Published on September 5th, 2019 | by Amirul Mukminin0
The Last Overland Team Arrives in Thailand
Embarking on a journey to recreate one of the 21st century’s most iconic and challenging road journeys, the 1955 ‘Oxford’ Land Rover which previously made its away from London to Singapore, coined as The First Overland, is now journeying in the reverse direction. It arrived in Thailand having travelled through Singapore and Malaysia following the 25 August 2019 flag-off from the F1 Pit Building in Singapore.
The team travelled from Hat Yai to Surat Thani, followed by Hua Hin and Bangkok. The team made a special stop at the Royal Bangkok Sports Club, due to its historical connection with the First Overland in 1955. Present at the Royal Bangkok Sports Club event were members of the British Embassy, members of the land rover owners club, Jaguar Land Rover Thailand, as well as the media.
Between 1955 and 1956, a team of six young men embarked on The Oxford & Cambridge Far Eastern Expedition (The First Overland), and made history by being the first to successfully drive the 10,000 miles from London to Singapore. Now, 64 years later, the team of eight, including Alex Bescoby, award-winning filmmaker and co-founder of Grammar Productions and Nat George, grandson of Tim Slessor (a member of The First Overland), will drive the original 1955 ‘Oxford’ Land Rover Series I to retrace that first overland expedition.
This time they will make the journey in reverse, from Singapore to London. But as before, they will travel across three continents. It is an expedition that will take them through the jungles of Malaysia and Myanmar, the mountains of the Himalayas and northern Turkey, and the deserts of the Middle East, as well as over twenty countries, including Nepal, China, Uzbekistan, Iran and Bulgaria. The aim is to arrive in London within 100 days of setting out from Singapore.
Tim Slessor spoke about the thrill of being reunited with his old ‘Oxford’ Land Rover, “The last time I seriously drove this old thing was a long time ago. So, as you might imagine, to see the old thing again is quite moving. After all, before we had set out, the experts had told us that we were geographically ignorant and politically naive; the journey couldn’t be done. All that did was to make us more determined. Six months later, we pulled in to Champion Motors on Singapore’s Orchard Road. I can tell you, the champagne and flash-bulbs really popped that day. We’d made it. As the man from America’s Time magazine put it, ‘I guess you boys have run plumb outta road.’”
Mr Slessor fondly recalled his First Overland experience in Thailand, “The crossing was quite interesting because there was no bridge between Tachileik in Myanmar and Thailand. We were submerged right up to the wheel arches and successfully made our way into the country. The people were warm and welcoming and I would like to thank them even 63 years later for looking after us. As we were leaving Thailand for Malaya, there was one major challenge – there was no road for the last 100 miles to the border. We considered driving down the railway sleepers but at the last minute, an American military attaché told us that there had been three bulldozers that pushed through that 100 mile distance, leaving a trace for surveyors to plot the route of an eventual highway, so we took their track.”
Alex Bescoby in sharing his enthusiasm for the expedition said, “I feel unbelievably lucky to be embarking on this adventure of a lifetime. We will be travelling for 100 days along the highest roads in the world, through deserts and jungles aiming to be in London by early December. We (the team) are incredibly grateful for the strong support of our partners, supporters, family and friends, and we look forward to sharing our adventures along the journey with them.”
The ‘Oxford’ will leave Thailand on 4 September 2019 after a stopover at Nakorn Sawan and, continue its expedition for the next 90 days until it reaches London.