overland leads to Intrepid

intrepid truck tanzania

Little did Darrell Wade, Intrepid CEO and co-founder, know that an impulsive journey 26 years ago would lead to an Intrepid Travel adventure that’s been going strong now for over 20 years…

“In 1984 I headed out from Kathmandu on a 3-month adventure that would change my life. I was in a 4 wheel drive overland truck operated by Encounter Overland. There were 19 of us and we spent the next 14 weeks crossing India and Pakistan into Iran, Syria, Jordon and Turkey. Amazing landscapes, diverse cultures and a brilliant group. It’s no exaggeration to say that every day was an adventure and it absolutely changed the way I looked at the world.

On that trip we met up with a competing company called Dragoman at a border crossing in Amritsar in the Punjab. I started chatting to a guy called George Dury, who was the driver but also the co-founder of the company. He was amazingly knowledgeable and also remarkably personable – overlanding drivers weren’t known for their people skills in those days!

As luck would have it, we ran into the group again some weeks later in Jordon and I jumped truck to join the Drago group for a few days. A few of us made an ever so slightly illegal night time trek through the famous lost city of Petra – we climbed high into the hills above Petra and camped overnight. Full moon and all. Amazing.

That expedition inspired a friend and I to buy an old Bedford a couple of years later for a 6-month overland across Africa – then Intrepid arose out of that trip.

As much as I love the Intrepid way of travel, somehow my heart still goes back to my overlanding days and the sheer adventure that entails. And so I was interested to see a Times article published recently on Overlanding. The words are by Charlie Hopkinson – the other founder of Dragoman – and it traces the history of overlanding from the 60’s when Tony Jones of Encounter Overland drove an old Austin from London to Kathmandu with a bunch of people. Tony formed Encounter Overland on the back of that journey, and Overlanding was born.

As luck would have it, Intrepid are now minority shareholders in Dragoman – and Tony Jones. after selling Encounter moved to Nepal where he still lives – and heads up our Nepal operations. (It’s a small world in overlanding!)

If you’d like to read about the history of overlanding and get inspired about the ultimate journeys, take a look at the article at timesonline.co.uk. Be sure to look at the photo albums for some great photos of current overlanding – and also some archive photos going back to the 70’s. Better still – get out there and do it yourself. It might change your life too!”

* photo by Tamalee Roberts – Intrepid Photography Competition

About the author

Sue Elliot - Like many of us, Sue contracted a serious travel bug at an early age. She's visited over 90 countries in search of a cure, but her wanderlust just seems to get worse. Thankfully at Intrepid Travel she's amongst people who understand the affliction and since 1998 Sue has enjoyed being our blog and newsletter editor. Here you'll find helpful travel advice and inspiring tales from Sue and other Intrepid travellers.

Similar Posts



My EO adventure from London to Kathmandu departing in April 1976 was highly memorable and changed my life, since I eventually married a great Swiss girl also on the truck. Our driver was named Tony, who I heard
died prematurely 10 years later. So sad that many of the places we passed through have been destroyed or
maimed by recent wars..Bamayan, Kashmir, etc. Our Bedford broke down in eastern Turkey and I fondly
remember the hospitality of the Kurdish people we met there. If any of my co-conspirators out there, pop me
an email!!!!

From 1985-87 I was stationed at the American embassy in Bujumbura, Burundi. I let every truck coming through Bujumbura camp out in my yard. One expedition had been attacked by locals the night before and they were very grateful for the assistance. I enjoyed speaking English with people that I didn’t see every day..
Now the political situation does not allow over landing through this part of Africa. But I am grateful for the memories.
Bruce of Bujumbura.


I took one of the first Encounter Overland trips from London to Kathmandu in 1970. Martin was our fantastic driver and leader. We were a great group. We got along so well that one of us said, “We must have been puppies in the same litter in a past life.” It was a life-altering experience, and remains one of my fondest and most vivid memories. There’s a great Facebook page, Hippie Trail, if you want to meet other Overlanders. Thank you, Tony Jones, for all you have done to open the eyes of so many to our vast world.

Martin Watkinson / Reply

Thank you Jean for those very nice words. It was a great group and great journey indeed, Martin


I was on the encounter Overland trip that left London at the end of 1970 going to joburg. Rebecca Mellor was on the same trip and we are meeting up again with another member Mary also on the trip next year 45 years later and I am very excited about that. Rebecca and I are going to do a road trip around NZ.


in September 1976 I travelled from London to Kathmandu on a penn nomad adventure, and remember every day as if it was yesterday. we had a great driver, calvin , from neighbouring rowlands gill, and what became a real group of friends from uk, usa, Holland, Australia and nz.
we didn’t really appreciate how lucky we were to travel through iran and Afghanistan before that region fell apart, even managing to see bamian before it was destroyed. I’m still in touch with penn folks whom i’ll always regard as a unique set of friends!


Hi, My fiancé Val and myself travelled from London to Katmandu Oct 7th 1971Trip SK1011, we had a wonderful trip, we also were caught up in the Indo/ Pakistan war. We had to get out of Pakistan into India quickly as the war started. Big disappointment was the Taj Mahal this was closed and covered in scrim so as not to attract Pakistan jet fighters. Our trip was held up in Katmandu for one week as no planes were allowed to fly out. We down graded our hotel as money was short. We were on the first flight out to Bangkok via Calcutta.
Gino was our driver.

Rod Jenkin (Spike) / Reply

I’ve just stumbled on this site and a stack of the old memories fired up again.
I was on the 1977 Encounter Overland trip that left Kathmandu in July heading for London.
I was 22 years old and it was my first trip out of Oz – talk about going in at the deep end!
I’ve traveled quite a bit since but this one still remains one of the big adventures of my life – Kathmandu & Nepal, India and the onset of the monsoon, the NW provinces of Pakistan and the Pathans, Band-i-Amir lakes and the Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan, Iran before the revolution, Eastern Turkey before it became too popular – all brilliant memories now (although there were the usual minor downsides of malaria, dysentery etc., but those memories have faded with time and are now used as a bit of spice for the retelling).
We had the EO hybrid Bedford/Leyland Super Comet truck and according to my diary we did 24 tyre changes in 11 weeks and I got 5 hot showers. The driver for our trip was Halford Hewitt and there were 24 of us on it – an even mix of males & females, half of us were Aussies and the rest from Britain, NZ, Canada and Switzerland. A number of us ended up in a flat in London through the winter of 77/78 but all contact has been lost now. I was an avid amateur photographer and carried a Pentax Spotmatic SLR along with lenses (all wrapped in plastic bags and carried in a crappy old ex-army gas mask bag). Had to ration my film but I ended up with some pretty decent photos of the trip, now scanned from the original slides, digitally cleaned up and available for viewing.
So if there’s anyone out there from that trip (or anyone else) who wants to go down the nostalgia trail then please get in touch. Suzie, Cathy, Kerrie, Geoff, Jan, Dale, Hugh – where are you now?

Rod – that sounds like an amazing trip! Thanks so much for sharing. Tell us, is there anywhere we can take a look at your photographs from the trip? They sound fascinating and we’d love to take a look.



In 1971 Penn Overland advertised a shorter overland trip – 42 days – I went on this. The longer trip left not long before us, but we never expected to be stranded in Kathmandu together! We started on 24 October and the trip had all the usual bus problems. By the time we entered Pakistan we could see large posters everywhere with a drawing of a closed fist and the slogan ‘Crush India’. We didn’t quite know what was going on until we arrived in India, and found that blackouts in Delhi had started. We had acquired two extra passenger about this time Tara, a Tibetan lion dog puppy & a mongoose named Rikki. It was seen as advisable to get out of India as soon as possible. So we made it as fast as possible into Nepal. Air strikes started in India in early December but by that time we were safely in Kathmandu. In stead of the few days in Kathmandu that the Penn brochure had promised, we were there for nearly a month until the war ended. Many of us had run out of money and we’re frantically sending telegrams home. We managed to have a good Christmas at the best hotel in Kathmandu, and even went to a carol service at the British embassy. I was amongst the last to leave on 30 December. For a number of years after I used to joke that I knew three places well – Melbourne, London & Kathmandu!

Wow – what an amazing story Kay. We’d love to talk to you more about it – we’ll send you an email!


Anyone remember the overland trip to Kathmandu where we all spent Christmas 1971 because of the Indian/Pakistan war, and we had Rikki the mongoose on board the bus.

Intrepid Admin / Reply

Hi Kay. Were you on this trip? Sounds pretty interesting! We’d love to hear more about it…


Hi I was on the same trip with You fellows as well , the short kiwi guy and one of the best trips i did and i will never forget.


Huge pride when reading this stuff. But easily, oh so easily, trumped by the sheer luck of finding oneself always in what looked like the wrong place at the wrong time. Tony Jones, Founder Encounter Overland


Tony Jones, that a name that is a blast from the past, was it your brother who was the Encounter Agent in Blaigowrie Johannesburg all those years ago. I went to his house and learned all about the trip and subsequently did one in September northbound to London in the early 70’s, what a fantastic experience it was, still fondly remembered. Ray (from London) and Clive Imrie (NZ) were the drivers. All the best to you in Nepal.


Hi Roger Found this link when I was browsing the web for overland news. I am back in Auckland, been here for 15 years now. I did hear that you were living in Oz. get in contact, I would love to catch up
Cheers Clive


Hello any E O fellow travelers from the 1971 trip London to Nepal departed UK on October 1971. Our driver was Barry. Names I remember on the truck were:
Carol and Norman (Canada); Terry and Carol (Canada); Rick (UK); Linda (US); Fran (US); Bob and Sue (US); Gordon (Australia); Caroline (UK); Louise (UK); Dan (Canada); ?Yvonne (Australia) (not sure I have the correct name); me Geraldine and, Barry our dedicated driver.

I have wonderful memories of our trip and the many adventures. Anyone else from that trip around? I would love to hear from you. My email is boxgeraldine1@gmail.com

Lucinda (McCartney) Caine / Reply

Hi, looking for survivors from 1989 Encounter Overland African trip. Bill and Phil were the drivers. Still in touch with Jo from Brisbane, slowly lost contact with John G, Richard R and Morton T. My kids love looking through old African photos. So do I. Great memories of that trip and all the people.



I too did the overland trip in 88-89. The names you mention don’t ring a bell with me though. We did the London -Katmandu trip so it may have been a different journey to yours. I know there was another set of traveller in Africa we would meet up with every now and again, even had some of them travelling with us for a while. Our driver was from Australia, I’m terrible with names. Some of the people I can remember on my trip was myself, Liz and my ex Jim (Brits). Along with Ken (Ozzy), Sue (brit), Tim (Can), Dave (brit), Jenny (Ozzie), John (dutch). Renee and Renata (swiss), two Icelandic boys, another dutch guy, two more Canadain guys and an American girl. It was a wonderful trip, I just wish I was in contact with some of these people.



Lucinda my dear! I was watching a film from congo and for fun googled encounter overland and found this! If you read this one day – contact me!

Barbara Wilson (Brisco) / Reply

Hi Bob Summers, yes some of us are still fit and well and out there. I was also on the EO trip September 71 from London arriving in J’burg January 1971 with driver Peter. I dug out my old diary to check the names of those on our truck and your’s is definately there. I shared a tent and cooking duites with fellow NZ girl, Julie and still keep in touch with her. She in turn has kept in touch with the 3rd NZ girl, Jan. I also have wonderful vivid memories of that trip. Would love to hear from you on barbianwilson@bigpond.com .

Rebecca (Koren) Mellor / Reply

@ Bob Summers, see above. I was on EO trip to Jo’burg , ending there in March 1971. i too too have many (faded) slides. We had drivers names Martin, and Bill. Maybe Peter too? Feel free to email address above.


Anybody still alive out there? I did a couple of trips with EO from London: Spring 69 to India (driver named John) and September 71 to Jo’burg (driver named Peter). Havn’t been able to contact anyone since. Still got loads of slides…….memories still very real.


Rick Jowett. new email alanstech@live.com.
Angelika from Australia, contacted me, and we met up in Muldersdrift South Africa,for lunch a Braai, and a long chat.

Rebecca (Koren) Mellor / Reply


Anyone out there who was on the EO trip London to Capetown in early 1971? We were nearing Kampala when we heard that there had been a coup d’etat…Idi Amin had just taken over! Being a load of foreigners traveling in an army truck, we were taken up a hill to a military post . Sparing the details, but….talk about an adventure!! Tony Jones flew down from London to meet us in Nairobi.

Feel free to email melloreb@mindspring.com

Martin McAvenna / Reply

Hi Rebecca. I have just found your post. Only 6 years late! I was on that truck with you! “We all live in an orange army truck”

I remember very well the arrest, the army camp, the second hold up as a group of soldiers came over the hill in single file as we headed towards Kenya after being released.

If you are still there, hope to hear from you.


Martin McAvenna

Kathryn Bradley Shea / Reply

Meeting up with the other overland companies on the road was a highlight for me too during our EO trip from London to Katmandu in fall 77. Life has gotten a little boring since then….would love to find my companions from that happy/frustrating/exciting/maddening trip. And some of you guys are still doing it? Wow…..lace up the old boots and pack the army knife. Reach me on facebook.


I was in the SIAFU group going North that passed the London to Nairobi group on 2 May 1972 in Bangui. We were desperate for money so were more than pleased to meet the group.
I have been doing a trvel log of my journey and it rekindled my love of that whole experience.
I have lost touch with everyone who was on the trip unfortunately.


I travelled with Siafu 1972 March 3rd London to Nairobi. Then on to Johannesburg with Neville Scantelbury Big Rick. Margaret Thompson, Dot. Des Williams etc.
Any one else from that Trip. ? We have had Angelo Visit. Ferd also visited but has since died.
Big John.Idaho. Ted Lewis. Sue Tartalino seattle, Sue (Nurse) Garlick Sue and Ian Chat. Mike. Fred Haupstein, Angie now married and living in Aus.
David. Howie Canadian. Mad Marlow and his modified manifold. Terry A New Zealander with the tip of his thumb missing.
Contact me on Alanstech@vodamail.co.za

Richard Hasseldine / Reply

I also did a couple of overland trips about 40 years ago and would like to catch up with any fellow travellers who are in Australia. I travelled from London To Durban with Siafu in March 1970 and London to Khatmandu with Encounter Overland in May 1972.


Hi Richard
Stumbled across your post.
Blast from the past – remember a young also bearded Australian who
was nicknamed by Andy Robertson – Oxfam
Get in touch, would love to catch up
Graeme Moore
(03) 9870 2049


did a trip with siafu in feb. 1971 london to durban and trying to contact any survivors any help or hints would be appreciated. trying to have a 40th get together next year

malcolm howison australia


Tthe above comments fire up memories. lst overseas adventure Penn Overland May ’71 Kathmandu to London 12 wks. Reliable company excellent driver Mike (UK) 39 of us. 2nd Siafu Trans Africa Tunisia-Nairobi May ’73, Kev Tipler driver mechanic leader. 20 to start courier left 3 wks into trip then Range Rover owner Paula got malaria she and her son stayed in Kano.A vehicle short, so 17 of us travelled in two 4WDs That was a journey of a lifetime. In 1976 a Penn trip friend and I travelled independently overland from Mexico through Central America, South America side trip to Galapagos on cargo ship, 3rd class on ship from Puerto Montt through Inside Passage Chile to Punta Arenas. In Ushuaia met an ex assoc of Siafu now with EO, small world. A journey of 3 mths turned into 10 mths but what an adventure, Perito Moreno Glacier, Iguassu Falls, 30 days on Amazon local boats and walked the original Inca Trail.
In 2010 hoping for a trip with Intrepid to Morocco.


Back in 1995 I did my first Encounter trip though Peru and Bolivia with ‘Stan the Man’ at the wheel. Planned around the money available to me at the time it was my only option to see this area as I didn’t want to backpack alone. For a hairdryer, makeup loving girl it was a hugh shock. For the first 4 days I wondered what I had let myself in for. Ruff camping and no showers, a bunch of people I didn’t know and long driving days. And then on day 5 I woke at dawn in the middle of a dessert to the most amazing sunrise and knew I had to adapt and embrace this amazing trip and in doing so it changed my life.
I later did Kathmandu to Mumbai with Goose and Kev at the wheel of a Drago truck and again found the first couple of days the hardest. Leaving the comfort of your own home with it’s modcons for a spell of overlanding is a shock to body and mind but once you get into it, an experience that can’t be compared with anything else.
I’ve since done heaps of Intrepid trips which feel like luxury travel by comparison and loved everyone of those. But last year while travelling for 4 weeks with them from St. Petersburg to Dubrovnik I thought ,maybe it was time for a change. I had a great time but you only meet the people from cities or those that had money to take night trains between. There was nowhere on the itinerary where tourist infrastructure wasn’t in place, even our Carpathian Mountain homestay had wifi. Although I will still travel though some countries with Intrepid, I’m now looking at overland trips again and feeling quite excited about the challenge.
Since my first trip I’ve worked in travel and looking though the different companies that offer overland journey’s I always come back to these two. From some of the cheaper operators you hear horror stories of drivers absconding in the night or no money from head office to fix the truck. I urge you to do the homework, pick a company that knows what they are doing and have years of practise. Read the brochure and talk to people that have done these sort of journeys then pack an open mind and go.
Maybe I’ll see you out there

Jacquie Burnside / Reply

All this talk of overlanding brings back great memories of my first big overseas trip – 22 weeks London to London via Cairo and Nairobi – taken with Encounter Overland in 1988. This prompted me to use them again for a 10 day white water rafting trip in Nepal a year or so later and to continue travelling and join Intrepid as Tour Leader in 1994!!!

Just this year I found myself back on an overland truck trip with Drago/Intrepid in West Africa… as Darrell often says, ‘the more things change the more they stay the same’ and in the case of overlanding, it remains an amazing way to get to remote out of the way places and communities. It sure helped shape the direction of my life!


Loved reading this story. I had also read the Times article and looked at the photos but without realising the full relationship between Darrell/Intepid and Drago and EO. The Times article brought back many memories of my first overland from Lon to Kath in 1977 and then another overland with Encounter around Africa and meeting George on the first ever Drago trip in 1981 as well as meeting Tony and various other members of the EO gang. I have long admired what both Tony and George achieved – true pioneers. Its amazing how Darrell’s story has almost come full circle with George and Tony now involved with Intrepid.
PS: I am still doing overlanders, having just completed another one around Africa last year. Yes, get out there and do it. There is nothing like overlanding.

Leave a reply