Overland celebrates 50 years of high adventure

Last updated 09:56 27/09/2012

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Just £1 a year. That was the annual subscription in 1962 of Wellington's fledgling Overland Club, which celebrates its 50th jubilee on October 11.

Stories, memories and nostalgia will flow that evening when founding member Ivan Hodge of Sydney speaks to club members.

Other founding or very early members expected for the celebration include Barry Warner, Mark Dunajtschik, Dorothy Spotswood, Carole Knight, Mark Dun and Peter Smith.

The club started when a group of Wellingtonians, who had driven overland from England to New Zealand, decided to meet, show slides and swap travel tales.

Enthusiasm grew, others joined them, and the Overland Club was formed. Today it has nearly 100 members, each paying a $20 annual subscription.

"The original guidelines were rather pure," said Mr Warner, of Lower Hutt.

"It was to be a club for those who had travelled overland.

"Later it was broadened to to anyone interested in exotic travel. Now membership is open to everyone interested in travel."

Mr Warner's early travels included being in Berlin in August 1961, when the wall went up, and getting caught up in a locust plague in Pakistan.

Wellington property developer Mark Dunajtschik did the overland trip in reverse - to Europe on his motorbike.

Mr Hodge will recall his three-month, 27,000km overland trip with his wife, Beth. They travelled in a rear- engined German car which cost them [PndStlg]430.

He will speak about the desert run from Tehran to Pakistan, where long stretches of road were sand, and of being moved on from a Bedouin watering hole at gunpoint.

Such adventures were described in a book entitled For love and a Beetle.

In the early 1960s, Dorothy Spotswood drove with three friends from London to Sri Lanka - then Ceylon - where they boarded a homeward- bound ship.

Scariest of her many adventures was being jailed for three days in Iraq during an uprising.

She's still in touch with her English-speaking Iraqi rescuer.

Joy McNicoll said she remembered the weekends away - at Dawson Falls especially - as highlights of club membership.

The club still sometimes does away trips.

In 1965 Sir Edmund Hillary became club patron and the venue was packed for his talk about an overland trip in the United States.

The next year, the club mounted the Overland Exhibition, in which vehicles, equipment and maps used by overlanders were on displayed. They included a bicycle that one member had used to cycle home.

In the 1960s and 70s, the club's meeting place moved almost as much as its members, driven by rent increases and growing membership.

First, the Automobile Association rooms in the old DIC building. Then the Railway Social Hall, followed by the YMCA Social Hall in lower Willis St, the new YMCA building at the top of Willis St and the Loaves and Fishes near St Paul's Cathedral. The present meeting place is Connolly Hall, Guildford Tce, Thorndon.

A recent meeting included an illustrated talk on a hike to Ghunza, a high-altitude Tibetan village.

One of the most intrepid recent travellers journeyed by bicycle from Cairo to Cape Town, 11,000km through 10 African countries. Heat in the Sahara Desert hovered at about 50 degrees celsius and heights in Ethiopia reached 3000 metres.

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For information, email president/treasurer bruce. gwen@xtra.co.nz or secretary: janet.coburn@paradise.net.nz.

- The Wellingtonian


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