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London to Kathmandu - 1988

There we were on a beautiful sunny day, driving into Wadi-Rum (Jordan) along a rarely used, badly potholed access road, that at times seemed to completely blend into desert.

It was thirsty work keeping this fully laden 13 ton beast on the road, especially as it didn't benefit from power assisted steering.

My passengers were thoroughly enjoying this part of the journey, as we were entering the first real desert environment they had seen since the trip started some 5 weeks earlier.

My 'Trainer', an experienced leader with over 5 years experience, was sitting in the back with the passengers. So here I was, alone in the cab and in complete control.

I was a product of intensive training from one of the biggest Overland companies around and it was up to me to prove I could hack the job!

I was concentrating hard on picking the best line to drive, and decided to cut across an area of sand to another track some 50m away, which looked considerably better than the track we were on.

I built up some speed to carry us across the sand (just in case it was soft) and went for it.

No sooner was the truck midway between the two tracks, than the bell rang. The bell was the accepted communication method from those in the back to us in the front (while we were travelling). One ring meant 'stop when you can' but two rings meant 'Urgent, Stop Now'.

As it was two rings, it was pedal to the metal and I stopped the truck dead in the sand. I admit the sand helped me stop immediately, but I was pleased I had been totally in control and able to stop so quickly.

I jumped out of the cab and ran round to the rear of the truck shouting "is everything OK?". To my surprise, everybody seemed OK and seemed to be slightly agitated about stopping (including my Trainer).

Slightly perplexed I asked who had rung the bell.

"It was me" said a 50 year old who had already tried everyone's patience on more than one occasion.

"Well, why?" I asked.

"So I could take a picture of the train" he replied.

"What Train " I asked, as I almost tripped face first over a long piece of steel that ran directly underneath the truck.

It was then that I saw where he was indicating. Just a few miles down the valley was a train heavily laden with cargo (these trains just don't stop!), coming straight at us.

The fact that it was going slowly didn't help at-all, as we had sunk up to our axles in soft sand directly across the rails.

Needless to say mayhem followed, as we all grabbed shovels, sand-mats and rocks to get us clear.

We did get clear, just! But now I have a serious aversion to Train-Spotters!

Exodus Trainee Leader


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