Dundas London: So Alex, how did you first come across the original expedition and what made you want to recreate it?
Alex Bescoby: I’d read about the First Overland when I was at university, as five of the First Overland team had also gone to Cambridge. I was looking for my next filmmaking project and this historic trip had always been at the back of my mind. Through a series of quite amazing coincidences I ended up meeting Adam Bennett, the owner/restorer of “Oxford” the Land Rover Series 1 used in the original expedition, and then Tim Slessor one of the original Overlanders. When I first met Tim, I had no idea he was already planning to recreate the journey himself - I think my team were the last piece in the puzzle of a story that was just burning to be told. Looking back, it feels like the universe wanted it to happen!
DL: I know that you’re a big fan of Land Rovers, how are you and “Oxford” getting on?
AB: We have our disagreements now and then, but generally getting on swimmingly! Honestly, it’s the greatest privilege to get to drive this car hundreds of miles every day. You cannot help but be in the moment - driving is an adventure! You have to get used to a few of the foibles “the old lady” - as Tim lovingly calls her - likes to throw your way such as the fact she leaks like a sieve in the monsoon rains, and the doors have a habit of popping open at top speed which can also catch you by surprise. But everyone here is fighting to get in the driving seat - as Tim says, “this is motoring!"
DL: You’re now 10 days into The Last Overland - how’s it been so far?
AB: It’s been incredible. I had no idea quite how enthusiastic the response would be to us retracing the tyre-tracks of that historic overland expedition, 63 years on. We’ve been overwhelmed with welcomes in Singapore, Malaysia and now Thailand - people from all across the region are driving hundreds of miles just to come and meet us. It’s bonkers, and wonderful.
DL: Tim mentored you through your preparation - how are you expecting the challenge to differ from the one he undertook in 1955?
AB: Some things are very different - in many ways our journey is easier. We have GPS mapping, internet, tarmac roads most of the way. But then again, it’s still the same old Land Rover Series 1 - no power steering, no disc brakes, no synchromesh gearbox and certainly no air-conditioning (we’re feeling that down here in south-east Asia…) And it’s roughly the same number of miles, and you really feel them in this old car. Route-wise, we’re taking on some new challenges as we deviate from the original route in certain places. For example, we’ll be crossing through one of the highest roads in the world in Tibet. It’s really going to push the car, and the team, to the limit.
DL: So to answer our original question, should the Dundas reader take on the iconic adventures they have long idolised?
AB: Yes! Don’t wait, because one day it will be too late. Tim’s mantra - "it’s now or never” - shouldn’t only apply to 87 year olds. Get out there and see the world, and if it's in a Land Rover all the better.
DL: Many thanks Alex and safe travels to you and your team.
We’ll catch up with Alex further along the road as he completes the 100 day journey from Singapore to London. The Last Overland will be released as a series in 2020.
Interviewed by Peter Macdonald for Dundas London. To find out more about the The Last Overland visit thelastoverland.com