and tribulations together with the excitement and awe of those 123 days can be read about in the following articles. Eighteen weeks of uncertainty, change and challenge. The stuff to change a person and give memories that last a lifetime.

First time routes for Encounter Overland, wars divert us to roads not traveled by foreign trucks for a decade or more, or to leave our trusty truck and take to the air. Animals we are there to watch decide to charge. Spies and intrigue, death and destruction, mabey, and a lot more besides. However, no sex and salacious gossip, this is not a kiss and tale.

The motley crew

Our group consisted of;-

Encounter Overland staff, Ivan Hurst, Tom Colville and Alan Dougall

Expedition Members;

Annabel
Bill
B.J.
Collin
Ellen
Ernst
Jerry
Jim
Lukas
Mike
Steven
Trudy
Wolfgang

Anybody missing?


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My Travel Timeline

1962 Scotland

Holiday with my parents. England, Scotland, England

1964 Swanage, Studland.

Holiday with my parents to Swanage, Studland in England

1964 Swanage, Studland.

Holiday with my parents to Swanage, Studland in England

1966 Ireland

Holiday with my parents. England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland, England

20/07/1969 External event One Giant Leap For Mankind.

July 20, 1969: One Giant Leap For Mankind. Man lands on Moon Not me, just for context

20/07/1969 External event One Giant Leap For Mankind.

July 20, 1969: One Giant Leap For Mankind. Man lands on Moon Not me, just for context

June 1975 to October 1975 Trans Asia Trip

Overland trip in our own truck. England, Holland, Germany, Austria, Yugoslavia, Greece, Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Nepal.

1977 to 1978 Trans Asia Trip 2

1977 to 1978 Trans Asia Trip 2

1977 External event Laker Airways

The second low cost airline challenged the established market helping to bring cheaper flights to all. Airline founded by Sir Freddie Laker in 1966 and closed 1982

7 January 1978 – 11 February 1979 Iranian Revolution

Overthrow of the Shah. Hotels burnt down in the street we were staying

7 January 1978 – 11 February 1979 Iranian Revolution

Overthrow of the Shah. Hotels burnt down in the street we were staying

1978 Germany

27 April 1978 Military coup in Afganistan

Military coup, known as the Saur Revolution, started days after we cleared.

27 April 1978 Military coup in Afganistan

Military coup, known as the Saur Revolution, started days after we cleared.

1978 Holland

1978 USA and Canada

Lone hitchhiking in North East USA Massachusetts, New York, Toronto, Canada Pennsylvania, Ohio, New Jersey

1978 USA and Canada

Lone hitchhiking in North East USA Massachusetts, New York, Toronto, Canada Pennsylvania, Ohio, New Jersey

December 1978 External event The Dakar Rally

The first Paris to Dakar rally held

December 1978 External event The Dakar Rally

The first Paris to Dakar rally held

1980 External Event The Camel Trophy

The Camel Trophy began in 1980 with a transit of the Trans Amazonian Highway

1980 External Event The Camel Trophy

The Camel Trophy began in 1980 with a transit of the Trans Amazonian Highway

June 1984 External event Virgin Atlantic starts

Virgin takes off from Gatwick starting a regular connection to New York (Newark)

June 1984 External event Virgin Atlantic starts

Virgin takes off from Gatwick starting a regular connection to New York (Newark)

1985 St Lucia

1987 Iceland

Specialist package holiday

1987 Iceland

Specialist package holiday

1988 USSR

Package holiday

1989 USA

California

1989 USA

California

1991 Canada

British Columbia and Victoria

06/08/1991 External Event WWW World Wide Web commences

On August 6, 1991, Berners-Lee posted a short summary of the World Wide Web project on the alt.hypertext newsgroup, inviting collaborators.

06/08/1991 External Event WWW World Wide Web commences

On August 6, 1991, Berners-Lee posted a short summary of the World Wide Web project on the alt.hypertext newsgroup, inviting collaborators.

21 March 2003 External Event RMS Queen Mary 2 launched

Cunard's Queen Mary 2 is the largest transatlantic ocean liner ever built

2003 Iceland

Fly drive holiday

2003 Iceland

Fly drive holiday

23/06/2005 Bath Spa

2005 Ironbridge, England

Holiday at Landmark Trust property

2005 Ironbridge, England

Holiday at Landmark Trust property

7/5/2006 Mauritius

Package fly hotel holiday at Legends Hotel

7/7/2007 to 13/7/2007 Maldives

Package holiday

7/7/2007 to 13/7/2007 Maldives

Package holiday

2009 Devon, England

Holiday at Manor House Hotel

05/07/2010 to 23/07/2010 Canada and Alaska

Inside passage cruise with Princess Cruises followed by land holiday.

05/07/2010 to 23/07/2010 Canada and Alaska

Inside passage cruise with Princess Cruises followed by land holiday.

20/09/2010 Bay of Biscay Whale Watching

Short break on P&O Ferries.

28/11/2011 Bath Spa, England

28/11/2011 Bath Spa, England

15/1/2012 to 26/1/2012 Norway Coastal Voyage

Hurtigruten Classic round trip from Bergen to Kirkenes and return to Bergen

12/08/2012 Ynys-Hir, Wales

Short break

12/08/2012 Ynys-Hir, Wales

Short break

25/09/2013 Canons Ashby

Holiday in Landmark Trust property

4/12/2013 to 5/12/2013 Bath Spa

Short break to Bath Spa

4/12/2013 to 5/12/2013 Bath Spa

Short break to Bath Spa

2014 Devon

4/2/2015 to 11/2/2015 Arctic

Holiday to the Norwegian Arctic at sea on Hurtigruten and on land in Tromso

4/2/2015 to 11/2/2015 Arctic

Holiday to the Norwegian Arctic at sea on Hurtigruten and on land in Tromso

9/6/2016 Cruising Norwegian Fjords

A scheduled holiday with P&O Cruises on board Arcadia

26 July 2016 External Event First solar power circumnavigation flight

The first circumnavigation of the Earth by a piloted fixed-wing aircraft using only solar power

26 July 2016 External Event First solar power circumnavigation flight

The first circumnavigation of the Earth by a piloted fixed-wing aircraft using only solar power

25/10/2016 to 18/11/2016 Namibia 2016

Father and son photo road trip around Namibia with a precursor of a brief stay in Cape Town. The Cape Town element based around a single plush hotel, and the Namibian part as a self drive, touring, multi location safari.

21/11/2016 to 25/11/2016 Bath Spa

A Grade I listed, Landmark Trust property, Marshal Wade's House at 14 Abbey Church Yard, Bath. Adjacent to the Abbey and Roman Baths, and the Christmas Market.

21/11/2016 to 25/11/2016 Bath Spa

A Grade I listed, Landmark Trust property, Marshal Wade's House at 14 Abbey Church Yard, Bath. Adjacent to the Abbey and Roman Baths, and the Christmas Market.