I left for Europe in November 1974,with The Diplomat and Sweeney.We travelled via Mexico and the USA for 3 months before arriving in London.We used to play squash on Saturday's at the Walkabout Club.They kept giving Dippy crap rackets,because he broke 3 in one afternoon and we were told not to come back.
After a Scandi Russian with Vikings, I hitched to Pamplona,and then did the Kangaroo circuit of the Mediterranean,Greece,T-Day in Venice and Oktoberfest.
1976 and I was manager of a Rugby Union team in Sydney.The hooker one Darcy Waller decided to join me on a Sundowners Overland .So in early 1977 we were picked up by Kit Carr,Ken Phelan and Peter Sole,a trainee .Dippy tagged along,in his heavy duty thongs,which proved handy in the Kashmir snow.He and Kit attacked an Indian Army convoy with snowballs.
In London Glen Wallace kindly rescued me from the King's Head and put me to work cleaning coaches and goforing.A training trip with Silver and Os and I was made.Loved the life on the road until 1982 when I became Assistant Ops Manager until the demise.
In 1983 was a driver for Autotours and towards the end of that summer season sitting on the dyke at Wemeldinge ,Southern Holland,mowing down a case of green meanies,with Sid McKinley and we decided to start an Overland Company.Easy.Anyway Lotus Tours was born and in about 2 months we had bought a 53 seater Ford Duple ,put together a brochure ,gathered some passengers ,including Tadpole and set off for Kathmandu.
In Kathmandu we chartered to Australian Himalayan expeditions driving to Pokhara and return.I think I did about 17 return transfers.
Goa beckoned,we found about a dozen freaks and about 50 Tibettan pilgrims bound for Bod Gaya.The pilgrims travelled with all their worldly possessions and we sat them 3 to a seat.Wasn't much feeling inthe steering.Also had a couple of windsurfers strapped to the roof,which had been used by a Spanish high altitude wind surfing expedition.
After Goa it was back to London,found some passengers in Delhi ,Japanese were good ,they didn't need Iranian visas.
Sid drove our coach on charter to Autotours and I drove an Amz coach for Autotours.They were short of drivers that year and I did 3 minus turnarounds.By the end of the year I'd finally had enough.
A number of jobs back in Sydney including labouring,limo driver,barman and Stockbroker only to be cleaned out by the '87 crash,which lead me back to Autotours in 1988.
I was sent to Venice as a site rep,didn't last long,and then worked behind the bar for Renato,until I drove a tour.
Back in Sydney I started with Brambles now Chubb as an Armoured Car driver,and have been there for the
last 20 years.
My wife Kerrie was a passenger on a day trip to Blenheim Palace that Darcy and I did in 1978.She and her girlfriends came back to the drivers house for a party and was greatly impressed by our version of Swing Lo Sweet Chariot.
Ironically I also am recuperating from a knee replacement ,as with Vicar.Too many mosques,on the knees praying.It couldn't have been from falling down stairs at the drivers house.
So when I was with Mr Dick in Sun City, and saw you there with Pebbles and Sid, were you just in South Africa on a holiday?
That's still about the only time I have accidentally met old road crew since I left it.
After Rocky's Road - Pebble's Path?
All the Best to you,
PS I still know that version of 'Swing Low Sweet Chariot'. It's just that I'm so old now I can't do the 'coming' part any more. It sounds as though we would all have trouble with the 'Singing in the Rain' actions as well. We would probably cripple ourselves at the 'knees together' part, and say all sorts of bad things instead of 'too te tah, a too te tah, a to tee tah tah'.
Great to read your, in detail, account of your life over the years. You did miss out one aspect and that is your rise to fame through a book. Can you remind me of the title? It was written by a Top Deck driver about the Overlands. From memory it may have even been called "Overland with Top Deck" or something like that. The part I refer to is when the Top Deck drivers had to rescue your coach when your driver, Leo I think he was, died. They came from the Rome camp ground to get you. This must have been before you were a driver. To be reading the book about 4 years ago and see your name jump out out me was surprising. For those that haven't read this book it is a good read and one where in a lot of parts the overland guys and gals can relate.
Top Deck Daze was written by Bill James,one of their directors.I went to Rome to takeover a tour driven by Leo Fahey in 1982.Leo,sadly never recovered from his heart attack.Tim Oliver Top deck Assistant Ops Mgr was in a car with the late James Hemsley,who wrote comic strips for many years,they kindly drove me to Sorrento to pick up our cook,Di Gallagher,who had been staying with Leo.They then brought us back to Rome,to meet up with the tour.
We saw you in Sun City ,outside Johannesburg.It was the end of Sid's honeymoon tour.My brother wasn't there.In the party was Sid's two aunts,his sister and her husband and two kids.Also Sid's wife Lynn.That was 1995.
God, where have all those years gone? I caught up with Sid a few times after that, as he drove some tours with Mr Dick which visited Swaziland, where I used to give Dick's punters a talk on the place. Sid invited me down to his house in South Africa, but I didn't get a chance then and guess that I never will now.
Back in the days of the overland, between trips Sid and I did a Scandy together. One night in Finland he got together with this angelic looking girl (I can still see her; very pretty, short very blonde hair, trim-bodied) who didn't speak a word of English. I was highly impressed; Sid definitely had a way with the ladies.
Back in London, he took me for a spin his his Porsche; that's still the only time I have ever been in one. Another driver who gave me a spin I have never forgotten was Bob Newton, who took me up in the world's oldest operational Tiger Moth - again between overlands. Bob really put it through its paces, and it held up really well. Bob mentioned that the Duke of Edinburgh used to fly it, and years later one of my punters on an Explore trip in Rajasthan was a chap by the name of Air Vice Marshall Sir Peter Horsley no less, who used to be the Duke's drinking buddy and had some interesting things to say about him. Years later still, I heard that Bob was killed when his plane crashed while he was fighting bush fires in Victoria. So although Bob's was a short life, he had packed a lot into it.
We used to use Sid's Porsche to pick up coach parts around London.
Yes sadly Bob Newton no longer with us.
I saw Bob's sister,Christine at Beerfest in Munich,early 80,s.She was walking through Thalkirchen campsite carrying a shovel.
Five minutes later returned arm in arm with a young bloke.
Nice spade work,Christine.
Mike ,spoke to Tom Sawyer today,he lives in Darwin,wants to catch up with you.
Get him on 0412239253.
We used to use Sid's Porsche to pick up coach parts around London. Yes sadly Bob Newton no longer with us. I saw Bob's sister,Christine at Beerfest in Munich,early 80,s.She was walking through Thalkirchen campsite carrying a shovel. Five minutes later returned arm in arm with a young bloke. Nice spade work,Christine. Mike ,spoke to Tom Sawyer today,he lives in Darwin,wants to catch up with you. Get him on 0412239253. Rocky
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