BANGKOK — At the beginning of September, a historic car expedition roving its way from Singapore to London will make a pitstop in the Thai capital.
In 1955, Land Rover sponsored the Oxford and Cambridge Far Eastern Expedition, where six young men from the Oxbridge universities drove almost 29,000 kilometers from London to Singapore. On Sunday in Singapore, one of those men – now 87 – will begin the reverse journey, called “The Last Overland,” in one of the vehicles used in the original caravan.
“As I get older, I have been bothered by a recurring and nagging whisper: ‘Go for it – before it’s too late,’” Tim Slessor said in a press release about the trip. “Which is why I am here today – I am 87, and if I don’t do it now, I may never get another chance.”
The “Last Overland” expedition is scheduled to make a brief stop in Bangkok from Sept. 1 to 3, organizers said Tuesday. The team will drive north from Malaysia, passing through Hat Yai in Songkhla province, Surat Thani, and Hua Hin in Prachuap Khiri Khan.
The eight-strong team is expected to arrive in London about 100 days after it sets out. It will drive eight to 10 hours a day through Malaysia, Thailand, Myanmar, the Himalayas, Nepal, China, Central Asia and the Middle East, before crossing into Europe via Turkey.
Unlike the 1955 expedition, the team will avoid driving through Iraq, Syria, and parts of Pakistan. It will also drive through China, which was not possible back then.
The First and Last Overland routes.
“There’s no question of driving through Syria. As for driving through Afghanistan, no thank you,” Slessor said.
Besides Slessor, the expedition is comprised by Alex Bescoby, Marcus Allender, Larry Leong, Silverius Purba, Therese-Marie Becker, Leopold Belanger, and Adam Bennett, spread across three Land Rovers.
“If someone comes up to you asking if you want to drive most of the way round the world in one go, you’d be an absolute idiot to say no,” Bescoby, a filmmaker based in Yangon, said. “I think in 2019, the world seems like a very dangerous place. One of my big motivations is to prove that the world is not as dangerous as people think it is. But this big challenge is going to put that assumption to the test.”
Allender is a travel business owner based in Myanmar and is responsible for planning the team’s route. Leong, who has expertise in IT security and is a former combat medic, will be in charge of the team’s security. Purba is the team’s doctor while Becker will manage their social media. Belanger is a filmmaker.
The original expedition took place from Sept. 1, 1955 to March 6, 1956, and consisted of Antony Barrington Brown, Adrian Cowell, Patrick Murphy, Nigel Newbery, Henry Nott, and Slessor. Only Slessor, Murphy, and Newbury are still alive today.
Of the three Land Rovers in this year’s expedition, only one is from the original 1955 expedition: the “Oxford,” a Land Rover I 1955 series that ended up spending decades in disrepair on Ascension Island. It was even used as a chicken coop before being restored in 2017. Bennett is a Land Rover enthusiast who restored the Oxford, and will accompany the team for part of the expedition.
“This is bloody motoring as it used to!” Slessor says in a promotional video for the expedition. “None of your heated seats and all that crap!”
The Last Overland is organized by UK-based Grammar Productions, which is planning to make a documentary series on the journey. It is sponsored by the Singapore Tourism Board, AKE Group, Klareco Communications, and of course Jaguar Land Rover.