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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Overlanding is the self-reliant overland travel to remote destinations where the journey is the principal goal. Typically, but not exclusively, accommodated by 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'"[1] 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. Between 1906 an 1910 Alfred Canning opened up the Canning Stock Route, one of the most famous overland routes in the world.[2]



While expedition is defined as a journey with a purpose, overlanding sees the journey as the purpose. With that criterion, overlanding most likely started before modern humans came onto the scene. Marco Polo's expedition along the Silk Road could be an early example in modern history, though he did have a defined purpose.

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). It is somewhat prescient that the founding company of the Jeep was Willys-Overland Motors. 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 Great Britain to Abyssinia [3].

There followed many more private journeys, and with the colonization of the African interior, groups would set out from Europe with deepest Africa as the destination. 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, rule 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 Jacksonin 1903.[6]In the Americas overlanding was coming into its own in the 1950s as well. In 1954 Helen and Frank Schreider drove and sailed the length of the Americas from Circle on the Arctic Circle to Ushuaia Tierra del Fuego in a sea-going ex-army jeep [7].

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. In 2007 Overland Journal, an overlanding specific magazine, came onto the scene[8]. 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 (see external links below). While some commercially built overland capable vehicles are produced[9][10], 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 overlanding (see 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.

Further Reading and Resources

Scott, Chris (2004). Sahara Overland (Second Edition ed.). Surrey, UK: Trailblazer Publications. ISBN 1-873756-76-3.  
Sheppard, Tom. Vehicle-dependent Expedition Guide. Hertfordshire, UK: Desert Winds in association with Land Rover. ISBN 0-9532324-0-9.  
Swain, B & Snyder, P (1995). Africa by Road (Second Edition ed.). Bucks, UK: Bradt Publications. ISBN 1-56440-946-5.  
Greene & Greene (1995). Americas Overland - The driving handbook. Arizona, USA: Adventure Learning Foundation.  

See also


  1. ^ "Chisholm, Alec H.". The Australian Encyclopaedia. Sydney: Halstead Press. 1963.  
  2. ^ Canning, Alfred Wernam (1860 - 1936) Retrieved on 26 February 2009
  3. ^ Slavin, K&J, with Mackie, GN and McDine, D (1994). Land Rover The Unbeatable 4x4 (Fourth Edition ed.). Somerset, UK: Haynes Publishing. ISBN 0-85429-950-5.  
  4. ^ Trans-African Highways a Route Book of the Main Trunk Roads in Africa (Fourth Edition ed.). Johannesburg, South Africa: The Automobile Association of South Africa. 1958.  
  5. ^ Beadell, Len. Bush Bashers. Sydney, Australia: Lansdowne Publishing Pty Ltd. ISBN 1-86302-402-6.  
  6. ^ |url= |
  7. ^ Schreider, Helen & Frank. 20,000 Miles South. Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc.  
  8. ^ Overland Journal - A quinterly publication dedicated to the overlanding community.
  9. ^ Earth Roamer - Manufacturer of fully outfitted overland trucks, based in Colorado USA.
  10. ^ Unicat - German based manufacturer of large fully outfitted overland trucks.

External links


Overland may refer to:

See also

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010
(Redirected to Overland article)

From Wikitravel

This article is a travel topic.

Overland travel or overlanding refers to an "overland journey" - perhaps originating with Marco Polo's first overland expedition in the 13th century from Venice to the Chinese court of Kublai Khan. Today overlanding is a form of extended adventure holiday, embarking on a long journey, often in a group. Overland companies provide a converted truck or bus and a tour leader, and the group travels together overland for a period of weeks or months.

Since the 1960s overlanding has been a popular means of travel between destinations across Africa, Europe, Asia (particularly India), the Americas and Australia. The "Hippie Trail" of the 60s and 70s saw thousands of young westerners travelling through the Middle East to India and Nepal. See Istanbul to New Delhi over land and Europe to South Asia over land.


At 9,288km the Trans-Siberian Railway is one of the longest overland journeys in existence today, taking 7 days to reach Vladivostok from Moscow, and providing an alternative to air travel for journeys between Europe and Asia.

The Indian Pacific Railway, completed in 1970, links Sydney and Perth in Australia. Covering 4,343km over 4 days, the railway includes the longest stretch of straight railway line in the world.

In USA Amtrak [1]can carry you overland from New York across the continent to San Francisco on the Pacific Coast and back and forth across the continent using different routes, just a part of their 21,000 mile train line system

The introduction of Japan's high speed railway Tōkaidō Shinkansen in 1964 changed the face of rail travel. The railway has carried more than 4 billion passengers and its new N700 series trains are capable of 300km/hr. France's TGV attains similar speeds, making it faster than air travel for many journeys. It has expanded into other European countries. Korea and the USA now also have some high-speed lines. China is in the process of building what will be the world's largest such network; see High-speed rail in China.

The Thomas Cook Overseas Timetable [2] is the first choice for detailed international rail information. Resources can also be found at the seat 61 website [3].

Buses and Overland Safari Trucks

The Silk Route or Silk Road historically connects the Mediterranean with Persia and China. Today the route refers to overland journeys between Europe and China, taking either the northern route - through Russia and Kazakhstan - or the southern route - through Turkey, Iran, Pakistan and North India - to Urumqi or Xian in China. These routes are still popular today, with companies such as Oasis Overland [4] and Odyssey Overland [5] offering tours on the southern route.

Trans Africa Overland routes

Some of the longest and more traditional overland routes are in Africa. The Cairo to Cape Town and v.v. route covers more than 10,000km, usually following the Nile River through Egypt and Sudan, continuing to Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia along the way. From the mid 1980s, the non-operation of the Aswan to Wadi Halfa ferry between Egypt and Sudan as well instability in Sudan, northern Uganda and Ethiopia, made the journey impossible. In recent years however, the Cape to Cairo and Cairo to Cape Town route has again become possible and increasingly popular both with commercial overland trucks carrying groups of 20 or so paying passengers as well as independent travellers on motorbikes or with 4WD vehicles.

The traditional Trans Africa route is from London to Nairobi, Kenya and Cape Town, South Africa. The route started in the 1970s and became very popular with small companies using old Bedford four wheel drive trucks carrying about 24 people each, plus lots of independents, normally run by groups of friends in 4x4 Land Rovers heading out of London from November to March every year. The usual route was from Morocco to Algeria with a Sahara desert crossing into Niger in West Africa, continuing to Nigeria. This was followed by a month long journey likened to Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness” through the forests of Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo), surfacing into the relatively modern world in Kenya via Uganda. From Kenya the last leg was south through Tanzania to either Zimbabwe or South Africa.

This route has changed dramatically due to border closures and political instability creating no-go zones. The route has reversed itself somewhat over the last few years, with trucks now crossing from the north to the south of Africa, closely following the west coast all the way from Morocco to Cape Town with the biggest change in the route being made possible by the opening of Angola to tourism. The journey then continues through Southern and East Africa from Cape Town to Nairobi and on to Cairo.

In South Africa the most popular route is Cape Town to Victoria falls. Companies have trucks leaving daily starting the route in Cape Town South Africa. The Cape to Vic route takes travellers through Namibia, Botswana and ending in either Zimbabwe or Zambia.


Since 2006 a few companies have offered overland expeditions from the UK to Australia. Originated by Exploratory Overland Expeditions [6] in 2006, the expedition is marketed as the longest trans-Asian overland journey available.

The longest overland expedition of any kind is run by African Trails [7] their London-Capetown-Istanbul journey (43 weeks) remains the classic overland expedition for die-hard travellers.Though the longest combination of trips is 50.5 weeks run by Dragoman [8]from Helsinki, Finland to Cape Town, South Africa via Russia, China, Middle East, following the Nile and to Kenya and on to southern Africa.

These days’ overland journeys explore most continents the only one not yet travelled is Antarctica, Overlanding companies such as Flatdog Adventure [9], make overlanding a fantastic next step from a fully inclusive hand held tour to that of full independent travel.


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