Gorleston pensioner writes about remarkable world travels

Malcolm Metcalf who has written a book on his world travels. Picture: James Bass

Malcolm Metcalf who has written a book on his world travels. Picture: James Bass - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2013

As you press the doorbell, you are immediately struck by the truck licence plates from the US states of Nebraska and Iowa stuck to the window pane.

In the front room of Malcolm Metcalf's home, on Gorleston's Magdalen Estate, there are further obvious clues to the passion that has defined his 79 years.

Alongide a picture of a youthful Mr Metcalf holding up two deadly copperhead snakes in Australia, there are images of him leaning over the door of a battered Volkswagen Beetle on a dusty road in Iran and gazing down on a hectic street scene in Singapore.

After a lifetime devoted to travel which has seen him hitchhike to Australia and visit nearly every state in the US during 20 visits, he has written about his adventures in Malcolm's Luck, a book he hopes will inspire a new generation of globe-trotters.

Mr Metcalf has just returned from a wildlife study visit to the French Pyrenees ('that kind of journey is really nothing') to the home where his passion was born as a teenager in the most unlikely of circumstances – flat on his back with his spine in plaster.

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After recovering from tuberculosis in his lungs during his early teens, he recalled his health took a serious turn for the worse when the disease spread to his spine.

He said: 'During the months I had to spend lying in bed I gained more knowledge than I had ever learned at school.

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'And one of the books I read, given to me by my twin brother Trevor, was about travel. After I read it I vowed that if and when I did get better I would do some travelling of my own.'

Mr Metcalf is proud to have always worked, rattling off a list of jobs from dental mechanic apprentice to a shop worker at Coopers ironmongers in Great Yarmouth for 25 years – but his wages have always been carefully saved for his next big adventure.

He said: 'My first big journey came in 1968 when my then employer, Duggie Toft, the Gorleston bookmaker, gave me time off during the quiet winter period.

'I purchased a ticket to sail to Australia on the SS Australia, a large liner, and my parents drove me to Southampton docks.'

The adventure included fleeing an Adelaide hotel at midnight as fire engulfed the building next door, and scaring off robbers on a freight train to Alice Springs.

He said: 'My major trip came two years later, after months of planning, when I decided to hitchhike back to Australia,

'I took a Norfolk Line ferry from Yarmouth to Holland and made my way from there through Europe and the Middle East to India.

'I took a flight from Calcutta to Bangkok and made my way to Singapore where I got a ship to Perth.'

The journey included a marathon leg from Istanbul to Delhi in a battered 1952 Volkswagen Beetle driven by a man Mr Metcalf remembers came from Crawley.

There was an encounter with a cobra, temperatures of 125F (50C) and a serious bout of dysentery to contend with.

He said: 'The whole journey only cost £250.

'I arrived in Australia with just £1 in my pocket but found a job within two days, working on a big water pipeline project.

'People have said, 'didn't you worry?', but I knew something would turn up.

'That's why the book is called Malcom's Luck.'

During the second world war, Mr Metcalf and his family had stayed near Oxford where he and his brother were befriended by a US soldier from a local base.

He was trying to track him down, only to discover he had died. That opened up his many adventures in the US, chalking up 175,000 miles in train journeys.

Mr Metcalf, who has not ruled out further adventures, said he would not change his life for anything.

He said: 'I have learned to appreciate things more than most people and I have been so lucky. I have met all types of people, some very poor and others quite well off, but invariably they have been nice.'

For a copy of the book, which costs £5, telephone Mr Metcalf on 01493-661138 or call at his home, 43 Magdalen Way, Gorleston.

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