Journey of a Lifetime

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Paddy's Bus

In 1957 an affable, and some thought eccentric, Irishman called Paddy Garrow-Fisher took a bus-load of intrepid travellers on an expedition from England to India. They were the first fare-paying adventurers to set out on this tremendous 20,000 km journey. In many ways they were similar to passengers of the old Indiaman clippers of a few generations before except that they went by road instead of by sea. The romance of visiting exotic places full of strange sights, sounds and smells, was every bit as exciting as in days of old. It was truly their 'journey of a lifetime'.

Over the next few years the service grew and matured; many mistakes were made and many lessons learned. Paddy started Garrow-Fisher Tours, his retail travel agency, with Indiaman Tours incorporated as its Tour Operations arm. Competition saw many new start-ups (and many drop by the wayside) as well as an ever-increasing number of independent travellers, all following the same dream - to experience the mysterious East.

Clipped from a newspaper article about the Indiaman

Over time roads improved, some were built where none previously existed, and basic facilities for travellers sprang up to provide what would have been unimaginable luxuries to earlier overlanders. On the other side of the coin, there was rarely a trip that was not affected at some stage by war, religious zealotry or natural disaster. These always introduced fresh difficulties or hazards - and sometimes real danger.

Although the Indiaman no longer plies its way between East and West, its modern equivalents continue. The romance and adventure of the 'Asia Overland', as it came to be known, still inspires younger generations to set off in organized groups on their own great adventure. A lot of them, like their Indiaman fore-runners, make friendships that span the world, which is what makes travelling as a passenger so different to doing it 'under your own steam'.

That bus journey, which operated from the late 1950s and throughout the 1960s, remains a powerful memory for many people, myself included, who are now approaching old age. It is their photographs and stories that provide the starting point for this project. One of the main aims is to provide a way of re-establishing contact with long-lost fellow travellers and to become a place where ex-Indiaman passengers and crew, and their contemporaries and successors, gather to reminisce and contribute by adding their stories and pictures. I hope that younger overlanders also join in and lend a modern perspective to the ongoing story.

Indeed, I hope that this site appeals to everyone who has an interest in adventure, especially overland travelling, whether as a past passenger, a prospective future traveller, or simply because they like to read about ordinary people doing extraordinary things.

Alex (Mike) Alexander The Mystique

Only those who have made the journey can begin to understand it. Passengers and crew alike became a part of it. New companions, new experiences, new perplexities, new horizons beckoning - and the special jargon of the Indiaman tradition - were all part of it.

From the 1964 Indiaman brochure

The Warning

The following message was included in every Indiaman brochure of the time and is reproduced here to convey a feeling for the special atmosphere of the Indiaman:


We have always been at great pains to STRESS that this journey is an 'EXPEDITION' rather than a 'TOUR' in the normal sense. IT IS NOT - the MOST COMFORTABLE WAY OF TRAVELLING. IT IS NOT - the CHEAPEST WAY OF TRAVELLING. It is a rugged, rewarding journey that will take you across mountains and deserts and into the remotest parts of some very primitive countries.

It will bring you into the company of people who are warm, 'happy go lucky', tolerant and human - so if there is any 'gingerbread' in your make up, better stay away! Bluntly - it is a trip for the genuine TRAVELLER rather than the modern TOURIST. Luxury does not exist all along the overland route. Hotels range from excellent to pretty putrid but all are endurable and if you can rise above the limitations of 'creature comforts' you will certainly enjoy this trip.

OUR WARNING IS NO STUNT - so please - please - for your sake, for our sake, for God's sake! - stay away if you want mollycoddling.

The Jargon

A good example of Indiaman jargon was the term 'Mashay'. Locally it was understood to be a nickname or term of respect given to those who had made pilgrimage to the Holy City of Mashed in Persia. In Indiaman parlance it was the title given to identify those Tour Leader drivers who had made a number of overland journeys.

If you have any comments, suggestions or contributions regarding the Indiaman that you would like to add, please send an e-mail to:
 indiaman AT 101answers DOT com

The following links lead to some other sites belonging to Mike Alexander that are nothing to do with the Indiaman but which it is hoped you might find interesting.

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