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An Awfully Big Adventure...

Monday, 16th April 2007.

Not in the least bit daunted about turning sixty, local businessmen Keith Brown has embarked on the journey of a lifetime, backpacking across twenty countries and four continents to reach Australia by Christmas 2007.

Having spent the last ten months preparing for the trip, Keith will be joining thirty other travellers on this overland adventure, which has been organised by specialist travel operator Exploratory Overland Expeditions.

Well-known in Haverhill and local business circles, Keith is a member of Haverhill Enterprise 2000 and formerly owned the Vauxhall dealership at Duddery Hill, Haverhill. He has worked latterly as both a lecturer and consultant while always maintaining a keen interest in the town.

Now celebrating stepping into his seventh decade with customary style, Keith has taken time out to set himself a new challenge which also satisfies his enduring quest for adventure.

The group will be travelling in a specially adapted Mercedes 6 x 6 truck capable of storing 600 gallons of fresh water, baggage and camping equipment for everyone including two staff from EOE. But, although the accompanying staff will act as drivers and tour leaders, every member of the group will be expected to contribute to chores.

Keith explains: “We were told early on, if we expected luxury to look elsewhere! You have to be an active participant and that’s what I like because we are all going to have to muck in!” He continues with a twinkling smile: “ We were given a long list of stuff to take, including thongs. Now what a sixty-year-old wants with a thong came as a bit of a surprise, but the answer was quite revealing…”

The overland trail weaves through Hungary, Romania and Transylvania before exiting Europe into Turkey - reaching Gallipoli in time for Anzac day - and moving on to Iran, Pakistan, India and Nepal. The team will pause briefly in that most exotic of locations, Kathmandu, prior to ascending to base camp on Everest. Picking up the path once again, they will thread their way to Tibet, China, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, East Timor and finally Darwin in Australia. Even here the adventure’s not quite over as they plan to venture into the Australian Bush before heading on to Sydney via Ayers Rock and Adelaide.

Although the expedition is scheduled to follow a particular route, EOE has contingency plans in place to divert around hotspots should trouble loom in any of the areas they visit. However, the journey will take them through some fairly inaccessible country and no doubt deliver a few surprises.

Keith shrugs off the idea of danger and positively fizzes with enthusiasm as he describes the lure of the unknown, the promise of adventure and his anticipation of ‘moment after magical moment.’

Bitten by the travel bug as a young man, Keith originally trekked across Europe in the late sixties and will be revisiting many countries once again for the first time since that period. Despite the gulf of forty years, his memories remain just as vivid and the impact of his youthful experiences undiminished. One senses large measures of ideals and imagination.

“Travelling through Checkpoint Charlie into East Berlin was no joke in the sixties; it made my hair prickle-up. Venturing beyond the iron curtain was a step into the unknown but that was part of the adventure I wanted and I would not have missed it for the world.

“Like many youngsters, I did the backpacking thing, mainly around Europe but at one point ended up in Israel, on a kibbutz, just after the Six Day War in 1967.

“I also recall getting a lift in Yugoslavia on a small bus of migrant workers returning from working in Europe en route to Albania. They were a rough looking lot, even intimidating, but I was fascinated to see how things unfolded and happy to share this lift, which I supposed at best might take me to the next town or main road junction. But the trip lasted five days; we detoured all over southern Yugoslavia, meeting with their relatives and friends. I enjoyed barbeques by the roadside, getting merry and gained a fascinating insight into their customs, traditions and way of life. Sadly, the journey ended when they dropped me near the Albanian border – then as now only special visas allow access.

“I have never forgotten those marvellous five days and recognise no amount of money could have bought such enjoyment and adventure! The trip was to have lasted three months but ended closer to six. I hitchhiked home to London, Hackney to be precise, just in time for Christmas. Most of my time was spent travelling this way. I could write a book – maybe I will - about the anecdotes and the people I met; they were not always friendly either!”

A potent combination of wanderlust, thirst for adventure and independence of spirit have accompanied Keith throughout his life encouraging him to pursue a series of epic journeys such as driving to Murmansk in Northern Russia via Norway and the Arctic Circle.

Two years ago he undertook an extensive trip to Eastern Europe. He included Poland – not least with a measure of poignant purpose - to visit Auschwitz amongst other places, fulfilling an impulse first felt in Israel in 1967.

“I like to go where others do not or cannot.” Keith says. “Possibly one of the most beguiling elements of this trip will be the fact that we will find ourselves at times in remote areas. I look forward to that.”

Keith leaves with the blessing of his wife Kath, who may join him later in Australia, his two older children, twins Nicola and James, and his son, Ollie, who for the first time ever considers his dad cool!

Having been asked more than once in the last few weeks if he's not just a bit scared, Keith concludes: "If I am honest, scared is the wrong word, trepidation might be closer.”

Haverhill-UK will be following Keith’s adventures and we will provide a snapshot of the highlights of his journey as they occur, together with tips and advice for anyone contemplating a similar exploit.

For further information about Exploratory Overland Expeditions see below:

Haverhill Online News

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