Trans Africa Southbound Highlights

EO London to Johannesburg departure 3 Feb 1979

On board WBH 646S in orange

I was an  Expedition Leader for an Encounter Overland trip from London to Johannesburg in South Africa. The trip left London on 3rd February 1979 and was planned to take 16 weeks. At the time Encounter Overland operated a single staff member with an expedition team of about 20 people. Otherwise known passengers, customers, punters, or officially Expedition Members, EMs. Whatever they are called they are most definitely not passengers. Having only one staff member ensures that they have to fully engage with the Expedition Team and not able to bump along with with another staff member. Another advantage of course is that there is an additional seat to sell.

The Expedition Leader was therefore, driver, mechanic, navigator, guide, concierge, facilitator, medic (unqualified), confidant, aide, peacekeeper, negotiator, and many other things as well. The Expedition Team had to make camp, cook, wash up, shop for food, assist the Expedition leader in most thing as required, apart from driving. On top of that they had to look at the scenery, engage with each other, and the locals and generally enjoy the adventure. There were normally in the age range of 18 to 30-40. There was no formal upper age restriction, but trips like this are tough both physically and mentally. Pushing a heavy truck through soft sand, and running round from back to front with sand mats before the truck loses momentum, is not an easy task.

Some of the team were couples, others small groups of friends, and frequently they were travelling on their own. It is very interesting and challenging whichever group you fall in, to suddenly be spending 24/7 with either your partner, friends, and people you have never met before. It makes for some very interesting dynamics. The Expedition Leader has to help all of the different temperaments get alone with each other and resolve any areas of friction. A collaborating team can be a happy and safe team. A happy team makes for a happy and memorable trip. Something to remember and be proud of for life.

Read more about the trip on my travel site.

To help organise the trip in my mind and the photos, I have created sections for Europe, North Africa, .....


February 19779

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Trans Africa Southbound 1979, Europe

North Africa

February and March 1979

We landed in Tunis, and soon headed to Carthage, which was the centre or capital city of the ancient Carthaginian civilization.

The next significant stop was the magnificent amphitheater at El Jem. Read about my visit to the Roman jewel in Tunisia

A wondering around southern Tunisia including Matmata with traditional Berber troglodyte homes, and surprisingly snow.

Eventually we find a way into Algeria and the Grand Erg Oriental for fun in the dunes. Then for some hard work climbing into the mountains above Djanet, on foot, to see some old rock paintings. Well worth it.

Crossing southern Algeria, more sand and more mountains. From Tassili N'Ajjer National Park.

into the Hoggar Mountains and Ahaggar National Park. Then on to Tamanrasset before heading South and into Niger.

Trans Africa Southbound 1979, North Africa

West Africa


West Africa, Niger, Nigeria, and Possibly Cameroon 

Trans Africa Southbound 1979, West Africa

Central Africa


All sorts of problems

Trans Africa Southbound 1979, Central Africa

East Africa


Wildlife and more

Trans Africa Southbound 1979 - East Africa

Southern Africa