Overland travel

Overlanding is self-reliant overland travel to remote destinations where the journey is the principal goal. Typically, but not exclusively, it is accomplished with mechanized off-road capable transport (from bicycles to trucks) where the principal form of lodging is camping, often lasting for extended lengths of time (months to years) and spanning international boundaries. Historically, "overlanding" is an Australian term to denote the driving of livestock over very long distances to open up new country or to take livestock to market far from grazing grounds.[1] Between 1906 and 1910 Alfred Canning opened up the Canning Stock Route.[2]

History

Overlanding in its most modern form with the use of mechanized transport began in the middle of the last century with the advent of commercially available four-wheel-drive trucks (Jeeps and Land Rovers). In 1949, with the Land Rover brand less than a year old, Colonel Leblanc drove his brand new 80-inch Series I Land Rover from the United Kingdom to Abyssinia.[3]

There followed many more private journeys, and with the colonization of the African interior, groups would set out from Europe for remote African destinations. To aid in these endeavors the Automobile Association of South Africa published a guide titled Trans-African Highways, A Route Book of the Main Trunk Roads in Africa.[4] The first edition appeared in 1949 and included sections on choice of vehicle, choice of starting time, petrol supplies, water, provisions, equipment, rules of the road, government officials and rest houses. The serious tone of this book gives some clue as to the magnitude of such a trip, and it was from these beginnings that overlanding developed in Europe and Africa.

In Australia overlanding was inspired to a large degree by Len Beadell who, in the 1940s and 1950s, constructed many of the roads that opened up the Australian Outback.[5] Those roads are still used today by Australian overlanders and still hold the names Len gave them; the Gunbarrel Highway, the Connie Sue Highway (named after his daughter), and the Anne Beadell Highway (named after his wife).

One of the most well documented overland journeys was by Horatio Nelson Jackson in 1903. In 1954, Helen and Frank Schreider drove and sailed the length of the Americas from Circle, Alaska on the Arctic Circle to Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego in a sea-going ex-army jeep.[6]

Modern overlanding

Overlanding has increased in the past couple of decades, and is getting ever more popular in large part influenced by the Camel Trophy event run from 1980 to 2000 with routes crossing some intensely difficult terrain. It is now quite common for groups of overlanders to organize meetings, and an annual meeting is held every Christmas at Ushuaia. Through the use of the Internet it is much easier to find the information required for extended overland trips in foreign lands and there are several internet forums where travelers can exchange information and tips as well as coordinate planning. While some commercially built overland capable vehicles are produced,[7] many overlanders consider the preparation of their vehicle a paramount part of the experience. Both South Africa and Australia have significant industries based on making accessories for overland travel.

Commercial overlanding

The late 1960s saw the advent of commercial overland travel. Companies started offering overland tours to groups in large, specially equipped trucks. Mostly in Africa, these journeys could last for months, and relied heavily on the participation of the paying passengers for food preparation, food purchasing and setting up camp. The ultimate of these adventures was always the 'trans', or the complete journey from Europe to Cape Town in South Africa. Commercial overlanding has since expanded to all the continents of the world save Antarctica.

See also

References

Further reading

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