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Eric Edis Explains How ‘The Impossible Takes a Little Longer’

A memoir of his epic overland London to Australia expedition in 1957

December 08, 2008, Press Dispensary. The year is 1957, the first artificial satellite is launching, Elvis Presley is in the hit parade and the Vietnam War is starting. And intrepid British explorer, Eric Edis, is planning an expedition to drive across the world in a Land Rover... and back again. Eric’s book, ‘The Impossible Takes a Little Longer’, is a gripping true-life story of the adventure-packed overland journey made by an inexperienced group of young people who set out from London for Australia armed with two old vehicles and a lot of determination!

Eric departed London on October 28, 1957, with a team of 10 men and five women. Only one woman (a 23 year old typist) and one vehicle made it with him as far as Australia. After 18 months and five days, Eric made it back to London on March 21, 1959, accompanied by four Australians (three of these were girls) and one New Zealand guy who had joined him ‘down under’ for the return trip. Hence, Eric was the only person to complete the expedition overland in both directions... and he has plenty of tales to tell.

Eric says “‘The Impossible Takes a Little Longer’ has a strong Burma background and reaches a climax where, at extraordinary risk, the outward team illegally entered the forbidden Burma Road. As a result of the unstable political situation, insurgent activity and appalling road conditions, its borders with India had been closed to outsiders since the end of World War 2. To this day, I can lay claim to being the only person to traverse the Ledo Road successfully in both directions.”

He adds: “The harshness of the journey took its toll on the team. With most of our money gone, we signed on an Australian-bound oil tanker, taking the remaining vehicle with us and worked our passage across. I appeared on Australian television to tell my story, which helped to fund and find a replacement crew for the trek back to England. We drove our Land Rover 4,500 miles across the burning, arid Australian desert to Broome, where I worked for two days in a meat freezing plant, helping to load the ship that would return us to Singapore.

“Incessant rains through the jungles of Thailand and Burma made travelling a relentless struggle for survival. Rotted wooden bridges had collapsed. Trees were down and roads subsided. We had no power winches to drag our vehicle from the swamps and were bogged down in one for two days. We suffered from fever, dysentery, jungle foot and Guinea worm. One boy was bitten by a scorpion. Trying to free the vehicle from a muddy creek, my body became covered in leeches.

“One night, we inadvertently strayed into a village of the Naga head hunters, not knowing how it would end. From the Stilwell Road, we recovered the famous sign erected by the British Army during their war against the Japanese. It now stands in the Imperial War Museum. Fording the border river for re-entry into Burma was fraught with problems. The engine filled with water and we were stuck right in the middle, sinking in the mud, while the immigration officer waited on the far bank to inspect our re-constituted documents. We were in big trouble. As the rains and steaming jungles of S.E. Asia gave way to the snows and mountains of Afghanistan, Iran and Turkey, Mother Nature made life as difficult as possible. I was saved by the Mujaheddin from the frozen hell of an Afghan winter, while struggling through snow for help after a breakdown.

“We also rescued a Russian Jeep that had plunged into a snow drift and had the hair-raising experience of extricating an injured Afghan driver from a crashed Russian oil tanker, which was spilling its fuel. Stricken with malaria, I drove for days with a painfully infected hand in a sling, while one of the girls changed the gears for me. On the border of Turkey and Iraq, I crawled through a barbed wire fence into a mine field, only to be saved by a notice board I couldn’t read. In Turkey, we were the victims of a vendetta against us by Customs and Excise when we refused to pay them bribe money.”

Eric concludes: "With today's modern technology, I do not believe that it would be possible to repeat 'today' the journey I made 50 years ago."

‘The Impossible Takes a Little Longer’ - covering 40,000 miles and three continents – is full of adventures. It is available at and Barnes and Noble, ISBN 9781409203018 and costs £13.95.

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Notes for editors
Eric Edis served nearly five years in the RAF and trained as an air gunner before undertaking his expedition, which was planned on scraps of paper during a long spell in hospital. He has subsequently driven to India and back on three occasions.

For further information, please contact:
Eric Edis, author
The Impossible Takes a Little Longer
Tel: 020 8527 1037

Media contacts

Eric Edis, author
Tel: 020 8527 1037