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Silver Travel Book Club - Book of the Month - September 2019

In 1978 I came to the UK overland from Kathmandu. It was an organised adventure taking about three months, mainly camping. It would be great to read “First Overland” to compare the two journeys. So many memories and we saw so many different countries, iconic sites etc that just opened your senses.

Travel broadens the mind…..but also the butt if you chose not to walk

I prefer overland on the slow lane, by walking! We have walked the West Highland Way this May in glorious weather and the most memorable thing was the wildlife and the fantastic highland views. Red squirrels in the distance up trees, and even a pine marten – the later an amazing sight at dusk, as we were in Crianlarich bouncing over the lawn, by our accommodation. The light on Loch Lomond as you clamber along the remoter eastern shore the full length.

When you walk overland on a long distance trail, and we have done Coast to Coast, Ridgeway, Pennine Way and others you feel you are crossing a country as our forebears must have done. The Ridgeway on a days walk seemed to go from Iron Age fort to fort, so the shelter at the end of a full day out in the countryside was at a natural high vantage safe haven! No doubt cattle and sheep were driven down these green lanes in the past to market, Roman centurions marched along Hadrians Wall where the Pennine Way joins for a section and the past is joined in the present journey.

And if you prefer to follow the team on their amazing Last Overland trip from Singapore to London on Facebook, here’s the link.

Here’s a glimpse of how the team are progressing:

4th September:
It’s the same old 1950s car, and the same old 1950s road in some places, but The Last Overland: Singapore to London Team have allowed themselves a few 21st century luxuries!

Dehydration is a serious problem out on the open road for months on end with no air-conditioning, particularly out here in South East Asia where it’s pushing 40 degrees. Getting a cold drink is essential to keeping this show on the road.

Luckily our mates at Dometic have kitted us out with awesome fridges, which keeps our water chilly even if we’re cooking! Thanks guys, we’re raising a beer to you out here (we’ve tucked a few of those in too of course…

3rd September:
“Oxford swerved, went into a bad skid, spun around, and ended the manoeuvre pointing in the wrong direction. When she had almost stopped, she leaned a bit, made up her mind and toppled right over.” Tim Slessor, First Overland, Thailand – February 1956.

Luckily, 63 years later Oxford has arrived in Bangkok the right way up! She and The Last Overland: Singapore to London team were treated like royalty, shepherded into town by the Land Rover Owners Club of Thailand and treated to lunch at the Royal Bangkok Sports Club .

Thanks for the hugely entertaining first ‘Overland’ stories this month, from @yorkshirecat @Sararose @Hrrcath @DRSask & @GypsyWanderer. The intrepid nature of Silver Travellers, whether in younger years or now, never ceases to be inspiring!

This month’s Silver Travel Book Club book of the month is First Overland: London-Singapore by Land Rover, and here’s how to win a copy of the book:

Tell us about your own overland journey, whether made independently or as part of an organised group. It needn’t be quite as extreme as the First Overland route, but what made your own experience so memorable?

Looking forward to loads more anecdotes about overland journeys from Silver Travellers through the years. And don’t forget, you can follow the progress of the Last Overland team, including book writer and First Overlander Tim Slessor, from Singapore to London – on Twitter here. They crossed the border into Myanmar yesterday!

Literary Editor

Sorry. something odd seems to have happened to my post. Just the large print please. The small print is a second copy?

Exeter. UK.

Sorry. something odd seems to have happened to my post. Just the large print please. The small print is a second copy?

Exeter. UK.

Wow. What an adventure. Difficult for anything to match that.

My first overland trip was 1969. I was 19 and travelling with my sister, from London to Malta.
Those were the days when no luggage had wheels and backpacks did not have frames. They were also the days of hitchhiking so that is what we did, backpacked and hitched.

A friend drove us to Dover for the Calais Hover Craft then we were on our own. Did we have a map? I don’t think so. Arriving mid morning meant we had plenty of time to make good distance and find a youth hostel. And so we started, thumbs out heading to Paris.

It was not long before our first lift, a farmer in a little old green car. I sat in the front next to the driver, a little old farmer. I spoke a little schoolgirl French so understood when he asked to hold my hand. We drove slowly along, my hand in his and my sister in the back, worrying and saying we would both sit in the back from now on. I know we were in no danger. All was well and we were on our way.

I don’t remember our hostel that evening but think we stayed somewhere in Paris. The next day we made Lyon and the youth hostel but it was full. We discovered there was accommodation at the Uni and yes, there was room and better than at the hostel, a twin room with ensuite and breakfast included for less than the hostel would have cost. We eat our full the next morning before hitting the road again.

Lorries and cars later and we were in Grenoble at the luxury hostel built for the winter Olympics 1998. Grenoble was so beautiful we decided on two nights there and headed up on the cable car to enjoy the wonderful views.

We left on a Sunday morning and were warned we would not get a lift but we did, up into the mountains. I don’t know which pass it was but up in the mountains was so beautiful we decided to stay the night. The hostel was full but no problem, a huge tent had been pitched and all the extras slept in there, men and women, cold at night but hot by day. After a day wandering we could have slept anywhere and the magical evening, sitting outside, and singing folk songs to another travelers guitar, put the cherry on the cake.

Next stop the autostrada just outside Milan. Two young men had given us a lift and wanted us to go on into the city with them. They would find us somewhere for the night. I’m sure we would have been safe but we laughingly declined so they dropped us at the tolls and the autostrada to Rome.

We had a long wait but were entertained by the toll officers chatting us up and showing how far they could pee! And then the best lift of the journey, a great looking, English speaking Italian, in a very smart car, going all the way to Rome.
We arrived at 10pm. and he dropped us at a railway station. We wanted to get to Santa Marienella where my cousin was staying. We had an address but no mobile phones then so could not make contact. There was no train going there but one going to Civitavecchia, further along the line and closer than Rome so we took it, and it did stop at Santa Marianella. The station was in total darkness and we stumbled out onto the tracks. This was not a scheduled stop and the station was closed. No moon that night so pitch black but somehow we found our way out of the station, but then what? We had no idea and stood looking lost, should we start walking but which way? Fortunately a young policeman on a motorbike saw us. Somehow we managed to indicate that we needed to get to that address and we understood he would take one of us at a time, riding pillion. Maria would go first and I was to stand in the doorway of a bar, out of sight.

I waited and waited. What had happened? Had we been fools to trust him? But no, he turned up for me while Maria waited for what seemed like ever and with the same worries I had had. He did not leave us until we had managed to use the intercom, wake Anna (it was 1am) and gained entry.

That was the last adventure. Two nights in Santa Marianella, then three nights in Rome, staying with Anna’s employers, and being shown the sights by her brother. The back street sights that is as he wanted to show us off to his friends.
“Look, I have two English girls in my car”! Then a surprisingly cheap last minute ticket for a flight to Malta. We had had a great adventure, laughs, fears, fun and had arrived safely with a story to tell.

Exeter. UK.

Sounds like an incredible book and story! I look forward to watching the progress as the trailer is intriguing.

Over the years I have had many overland adventures driving across Canada from coast to coast in various segments: from Ontario to Saskatchewan; from Saskatchewan to Quebec and back; from Saskatchewan to British Columbia and back; from Ontario to the Maritimes and back; and from Saskatchewan to Ontario twice. Once I flew back to Saskatchewan after driving to Ontario but the last time I stayed. When writing this I looked up the mileage and it’s well over 10,000 miles. The Trans-Canada Highway is 4,990 miles and I’ve done some stretches more than twice. All of the trips were eventful and interesting showcasing the different landscapes in this vast country from wide open prairies to forests to farmland to mountains to lakes and coasts. For those not familiar with the distances involved, the drive from Saskatchewan to southern Ontario took four days of between eight and ten hours driving a day. On one of these trips I remember my uncle from England standing on the shore of Lake Superior, the largest lake in the world, and insisting that it couldn’t be a lake. It was so huge the other side was nowhere in sight. We were stopped at Old Woman Bay in Lake Superior Provincial Park on the 142 mile stretch of the Trans-Canada Highway between Sault St. Marie and Wawa, Ontario one of the most scenic routes in the country. The day had started out very foggy and I was afraid my aunt and uncle would miss seeing the scenery but the fog lifted mid-day. It’s difficult to tell in the photo but we really could see nothing for miles.

A few years later when I made the trek on my own I stopped further west just outside Thunder Bay on a clear day and took a photo from the Terry Fox Memorial looking out over Lake Superior. The land in the water is an island and nowhere near the other side of the lake. That was a very memorable trip too. My just serviced vehicle broke down after three days on the road, on a Sunday… but that’s another story.

My first overland trip was to Spain and Portugal in 1996. We bought a very old camper van and took the ferry from Portsmouth to Santander. Unfortunately we left the lights on so by the time we reached Spain the battery was flat! The van had to be pushed off the ferry and my husband’s efforts to get it going were disastrous ! He managed to get the contacts the wrong way round and damaged/annihilated the battery. So our first day on shore was spent at a garage – the good news was that the garage owner pointed us in the direction of a lorry drivers’ restaurant and we had the first of many marvelous four course meals complete with wine!!

We eventually got underway and drove through northern Spain into Portugal taking time to visit many small towns en route. The holiday was pretty uneventful except for one trip into the mountains, A special restaurant had been recommended to us so one Monday morning we set off up winding and vertiginous mountain roads finally arriving at a small village. Rather than park on the outskirts we continued into the village along a road that became increasingly narrow , The chalet type houses and shops had overhanging balconies and there were no turning places, The locals were frantically waving at us and indicating that there was no way through! So we had to reverse all the way back which is not easy in a wide camper van. I was terrified and don’t think I was any help at all!
We eventually arrived back at the outskirts of the village only to find out that the restaurant did not open on a Monday!

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