Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Thursday 4th December

After a very pleasant night we arrived at Sydney Airport. What a town to fly over – every house seemed to have a swimming pool and the harbour looked beautiful early morning (7 am). On arrival an Australian came into the plane and sprayed the entire inside with an aerosol. Nothing personal we were assured, just to kill overseas bugs.

Annie just began another period of the trots and so the 5 hours spent in Sydney Airport were grim. Nobody seemed well dressed and after buying duty-free booze we thankfully boarded a Qantas Boeing for NZ. 

Great flight and at 3.45 pm we landed at Christchurch. Through Customs – very embarrassing with all our dirty washing – and met in-laws.

Well that’s that, our trip of a lifetime. From near North Pole to near South Pole. The past 3 plus months have been worth all the saving (cost about £1300). At times it has been very miserable but well, well worth it. Neither of us would have missed it for the world. A super way to start a new life down under. 

[That's the end. I have enjoyed copying the diary into this blog - and chuffed that I did not miss a date!! The main thing is that our journey is now recorded in the "clouds". Our children and grandchildren and .... can now have confirmed what they have thought all along.
 The olds do do some strange things]

Monday, December 3, 2012

Wednesday 3rd December

Off at 10 to the airport – haven’t yet got used to no car yet - we to pay airport taxes of $1 each – ugh!

We got into a Philippine plane to Manila. On arrival we found that we had seven hours to wait before catching the plane to Sydney but surprise Philippine airline whisked us off to the Manila Sheraton (about equivalent to a Hilton) where we were booked into a super suit overlooking Manila Bay and watched the sun set. 

Free dinner in one of the restaurants. Then the provided car to the airport for the night flight to Sydney. The plane (a DC8) was beautifully finished inside, super looking air hostess and has 12 people in it, so we all stretched out over 3 seats for sleeping. 

[Airlines seem to have lost the plot nowadays concerning true customer service]

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Tuesday 2nd December

A very early start 5.30 saw us in a bus bound for the airport.

After a final dust up with Indian officialdom when changing money – you cannot take rupees out of the country – we left horrible Calcutta bound for Bangkok. Three quarters of an hour there and off again to Hong Kong. The hotel paid for by Lufthansa was super and before and after our dinner we wandered up and down the shops. 

The department store of the “Peoples Democratic Republic of China” even took dollars! We bought plenty of Christmas presents – could of bought lots more but money was short. A great place and could have spent a lot more time there (and money!!). 

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Monday 1st December

Early down to shipping company where after much to do, we left our little VW locked up in a shop (this was under custom supervision so that we could have our passports and other documents cleared before leaving the country). Hope we see it again.

It looked very sad all covered in protective wax and stripped of everything removable (‘cos of dockers' light fingers etc). I was really doubtful whether we would see it again in one piece as there’s a dock strike on – no one knows when it will be settled.

We joined Bani and a very attractive friend for Chinese nosh and spent the afternoon finally packing and taking cases to Lufthansa office. For dinner we took a taxi to the Luft’ engineer’s house for a great meal. His wife was in Australia visiting her mother so the bloke was making hay while the sun shone. Another friend of his was there and the four of us had a very pleasant evening. 

Friday, November 30, 2012

Sunday 30th November

Picked up early by Mrs Bani Sinha (wife of a great friend of pop-in-law) complete with chauffeur driven car. After a quick drive round town we went to the Victoria Museum. This was very interesting as Bani could describe all aspects of old Calcutta and the part played by many of the “well to do” ancestors.

Then off to meet Mr & Mrs Ghost (Bani sister and brother-in-law) for pre-lunch drinks then onto, would you believe, the Saturday Club for a great lunch and then settled down for a steady afternoon of drinking. 

Ghost, a lawyer, was obviously very wealthy as he had a Mercedes (one of the few we saw in India) and did not let us pay for a thing – great. Bani at last dragged him away from the club to take us sightseeing at night. First down to the river to have a snack and Pepsi and walk along the shore. Then to an art museum, very interesting, then to the old quarter of Calcutta for kebabs – back to Saturday club for final drink before returning to Salvation Army. 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Saturday 29th November

Last day of organising and so after breakfast went to American Express – yes £50 was there from our account so we will pick it up on Monday – to the PO to collect a nice pile of mail and then to clearing agent and shipping company to enquire on dock strike progress and paying passage.

From this we walk to the offices of the New Zealand Insurance Company to arrange insurance of baggage. After an initial shock of £10 premium, they came down to £5. We were just going when the Indian executive said he would give us a lift back to the hostel. He did but via the “Saturday Club” - a really British institution. Super with big high rooms and lots of British and Indians being very colonial. 

Had a couple of strong beers and came back to the Salvation Army.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Friday 28th November

Our luck was with us today – just everything turned out right – expensive but right. After searching around we discovered that only one line covered India to New Zealand. British India Steamship, so booked a car passage on the “Juna” leaving 20th December arriving Auckland and Wellington 25th January. Went to Clearing Agent and he said he could clear car through customs etc by Monday.

In the clearing house we met a Lufthansa engineer who said that if we got our ticket via them we should get a free hotel somewhere. Along to their smart new office and sure enough true, so we’re booked via Hong Kong and Manila and Sydney to Christchurch arriving on December 4th. The engineer invited us back to his house for dinner on Monday night.

After lunch we got the tickets endorsed by Air India and started packing the trunks. We hoped to bring one of the trunks with us but after weighing everything in the Lufthansa office the weight was 3 kilos over so we shall send two trunks by sea and take suitcases with us. Back to Salvation Army to finish packing when an Indian burst into the room wanting to buy things (we had to be careful as we nearly had enough rupees after selling 10 colour films – 15/- profit each). We sold him the headrest, 2 chairs and some old aerosols – none of which we were taking for 110 rupees – great!!

A finished packing one trunk after dinner so after read, a late night’s sleep.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Thursday 27th November

Up at 6.30 and after breakfast drove back to Bahir and joined the Grand Trunk Road for Delhi. The road and traffic, although bad, was not as dangerous as I had been led to believe – either that or I am now immune!!

Nearing Calcutta we began to look for Rest Bungalows but no good, they just don’t seem to be around. So into Calcutta. Here traffic and roads were terrible, huge potholes etc.

Eventually got to the Salvation Army to find they had just one room free (although not until 9.00 in the evening). This is a very popular place so we are lucky to be in. Had dinner, met one or two people and after general talk settled down to an early night ready for tomorrow.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Wednesday 26th November

Well that was the intention to go to bed early but J & A came to the room about 8.30 and left 3 coffees later at 1.00!! Lots to talk about, cheap ways of travel etc – here are some ideas before I forget:

  1. Consuls will help subject get back to country of citizenship.
  2. Good ship services round islands off Singapore, particularly if going Darwin or Japan.
  3. Trans Siberian railway is good value – Russians exchange food coupons for vodka.
  4. Munich to Tehran driving cars for selling in Iran. Only go with reliable team of blokes but should get paid about 50 DMs (25 if spare driver).
  5. Good steamer ships from Bombay to Kuwait – expensive there but can sell blood for $30 per ½ litre ($12 Greece, 15 Tehran at UNICEF).
  6. In Nepal, airline tickets can be purchased with any currency (no exchange receipt required).
  7. Kabul or Tehran are best exchange black markets (this we discovered and saved a lot on India and Pakistan living).
  8. Liquor permits can be sold in Madras or Bombay for 60 Rupees (will sometimes get 70). Also is possible to buy whiskey in some states cheap drive to next state and make high profits. All road state checks ware through cars.
  9. For cheap fares back to UK, Encounter Overland, Indiamen, Sundowners, and Penn charge $2 per day (they all rush back – no sightseeing but is possible to get to London for around 35/40 dollars cash).

Enough of these notes. [Modern NB Please do not try these. Out of date and probably rather illigal!]

Woke up at 6.00 feeling a little tired but we managed to leave bungalow by 7.00. This hour is the best time to start driving as the sun is not hot till about 9.30. Can still only average 30 mph ‘cos of bikes and lorries plus narrow roads but now makeshift horn works, driving is much easier and safer.

Cross over Ganges again at Dehri and almost straight away the scenery began to change. Heavy shrubs and palm, banana, and A.N. other trees.

The people are much darker skinned too. We arrived at the gates of Hazaribagh National Park at 1.30, paid our 5 rupees entrance and drove along a dust road the 10km to the Bungalows and Tourist Lodge. Saw no animals and the strange reception made us think we had been “conned”. After speaking to an Indian staying there, we chose the bungalows rather than the lodge – more expensive (12 rupees!) but nice room (carpet, mosquito nets, curtains) and shower, toilet, etc. 

We immediately set about repacking the two trunks ready for Calcutta. We hope to ship one trunk by sea and take the other with us by air. His means putting all heavy items into one trunk. Cleaned tent etc and by 5pm most items were packed. There is no electricity here so 2 lanterns were lit and brought into the room. These give a pleasant and adequate light. Tomorrow we will leave and get very near Calcutta, ready for the quick dash in Friday. 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Tuesday 25th November

Very early start to our sightseeing this morning – 6.00 am. We booked on the Coremment Conducted Coach Tour (cost 9/- each) and this lasts all day so provided very good value for money. Accompanied by Jim (an American heading for Aus and NZ – he had been to Japan etc). Allen (hitch-hiking from England to Hong Kong and Bach) and Aus couple going to London and two Japanese boys we chose to Dashaswameki Ghat to watch Ghats bathing in the rising sunlight on the Caugen’s banks. Here men and women wash all over in the muddy water – believed to clean the mind and body.

We were rowed up and down the river in a large row boat and finally alighted at the Golden Temple seeing on the way the place were the dead are burnt. Up the narrow winding streets to the Temple and then back to the bungalow for breakfast. 

Off again at 9 to see new Bharat Mata Temple and the old Tulsi Mamas Temple. Here were families of monkeys ready to bite an outstretched finger or pinch an open bag.

Then on to the largest university in South East Asia (over 10,000 students and 8,000 boarders) and the new (completed in 1964) Shira Temple. Back to the bungalow via Bharat Kala Bhawam (Art Gallery) for lunch. After a hearty meal of corn beef!! We set off for the holy city of Sarnath. Here are the remains of the temples marking the area where Gautama, the Buddha, preached his first sermon to the world. We saw a museum (containing the famous statue of praying Buddha), a temple and then to an open-air restaurant for tea and biscuits. The last visit of the day was to Ramnagar Fort, home of the Maharaja of Varanasi. Here are displayed beautiful clothes, elegant elephant carriages, fearsome weapons and delicately carved ivory figures. While looking around the throne room, the maharaja and the princesses walk by. So, two lots of royalty in one trip!!

Back exhausted by 6.00. Good dinner of spaghetti and talk with Jim and Allen.

Early to bed ready for drive to Hazaribagh National Park tomorrow

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Monday 24th November

Left bungalow at 8.00 and found the horn completely U.S. This means the driving through towns is a bit hair-raising but can be done. At lunch I tried, without success, to fix the horn. On through villages thronged with people, over the Ganges by a high bridge at Allahabad and along the busy Grand Trunk Road to Varanasi. Here we located the tourist Bureau in the Mall, were warned off the nearby “Dak and Tourist” bungalows as being private concerns (no law in pinching names in India!) and given map showing Cart Tourist bungalow. 

Drove there – slowly – after writing to Salvation Army in Calcutta requested double room. Big room and WC and shower for 7/-. Not quite as good as we are used to but still!! Had a long “go” at the hooter and found the fault to be somewhere between the horn button and the horn (i.e. not the horn) so fixed up by-pass wire so horn now works on a switch system. Still this should make for slightly safer driving. Despite rules against it, cooked meal in room and settled down to early night as tomorrow we are off on Cart bus tour starting at 6.10am!! Ugh. 

Friday, November 23, 2012

Sunday 23rd November

Up early and after a cold shower, packed the car and left for Kanpur. The way out of Agra was a bit muddled due to road construction (with true Indian style, no road signs showing this!!). Once in the Grand Trunk Road average speed could be kept at 30.  Not fast but with bikes every 5 yards and all swerving across the road. The horn is on the blink so a certain degree of care is required.

Had lunch by the roadside and during the afternoon saw two groups (if that’s the word!) of vultures pecking at freshly killed animal. Also saw some stork-like birds with pink tails and herds of camels being moved along the road. Arrived at Kanpur and found the Dak bungalow (the cleanest looking building in town) and moved into “Suite 1”.

A cut my hair again and now I look all smart and clean for parents-in-law!!

On swapping over batteries tonight I discovered the old one had sprung a leak and spilt acid over the floor. Damage was moderate but threw the battery away and washed the floor down with water. Says a lot for the battery that it kept working on two cells!! The main room of our suite is well furnished with two beds, three tables, four chairs, carpet, etc. Good value for about 4/6!!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Saturday 22nd November

Casual breakfast then off to the first tomb, the splendid Akbaris tomb at Sikandra.

Set in beautifully kept garden of 150 acres we saw groups of rhesus monkeys. Spent one hour walking past tourist bungalow (we should have stayed) and then drove off to see the deserted city of Fatehpun Sikuri, 22 miles from Agra. Here beautifully designed palaces and mosques were only lived in for 16 years, around 1574. We had a picnic lunch on the lawns of the inspection bungalow and returned to Agra by 3.00. The Taj Mahal, a beautiful breathtaking mausoleum in white marble.

 The long approach is set out with lakes, lawns and trees; 20,000 labourers built this masterpiece about 1660 as a tomb for Empress Bano Begum by her husband. The sad tale of the dying husband gazing from his prison cell in the red fort is very believable and moving.

We will return to the Taj tonight as by moonlight (two days off full moon) it is said to be even more beautiful. We returned to the Tourist Bungalow where after a good afternoon “kip” settled down to dinner before leaving for our evening’s viewing. Met the lone NZ hitchhiker at the Taj (the one from Lahore) – well by moonlight the Taj is breathtaking, sort of shimmers with the moon reflecting off the white marble. We just stood and gazed. Back to the room via the “Quality” restaurant for one of their huge ice creams – very creamy and chocolate sauce and nuts. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Friday 21st November

After a gentle breakfast and “car-pack”, we check the total fare with BOAC for Calcutta Christchurch ($501) and drove to Burmah-Shell office for directions to Darjeeling. This seems along bad roads for most of the way and so we will give it a miss – pity. Filled up with 93 octane (rest 79!!) and set off down the Grand Trunk Road for Agra.

Saw more vultures but no elephants. 

Arrived at Agra around 2.00 and called in at the Tourist Bungalow (5/- for room with WC and shower) but decided to see Inspection Bungalow before deciding. Inspection Bungalows, although better, were full, so we returned to Tourist place and booked in.

There’s a good table etc so A cooked a superb meal of steak and kidney and beans, coffee etc. Quiet evening reading Economist (must keep mind going!) and early to sleep. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thursday 20th November

Today is sightseeing and through bad planning we got on the Indian tourist bus instead of the newer European tourist bus, however we had a super day’s sightseeing plus English speaking guide (just understandable!) for 5/- each.

In the morning we saw India Gate (memorial to Martyrs during First World War), Jantan Mantan (stone observatory built during 17th century). Lok Sabha, Parliament House and Sher Mandal and Humayun’s Tomb (miniature Taj Mahal). Back to Connaught Place for lunch. 

We collected quote of $150 for the car transport. In the afternoon we drove to Cahandi’s Memorial, the Jama Masgid (a huge mosque) and the Red Fort with its red stoned walls and marble palaces (below the walls of the fort we saw snake charmers 

and a dancing bear!!). Very tired we returned to the Menon house for tea and a rest. Wrote to bank to transfer £50 to Calcutta (this should see us through okay).

Monday, November 19, 2012

Wednesday 19th November

Today was a terrible day! I don’t know how India hope to survive in a modern business world if the people we met in Delhi (in large offices) were a specimen. Nobody in any of the shipping agencies (and I include Cox and Kings in this) could quote us for shipping the car nor, it seemed, had any ideas or suggestions for getting this information. Ugh.

By lunch I was in a foul mood. We ended up with a lot of Calcutta addresses plus the promise of one quote tomorrow. It seems the best thing will be to fly direct home from Calcutta for an extra $55 each (BOAC at least seem efficient). Called in on Burmah Shell office – introduced myself and were given a map plus tea and biscuits. Very pleasant people – one gave us the route to Calcutta.

Back to the Menon’s exhausted, to another Indian meal and bed. Also did some Xmas shopping in a super handicraft shop off Jan Path – huge place devoted to sensibly [read cheap] priced goods. 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Tuesday 18th November

Had a fantastic cooked breakfast of chips, eggs, toast, tomatoes, coffee and having paid the bill (27 Rps!!) set off for Delhi along the Grand Trunk Road. It was a great drive. We saw, along the road, an elephant, several mongoose, bright green parrots, vultures (horrible creatures), including a group at the side of the road pecking at a dog. The countryside is very green but swarming with people. The poverty so far is not as bad as I imagined, thank God! Driving is murder as people seem to disregard the car and roadways completely - I’ve nearly hit two people and only been in India a day and a half.

Arrived in Delhi and due to complete lack of signs only found the Tourist Information office after much trouble. Once there the people could not have been more helpful (at least they try to be – Indians seem incapable, as a race, of concentration and try to talk to too many people at once). We tried phoning the hospital but got cut off twice so drove round, found Mrs Menon and got invited round to the chief X-ray doctor’s room (Dr Mao).

During the next two hours I slowly lost my temper as three delightful people attempted to sort out a camping site. In the end I grabbed the phone directory and did the job myself. It seemed camping in the town was difficult so Mrs Menon kindly asked us back to her house to stay. That night we had a great Indian meal. Went to bed early. Rather large insects in bedroom kept dropping onto our bed. Mmmm.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Monday 17th November

Managed to change rupees for 8 $s and so having had breakfast in the Park Tea House (eggs, toast, jam, tea cost at our rate 1/1d!). Left Lahore and arrived at the borders, after buying some handicraft goods (earrings, wooden cigarette box and metal plates) with the rest of our P money at 10.30. All formalities were quickly dispensed with (including our encounter with a delightful female customs inspector) despite the “delay” warning from the AA. 

Got a shock in Indian - the petrol rating (70 octane!!) but the old car seemed to work. Driving is very difficult because of thousands of bikes (all being driven very erratically) and ox carts. The roads are quite narrow so to pass a vehicle both have to have two wheels of dust – ugh. I am still not feeling tip-top so by Ambala I had had enough for the day.

We found the rest house/bungalow and were given a suite containing huge bedroom, a dressing room, and bathroom (at our rate cost 9/6). We are going to have dinner here in the dining-cum-sitting room at a cost of 8/6. The place is super and you can just imagine what it used to be like full of travelling English. 

All the furniture is beautifully polished, high ceilings with fans, faded photographs, flowers in small bowls and pinned over the door of one of the four bedrooms is “Mayor General L D Cupta” - sign of the past!! The dinner was beautifully cooked followed by coffee. Tonight was the first night under the mosquito nets. 

Friday, November 16, 2012

Sunday 16th November

After a leisurely start down a pleasant green lined road over wide rivers to Lahore, this town was not as delightful as the other two – no tree lined wide road and a good bit dirtier. Spoke with the Sundowner’s driver at the Park Hotel (where they were staying) and he suggested that we go to YMCA for cheap digs. Also put us off going to Srinigar because of icy roads (a month earlier it would be okay) but they are going to Kathmandu.

We got a double room at the YMCA for 6½ rupees (at our exchange rate about 5/-). Went for a walk along the “Mall” – had two “bites” by money-changers but none wanted to swap Parks for dollars. Had a bad dinner at the YMCA restaurant and early to bed. 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Saturday 15th November

A pleasant non-rushed start this morning. We drove along “The Mall” and off down the Grand Trunk Road towards Lahore.

We wanted to look up the two students we had met in the cholera camp and so drove to Islamabad. This brand new town is to be the capital of Pakistan. The buildings are well designed and “spanking” clean. Most of the embassies have moved there together with several government offices.

We found the market and sure enough there was one of the Pakistani at his shop – this was full of imported foodstuffs etc (Toblerone 9/6!!). Had some Cokes and was given the name of a money changer in Lahore to get back some dollars on our Pakistani money. We arrived in Rawalpindi (6 miles away) at 2.30 and drove to the tourist office. Yes we could camp at the motel (Catmell’s Hotel). Good grounds and showers! Pitched camp and drove into town.

The bazaar area was deadly to drive in and so not feeling too well we came back to the tent (having chosen the restaurant we shall eat at this evening). The meal was super. We both had Pakistani food – A had mutton curry and I had minced meat and egg curried, plus bread and green tea. What a pleasant change for A not to have to cook and wash up. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Friday 14th November

Left Kabul by good road and headed up through the Lataband Pass to the Afghanistan/Pakistan frontier.

 Neither of us were very impressed with Afghanistan. The mental picture of tall white-robed tribesmen just falls flat. 

Pakistan was such a change – everything green. The Kyber Pass was a bit disappointing, not very long or high. We could see the old forts and fortified houses with their metal armoured rifle windows. Took a picture of Jamrad Fort and then passed under the Khyber Gate towards Peshawar. What a pleasant town – wide avenues and green, green grass – very English. All the police waved us on and most finished the wave with a salute. Camped in the grounds of the Tourist Information office. Lovely lawn and guarded by a tall Pakistani complete with gun! Also in the grounds were an elderly South African couple doing a world tour taking two years. Their vehicle was a VW combi – very well equipped and they were loving every minute of their trip. I was not feeling too well so had an early night. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Thursday 13th November

Set off early, A to the garage to watch car and me to Pakistan Embassy to obtain border pass for P/India border. On way back to garage I exchanged money and got 200 P Rupees and 1900 Indian Rupees (500 DM and $70). Collected car (bill 1000 Afgs) and collected border pass.

Went to Kyber Restaurant and talking to English boy discovered that we had to have a bank receipt to pay for car shipping in Rupees (pity because we got double the value). Exchanged 1300 Rupees into Afgs (for tyres – 2900) and dollars. Two tyres changed and the dealer gave me $5 for old US tyres. Wonder what he was going to sell those for! Cooked meal in room and had early night after exhausting day! Made note not to get job as a currency dealer.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Wednesday 12th November

Car first priority – after changing some DM’s in Afgh’s. found main VW dealer who gave us a fair price to repair oil seal. We said we would return in half an hour after finding hotel. No luck – everyone we called at wanted too much money. Back to garage, off came wheel to discover that “horrors” the bearings had gone on the left rear wheel. Ah well, more money so we gave the garage the go-ahead. Because it’s Ramadan, the car would not be ready till tomorrow – ugh. 

We talked to some Americans and were told of good clean cheap hotel for 8/- a night! Someone from the garage gave us a lift and sure enough a good clean room, with wash basin and razor point, was quickly booked by us. 

The afternoon was spent sounding our people re exchange rates, and new tyres for the car. (Two have gone bald – bad as only gone 10,000 miles and will be contacting Firestone re this). Got the exchange rates and after walking round a very muddy bazaar (the road to the hotel is terrible – thick, wet mud) retired to hotel to calculate what we need in India and Pakistan rupees. In the evening we set out down the muddy road for an evening meal at the Kyber Restaurant. Here it seems most of the Europeans in Kabul met. It very cheap and self-service.

We had just finished our meal when up came the Afghani who found us the hotel last night plus two friends (a lawyer and businessman). After talking we went back to a house belonging to the businessman (son of ex Finance Minister – so very rich). Here in the centre of town was his house and a vineyard. He [not us!!] spent the evening smoking hashish and showing us very clever tricks with cards. The rest of us just eat hundreds of super tasting grapes. We were driven back to the hotel and on the way the Afghani kept on making passes at Anne – cheek!!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Tuesday 11th November

Up early but not so the bank staff who, because of Ramadan (festival) start at 10 and finish at 1.00. We therefore left Heart with no Afghani money. 

No matter filled with petrol, drove past Park Hotel (on main road) and saw people camping in grounds. On the way two petrol people offered us 50 Afg for $1 – ha, cheek! Eventually got 70 (still 3 less than we should!). At about Farah discovered oil dripping from left oil seal – trouble. After much debate (no VW agent except in Kabul to drive the 650 miles in one day.

Shot through Kandahan (camping behind main hotel is allowed) and on through dusk and then darkness to Kabul arriving (after dinner by roadside at 8.00) about 10.15. But for the superb roads I don’t imagine for a moment that I could have driven for that long. Plus so little traffic.

Slept very well in hotel found for us by an Afghani we met outside Kabul Restaurant. We had to pay 15/- because it was so late – we could not bargain – and we woke the owner up. Not a good start to bargaining. 

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Monday 10th November

Slept badly – dreaming of bugs I suspect – and woke at 5.30. Rain had fallen during the night so our 6.00 start was none too soon. Five miles out A remembered she had left our camera in the “hotel” so back we went midst much mumbling.

The track to the garden was terrible – not helped by rain or large lorries. The Iran border formalities were quick but then we reached Islam Quala – the Afghanistan frontier.

These people are just not organised – the policeman recording entries could not read English characters and as all India and Pakistan passports are in English!! Four hours later we left the border. 

Towards the end it got too much for me so I went to the senior looking officer (all the Afga’s were saluting him etc) and told him it was disgusting to keep young children and women in cars for this length of time plus a few thoughts on what he could do – like come and help!! 

This seemed to work ‘cos 20 minutes later passports were rattling out of the office. Drive to Herat was good (along new roads built by Russians and Americans). Found hotel for 10/- (warm showers!!) so washed car and prepared to settle down to an organised quiet evening. 

Friday, November 9, 2012

Sunday 9th November

Left hotel at 6.30 and in rain set off down a by-now bad muddy road. It was horrible driving but in 90 miles the road surface had been made up better – so a fast drive into Mashed. Went to bank and changed $200 into Riyals, Dollars and D-marks (good exchange costing us 1.75%). Came out of bank to find oil running out of rear right hand wheel. To VW garage and had repaired – was oil seal gone – not bad considering the terrible roads (thank God we had a VW – there’s been an agent in nearly every town we have been through).

Off towards the Afghanistan border aiming for the town of Turbat-i-Shaikh-Jam (38 miles short of the border). Thirty-five miles from the town the good road ended and foul gravel began. All the way to town. 

Stopped outside Turbet for dinner and drove in to look for hotel. Here we made big mistake by too much bargaining – ending up with poor room for 75 riyals instead of first offer of excellent room for 100 riyals. Ah well – justice for being too clever. 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Saturday 8th November

Left hotel at 7.00 (told garage that hotel was paying so saved money there – hotel was expensive as I found it did not include parking – so fiddle was justified) and after trying two banks (without luck) to get dollars pressed on a good road until Shahpasand. Then a right turn took us onto the section I’ve been dreading – very bad unmade road with dried mud, ruts, stones etc.

I kept the speed above 30mph where possible and this reduced some of the bumps (found that stones from the back wheels had pushed parts of the back wings outwards causing the paint to chip!!). The road would be impossible in rain I should think because we “forded” two streams. This bad part (there’s another after Mashed) lasts for 243 miles on the northern route. Reached Boynurd by 5.00 after eating dinner by roadside again and stayed in super hotel for cost of $1!!. Own washbasin too!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Friday 7th November

Woke at 5.30 and up at 6.00. Coffee and tea (for A) then into town to check on banks before leaving for Tehran. (They were closed as a Friday). A fast uneventful drive in perfect weather brought us to Tehran by 1.00. Checked with American Express – yes they would cash $100 cheques into $s but for 5% commission – no dice!!

We need the dollars cash to obtain excellent rates of exchange for Pakistan and India money in Afghanistan. The tourist info was shut (Friday again) so onto Dupert Bank. Success – changed into dollars for 2.5% commission – and as we can make 80% on our money, we didn’t complain but cashed $100. left Tehran by 2 on the road to Mashed (northern route).

The idea is to get as far as possible tonight and stay in a hotel. Stopped at 4.00 and had dinner by road – good meal and just the rest the driver needed. Drove on another 40 miles and stopped the night at Amol. Hotel cost $2 and parking car in garage was free so not too bad. Sleeping by 9.00 ready for the next two bad days driving. 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Thursday 6th November

Spent a little time lying in this morning and then into town to check on the weather in Mashed (reports are that it is bad – below freezing) and to have the front axle greased. Then onto the Madreseh-e-Chahar Bagh (built on the orders of the last of the Safarid kings) a theological school with gardens, two minarets and a glorious dome.

Then to the square – it really does seem seven times bigger than San Maro and into the Palace of Ali Qapu. This six storey building served as a residential palace for Shah Abbas the Great. From the balcony with its 18 columns we could see across the square to the beautiful Masjid-e-Shah, with its dome “54 metres” across, and Masjide Sheikh Lotfollah with it is said the best workmanship displayed in Iran.

Lunch and a visit to the bazaar to see exquisite gold, copper sites and bronze work (______ earrings etc) and delicate paintings in inlaid frames depicting in Chinese style scenes from early Isfahan. Back to the tents and a quiet evening ready for the two days drive to Mashed. 

Monday, November 5, 2012

Wednesday 5th November

Early up 7.00 and off from camp site by 8.30. Good road (except for bad patches of bumps) showed that the steering damper and tension bar assister replacement did the trick – 70 mph without a murmur. Arrived, driving past the outskirts of Isfahan past large fields with high stone fences?? – and drove to airport to check on camping. All okay and free but the ground available very stony. So back to tourist info to see if any other sites available.

Yes in the courtyard of the Hotel Apadana at the southern end of Chaharbagh Avenue. Unfortunately Penn Tours were there (50 people) so no room – back to airport and pitched camp alongside the car park. Hope there’s no wind ‘cos I cannot get pegs in very far. Early dinner then into town and saw Masyid-e-Shah. First we walked up the Chaharbagh Avenue – full of very modern shops and the main street of Isfahan. On to the vast square Nagsh-e-Jahan. The floodlights were on and this made a most attractive picture.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Tuesday 4th November

Talking to a number of people it seems we were lucky to not drive in from Northern Turkey. The snow had come early this year and Encounter Tours had camped one night in snow and two of the vehicles had been unable to negotiated the passes for some hours because of blinding snow. Cannot confirm the exchange rates in Afghanistan as Encounter use sterling (cannot think why). After A had washed a few things, we set off to see Tehran.

The driving was quite the worst I’ve seen – obviously no idea of discipline – red lights are ignored and the police stand at the side of the road and talk – thank God the roads are wide. We drove past the senate house – very smart – to the Shah’s winter residence, the Marble Palace. Here were some very smart guards in their American uniforms. We could not go in but saw the coloured dome and the green marble and onyx walls. (The building is modelled on one in Isfahan so we’ll be seeing that tomorrow).

On to the American Express and – yes – a letter giving addresses in India and news from A's mum about our goods. Onto the Post Office for stamps. From the PO we drove round Baharestan Square (Qayar palace, library and Lower House of Parliament) and on to visit a friend of Doctor Herbert’s (As late boss) – she was out so we had lunch outside the American Embassy and drove back to the camp site. Here we really sorted out, and cleaned, the car and trunks – packed a lot more goodies into the lower, less accessible  trunk etc. Good meal at night and into the cafeteria for coffee. Watched some TV and back to tent to catch up on news via the Economist. 

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Monday 3rd November

Early start 7.00 am driving on road to Hamadan. The car was not behaving well so we decided to go to Tehran before Isfahan to get it mended. The road was excellent (apart from one bad stretch being rebuilt) as far as Kazrim where it joined the main Turkey road. From here it was very “pot holey”.

Arrived at the garage on the north side of town and after speaking to the German foreman left the car at the garage. It was washed, the rear suspension mended, a steering damper replaced, windscreen wiper repaired at a cost of 920 riyals (very good and very efficient – they had heard how bad the VW garage at Amman was!).

On, at 4.30 to Camping Sahara on the Isfahan Road. The place was full (at least 10 cars and Encounter Overland lorries) mostly GBs! Had luke-warm shower (in fact water pressure was low so washed under tap!!), good dinner and early to bed. 

Friday, November 2, 2012

Sunday 2nd November

Well the rain eventually did stop and the morning was spent in packing and checking on the various exchange rates we should get. Got the address of a Pakistani chap we shall call on. About 1.00 they let us have our passports back together with 100 riyals each (not quite what my day’s work brings in but still). Drove on, after customs and passport checks over the Payitaq Pass (mountains covered with fresh snow but not the road thank God) along good but dull roads.

All the men look sullen and wear trilbies – Kermanshah was reached about 5.00 and we set off to look for VW agent to check front suspension (wobbling by now) and rear torsion bar. Splendid crowd of "mechanics" who had no spares and not, I suspect, too many ideas, but they gave us tea and hit the front wheels with spanners and said “okay go to Tehran”. I wanted to get a bit further so in pouring rain and darkness we drove on.

The windscreen wipers started to slip on their spindle (I only had a small screwdriver – the VW one having broken in Rome) and this meant stopping to tighten screws every 10 miles, so very wet we arrived at Kangarar to search for a cheap hotel! (By sign language as Iran was the first country so far where few people speak any English).

The manager of the VW had said very proudly to A “The sky is blue and the sea is calm” and pointing to a boy “she is not my sister”-- but we got by. Found a great place where all the coaches stop. The cafĂ©/hotel charged 30 riyals each for bed in small room with three beds – I made it quite clear that we wanted no one else in our room and so for 40 riyals each for Pepsi, chicken, rice, bread and tea (total cost for beds, dinner and morning tea $2.5). 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Saturday 1st November

Off early and along road noticed knocking sound from rear. At first thought it was air cleaner working loose (later discovered it was bracket sheared from torsion bar!). Onto Iraq border over very boring country and bad roads. Arriving at the Iraq border we were put in quarantine for cholera. This was a large compound with a building for people to sleep. A ridiculous set-up  Does no good because of the overcrowding and bad water.

I’m sure more trouble starts than they are trying to stop in that camp. What can you do! We had to stay for 24 hours (every other country recognises the cholera inoculation but Iran!). We met a Swiss couple, German and some Pakistanis who gave us info on changing money in Afghanistan to double the value!!

We would not sleep in the rooms or tents provided as they were dirty so put up the tent – what a mistake. It rained so hard and so strongly during the night that I twice had to re-peg the flysheet. All done by the light of vivid lightening?

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Friday 31st October

The journey last night was great fun. Stopped a police car to ask the way to tourist information. No one spoke English and before we knew what had happened another car with siren drove up and out stepped an officer. He didn’t understand either so with much laughter and handshaking we parted company and headed for what we thought was the town centre. 

Before we had gone 500 metres the police overtook and with much hand-waving led us to the centre. Here we changed some money with a shopkeeper and drove out to the airport to Tourist Information and obtained a map. Next morning we left early for Babylon. What a let down  Nothing but ruins and as for the “wonder of the world” – the hanging gardens of Babylon – nothing. 

Back to Baghdad to see the Golden Mosque – tomb of two descendants of Mohammed and Holy City of the Shia sect of Islam. Beautiful golden domes but we were not allowed inside. Returned to camp site and met Swiss couple travelling for five months. They had phoned an Iraq friend so all of us toured the city in their VW bus. 

Round the copper market – the tomb of the unknown soldier, the “hanging” square – monument to the “revelation” when the army killed the king and back to see the golden mosque by night. Had a great free feed in a shop – owner kept on giving us more things to taste.

On the banks of the Tigris to watch fish being cooked in a circle around a fire. They are live – you choose what you want and it’s cooked while you wait.

Back to camp where we slept ready for the early start tomorrow. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Thursday 30th October

Eight o’clock – early morning was just too cold. The roads in Iraq are just a bit narrower than Jordan so overtaking is a bit dangerous. Just before Ramadi the road improves vastly and stays that way till Baghdad. We photographed one of the many vast herds of camels as a break from the nothingness of the desert. We arrived at Ramadi to find a delightful town full of palm trees and the first signs of “turban” like headwear on the men. 

The camp site at Baghdad took some finding but we camped at last. The site is on the northern banks of the army canal near the R Tigris. I changed the wheels around to help even the bearing wear on the rear tyres (due to continued full load on suspension). Into Baghdad tonight to see the fish frying on the banks of the river. 

Monday, October 29, 2012

Wednesday 29th  October

Woke up at 7.00 to finish packing car. The Brigadier sent someone to collect our visas (we had visions of a midday start) and so at about 8.30 we left Amman led by Mohammed and Christina (they showed us to the outskirts – there’s no map so it’s impossible for a stranger to find his way – all names in Arabic).

Passed about three police checkpoints onto the out pipeline road leading to Baghdad. This just stretches for miles and miles in a near straight line. Over the border without too much trouble and in to the Iraq check point of Rutba (about 70 miles between customs ports).
A bad diversion around the pumping station of H3 to avoid army camp (17kms of sand and gravel). The Iraqis were the first to open all cases – what a bother.

We camped in the gardens of the Government Rest House (charge 350 riyals – tried to change 1 dinar – worth it as we used the wash room and toilets – Arab hotel charge 200 riyals per person, but will start bargaining at a dinar!!). Early to bed as we have lost one hour in time, heard the radio news [still clear on medium wave] and the tensions seems to be lessening in the Middle East now we have left!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Tuesday 28th  October

This morning we went down to the Iraq Embassy to get via (very polite as we were with the Brigadier). Ready at midday as the chap needed to sign them was at the airport. We set off at 12.00 with Ginnie and Tuma for a picnic lunch at the hot springs at Zirea Ma’een. Through the police checks with the royal car and on past Zerka (a Christian Bedouin town!!) to the dust track leading down the Wadi to the springs.

This place was a Fedayeen headquarters. Never mind, had a great lunch and saw two Israeli planes pass low overhead. In case they were going to raid where we were, Tuma advised that we stay under the rock for a while. When all clear we changed into swim things and set off up the waterfall. The water in the fall and the stream was hot. Spent about half under the water (even a bath formed by a pool). Dressed and set off back along the dirt road.

Near the end we were stopped by Jordanian troops who wanted to know where we had been and tried to connect us with the planes. Tuma talked us out of that and, buying some food, we set off back to the house. Had dinner and said our farewells to G & T before retiring to bed.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Monday 27th  October

Early start as we were being taken to the Hussein Bridge by Mohammed to watch him talk to the Israelis re prisoner exchange etc. The drive out was fascinating along a deer wadi towards the new frontier (we were stopped once by the Fedayee to buy some tickets for fundraising but drove on without buying). We whistled through all stops in the brigadier’s car.

We reached the bridge – a small very worn bailey bridge to see the Jordanians in pitiful tin huts, while over the river the Israelis sat under tall trees well shaded. While Mohammed was discussing various things with the other side, a young Arab crossed the bridge (just released) and ran crying to his family. After tea we returned to Amman where we had lunch before Ginnie brought the Royal twins round to see us.

Very shy but one held her small hand out for it to be kissed. Off they drove in a bullet-proof Cadillac while I went off to collect the car. 

What a shock the bill came to – 11 dinars. Much shouting ensued but the bill was not reduced. The evening was spent with Nannette and Diana (girl from British Embassy) eating from a vast dish of rice and lamb – eaten with the fingers on the floor (a Mensaf - typical Jordanian meal). This was very filling (A did not like to too much). 

Friday, October 26, 2012

Sunday 26th  October

Another night in a comfortable bed with a solid roof over our heads. (A complains she cannot sleep outside the tent now!). Today after a lazy start we set off with Tuma and Ginnie to see the “Best Wadi in Jordan (Wadi Muyib).

We went through the attractive village of Madaba through a heavy police check (without the royal car I don’t think we would have got through!) to Mount Nevo and the church of Moses. Here we could look down on the Dead Sea, River Jordan, Jemcho and just Jerusalem. An awe-inspiring sight. On for lunch and the Rest House at Karak. Good lunch of chicken and salad. Anne and I then went round a crusader castle built by the village on top of a high hill. 

We wandered through old corridors, underground rooms all in a near perfect condition. The drive to Karak is down and up the impressive Wadi Muyib – fantastic and frightening if not driving. (My car had been left at the garage that morning for a service and check).

Coming back we had a fast drive to arrive by 7.00 in time for drinks at Mohammed’s with Silvia and husband plus the Whedies’ son and wife. Out at about 10.00 for a drink and steak sandwich in a bar. 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Saturday 25 October

A’s birthday. After saying  goodbye to everyone at the hotel, we set off in the huge car for Petra. Arrived at the guest house (these are all government run and super) for “Pepsi” before riding on horseback through the narrow Sig into the valley of Petra.

 Here we saw the Treasury, Monastery, Theatre Palace Tomb etc all carved out of the soft red rock in fantastic condition. We were shown round by a sergeant in the tourist Police.

Would have liked to stay longer but time was pushing so back to the rest house for chicken and salad in a cave hewn out of the rock in front of which the rest house stood. Shooting back to Amman in time to go out for a superb meal and then the nightclub till 1.30 in the morning. At the nightclub we met, in the company of Tuma and Ginnie, a man in the Jordanian F/O very rich but a hopeless alcoholic. Ah well. 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Friday 24 October

Up at the right time and after a quick breakfast into the royal landrover and off with the light just breaking over the horizon. The Wadi itself was fantastic with the sun gradually redeeming the tall mountains. We had tea in the police fort at the head of the Wadi (4 cups of chai and 2 coffee!!) and then set off up the mountain to see the spring of water mentioned by Lawrence in Pillars of Wisdom.

Also rode a camel and took photos of the Bedouin police – one to be sent to them.

Back to the landrovers – after firing revolvers to prove the echoes and our second breakfast of the day.

Returning to the hotel we changed for a session water skiing. Sammy turning out to be a superb teacher (I have the photos of A to prove it). In the afternoon we went out to the coral reef and swam under water. We had a guard, even here, who tried to keep us together because of the sharks. 

This he found difficult as we had fins and he didn’t. Collected some coral and after an exciting fast bumpy ride back (A’s bosom was really exercised!) had dinner and collapsed into bed.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Thursday 23 October

Had the car fixed by Saef, a driver from the palace and went with the Brigadier to Iranian Embassy and extended our visas (instead of the usual four hours there was much heal clicking and the job was done in half an hour plus we were given lots of tourist leaflets).

When we returned I had a phone call from the palace to say that we should be guests of HM at Agaba for two days. Much excitement and at 7.30 up drove a vast American car driven by an armed Sergeant Major who was to be our guard for the next few days. Off we went at a steady 90/100 mph down the new highway to Agaba, stopping at the rest house at Ma’an for tea.

At sunset we at the north end of Wadi Rum. Quite strange rather like the moon I should think. On to arrive at the Agaba Hotel at 7.00. We had been booked into the chalets by the King so after a shower we went to the main part of the hotel to be joined by the Sergeant Major and “Sammy” a lieutenant in charge of the royal palace there. After a few beers and dinner, we arranged a call for 4.00 to see the sunrise in Wadi Rum. 

Monday, October 22, 2012

Wednesday 22  October

During the morning we visited with Freddie the souk (to buy a carpet), three of the old city gates, St. Pauls Church, the Omaygad Mosque and the Jordanian Embassy to obtain visas. We heard at lunchtime that there had been a clash between Lebanese and Commando forces and 15 commandos had been killed. 

Feeling was running high and we were advised to leave before our three day visa expired. This we did after hearing that the Lebanese/Syrian border had closed and later had been attacked by commandos. A fast drive took us to the Jordanian border where smiling officials made us most welcome. On by night to arrive at Amman at 7.15 at the Jordan Intercontinental.

We rang Tuma and Ginnie and were picked up and driven to Brigadier Mohamed Daoud (chief UN delegate) and his NZ wife Christine. A quick wash and we were off to the local rep company to watch “Boeing – Boeing”. A late night left us really ready for bed. 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Tuesday 21 October

Up to the sound of rain and a small boy providing tea (we gave him some shells which excited him no end). The rain stopped so we walked around the market before setting off for Damascus (breakfast was a local dish from a stall – bread wrapped around nice meat cubs and salad).

Fortunately the rain held off for the drive. We made a detour to the village of Malula, where the houses are built next to one another and painted blue (the people still speak the language Jesus preached in). We arrived at Damascus, looked at the camp site and the hostel and still undecided went to the Jordan embassy via the Central Bank and Tourist Office to find it closed till tomorrow.

At this stage we met George and Freddie – sons of very wealthy Syrians who insisted we stayed at their love pit. We did not meet any of their friends! We walked round the souk before going to the room to change prior to our evening meal at Ali-Baba’s. 

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Monday 20 October

First job was to locate someone to refill gas bottle which we did at Milangaz. Also had a look around the souk (the things they were making out of old tyres – baskets etc) the mosaic museum (quite the best we have seen and well worth a visit), and the first Christian church (St. Sophia) cut out of the rock.

A good road lead to the custom ports of Turkey (very pleasant and quick) and Syria (pleasant but very, very slow). We left Bab-el-Hawei at 2.00, stopped for lunch and decided to press on to Hams for the night instead of going to Aleppo. The road was terrible as it was being rebuilt causing all traffic to take to the side consisting of mud and sand. We passed, slowly, along the road. It was raining by then and the windscreen wipers stopped. All ideas were tried including string through both windows tied to the blade and being pulled by A and me alternatively – but to no avail. As darkness settled all we could do was to continually wipe the screen.

At last Homs and, after obtaining directions, we found the Youth Hostel – charming people in this small hostel but the place was a bit grot. We went out for a coffee and met a [half] English speaking bank manager who introduced us to his friends (one of whom took us home to meet his wife and children). After a tour of the town (including the man’s parents and large houses) we went to bed at the hostel (total cost 4/-). 

Friday, October 19, 2012

Sunday 19 October

Woke up this morning to very dark clouds so decided to move near to the Syrian border. The garage owner at Messin was away (Sunday – Arabs seem to be adapting all their holidays plus many of ours) so could not get gas topped up. A very fast road to Iskendesum, past three crusader castles, two in very good condition, and camel and goat herds.

The camp site at Iskendesum was badly flooded so we decided to move on to Antakya. Stopped at Information post and was told we could camp behind the office on the grass. Before doing this we drove to the coast at Samandag – what a disappointment. A good beach really ruined – so back before dark to the “camping ground”. 

The local football match had just finished and so to a vast crowd we started to put up our tent. Such an audience! At last a man with a whistle arrived and they all vanished! And so to bed.