Welcome from Jan

Hi there!
This blog is for those who love both books and travel. I'm starting by travelling back in time to the 1970s and the overland trail to India which I took as an 18 year old. Have a look at my daily diary entries and photos. Some of these places are impossible to visit at the moment, but I can give you a flavour of what they were like in the golden age of the hippy trail.

The experience has inspired my new mystery novel, THE VANISHING OF RUTH, which is out now as an ebook. Find details and extracts at The Vanishing of Ruth

To buy: The Vanishing of Ruth

Also take a look at Facebook Page Overlanders for more memorabilia.

Cheers, Jan.

Saturday, 6 March 2010

OVERLANDER LETTER HOME, 1976 - Angel Delight, Pernod, cards and camping in the rain.


A touch of envy at Contiki Tours; no camp stew and Angel Delight for them ...

On the bus!
Dear Mum and Dad
Hope you got my p.c. from Paris.  We had a good evening - some of us got a lift from Contiki Tours into Paris again.  A very smooth bus - tinted windows, luxury seats and a courier who tells sick jokes!  (They even had a marquee affair where they doled out breakfast - not real camping!)

They drove up the Champs Elysees and round the Arc de Triomphe all floodlit - and round and round ... the traffic being Parisian it took some time to work our way to the outside of the race-course and take one of the roads again!

And a brief encounter with a formidable female French patron in a bar ...
They all went to a restaurant for a meal but as we'd eaten the soup/stew? and Angel Delight? concoction at the camp we all piled into a bar down the road.  We were "stung" by the awful prices because we sat down rather than prop up the bar.  Two of the group tried to "persuade" the waiter that the prices were too much and disappeared behind the bar with him - far from winning, the lady patron appeared - and no one argues with French landladies (they ended up buying the waiter a drink!)

Aussie card games on the bus and putting up tents in the rain ...

Yesterday we were woken at 6.0 (ugh!) and were on the road by 8.30.  We had a few 15 min stops on the auto-route, but apart from that, were on the road for 12 hours!  Spent most of the day playing rummy than then learnt an Aussie game called "5000" - I was pretty useless (having excelled at Rummy) - perhaps it would help if I stood on my head!

In the dark and rain we pitched at a place called Orange, Provence.  Had a quick drink to fortify us - the exuberant barmen had been knocking back the Pernods, so insisted that the first round was free! (About seven people).  This morning was still wet and hazy."

card scores recorded on toilet paper!

Friday, 5 March 2010


[My first postcard home from France gushes; 'the people seem to be very nice - lots of single travellers like me, many Aussies.  About 26 of us, but few more to be collected!']


"Woken at 6.0 in morning!  Remains of rice gunge for breakfast.  Set off from campsite about 8.30.  Down towards Lyon.  A few motor self service stops - luxury facilities!

Played cards at the back for hours - Rummy - I won!  Learnt '5000' (sort of!).  On the road for 12 hours.

Rained like mad, so pressed on to place called Orange, near Avignon.  Pitched camp in rain (so much for the sunny south of France - Skye is much drier!)

Had a drink in a local bar - barmen were all well away, drinking Pernod, so they gave us all a free drink (seven of us) and we only had to pay for the second - 2francs for 2 beers!

Dark by time at camp, so don't know what place is like - seems to be deserted!  Thought I saw a snake in the dark - turned out to be a long worm!  (Was teased about that!)"

Thursday, 4 March 2010

OVERLANDERS IN PARIS - some eat well, others just head for the bars, 1976

[Day Two and it was into Paris to do the tourist thing.  We were camping in the Bois de Boulogne so in the evening scrounged a lift with another tour bus going back into the centre.  They were going for a posh group meal out while we headed for a bar and complained about the price of drinks - which more or less set the tone of our group from the start - cheap and cheerful!]


"Lift in with other bus to Louvre - some went in there - but some of us went to see the Impressionist Art Gallery (Frances, Sally, Heidi, Jan Diana, Mark and me).  Really good.  Super one of a family gathering!  Liked Van Gogh and Monet.  Lovely serene characters and backgrounds.

Walked for miles to other Modern Art Gallery but was closed.  In great need of a drink by this time!  Decided to make for Latin Quarter.  Caught tube and found a cafe - had a citron presse!  Expensive, must have paid for the view (National Bank of Paris).  Wandered around the streets - temporarily lost as two hunting for malaria tablets.  Ate quiche Lorraine.

Sally and Frances went to see a friend.  We decided to walk home through the Bois, so spent ages rushing from one tube line to the other - all turfed off at one station, some at one before - some French game to play in the rush hour probably.  Finally walked back - people training and being energetic in the Bois, lots of exclusive houses (didn't call on Omar Sharif).

Hot shower, great!  In evening got lift into Paris with ContikiTours - drove round Arc de Triomphe (several times before getting off).  Saw everything floodlit.  Their tour went to a restaurant while we went to a bar down the street.  A rip off for the drinks because we sat down.  Arguing didn't pay off!  Trip round Montmartre rained off.  (Chris, Nikki, Sue, Pam, Pam, Neva, Rob, Mark, Jan, Hans and me)."

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

THE HIPPY TRAIL STARTS HERE - in London on a bus going backwards! 1976

[The first day of the trip began in a sleepy London and ended with pitching tents in a dark Paris.  Not knowing a soul, I teamed up with Janice and Australian Jan for tent-mates, so I soon became known as Little Jan to differentiate between the three.  At the campsite in the Bois de Boulogne we listened open-mouthed to a Westbound group of overlanders, their numbers decimated by hepatitis, who spun us tales of horror of the trip ahead.  Their bus windows were blanked out with whitewash like some fever ship.  The memory stuck with me and I use it in my novel OVERLANDERS. www.janetmacleodtrotter.com]


"Up at 5.30.  Taxi driver came early - had lived in India!  Father a Methodist missionary.  Got to Venture Centre.  Little van drew up (not however our transport!)  Bus eventually came, loaded rucksacks on roof.  Bags under seats - I sat at table, facing backwards - not the best way to see things.  Bus dirty, not exactly deluxe air about it, but reminiscent of United buses so felt at home!  Tape deck broken down - hope not an omen.

Sat opposite Julie and Paul - Australian couple making way home.  London almost deserted.  Early Sunday bells at outskirts.

Crossed Dover- Calais, very calm.  Had drink in bar with Janice, a nurse.  Saw France appear from the deck.  Bought duty free wine and beer (saving Whitbread Pale Ale for the desert!)

Long drive to Paris.  Sunny.  Stopped for driver to have a kip. (Chatty fella called Geoff - likes his drink!)  Had snack on bus - not too expert at pouring water while bus moving - what will it be like on Turkish roads?!)

Sun setting as approaching Paris - traffic jams.  Finally reached Bois de Boulogne campsite (brought back memories!)  Pitched tents in dark then ate sausages.

Another Greyhound bus beside us - a month overdue!  Left Kathmandu in June - half of them left as a result of hepatitis!  They chatted and told us about their experiences - I think we're in for a rough time!  Graphic details about "the shits" and Afghans etc."

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

THE HIPPY TRAIL: DURHAM TO KATHMANDU - DAY ONE rucksack, rain and rail, 1976

[1976: I was 18 and relishing the lyrics to Alice Cooper's 'School's Out'.  Having spent the hot summer holiday of 76 on the Isle of Skye, I was taking 'a year out' (as Gap Years were called in those days) before going onto Edinburgh University to do Social Anthropology. Inspired by stories of my mum, Sheila Gorrie, growing up in India in the 1920/30s where my grandfather was a conservator of forests, I took the road east.  

My grandmother, Sydney Easterbrook had gone out from Edinburgh in 1923 to marry Robert Gorrie in Lahore.  She had travelled by ship; I was going by vintage Bristol bus.  Granny Sydney was part of the 'fishing fleet' - the Brits who went out to India to marry those who worked for the Raj - while I was joining the 1970s hippy trail.  It was also money that Granny had put into trust for me, that was paying the £250 fare to Kathmandu.  The day I left Durham in the North East of England, I spoke to Granny on the phone; she'd had a mild stroke earlier in the month and I'd stayed with her in Edinburgh to help out.  It was the last time we spoke.]


"The usual last minute panic, quick rush down town and cramming of things into the new (carefully waterproofed!) rucksack.  Not the same sinking feeling as going off to school though!

Phone call from Mel and also rang Granny before leaving.  Said goodbye to Puss and Ted!  (Played the Garden Cottage tape of "Odds and Ends")

Durham grey and rain pouring down.  Helen, Mum, Dad, Don and Barbara all came to [the railway station] to see me off! (The trendy ones wore cagoules! - Dad wore old mack!)

Watch Cathedral and Castle disappear in drizzle and mist - market place, well loved streets etc.  Went under Crossgate Moor bridge (usually walking to school over it and watching trains rush under!)

Taxi to Radnor Walk [Chelsea, London].  Drucilla [MacLeod] gave great welcome.  Friends round for drinks.  Two been in Kathmandu - gave me address of a home in India.  Drucilla and I had lots of chat over supper.  I slept on sofa.  (Car stopped outside playing Beach Boys!)"