Other Overland Companies

This page includes titles of books about other overland companies and promotional films produced by those companies.  Most of these companies have ceased operating. The exceptions (as of August 2019) are Dragoman, Top Deck, Contiki, Exodus and Rotel.  Only Dragoman operates overland trips.

Sundowners (1964 – 1982)

A website for former Sundowners staff is at http://www.sundownersadventures.com/.  And there is a Facebook group called “Sundowners 1964 – 1982”.

Icon Sundowners OverlandSundowners – Overland Kathmandu to London
Icon Sundowners CossackSundowners – Cossack
Icon Sundowners The SunseekersSundowners – The Sunseekers
Penn Overland

Far Away Places with Strange Sounding NamesFaraway Places with Strange Sounding Names by Gerald Davis (Published by Halstead Press)
Publisher’s description:
In the late 70s adventure bus journeys were the most exciting form of international travel. Buses crossed continents to the fabled cities of Asia, Europe, Africa and South America, carrying adventurous travellers across scenic lands and harsh deserts. Many of the passengers were Australians, going to and from Britain and Europe.
Faraway Places with Strange Sounding Names brings this magical era of travel back to life, thanks to Gerald Davis’s determined efforts to gather people’s stories, photos, maps and memorabilia. His book tells the story of the leading operator of the time, the Penn Overland Company, which pioneered the overland travel routes in the 50s, and spread to five continents and 50 countries, as buses crossed the world with passengers in search of discovery and adventure.
Penn Overland, Indiaman and other companies traversed scenic lands and harsh deserts, tours lasted weeks and months and crossed borders freely, until unrest and warfare put a stop to it, and the golden era of overland travel came to an abrupt end. Operators disappeared, and even the records of the Penn company have been lost.
This book is a window into that time, and for the thousands who travelled, a chance to relive their journeys of a lifetime. Drawing on memories and mementos of former Penn staff and passengers the world over, Gerald Davis has saved the story from disappearance, and told it in this evocative book.

Icon Penn African Adventure 1972Penn Overland – African Adventure 1972
Top Deck

Top Deck DazeTop Deck Daze by Bill James (Published by Kokoda Press)
Publisher’s description:
In Top Deck Daze, Bill James tells the hilarious, true story of how Graham ‘Screw’ Turner establishes a bus touring company using old converted double-decker buses. From humble beginnings in 1973 London, Screw, together with a gang of colonial larrikins, builds up a 100-strong fleet of ‘deckers’. Follow the antics of Screw, Spy, Bill Speaking, Wombat, Filthy, Grilly, Budgie, the mysterious Graham James Lloyd and other incorrigible crew members as they lead their unsuspecting punters on riotous escapades to far flung, exotic corners of the world. The chaos that was Top Deck Travel lays the foundation for Flight Centre. Screw, through his dogged determination builds the company into a hugely successful, multi-million dollar travel empire.

Rule No 5Rule No. 5 No Sex on the Bus (Confessions of a Tour Leader) by Brian Thacker (Published by Allen & Unwin)
Publisher’s description:
Brian Thacker, tour leader extraordinaire, tells it how it really is in this, his best selling and hilarious ride through Europe with a busload of raucous and rarely sober under 35s.
Crew Manual Rule #2: learn all names on day one.
Crew Manual Rule #3: don’t get lost.
Crew Manual Rule #5: Crew must not engage in sexual activity on board the bus with passengers or fellow employees.

But then rules were made to be broken, right?  Brian Thacker confesses all as he reveals the best (and worst) of 20 trips as a tour leader around Europe. How he managed to feed a bus load of tourists horse meat spaghetti bolognese, hamburgers made from breakfast cereal, and roosters’ testicles; how he left a lone passenger stranded by the side of a motorway in France for three hours in nothing but his underwear clutching only a purple toothbrush; and how, along the way, he managed to lose his driver, his cook, 10 brightly coloured canal bikes, a large church, his bus and eventually his patience.

Icon Top Deck - Asian Overland Promotional FilmTop Deck – Asian Overland
Icon Top Deck - European Promotional FilmTop Deck – Europe
Icon Top Deck 1981 (Doug Foskett)Top Deck – Asian Overland 1981
(This film is a personal account by Doug Foskett – Top Deck courier) (no sound)
Icon Exodus - The Road to Kathmandu (~1975)Exodus – The Road to Kathmandu (~1975)
Hughes Overland
Icon Hughes Overland - London to KathmanduHughes Overland – London to Kathmandu
Swagman Tours
Icon Swagman - India Overland (~1975)Swagman – India Overland (~1975)
ICON Swagman - London to Kathmandu (~1975)Swagman – London to Kathmandu (~1975)
Icon Swagman - London to KathmanduSwagman – London to Kathmandu
Inter Trek
Icon Inter Trek Trans Africa 1974 Inter Trek – Nairobi to London, January to March 1974
There were only nine people in the group.  The Driver was Keith Miller who later worked for Encounter Overland.
This film is the personal account of Andries Noback.
Icon Rotel Tours_ Auf dem Landweg nach Indien 1962Rotel Tours Auf dem Landweg nach Indien 1962
(Rotel Tours by land to India 1962)

Trans Afrique
Icon Trans AfriqueTrans Afrique

Only Two Seats LeftOnly Two Seats Left by John Anderson (Published by Messenger Publishing)
Publisher’s description:
In 1962 a young New Zealander left home for a one year trip to Europe. He returned some 20 years later with a wife, four children and the internationally renowned tour company – Contiki Holidays.  Written by the founder of Contiki, Only Two Seats Left is the incredible story of how a simple idea with a starting capital of just 25 pounds became a worldwide travel company with an internationally recognised iconic’ brand name. To date over two million young people have had the Contiki Challenge.  Only Two Seats Left is one of Australasia’s great untold business success stories. A touching blend of autobiography, business insight and travel tale all rolled into one book readers won’t want to put down.  Discover the raw realities of John’s journey of difficulties, failures and his most valuable secrets to successful entrepreneurship.  In this altogether inspiring narrative, Only Two Seats Left encompasses entrepreneurship, leadership, risk taking, team work, branding, competition and surviving tough times John’s personal journey creates a thoroughly entertaining read for anyone who’s ever dreamt of taking a risk with that first bold step to venture into the unknown.

Capricorn Overland Tours

Icon India and the Sub-continent Thomas KingIndia and the subcontinent: Overland Odyssey by Thomas E. King (Published by Michael Booth) A pictorial account of a 1977 overland from Kathmandu to London with Capricorn Overland Tours.
Publisher’s description:
This large-format book documents a Hippie Trail trip from Kathmandu in Nepal to Istanbul in Turkey with text and photographs. Thus one gets in one book by King, a passenger, a full picture of the route with representative pictures of the people and lands. The route was Kathmandu to Delhi to Amritsar to Lahore to Kabul to Heart to Tehran to Shiraz to Basrah-Iraq to Baghdad to Amman to Petra to Damascus to the Mediterranean coast-Turkey to Ephesus to Istanbul. This imaginative route was not often followed and gave travellers a fuller picture of the Middle East than the more traditional northern route. The 152 pages includes an introduction, maps, and a list of all photographs. It was produced with the cooperation of Capricorn Overland Tours and Air-India.

Other companies

Other companies which ran Asian and Africa overland tours/expeditions included:
Aardvark Expeditions, Anglo Australian Company, Asian Greyhound, Atrek, Budget Bus, CCT, Crazy Bus, Dragoman, Frontier, Hann Overland, Himalayan Tiger, Indiaman (Paddy Garrow Fisher), Indigo, Kamuka, King Kong, Magic Bus, No Sweat Overland Tours, P.B.K., Playmates Camping, Safaris Overland, Sherpa Expeditions, Tangerine Tours, Tentrek Expeditions, The Overlanders, The Silver Express, Tracks Travel, Transit Travel, Trans African Expeditions

(Information sourced partly from Derek Amey’s website http://indiaoverland.biz/ (on 11 August 2019) and John Anderson’s history of Contiki Only Two Seats Left. The list may not be exhaustive.)