Vintage travel photography Encounter Overland adventures (circa early ’70s)

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.

Encounter Overland travellivelearn.com lion

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.

Travel Live Learn

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.

Encounter Overland TravelLiveLearn.com South America
Mum, making friends in South America
Encounter Overland TravelLiveLearn.com Marakesh
The streets of Marakesh
Encounter Overland TravelLiveLearn.com Bolivia
Life in Bolivia
Encounter Overland travellivelearn.com Turkey
On the road in Turkey
Encounter Overland travellivelearn.com India
India
Encounter Overland TravelLiveLearn.com Durban
Dancers in Durban
Encounter Overland TravelLiveLearn.com camping above Cusco
Camping above Cusco
Encounter Overland TravelLiveLearn.com vintage London
“Vintage” London (Earl’s Court?)
Encounter Overland TravelLiveLearn.com
EO on the road

Encounter Overland TravelLiveLearn.com

Encounter Overland TravelLiveLearn.com Mont Aux Sources, Drakensburg Ranges, South Africa
Mont Aux Sources, Drakensburg Ranges, South Africa

Encounter Overland TravelLiveLearn.com

Encounter Overland TravelLiveLearn.com

Encounter Overland travellivelearn.com vintage travel
Classic camping, UK

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.

-Sarah

About the author: Sarah Blinco

Writer, editor and digital content manager – find me on social media @sarahblinco PS - if you found this piece helpful, I would be really grateful if you could take a moment to leave a comment below.

16 comments to “Vintage travel photography Encounter Overland adventures (circa early ’70s)”

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  1. Diane Molony - December 27, 2015 at 3:50 am Reply

    Hi Sarah
    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”.

    • Sarah Blinco - December 31, 2015 at 11:01 am Reply

      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 🙂

    • Mark Foster - May 3, 2017 at 2:13 am Reply

      Diane,
      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.

  2. Ivan Hurst - September 16, 2016 at 12:46 am Reply

    Hi Sarah,

    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.

    Regards
    Ivan

    • Sarah Blinco - September 16, 2016 at 12:26 pm Reply

      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 🙂

  3. Kim hurley - February 21, 2017 at 1:36 pm Reply

    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

  4. Jan O'Brien - April 25, 2017 at 5:24 am Reply

    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.

  5. Chris Hanson - September 4, 2017 at 9:49 am Reply

    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.

    • Sarah Blinco - September 11, 2017 at 9:28 am Reply

      Thanks for the comment Chris. I’m thrilled people have found these photos. Such an inspiring adventure. Sarah 🙂

    • Peter Stone - February 25, 2018 at 5:16 am Reply

      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.

  6. Marie Purvey - October 20, 2017 at 4:40 am Reply

    Hi Sarah,
    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

  7. Lance Thomas - January 9, 2018 at 1:10 pm Reply

    Hello Sarah
    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.
    Lance

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