Overland Legends

Travel enables so many amazing experiences in life. Whether you travel for adventure, relaxation, to learn, to help out or just to have fun it takes you away from your normal day-to-day activities and enriches your life. For some people travel becomes an incredible journey that can encompass the whole world. Bold travellers have set off on a single trip that could take many months or even years to complete (if travel could ever be complete?).

old world map
Travel has been a way of life for centuries

I have been fortunate enough in life to have travelled widely, sometimes just short trips, others have been extended journeys. I guess growing up in Australia in country towns, so far away from the rest of the world helped foster my travel wanderlust. I wonder what life would have been like before strict citizenship barriers prevented people from easily living where ever they wanted in the world? The adventurers of times long past, travelled far and wide, lived where they wanted and truly experienced the world. This is why I always enjoy reading stories of people who have fostered the spirit of these past adventurers and set off on incredible world journeys.

Churchill, Manitoba - Canada  Polar Bear
My trip to the chilly north (Churchill, Manitoba – Canada 2006)

The following are a few of many such inspirational travellers:

A few years ago I came across the story of 6 Cambridge University students who set off on an overland journey from London to Singapore in 1955 (First Overland, London – Singapore by Land Rover, Tim Slessor – first published in 1957). They were the first people to do such a journey, but started planning the trip with no money or vehicles. With much skill they managed to coerce a couple of Land Rover vehicles from the manufacturer, got film from the BBC for a potential television documentary series, an advance from a publisher on a possible book and numerous other sponsors to help them get there! I listened to their audiobook which was spoken by the actual men involved in the journey. The trials, tribulations and adventures they shared was fascinating and entertaining. Crossing deserts where there was no roads, finding old World War Two roads carved in the jungles of Burma and crossing seemingly insurmountable rivers! This journey across Europe, the Middle East and Asia took 7 months and covered 29,000 kilometers / 18,000 miles! It would be extremely difficult today to follow the same path due to closed borders and times of war. I thoroughly recommend obtaining a copy of this story as it is one hell of an adventure!

London to Singapore Overland Journey Range Rover 1955
The gear the Cambridge students set off with on their London to Singapore overland journey in 1955
London to Singapore overland journey river crossing 1955
Crossing one of many rivers on the overland journey
London to Singapore overland journey bogged land rover
Not all water crossings were successful the first time!

Following the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, Gunther Holtorf set off on a road trip from Germany that has lasted for 24 years and is still going in his trusty old 1988 model Mercedes 4WD called “Otto“! The journey originally was planned to be an 18 month trip across Africa with his wife , but over 800,000 km / 500,000 miles later they have gone well beyond the confines of Africa and travelled across the world (sadly his wife Christine passed away in 2010, but he continues to travel in her honour). He plans to keep travelling for at least another year in Asia and Africa before settling down to life back in Germany. The 74 year old former airline executive has self funded his journey and cut costs by becoming proficient in mechanical repairs; and by fitting the Mercedes out with sleeping and cooking facilities. His main expense is fuel and shipping the vehicle when required. You can see some images from his extraordinary journey here.

Gunther Holtorf around the world map
Gunther Holtorf around the world

A well-travelled friend of mine from the UK let me know about another German traveller, Heinz Stücke “the man who wanted to see it all“. Now in his early 70’s Heinz has amazingly been pedalling his bike around the world for over 50 years, crossing every continent and has covered a distance of almost 600,000 km / 373,000 miles! After deciding a boring day-to-day working life was not for him, he set off one day in 1962 and has never stopped cycling! His aim is to get into the Guinness World Records as the first person to enter all countries in the world. He used one bike for 44 years and then this was supplemented with a folding bike in 2004 to allow for easier travel by air when required, and another folding bike in 2009. He still has all 3 bikes to cover any form of terrain and conditions in which he travels. What a journey in life he is having!

Heinz Stücke with his bicycles
Heinz Stücke with his bicycles (Source: HeinzStucke.com)

Also kudo’s to anyone crazy enough to attempt the Mongol Rally. 16,000 kilometers / 10,000 miles from the UK to Mongolia across 3 deserts, 5 mountain ranges in one of the mandatory totally unsuitable cars, all for charity! Brilliant!

Mongol Rally
Mongol Rally (Source: http://www.theadventurists.com)
Team Belinbaatar Mongol Rally 2012 (Source: www.theadventurists.com)
Team Belinbaatar Mongol Rally 2012 (Source: http://www.theadventurists.com)

Right wheres that backpack?……….


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