The 1970s “The great Overland experience”
It all began in Afghanistan. Exodus started life in February 1974 when two friends got together to provide an overland truck to travel to the Minaret of Jam, deep in the heart of the Hindu Kush, the most inaccessible of the world’s great monuments. The 1970s were the heyday of the hippie trail across Asia with the fabled city of Kathmandu as the destination. With Aussies and Kiwis wanting to travel west as part of their Grand Tour there was a viable business proposition and the founders of Exodus built three more trucks and started taking groups from London to Kathmandu. (Top image: Overland group camping beneath Tien Shan Mountains).
The Trans Asia Overland became a well trodden path from Calais to Kathmandu on surfaced roads and only the vagaries of border crossings to slow you down. However Africa was a new challenge. Overland London to Johannesburg, a mere 16 weeks of roadblocks, mud and dysentery. In fact, if the trip was completed in 16 weeks it was regarded as something of an achievement, and one of our staff members happily recalls taking 21 weeks to reach Johannesburg, including getting ambushed in Sudan on Christmas Day.
BBC 1975 Documentary
We have found this amazing footage, a BBC documentary, on YouTube covering an Exodus Overland trip from the UK to Nepal in 1975. There are also some old 'Trailfinders' magazine articles online about the forming of the company and the beginning of adventure travel, notably Overlanding in India.
The 1980s “Global Expansion, partly on foot”
Global expansion continued with new Overland routes pioneered when in 1981 our first truck went to South America and drove through the Amazon basin: more mud, not quite so much dysentery.
Elsewhere in the world other things were afoot! Our Asia Overlands mainly departed in the autumn and returned to London in the spring. Hence the overland drivers spent winter with their feet up in Kathmandu (very pleasant too). Meanwhile the Nepalese trekking industry was in its early infancy and the Exodus directors had the bright idea of using those underemployed overland drivers as trek leaders, making sure that their feet were not just up, but up Annapurna, Everest base camp and any other route they could find. From this humble beginning, Exodus’ Walking and Trekking programme grew rapidly, launching the company into the world of shorter two and three week trips. The first dedicated trekking brochures in the early 1980s were quite modest affairs, but by the end of the decade our trekking routes covered most of the world’s main mountain ranges and we had become leaders in the field.
The 1990s “Adventures in China and Russia and a decade of growth”
The early 1990s were dominated by two world-shaking events. One was the break-up of the Soviet Union, which opened up a huge range of fabulous new countries to explore, mainly on foot. From climbing Mount Elbrus, to easy walking on the shores of Lake Baikal in Siberia, Exodus groups were usually there first.
The other big event was getting an Exodus overland truck into China, something which no other UK company managed for well over 10 years. China is just another destination now, but in 1990 this was more sensational than going to the moon or the South Pole; it even got one of the founding Directors from behind his computer and put him behind the steering wheel, driving the first trip.
Not everyone wants to trek or go on long overland trips, and the 1990s were also the decade when our Discovery programme really took off and our Cycling programme was born, managed by an adventurous chap who had cycled across Africa on the “Goodies” trandem!
The 2000s “A new age and Seven continents for the whole family”
The new century saw a gradual decline in the popularity of the traditional long overland as the electronic age really took hold. A huge holiday shift was and still is taking place. Many did not want to spend hard earned cash simply to lie frying on a beach in Spain when we offered something altogether more memorable, absorbing, educational and inspirational. Exodus’ range of adventurous and active holidays now reaches almost every corner of the globe and covers a wide array of interests. In 2004 the first dedicated “alternative snow holidays” and Family Adventures brochures were launched and trips to the Polar regions finally saw us on all seven continents.
The 2010s “Post credit crunch, a long slow recovery and the rise of the BRICs?”
The world is a very different place in the 2010s than it was in the 1970s. No more “poste restantes” when you can get mobile phone coverage at Everest Base Camp. No more overlands and the “hippy trail” in the age of the low (sometimes not) cost carriers. E-mails, twitter, apps, facebook and blogs....... The economic rise of Asia, Brazil and Russia.
Lots and lots of change, however Exodus continues to evolve to suit changing travel tastes and we still strive to find new destinations and new ways of enjoying existing destinations, whilst ensuring that we give something back to the communities we visit and help protect the environments we travel so far to see. From its humble beginnings, the company has gone from strength to strength and we are now looking forward to the next decade of active exploration of our wonderful planet.
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