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Tales from the road.

It’s been three weeks since our last ‘Tales from the Road’, and what a three weeks it’s been… We’ve covered almost 2,500km since we last sat down to write in southern Thailand, crossing the length of beguiling Burma (Myanmar) and on to the breath-taking views and spine-rattling roads of north-east India.

Back in 1955 the First Overlanders used their Expedition typewriter to provide irregular updates from the road, dispatched whenever they had a chance to catch up with themselves. 64 years on, and even with a laptop and wifi, it’s still hard to find time to sit still and write!

Thankfully we’ve paused in the beautiful Wildgrass Resort at the edge of the Kaziranga National Park in Assam, one of the world’s most precious biodiversity hotspots. Last night as the sun went down, the Team sat in silent awe, watching elephants bathing and rhinos grazing (while keeping a wary eye out for the bumper population of tigers.) Oxford was even treated to a very unique escort out of the park…

One month in: a recap
 
We’re now four weeks and 4000km into our journey back to London, and the Flag Off in Singapore on August 25th now feels like a lifetime ago. Thankfully our friends over at JLR Asia Pacific made this wonderful mini-film from the day to keep the memories fresh!

After an overwhelming response to Oxford’s arrival in Malaysia (see photos here), we passed on through to Thailand and headed straight for the bustling metropolis of Bangkok.

We were treated to lunch at the Royal Bangkok Sports Club (see below), and Oxford broke all the rules of this prestigious place by doing a victory lap of the racetrack!

All was forgiven it seems, as on departure Oxford was awarded an exclusive Sports Club car shield which she’ll now proudly be wearing all the back to London.  
After Bangkok we headed for the border with Burma – a country close to the hearts of many of the Last Overland team. Alex, Marcus, Leo and David have all lived and worked in this country for many years, and Burma was the destination Tim was most looking forward to revisiting.
 
We had an action packed weekend in Yangon, where we were hosted for dinner by the British Ambassador, HE Dan Chugg, and the British Chamber of Commerce at the beautifully restored Pegu Club
We also managed to sneak in the Myanmar Premiere of Grammar’s latest film, Forgotten Allies: the search for Burma’s lost heroes. Hosted at the newly opened Rosewood Hotel in partnership with Dulwich College Yangon, we were honoured to have the front row filled by Myanmar WW2 veterans – many of whom featured in our film.

For lucky viewers in the UK, you’ll be able to see it for yourselves on The History Channel on September 27th at 9pm. Pop it in your diaries!
From Yangon we headed north and west through Bagan, Naypyitaw and Mandalay where we shot a short film with one of our supporters, Opihr – you’ll see it soon!

Our last stop in Burma was the Tamu-Moreh border crossing, our gateway to Manipur and north-east India. Sensing the Team’s mood, Oxford was galloping like an excitable puppy as we crossed a country she’d last visited 63 years before.
Following in the exact tyre-tracks of the First Overland was not an option in 2019, as the famous ‘Stillwell Road’ (or what remains of it) through northern Myanmar is now closed due to the rumbling conflict in Kachin State.

Entering India – our fifth country – felt like a new frontier. None of the team has been to the this part of the world before, and all of us have been blown away by what’s on offer here for the 21st century overlander. Our first stop (Alex insisted) was to visit Imphal and Kohima, two of the most important battle sites of WW2 in Asia.
 
A visit to the Kohima Cemetery in Nagaland was particularly moving, and the Team walked in silence through the beautifully preserved headstones of the more than 1400 British and Commonwealth soldiers who died here, in one of the most savage and little known chapters of WW2. 

Famous for its (now retired) headhunters, this corner of India is still referred to by the locals as the country’s “Wild West”. We quickly got a taste of how wild it could be when the convoy was trapped in the middle of a land dispute that turned violent between two Naga clans. The Mao Nagas had closed the only road between Kohima and Dimapur to protest the burning of several of their homes and shops that morning by a neighbouring clan.
Luckily no one was hurt, and the TLO team were able to dissolve tensions slightly by handing out our supply of Fortnum & Mason’s biscuits and spinning yarns from the First Overland. Cool heads in a crisis, etc.
 
Nagaland’s other nickname is “The Wettest Dry State”, which is fortunate as we celebrated two birthdays last week. Fortunately thanks to a fresh delivery of Opihr’s new Far East Edition a few days earlier, the Team were able to raise a birthday toast to Marcus and Alex!

And how is Tim?
 
How times change… While settling down to some wonderful Naga cuisine in the middle of nowhere, we were ambushed by a video call from York. On the screen was none other than Tim Slessor! Now on the road to recovery after falling ill in Singapore, he was having a catch-up lunch with TLO’s home team, and Oxford’s owner/restorer, Adam Bennett.
Tim and Adam were celebrating TLO’s 8-page spread in the latest edition of Land Rover Monthly, written by our mate Patrick Cruywagen who joined us for the first week of our expedition. Patrick kindly dubbed TLO „the mother of all road trips” – we rather liked that. While we were on the call, we asked Tim him if he had a message to share with his fans. He did!


Where next?
 
From Kaziranga we rejoin the same road through Assam that the First Overlanders traversed 64 years ago, as we head on towards Darjeeling, and after that Nepal. The team are well (although we’re all missing our loved ones out here in the wilderness), and Oxford is coughing and spluttering a little due to the dust and dodgy fuel (as are a couple of us!)
We’ve also started putting the plans in place for Oxford’s homecoming celebrations in December. More on that soon…
 
Until then, keep on rolling!
 
Team TLO x