My parents were explorers – avid travellers who were among the original backpackers. They were contemporaries of the Wheelers (founders of Lonely Planet). Although explored varying routes right throughout Africa, South America and Asia. In the ’70s, my parents scored jobs with Encounter Overland (EO), one of the early companies to specialise in international and off-the-beaten-track adventure travel.
EO’s HQ was based in London, although my parents joined the party in South Africa. It doesn’t exist now, but there are plenty of people who had great adventures (or misadventures) on board EO’s famous overlander trucks during its operational period (late ’60s to late ’90s as far as I understand).
Two of the trips my dad, John, and mum, June, embarked upon were some of the very first to mark the Encounter Overland trails through Africa and South America, and would subsequently determine the itinerary for future expeditions.
Travel adventures: Encounter Overland
On Googling “Encounter Overland” I discovered blogs from travellers who toured with EO, and a couple mention “disasters” like dirt flying up at them on the trucks, or getting bogged. These are not disasters. Nearly being thrown in jail as an innocent is. Being held up at gunpoint at border crossings, trapped below landslides, or stalked by rhinoceros’ when you’ve been deliberately left at a camp in the middle of nowhere in Africa, these are “disasters”. And just a tiny insight into the many enthralling stories shared with me as I grew up.
I can confidently say however, that I don’t think anyone on board would trade the experiences – even the scary ones (well, maybe they would trade the examples I’ve mentioned above, but I hope you see my point). In the end, it’s travel – a life-changing adventure.
Some of the places these crews visited 40 odd years ago aren’t even accessible to the average traveller now. Pretty amazing.
I appreciate that EO is in the hearts of many the world over, because of the friends made on these tours – through good, bad, terrifying and exhilarating times. The intriguing local people met, and remote, wonderful, awe-inspiring sights witnessed too, are a reward that lasts a lifetime, and a reason we continue to pursue travel and associated experiences to this day.
For as long as my brother and I can remember, we thought images to accompany our parents’ travel tales hadn’t survived years of humid tropical North Queensland summers.
Fortunately mum has diaries, a good memory and the ability to tell an engaging yarn, so our imaginations did the rest. I’d say these stories mark the origins of my personal interest in travel and adventure.
Recently though, some photos (slides, actually), were discovered by my parents, and for the first time in my lifetime – thanks to modern photo technology accessible at home – we’ve been able to view these images which could be scanned into a computer and colour-corrected (we used PaintShop Pro, Adobe Photoshop, Picasa and SnapSeed).
Here are some of my favourites from the Vintage Travel Photography Encounter Overland Adventures collection.
A few are a little marked but it adds to their character, don’t you think?
If you like these, the full set (over 100 we’ve restored to date), featuring people, places, animals and architecture across most continents, is featured on our Encounter Overland Vintage Photography tumblr blog.
Vintage travel photography Encounter Overland adventures
Original photography by “my” globe trekkers, John & June Blinco.
Want more vintage travel photography Encounter Overland adventures? View the entire gallery here. Additionally, here’s a blog that mentions a vintage EO adventure late ’60s/early ’70s including an original promotional poster and images.
And if you were part of the crew or you’re a little nostalgic for all that was, you can connect here with others who are keeping the spirit of EO alive. Drop us a line in the comments, and you will want to take a look at Lance Thomas’ site about Encounter Overland.
As always, I’d love to hear from you – please do drop me a line in the comments below.
I was on the 2 truck convoy of encounter overland in 1973, Jo’burg to London. The trip, among other things, involved the death of two people on the journey, our leader/driver quitting and the 2nd driver who took the reins eventually having a nervous breakdown. I am considering writing about the life changing experience and wonder if you have any info on this particular trip and/or contacts with others on that particularly “encounter”.
Hi Diane, so sorry I’ve just seen this comment – apologies for the delay in reply. This must have been very close to when my parents travelled on Encounter – they too faced perils along the way. I’ll do some digging and come back to you. Thanks for taking a look at this post! By the way, I did find an Encounter facebook page a while ago – have you checked there for leads? S :-)
I was also on the Jo’burg/London ’73 trip I just spent three days with Ian Sewell, in Oregon, and, last year a week with Almut Scheben, in Berlin. We have lost track of all others so the chance encounter with your post is great. Adding to the experience was the pursuit by gun toting soldiers in Zaire after a dispute over the price of a coke at a local store followed by hours parked at the army HQ while soldiers went through every item on the truck. then there was the few extra days we spent in a village in Zaire, hoping for the release from jail of a fellow expedition member. I completed the trip with infectious hepatitis, type A, and six weeks in the Muswell Hill hospital. It was nice having a bed.
Crazy and amazing stories! I have definitely heard that having a nice bed was a luxury :) An adventure was certainly had by all!
Thank you for sharing. Encounter Overland was a different form of adventure than the norm of the day. Even the passengers were called EMs, Expedition Members. I was a leader/driver for an Asian trip and Southbound and Northbound Trans Africa. It was an incredible experience. The early adventurers such as your parents made EO the success it became.
Hi Ivan, thanks very much for your comment, I appreciate it. EO stories are some of my favourites – sounds like it gave people a lot of amazing and crazy travel experiences. Glad you enjoyed yours too. Kind regards, Sarah :-)
Hi ..i was on one of the london to kdu trucks in 1984 ….i have detailed diaries and pics …brilliant experience. ..usual stories of being bogged in deserts and stuck in rivers, visited in night by kurdish bandits near Iranian border..biggest impact on our trip was indira gandihs assassination which meant trying to get over Pakistan border …lots of memories of real travel
Amazing, thanks for commenting Kim :) Glad you have excellent travel memories from EO! -Sarah
Hi Sarah. I’ve just read “Faraway Places with Strange Sounding Names – the Penn Overland Story” by Gerald Davis which brought memories flooding back of my overland African trip departing London in March, 1974. I couldn’t remember the name of my tour company till I came across your blog. I am sure it was Encounter Overland. Who could forget the orange Bedford trucks? Thanks for filling that gap! You’ve also inspired me to start converting my slides to digital. Like your parents, I regaled my children with (selective) stories of my adventures. I loved every day in Africa but have never wanted to go back. I cherish my memory of the way it was: Rugged, exotic, magical, challenging but safe. The best of times.
Hi Jan, wow that’s amazing, than you for sharing your experience! I’ll pass on to my parents :)
This is amazing. Like discovering a long lost manuscrpt. I was on a 1974 EO trip from London to Joburg. A couple of us are still in contact and frequently reference those mighty days. Your photos are so like my own which I wll try to get on the site. Thanks.
Thanks for the comment Chris. I’m thrilled people have found these photos. Such an inspiring adventure. Sarah :)
Hi Chris, just came across your post. I’m just getting around to preparing a video from our trip in 1974 – now that I have time in retirement! It was a trip of a lifetime, particularly as we survived it! Trust you are well. Kind regards Pete.
I must of been on the North bound trip immediately after Diane Molony. From memory we departed Johannesburg in mid-March 1973, We were informed of the first death in East Africa and did not find out about the second incident until we reached London. We were also in a two truck convoy, one of the driver’s name was Ken and the other driver was new to the job, and was a Kiwi. My next task will be to go thru my slides and see if I can find a group photo. Kind regards Marie
Hi Marie, thanks for sharing your experiences. Let me know if you find any slides/photos too :)
Thanks for posting this material about Encounter Overland.
For anyone who travelled with or worked for Encounter Overland please also visit the Encounter Overland Website http://www.encounteroverland.info. If you have photo albums or films of an EO trip, stories or any historical material related to the company we would love to receive a copy. Contact details are on the website. Also, please check out the two Encounter Overland Facebook groups for former passengers and staff.
Hi Sarah, I found this site completely by accident! I loved the vintage photographs which brought back many happy memories of my life almost 50 years ago when I was 20 years old. I was on the EO three truck semi-convoy Encounter Overland London to Johannesburg expedition that left Victoria Bus Terminal, London on 21st. November 1970. Sadly our Bedford 3 Ton Vehicle broke both front springs causing us to loose steering and the vehicle ended up completely on its side on the edge of the jungle in the Eastern Congo! Luckily only one person was injured and fortunately not too badly. The vehicle and trailer was abandoned. We managed to get to Uganda just as Idi Amin seized power on 25 January, 1971! As we no longer had a vehicle EO gave us some of our money back. My ‘Adventure’ really started here as I then hitch-hiked, drove a commercial lorry on the Hells Run in Zambia or went by train making it all the way to Cape Town!
Hi Simon – thanks so much for the comment and sharing your story – amazing!!! :) A little scary at times, but an adventure for sure!
Hi Sarah. I was on an EO trip from Kathmandu to London in 1975. I was with two Australian friends and the drivers were Martin Crabbe and Alex somebody. I am from the US and there was a Canadian but most were from Australia and New Zealand. I have several ictures from that trip if anyone wants to see them including one where are tying the cab of the truck to the back with a rope. Too many “adventures” to tell here but it was a trip of a lifetime. I’m glad I found this site.
Thanks for leaving a comment Karen! I’m sure many people would love to connect with you. There’s an EO group/website linked in the comments here that Lance runs – you should definitely track it down if you’ve not already :)
Hello Sarah, would like to discuss with you a book I’m just about to finish. I have a publisher so it might be coming out later this year (2021). I was on a south to north 1973 trip, but my book is a novel based on a north to south expedition in 1979. I did some research in E.O’s archives and I spoke to leaders as well together with the experiences of another member of the 73 journey. I shall e-mail you with more details.
Hi Michael – how cool! Yes send me more details that would be great. S
Hi Sarah. I was lucky enough to do two EO trips in the 1970’s. The first was from London to Kathmandu, starting in September 1972. I was returning to Oz after three years in England and Europe, and chose this travel option as a way to bribe myself away from London. It was probably one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. It was a two truck convoy, and we were delayed a little by the other vehicle, but that just made it all the more interesting. The highlight of the trip was definitely Afghanistan, particularly the back route to Bamiyan and the lakes at Band-e-Amir. And the houseboats in Kashmir made wonderful break from camping.
That trip gave me very bad case of travelitis, so after a number of short holidays in Asia during school holidays, I took a year off work in 1978 and joined EO again in Rio to do the South. American trip. Again a memorable trip – partly because our truck was definitely on it’s last wheels, and ended up with a broken axle in Paraguay. Repaired (replacement parts unobtainable in South America) at three times – the last time at Lago Argentino, miles from anywhere. Because of the multiple delays in our journey the company offered a sweetener to us: to share the cost of the cheapest option to travel out to the Galápagos Islands – on the Ecuadorian navy supply vessel. Who could turn down that offer! I can’t remember how long the overall trip was supposed to last, about 4 months I think. Well it was still going strong, although with reduced numbers, when I finally left in Colombia to travel on to Europe after more than 5 months on the road.
Have very fond memories of wonderful places and great travel companions – both trips had very multinational participants, though predominantly UK and Aussie. I’d do it all again if I could.
Hi Glenis, thank you so much for your comment and amazing stories – they remind me of just the types of stories my Mum & Dad told :) Really stuck with me and I think I inherited the wanderlust gene after growing up hearing about their EO adventures!