I have always had a ‘bug’ for travel…
I want to see as much of this World as possible, whilst I’m here for my short life span. After all, this is not a rehearsal, so make the most of it! So far I’m at about 150 countries or territories – as disparate as Pitcairn Island, Tristan Da Cunha, Kyrgystan, Ascension Island, Iceland, St Helena, and many, many in between. I have also been to every State of the United States (except Alaska), a majority by car. I love to get to know local people and you cannot do that by air. Patricia and I have driven overland from London to Peking and Hong Kong as well as London to Cape Town via the Middle East. Taken an Exploration vessel through the South Pacific (where Patricia was the first member of her family to visit the Marquesa Islands, named after her ancestor, the Marques de Mendoza, when he was the Spanish Viceroy of South America). Taken a ship from Chile via Cape Horn to Dover, England, visiting apart from mainland South America, beautiful places such as Fernando de Neronha and the Cape Verde Islands.
So back in the mid 60s, I had all this to come and to get out of my system. I met a fun Aussie guy called Peter Richards.
Pete, a photographer, was some sort of cousin of my then girlfriend, Jane Wilde. We started planning a trip around ‘off the beaten track’ Europe, initially together with Jane’s sister, Ingrid and a friend of mine, Lady Catherine Packenham. Unfortunately Catherine’s father, Lord Longford, was a Cabinet Minister of Britain’s Government at the time, and she was refused permission to travel to Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, by the British Foreign Office.
So we started again. Pete and I planned an ‘extension’ of our original trip, but, this time around Africa. John has very kindly posted a photo of the route on this site. Now we decided we needed ‘blokes’ rather than women, as travelling companions, as this was going to be much tougher. If memory serves me correct, and I am sure our esteemed Administrator will put me right if I’m wrong, we found John’s name on a huge notice board in a shop doorway in Kangaroo Valley. (Earls Court in London). He was I seem to remember, making everyone inebriated as a Kiwi barman at the Overseas Visitors Club. (OVC).
We thought we could take this youngster under our patronage, and to his eternal shame, he agreed!! Now we were three. From then on it’s a bit hazy – senior moments!
Somehow we had met Col. Lionel Gregory, who had organised an overland expedition to India for students from all over the Commonwealth, called COMEX under the Patronage of Prince Philip. ‘Greg’ was now planning another COMEX, Comex 2, and he wanted more African students to come to India. Our little expedition was to be called Venture ’66. This was to try to help get sponsorship. We proposed ‘grafting’ ourselves onto Comex and arranging the sending of students to India for the ‘big’ get together, from West, South and Eastern African Commonwealth countries. This appealed to Greg and we all ‘set to’ putting the programme together. Suffice it to say, somewhere along the line it all went ‘pear shaped’ and the expedition around Africa never got off the ground. The three of us decided that we would ‘do’ our own thing and go across North Africa by road.
Keith then came into the picture, and for the life of me, I can’t remember how we met. Anyhow, we were now four. Great for sharing expenses.
We bought a Morris J2 Van for our journey. I cannot remember where we found it, but it had a sink, bunks and an engine, so we plumped for it. I think I am right in saying that none of us had any idea about engines or things mechanical. It was ‘hope over reason’.
I think I’ve now bought you up to date as to how we started, hopefully without completely boring the pants of you, but John is a superb story teller, (in the nicest possible sense!) and he will take us on from here, including the night in the Libyan Desert with the British Army when they welded the truck together for us – as it was breaking apart with the rough roads.
Keith had left us at this stage. He returned to Canada from Tunis as he had been chosen to appear at Canada’s prestigious Old Fort Henry. For Guard duty?
After our fabulous trip, and don’t forget we were ‘pioneers’ in those days, I did go on the overland trip of Comex 2 to India. I drove a bus. But that’s another story…
2006 was also the 40th anniversary of COMEX…
There is an interesting website here and also here. Colonel Lionel (Greg) Gregory is still a driving force and there is much of his writing on the site. I remember him as a fascinating (and motivating) man – and I regret not having the opportunity of completing our adventure with him. Many thousands of other young people did – and his influence and vision extends far beyond his beloved Commonwealth… There’s a 2002 interview with him here.
I have re-established contact with him – and I know he visits this site… Welcome aboard Greg, and enjoy with us – what you started!
There are 4 chapters in this section…