The Road to Utopia Overland from London to Dehli 1974 (Budget Bus) charles wright



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The Road to Utopia



Overland from London to Dehli 1974



(Budget Bus)



CHARLES WRIGHT

FOREWORD

This book is dedicated to all those who made the journey from London to Dehli at the height of when the overland route was a myriad of colourful characters travelling from west to east or vice-versa.
The basis of this book is of course, my memory of all that happened, and the dates are taken from my diary.

The original book was written on the twentieth anniversary in 1994. Thirty years has now passed since I made this trip and its November 2004.


The overland road from London to Delhi not possible any more the era of the hippies is no more and we now live a world, which has changed since the free and easy years of the seventies.
There was civil war in Yugoslavia in the mid nineties with the split of the country into independent states.
The Ayatollah Khumani took over the rule of Iran in 1980 and the Shah died in exile in France in 1980.
Afghanistan has gone through two wars, been ruled by the Tali ban and is now ruled by a puppet American backed government.

CONTENTS

CHAPTER PAGE

1 London to Istanbul 1

2 Turkey Gateway to the Orient 19

3 Iran during the Reign of the Shah 34

4 Afghanistan here we come 43

5 Pakistan and the Khyber Pass 51

6 Into India 57

7 Delhi and beyond 63

Epilogue 69

CHAPTER 1

London to Istanbul
Every child at sometime or other in their childhood spends a proportion of their time day-dreaming about adventure, whether it be sailing on the sea, climbing mountains, sky diving or even some other subject that has captured their imagination. Most of the time they are just dreams and forever remain so. Sometimes dreams do turn into reality, which undoubtedly leaves a marked impression upon the mind, and to whose destiny it will effect later in life.
My earliest recollections are of daydreams about India, I don't know why this was so? Maybe in my past life I was an Indian, or a soldier serving during the time of the Raj. It was as though the smells, culture and cuisine were deep in my blood. The map of the subcontinent seemed engraved on my forehead and this was to become a magnet drawing me closer and closer to this land of contrasts.
Such magical names appear in its history. The Khyber Pass of the North West Frontier, and the fierce Pathans. Clive of India, the Indian Mutiny of 1857, Mahatma Ghandi and the struggle for Independence. Bombay gateway to India, Calcutta, Delhi and Madras. Cities whose names were famous throughout the world but seemed to hold that eastern attachment. Other names also synonymous with the subcontinent, the "Taj Mahal" and the mighty Himalayas.
It is impossible of course to provide any satisfactory explanation of why I should want to go to India. The predominant motive seemed above all in my view to be

"Because it's there".

1.

It was in the summer of 1974 when I was working as a chef just outside London that I saw in the paper an advertisement of a bus going to Delhi, in November of that year. The cost was £49 one way; this seemed too good to be true and immediately wrote I off for more information. After receiving more details through the post I telephoned the organiser Emil Bryden. I met him at his home in north London and listen to him explain how his company operated I decided to pay my £49 for the journey of a lifetime. He said that he had two buses that travelled from London to Dehli through Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan on to India. He told me that the buses were on their way back from India at the moment and that there would be a routine service before they would again return to the sub-continent. It sounded so exciting and the travel bug was in my bones, so I decided to pay my £49 for the journey of a lifetime it had always been a dream India and the orient.

The people I worked with could not understand it; “you want to quit your job to go to India?” When will you come back they was asked? “I don’t know” what will you do when you get there? I don’t know” “You don’t have a definite plan then?” Well no” My father could not understand it at all, he had struggled all his life working at the pit, and here I was finishing my job to travel overland to India. Why did I want to go to India? I don't know?
That November night in 1974 is still clear in my memory. It was the start of an adventure that was to change my life forever. The sixties and early seventies were the era of flower power, hippies, Bob Dylan, Jimmy Hendrix, Pink Floyd and the Beatles. The Beatles all went to the east; music became integrated with eastern influence. People travelled East in search of dreams. The young generation of this time, as now experiencing the freedom to travel to far off lands. Names such Kathmandu and Goa were attracting people from all over the globe. From America, Canada, Scandinavia, Australia and Europe. Parents were left behind; people were able to start something new. Young people were breaking new ground and I was to become one of these people. I was not a hippy, I don’t think I was? But what is a hippy? I suppose the closest I got to be a hippy was attending the rock concert at Windsor Great Park.

2.

This was a concert that was held after the famous Isle of White concert. The English version of the Woodstock rock concert in America. It lasted four days and four nights, there were people every where sleeping on the grass. Smoking grass and making love, I remember vividly walking across rows and rows of bodies in sleeping bags to get near the stage. Music twenty-four hours a day for four days,

Today people want to work they hate being unemployed they want material things like computer games or a new car. Back then people didn’t want to work; they were not interested in material things they said to their parents you can keep all that shit. People wanted to make revolution, in the mind, in the way they live, people were going on a spiritual journey, blind belief of the youth of this time. Everyone was looking for something and by going to Asia they hoped to find it, an era that will never be repeated.

It was Saturday 23rd November 1974; on through the frayed edges of the city of London as the train I was on edged its way towards Totteridge tube station. Light winter drizzle was falling outside. Next stop Totteridge and Whetstone, it was 4.30 p.m. and getting dark. As I left the entrance of the station the wind and rain seemed to be getting stronger leaving a dampness on the roofs and a shine on the road. I was early, far too early, what can I do? I know I will go for a coffee. So with my pack on my back I walked down Totteridge lane looking for a cafe, I was told the bus would leave at 6pm. From outside Totteridge station. After a coffee in a greasy cafe, which seemed typical of north London I then headed back towards the station.
It was raining hard now, as I reached the entrance of the station, it did not seem right. Where were the other adventurers who were going to India? Barry and Janet Wills, whom I had met only a month earlier at the hotel where I was working, were also booked to go on this bus to India. It was completely dark now with just the lights illuminating the forecourt of the station. The rain was pouring down now, and I seemed a lonely figure waiting for a bus that was going to change my life forever.

3.

I decided that rather stand outside in the cold, I went inside to the booking hall. My god the place was packed with all kinds of young people. Could it be that all these people are going to India? There seemed to be about forty, with all types of backpacks.

It was as if they all needed desperately to escape, from what? Although some were going home back to Australia. It was a generation that needed to find its identity and I was part of that generation. Surely all these people with their gear will not fit into a bus? Suddenly in the corner I saw Barry and Janet, I had been introduced to them just six weeks earlier by the manager of the hotel of where I was working. Janet, who was a regular customer at the hotel, one day mentioned that she and her husband had booked to go on a trip of a lifetime to India by bus. The manager had told her that a chef who worked in the kitchens of the hotel was also booked to go to India by bus. Perhaps you were booked on the same bus After meeting Janet and her husband Barry one night in the hotels bar we discovered that it was the same bus we were going off to India on.

"Hi, how is it going?" I asked. They had arrived just five minutes ago, it was passed six and there was still no sign of the bus. Had we all been conned? Unexpectedly Emil Bryden the organiser of Budget Bus entered the station and made an announcement that the coach that was to take us to Dover was outside. It had stopped raining now, as he called out our names he ticked us off his list as we boarded the bus to go.
There were people from all over, Australians, Canadians, Americans, New Zealander's and British. The coach was of deluxe category a forty-nine seater, it seemed strange that the company should trade under the name of Budget Bus, I suppose it sounds better than "Budget Coach." Emil said that the organising of the luggage would be done in Dover, ready before we join the Cross Channel Ferry to Zeebrugge in Belgium. I could not believe the luxury of the bus, all the way to Delhi in this deluxe coach with it's warm heater and padded seats. What value for money this has turned out to be.
4.

Finally on a wet London evening at 7.30pm, 23rd November we began to move. We had finally started this adventure. Where we would travel through Europe to Greece, Istanbul, Teheran, Mashed, Heart, Kabul and so on. Danger? Nobody thought of danger, maybe there was? I had no tourist guide, but no one had. Not like today where Lonely Planet gives you the guide to everywhere. At this time they did not exist. It was the east, hot weather, men in turbans, giant mushrooms.

It was a typical busy London evening as the bus wound its way through the traffic and onwards towards Dover. I was sat next an Australian, "What is your name I asked?" "John Crawshaw," he replied. John was on his way back to Australia after spending six months touring Europe. Three hours later we pulled up outside the Townsend ferry terminal in Dover. This is where the ferries dock ready to make the crossing of the English Channel to the Continent.

It was at this time we were faced with the reality that the bus which had brought us from Totteridge to Dover would be staying this side of the Channel and the transport that would take us across central Asia to India was waiting for us. There to one side by the ferry were two 1965 Leyland forty seater standard buses, with torn seats and floorboards sagging in the middle. I thought, Now I know why its called Budget Bus. A huge man with a thick north English accent came over to meet us. “ I am George the driver,” he said. A young Indian boy called Ram accompanied him. George was the driver of one of the buses. Again our names were called out and the people were split up between the two buses, the backseat being used to store the luggage.

5.

George was the driver of bus number one and was obviously the regular driver; he organised the group with military organisation. The Indian boy Ram followed him everywhere. George's Companion. Ram who had just made the journey from India to England and was now on his way back to Delhi and home.


Graham the other driver was younger than George and had never been outside of England, never mind drives a bus all the way to India. I was placed on Graham's bus while Barry and Janet were placed on the bus that George was driving. After completing customs and immigration we boarded the ferry for the four-hour crossing to Zeebrugge.
Some of us walked up the gangway, while George and Graham drove the two buses on to the car deck to be made fastened ready for the crossing. Few of us would have given serious thoughts of the trials and tribulations that we would be confronted with during the next six weeks.

As the ferry moved out away from the quay, Dover harbour merged into the distant darkness as the waves from the stern churned the sea into foam. It was at this time that I approached George who by now had taken the role as leader. " Excuse me George, I have been placed on bus number two but I know some people on your bus, What is the chance of changing over to your bus? "If there's a spare seat yes," he said with his Geordie accent.

He was a big man in his middle forties, unshaven and wearing a grey duffle coat, which we would not see him take off until we reached Dehli. Graham on the other hand was a quiet spoken man, mid thirties. He looked out of place with this busload of hippies if that's what you could call us, heading for the sub-continent. He would look more at home driving a coach load of old age pensioners on a tour of North Wales. Maybe he needed a job? Who Knows?
6.

The journey on the ferry was uneventful as most of us found a place to sleep. Some made their way to the bar, George also seemed to find his way to the bar: and downed a few “Newcastle Brown’s” as this would be the last he would get to taste of this famous drink until he returned back to England.


We arrived at Zeebrugge at 4am in the morning, it was still dark and a cold breeze blew off the Channel. Before the buses were unlocked from their berths we were all told to take our places on the right bus. This time I moved from Graham’s bus to George’s as there was an empty seat behind Barry and Janet, next to a guy who was of smaller build than me. “What’s your name?” I asked, “John was his reply.” I realised that he did not feel like talking so I did not press for any more conversation. Soon we were on our way that’s what we thought anyway!

We drove off in unison one bus in front of the other, George leading the way. We crawled along at thirty miles an hour, as we passed through Brugge it was still dark. Then on the road between Brugge and Gent George pulled over into a lay-by, I wondered what the problem is? There was no problem, due to the fact that George had been in the bar all night he hadn’t had any sleep. Graham from the bus behind arrived “what’s the problem?” George just proceeded to go to sleep while most of us were waking up as the sun was slowly rising over the horizon; we were just left to sit in our seats. At 7am there was stirring from the drivers seat, “my god we are going” said someone from in front.

George did not say a word, started the bus cranked it into first gear and we pulled away from the lay-by where we had been parked for the past two hours.
7.

Soon we were through Belgium and on the autobahns of Germany. Approximately 70 kilometres from Frankfurt we pulled off the main road into a small village. There was a hotel ahead, the Hotel Kugel which obviously catered for truck drivers, it was cheap with some rooms, others being dormitories. “We will stay the night here, and leave at 06.30 in the morning” said George. It was obvious that the staffs were used to such groups of people arriving, as they seemed to accept the matter as part and parcel of a day’s work, this was German efficiency at its best.


Soon people were given rooms or dormitories as their budget could cope. It was now 7.3Opm and for most of us it was now time to eat, all of us were hungry as all we had eaten since leaving the boat in Zeebrugge was a frankfurter and bread when we stopped on the autobahn for what was supposed to be a lunch stop.
A group of us wondered down to the large dining room, where a menu was available. It was a choice of Goulash Soup or Salami followed by a choice of Schnitzel with salad or Roast Beef and Spatzle. I opted for the Schnitzel. It was at this time that people were becoming more acquainted with other people in the group. The impression left by companions is one of the biggest elements left in one's memory of such a diverse group of people.

There were a few Australians I got to know, Russell who was later known as big Russ, due to his height over six feet tall, towering over all of us and with a thick bushy beard. Sculls who's real name was Steve was shorter in stature than Russ, both were on a years leave from the Reserve Bank in Sydney and were now making their way back to Australia overland. John from Melbourne who was mad on Aussie Rules football and Foster’s beer so he was nicknamed Aussie John, Helen also from Melbourne travelling alone and two girls who sat in the front seat. Maureen and Val. also on their way back overland to Australia.

8.

There was one New Zealander called Graham who adopted the name of Kiwi, he was on his way to New Delhi just to attend a New Years Eve party at the New Zealand High Commission. Of the English in the group, there was John of whom I was sat next too. Tall John and Michael who were travelling together, Jamie and Esau two real down to earth cockneys if ever there were. Mad Bill the Scotsman, Barry and Janet, Damian the American, the two Swedes Lars and Sven.

“Jamie where are you off to?” I am going to find Utopia, man.”
Monday 25th November.

I stretched myself and opened my eyes; the fascination of travel to unknown places was now becoming a reality. It was cold outside and still dark for it was still early, 5.45 am. A few more minutes in my warm sleeping bag before I make a move. There were sounds of others stirring in the darkness of the room, George had said we were to leave at 6.30a.m. And not to be late. There was no time for breakfast or Fruchstuck as the sign said at the entrance to the dinning room.

We had hoped to get away early in the morning, but we were to be delayed several hours. At 6.30 everybody was on both busses all except Kiwi. George did a count of the bodies, some of whom had gone back to sleep. "There is one missing, where is he?" said George. At 6.40 Kiwi suddenly arrived putting on his coat at the same time. "Sorry I'm late George," but it was obvious that George was not impressed with his lateness. "That's it, we start at nine, 11 and he then proceeded to go with Ram back into the hotel, it was not encouraging at all.

9.

Graham arrived from the other bus, "what's going on?" he asked. "We start at nine,” said someone from near the front. "What is he mad? I'll go and speak with him," but it was no good George had now firmly made up his mind to leave at nine. It was as though he was trying to teach us a lesson, or perhaps he wanted breakfast too like everybody else. While a frugal breakfast was being brought in the topic was George, could we trust him? Would he leave anyone behind if they were late? It all sounded gloomy, after breakfast the tension of the early morning episode seemed to have disappeared, and we finally departed at 9am. heading for Munich.

George said that we would spend the next night at Salzburg. It was cold as we drove out of the entrance to the hotel; there was frost on the ground although the winter snow had still yet to arrive. As we pulled on to the autobahn it was still cold. It was so cold on the bus yet nobody had the nerve to ask George to put the heater on.
It was around 10.30 that big Russ who later admitted that he suffered from the cold shouted "George how about putting the heater on?" George gave the stern reply, "the heater does not work," at that moment you could here a gasp around the bus. It was cold outside but it was now cold inside, but we were going east to India. Greece, Turkey, Iran they were all countries with hot climates. I suppose we can manage through Europe until we get to Greece when it will be nice and warm.
The drive down the autobahn towards Munich contained little excitement compared to what had happened in the last two days. We stopped on the autobahn for 1½ hours for lunch just outside Wurzburg. The usual motorway food was available Frankfurter’s, Sauerkraut, Schnitzel and Sauerbraten. You have to be hard to eat this kind of food.

10.


At 5pm we arrived on the outskirts of Munich, it was here that we were to pick up another passenger. The two buses drew stares from the Germans on the street, a couple pointed at the bus. I could imagine what they were saying, "that bus will never make it to India." I am sure that if the Germans were going to India it would be on a fully heated Mercedes Benz with stereo sound system.

Finally we pulled up in front of this hotel; George and Ram were soon off the bus and inside the hotel. They came out with a gentleman looking of about forty and who was dressed extremely well in a thick leather coat, which went right down to his knees. He was certainly dressed right for the climate outside. From first impressions it looked as though he had plenty of money. Surely a person of his stature would not be travelling on an old bus with no heater and a bunch of hippies and young travellers. It would be more in line for him to fly; he looked like he certainly had the money to afford to fly.

It was dark now and people could be seen going home with Christmas shopping, I wonder where we will spend A Christmas?
Graham came to see the new passenger and he was introduced. Now that the bus was stopped it was time to stretch our legs; so most people alighted from the bus after spending three hours sat still since we stopped for lunch.
This new passenger certainly did not travel light as large boxes were loaded into the back of the bus. Six boxes in all were loaded onto George’s bus yet none were placed on the bus Graham was driving. There was plenty of room for the boxes to be placed, as our luggage was stacked on the backseats of the bus. So now we know why George did not let us store our luggage in the boot.

11.


An hour and half later we were on the move again, leaving Munich behind us travelling on the E17 now bound for Salzburg where George had said that we would spend tonight. It was 11pm when we drove into this famous Austria City of 120,00 people. "We will leave on Wednesday morning," said George that meant a full day to go sightseeing tomorrow. The streets were deserted and twenty minutes later we pulled up outside the Salzburg Youth Hostel.
Usually you have to be a member to stay at YHA but this time of the year the place was nearly empty so the warden allowed us to stay. We all had to register and in line with YHA rules we all had to become a temporary members. We were shown to our beds, which were in dormitories with Six bunks in each room. I took a bottom bunk with & Russell, Steve, Kiwi, Aussie John and Damian all being in the same room. There was a Polish traveller also in the same dormitory who said we could call him Vlad. It was after midnight by the time we were all registered and in our beds all in need of a good nights sleep.

Next morning the 26th November most of us were awake early and I got up 6.30 so I could enjoy the freedom of the shower and bathroom, as later it was to become a melee of many bodies all wanting to get washed and showered. Down stairs in the dining room Russ and Steve were already eating breakfast, which were, coffee, salami and black bread.

Soon Maureen, Val, Barry and Janet joined us. Russ was the one with the idea of what to do. ""Listen" he said, "how about we go find where the tourist office is and find out what there is to see in this famous city. The warden on the desk where we had checked in not more than seven hours earlier was very helpful. "You must visit the Hohensalburg Schloss," or castle as we call it in English. Built in the twelfth-century sitting perched high on a rock it is the focal point of the city. "Mozart was also born here and his house is now a museum which you should not miss."

12.


It was after nine when ten of us headed into the city to go the tourist office It was not so far away in Mozart Platz just across the road from Mozarts house or Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart to be precise. Born in 1756 he became one of the master composers of classical music, He later died a pauper and was buried in an unmarked grave in Vienna.
The lady was very helpful but had only confirmed what the YHA warden had said. About what to see, in Salzburg. She tried to enrol us on a city tour as well as the Sound of Music tour, which goes around the local countryside where the movie Sound of Music was made. There was also a tour to the local Salt Mines but all of these tours were too expensive for what we had in mind. With map in hand we headed for the castle, cross the Salzach River, we walked through the cobblestone streets and squares. No peeling paintwork on the beautiful facades that adore the buildings, a cobblestone was out of place, all carefully preserved to give the city that Baroque look. A living museum which was once ruled by Autocratic Prince-Archbishops, Emperors and men who ruled this city.

Soon we were at the base of the rock that the fortress Hohensalzburg stands on. Behind the "Dom" was a cathedral, which was built in 1614. To ascend to the entrance to the castle one must first take the small cable car which

Elevates you above the Salzach Valley. The view was wonderful as we could see right into the hills beyond the city. "That must be where the Sound of Music tour must go," said Valerie. The castle was huge it was now time to play tourist and take some photo's I had a small Fuji single eight movie camera and took a panorama of the vista that we were looking at After we were back in the square below it was time for lunch, it started to rain as we walked through the narrow streets when we came across a bier keller named the "Ratskeller." Kiwi was first in through the beautiful door that adorned the entrance.

13.


Soon everyone had ordered beer and I decided to try the local speciality of Kassler and sauerkraut which was excellent, most had Goulash Soup. It was still raining outside, we decided to stay here all afternoon, what else was there to do besides walk around in the rain or go back to the youth hostel.
The topic over lunch was the bus trip so far, Kiwi said he was worried George might leave him stranded some where and that he had to be in Delhi before New Years Eve. "Whey’s that?'1 asked Maureen inquisitively. "I know this "Sheila" who works there and I promised her that I would join her at the New Years Eve party. "It's along way to go for a party,” said Val "she must be very special!" "She is" said Kiwi.
The trouble is that the bus had no fixed timetable, the only commitment is that it is George’s responsibility to take us to India and even that we are not so sure. As the afternoon wore on the Aussies became merrier; Kiwi could drink like a fish yet he was as skinny as a rake. Where does he put it?

It was after seven by the time we returned to the youth hostel all in a merry jovial mood. We would all sleep well tonight, just as long as Kiwi could get up in the morning. We sat in the dining room none of us wanted dinner just a coffee to drink. As we sat there Graham came across to talk to us. "We leave at eight tomorrow after breakfast, I'll tell the others, best to pay your bill tonight before you go to bed," he advised.

Next morning was cool but sunny, after breakfast we were all on the bus, it was 07.3Oam, and no one was late. I don't think anyone was taking any chances. George and Ram arrived with Sina the guy we had picked up in Munich. There was a solemn mood on the bus that morning compared to the jovial day we had the day before, ahead of us was the Austrian Alps.

14.


At 12.20 we stopped for lunch at a little village called St Michael. It was a typical Austrian village with views of the Tyrol behind the lunch stop was just one hour, then we were on the road again. The sun was shinning now; it was good to be alive. Austria is a land of peaks and valleys with Spectacular Mountain scenery, friendly people and good food. The Drive south continued through the mountains towards Graz

and the Yugoslavian borders where we arrived at 8.3opm. No visas were required, after being processed through immigration and customs whose attitude was slack. The officials seemed more interested in drinking coffee and watching the football game that was on the TV. Than seeing if we were smuggling anything.


The first Yugoslav town we came to was called Maribor situated not far from the Austrian border and, as I recall a dirty town. It was late now, the hotel that George recommended we stay at had only ten rooms vacant. It was now that George made one of his famous statements "listen kids, there is only a few rooms available; decide who is going to take them, the rest of you can sleep on the bus. We leave at 07.30 in the morning."

Val, Maureen and Helen took one of the rooms, Barry and Janet one. George and Ram another, Sena took one, Graham another. Russ also took a room, as he did not have a sleeping bag. The rest of us decided that our fate was too sleep on the bus. There was no point in going to sleep yet so we headed for the local tavern.

Traditional costume is still worn by some of the older people and as we entered this tavern we became the focal point of interest for the people who were quietly drinking their turska kava -real Turkish coffee, thick and sweet. A glass of water is served alongside. Soon the tavern was full of loud noise, most of us ordered coffee. Bill the Scotsman, Kiwi and Sculls decided to try the local peach brandy, which smells and looked like someone had pissed in the glass. 80% proof it was, and obviously had a kick on it like a mule. The fruit is placed in pure grain alcohol then distilled in a pot still in a bath of water.
15.

Russ was trying the Slivovitz this is made from plums from trees that are at least 20 years old. The plums are fermented for three months, then distilled twice unlike most fruit brandies, and this spirit is aged in wood for three to five years. It has a golden colour and a spicy plum taste. This tasted better than the peach brandy but still had a kick. It was after one, when the owner decided that enough was enough and called time. We all piled out into the cold night air. Bill was suddenly sick, too much peach brandy.


Soon everyone was in his or her seats and trying to sleep. There were a couple of bodies sleeping on the floor of the bus. I began to realise that at last we were no longer tourists, but travellers. It was a dismal morning, rain was falling. We found ourselves travelling through farming country with villages of small houses with white washed walls.

By mid afternoon we were driving into a blizzard. It was getting cold inside the bus never mind outside. Val went to wipe the window where she was seated, but her glove stuck to the window, it was ice on the inside. Just before four we stopped at a motel near the town of Slav.Brod. There was plenty of room for everyone with a huge raging fire in the main room through which a piping system heated the rest of the motel. It was good to have a decent wash. Outside the snow kept falling, "when will we hit warm weather George?" asked Russ. Soon, when we get to Greece, You don't have a sleeping bag do you?" George inquired. "No," said Russ, "But you will need one for the Turkish Mountains and the mountains in Iran."

"You mean to say that Turkey has mountains, I thought we were going east and that it will get warmer.'" Russ asked. "It could get cold in Turkey, when you get a chance you should buy a blanket or sleeping bag." George was giving advice; he was human after all.
We left the motel after breakfast; it had stopped snowing now. Gradually we were leaving the country of the Croat people where the Latin alphabet was used, and entering the Old Kingdom of Serbia. Here the signposts were written in the Russian (Cyrillic) script.

16.


Soon we passed through Beograd (Belgrade) capital of Yugoslavia and Serbia. First built in ancient times as a fortress on the high ground at the junction of the Sava and Daube rivers. The great Kalemegadan fortress still stands which now houses the history museum. Josip Tito was still Premier and Marshal since his election on 29 November 1945.
The country became hilly and at midday we arrived in Nis, (pronounced 'Nish') a town which had always been involved in Turkish wars from 1375 down to 1875. It was time for lunch; A group of us went to a local cevapcici shop, a fast food restaurant where we tried the local cuisine of Raznjici. Grilled meat on a skewer served with somunum bread, Bak1ava was for dessert.
We crossed the Greek frontier at Gevgeliija and proceeded on a very rough and rocky road, which improved, as we became closer to Thessalonika where we arrived at l1.3Opm. Thessalonika is the second city of Greece after Athens; it was founded in 315 BC. Again we checked into the local Youth Hostel and the same situation that had occurred in Salzburg took place.

Saturday 30th November.

It was my birthday and I was 21 years old although I did not tell anyone, I hate birthdays why so much fuss? After a good hot shower, I opted to spend the rest of the day by myself and explore this city. It's good to travel in a group but after one week of living and mixing with the people on the bus I enjoyed the freedom to explore by myself. There to see right in the centre of town was the Greek arch that were the only relics to survive the tire which destroyed the city in 1917. So after taking a few photographs of the centre of the city I headed for the market which was a fascinating place to wander.

Later that afternoon I met up with Russ, Steve, Barry, Janet and the rest of the crew. I finally told them it was my birthday and we all headed off for a few drinks and dinner of Dolmades and Souvlaki. We had beer to drink as well as trying the local brew of ouzo.

17.


The youth hostel here was not as good as the one in Salzburg and it was good to get back on the road again. Now we were becoming use to George and his temperament in dealing with situations such as arriving in a city like Thessalonika late at night, waking up the warder of the youth hostel and telling him all these kids on the two buses wanted beds to sleep in. Departure was at nine and we headed east, Kavala was our next stop at lunchtime. George stopped on a hill before we descended into this coastal Greek town and let us all take photographs. The view was superb a white shining town outlined with the deep blue of the Agean Sea. The sun was shining and it was beautiful and warm. Kavala was an old city with an aqueduct running right through the centre of the town.
After lunch we were off again travelling along the coast, the people seemed more Turkish in appearance or perhaps it was all in the mind as we drew closer to the Turkish border we crossed the Turkish border at Psala about six in the evening. We were all now delighted it was as though we had left Europe behind and Asia was now ahead of us. Istanbul was still a long way to go, but now every body seemed happy that we would be in Istanbul tonight our first real taste of the east.

George made an announcement, “Once we reach Istanbul we will be spending three days there.” This would give us a chance to explore the city and for him and Graham to have rest and check out the condition of the engines of both the buses before we headed into the dreaded Turkish mountains. “Listen kids,” as George called us. “Istanbul is full of thieves so be careful with your money and don’t leave anything at all on the bus as it will be locked up when its parked in the street. Don’t get caught with any dope. Aussie, (Russell) you’d better buy a sleeping bag or a blanket and anyone else who does not have something to keep them warm, as its going to get cold when we go into the mountains.”

18.


CHAPTER 2

TURKEY GATEWAY TO THE ORIENT



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