London to Kathmandu with

Asian Greyhound (Swagman Tours) 1958 - 1978

The overland became popular in the late sixties and really took off in the early seventies. You could travel by camping tour, hotel tour or take one of the non stop Magic Buses from Amsterdam that would whisk you to India in 4 days. The trip was popular with Australians an New Zealanders who would travel by boat to Southhampton or fly to London, then return via the overland to Kathmandu then down through Burma, Thailand, Malaysia, Java and Sumatra before arriving in Darwin. Just as many made the trip in reverse along with Brits and some Americans as part of their around the world adventure.

Looking down over the Kotor pass Yugoslavia

The overland was approx 8,000 miles (12,500kms) one way from London to Kathmandu and with Swagman Tours took around 76 days travelling through up to 15 countries. Most drivers did the round trip of 17,000 miles (25,000kms) in about 5-6 months. The life was hard, constant bouts of stomach problems and having to keep a group of travellers amused and safe took its toll. Most drivers were very lean earning themselves the nick name " Greyhounds - all prick and ribs". Not all travellers were in it for the right reasons, there were the get rich quick by smuggling dope crowd, the rip off other travellers type and many who were so far off their heads they weren't safe out on their own. Many thought that if they could just get to India the world would suddenly have meaning, how many time did I hear them say "I'm going to India to study religion and music" that was short hand for smoking dope. Most of these soon lost their money or worse, ended up in a local prison.

MW Bristol circa 1960

A host of small companies were offering travel to the Australian & US visitors to Europe, Encounter Overland ran converted fire trucks to India and Africa. Intertrek ran the same vehicles, mainly dual cab Bedford's that had seats in the rear with a canvas canopy for cover. Compared to Swagman Tours, these vehicles were a bit agricultural. Top Deck ran ex London double decker buses all over Europe and out to Delhi. Companies like Atrek, Sundowners and Contiki had most of Europe, Scandinavia and Russia covered. The European tours attracted a different crowd, most passengers were female, up to 90% on some tours and they were looking for entertainment. The drivers were a different crowd, we overlanders thought them mostly wankers, out to sample as much female flesh as they could get their hands on. Europe was 16 capitals in 12 days, drive all day & party all night. The overland was serious business, things could go wrong and often did. History, experience & safety were top of the priority list. Those who were out for just fun usually ended up learning a lesson about keeping their eyes open and not taking risks. The couple who had got the best money exchange deal of anyone, they were so proud that they had got twice as many ruppees for a dollar. Imagine their suprise when the money turned out to be pre 1947 and totally worthless.
Asian Greyhound catered to the price sensitive part of the market but still managed to attract a decent crowd. The passengers tended to be nurses, teachers, students with a sprinkling of older professionals. The hippy type traveller used Magic Bus partly because of the price and that they wanted to get to India quickly and not waste time getting there. Asian Greyhound's office was based at 15 Kings Road Windsor, with workshop in Slough and a sales office in Kensington High st, they specialised in Overland trips but did do some Russian Scandinavia trips and in the workshop repaired many of their competitors tour vehicles. I was employed by them to drive the Overland in a Swagman Tour bus departing London in April 1973.
Swagman Tours the story continued
It is difficult to remember all the trips that I led in my 4 1/2 years on the overland they seem to blend into one. I remember many faces but the names escape me now. I have written the story as though it were one trip but it is my record of those years. If you were a passenger on one of these trips it will be difficult to follow (that is if your memory is better than mine). I hope it is truthful, but time does play tricks with your recollections. The incidents on the trip are real enough but for continuity sake the people may be different, it is not possible to have all of my passengers on the one trip.
An overland journey to India following the India overland trail through Belgium, Germany, Austria Yugoslavia, Greece, Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, & Nepal. Visting sites of Dubrovnic, Split, Kotor, Athens, Kerimoti, Istanbul, Galipolli, Troy, Delphi, Efes, Goreme, Nemrut, Tehran, Esphan, Persepolis, Shiraz, Kerman, Bam, Quetta, Kandahar, Kabul, Bamian Valley, Kyhber Pass, Indus river, Lahore, Punjab, Amritsar, Kashmir, Delhi, Agra, Taj Mahal, Vanaris, Patna, Raj Path, Kathmandu, Himalyas. All this undertaken in a 20 year old Asian Greyhound, Swagman Tours, LS Bristol bus. This Indiaoverland company was held together by Norm Harris an expatriate Aussie living in Windsor. With drivers like Bob Ashford, Geoff Lawrence, Clive Parker, Dave Watt, Ronnie Martin, John Witchard, Ken Mcdonald, Derek Amey & couriers Fred Fisher, Jos Livingstone, Peter Swift, Kieren Smith & mechanics Gordon Hammond, Graham Libby, Pomme John & Rastas just to name a few.