As a driver and tour leader with Top Deck Travel, I conducted tours between London and Sydney from 1978 to 1980. This story tells of all six overlands that completed by me.
Each in turn is described by way of highlights until the last, told in more detail. That final trip, the Sydney to London trip took some 20 weeks, crossing three continents and passing through 21 countries. These tours take place during the volatile and sometimes dangerous times in Iran, Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
My status as a novice is obvious at first, progressively gaining experience on the following trips until that final fateful Sydney to London tour, although by then well experienced, but still quite naïve. This final trip focuses on a core group of punters and crew over the 20 weeks it took to travel overland from Sydney to London, unique in it’s day and impossible today.
A description of Top Deck Travel, its trips and style of travelling and its transition into the very successful Australian company, Flight Centre.
A total of five London - Kathmandu overlands during early 1978 to late 1979 aboard buses known as Grunt, Snot and Rags. Trips during this era had a number of hurdles such as the inaugural coup d'etat in Afghanistan, the Iranian revolution, the Iranian US embassy hostage crisis, breakdowns and accidents. Each of these tours eventually arrived at its destination safely, not always on schedule.
Sydney - London, overland across Australia by bus, then Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Burma to Kathmandu by whatever means available and then onwards to London aboard another double decker bus. The first part to Kathmandu is a story where 30 odd Australian, New Zealanders and Europeans aged in their 20’s embark on the longest and most enduring trip available taking ten weeks. In Kathmandu three 1955 Bristol Lodekka buses Casper, Tadpoles & Dinger convey, sleep and feed a total of 60 to London via the middle east over a further ten weeks.
This story recaptures the spirit of young Australians and resilience of the English Bristol Lodekka double decker buses travelling this route during the 70s, 80s and 90s something that in today’s world cannot be repeated. Trips encountered wars, revolutions, accidents, breakdowns, officialdom and illness.
About The Author
A former boilermaker, miner, barman, bus & tour operator, police officer, event manager and now author who enjoys telling a good yarn and anecdote.
Born and bred in the far west New South Wales town of utopian Broken Hill and at twenty years of age worked deep in the bowels of the earth digging for a living. While shut off from a world that he yearned to be a part of, well away from the barren plains, heat and flies.
After a close call underground where he was nearly entombed, he left the isolation for a flight aboard QF1, bound for London where at first he was baffled by the hustle and bustle of the city. That initial trepidation wavered for an enjoyable life among new people, work and constant travels to the continent. Within a year he was behind the wheel of a double decker bus taking young colonials around Europe with Top Deck Travel before taking on the arduous trips to the Indian sub-continent.
That time with Top Deck ended after some four years with a final trip, a 20-week tour, Sydney to London. With an uncertain future and accompanied by Mathilde, his new love from the Netherlands. Sydney was the location for this, the next chapter, along with a new career with the N.S.W Police. The cauldron of Cabramatta was the set for this episode. After a few turbulent years a new home and posting was found at Forster with his now wife and three sons.
After 21 years as both a uniformed officer and detective, early retirement was an unavoidable result of a serious 'Hurt On Duty' incident. The author has two published titles, 'Crossing Continents with Top Deck' published 2017 and 'The Cops, not just a job' published 2019. Another, 'Berlin's Hollow Homes' will be released soon.