Kathmandu to London – 3 months: This was one of the great overland journeys for under 35s – travelling in converted regional English double decker buses. A “once in a lifetime adventure. We travelled in 1985 in a convoy of two buses – Snot and Boogie. In those early days you could travel with Top Deck all the way from Sydney to London. Times change, and now the longest trip is London to Istanbul, still a mighty endeavour. The spirit of travel lives on!
Nepal: Kathmandu and Pokhara
Busy, noisy and so fascinating. Porridge and other western foods available for travellers. This was the meeting point for the beginning of this epic adventure of 84 days and around 8,500 kms. Get your Asian travel clothes and change money for Nepalese and Indian Rupees here. To the Top Deck waiting area. Take off at 1.30 pm. It’s great to meet the people. We trade stories about the different places we’ve been. Bern and Andrew have come all the way from Sydney with Top Deck. The view from upstairs is great (like from a helicopter). It’s a lively bunch of people. Dinner tonight is steak and 3 veg followed by canned fruits. Upstairs: 12 permanent bunks and 8 seats which convert to 2 beds. Downstairs: 16 seats which convert to beds, and all the kitchen facilities.
Ganges – This is India’s sacred river. People swim, wash and drink its water. The ghats are where Indian’s cremate their deceased. India, ever-changing, ever amazing. After the first week of culture shock, you can start flowing with it. We were wondering what incident would delay our bus today. Sure enough, just near Jhansi the front tyre blew and we stopped for roadside repairs. The bus wheels are enormous and are held on by 10 large bolts. While repairs were being effected, large numbers of locals had crowded around and were fascinated by the size of our bus and also by our female members.
Kashmir: Srinagar The house boat is 60-80 feet long and is secured to the bottom of the lake (about seven feet deep). The front of the boat has an ornately carved staircase and verandah. All wooden construction ornately carved in Kashmiri Pine which smells like camphorwood. After breakfast it was off on a guided tour, including visits to three shops. First, onto a skiff to be transported to the shopping area. It’s such a relaxing feeling as we glide over the water in covered shikaras past the willows and patches of floating lotus plants. Once in the main town we see how Kasmiri carpets are made as well as the production of walnut wood carved ornaments.
Pakistan Audrey and I are on cooking duties today. Boiled eggs etc for breakfast and then off to the markets, while Audrey goes off to pick up her luggage which Pakistan Airlines had misplaced back in July 10. She flew P.I.A from Scotland. Lunch was a great success. Pancakes with a mango and banana mash. We pass through Jacobabad, the hottest town in Pakistan. Looking at the map, we will have traversed almost the full length of Pakistan by the time we reach Iran. About 1.30 am we cross over the Bolan River where we stop for the night. It’s an impressive site with towering cliffs on either side of our camp. The water is refreshing and the mosquitoes biting. Sleeping is crystal clear.
Alcohol is forbidden in Iran. Up at 5.30 am and watch the unfolding road. Some of us are becoming used to getting short stretches of sleep. Driving along the excellent road, signposted all the way, we pass trucks and cars all the way. The desert terrain varies to fantastic mountain ranges with pastel earth colours in all hues. All the women wear black veils and clothing. The men dress in western gear. We stop at the Tourist Inn on Shiraz Road, which has been converted into a student accommodation facility. Tonight’s gluggy meal is still quite filling. We sit around in the bus having a few gripes and generally chatting about what we might do in Europe, and hearing about Andy’s driving adventures. Most shops are closed. The city is well laid out, many tree lined streets, malls, parks and playgrounds, mosques, shops and take away kebab places. I lunch on a kebab and salad. I meet a helicopter pilot instructor and his family. Iranians pay the same amount for petrol as we do.
After breakfast it’s off to downtown Damascus to buy, buy and buy at the huge bazaar. Food here is so cheap. Soft drinks 10 cents, falafels 20 cents, beer 50 cents, ice cream 15 cents. The bazaar(s) consist of huge covered areas within the ancient stone walls of the old city. After breakfast it’s off to downtown Damascus to buy, buy and buy at the huge bazaar. Food here is so cheap. Soft drinks 10 cents, falafels 20 cents, beer 50 cents, ice cream 15 cents. The bazaar(s) consist of huge covered areas within the ancient stone walls of the old city. The people are friendly enough.
Jordan: Amman, Jerash, Petra, Aqaba
Another pleasant, sunny morning, and hepatitis is the big news again. A number of jokes proliferate, but we are taking it philosophically. If we get it – we get it. Salad rolls for lunch and a quick walk around to snap a picture of Amman. It’s the financial capital of the Middle East, that’s why it’s so affluent. We descend to the modern town of Petra which has been designed to fit into its surroundings. Ancient Petra was first settled around 3000 BC, and has a history to around 300 AD. It was forgotten about until excavations began in the early 1900s. Off to sleep till 5.00 am when we have to get up to visit Ancient Petra.
Israel/Palestine: Jerusalem, Jericho
Breakfast of fresh bread covered with sesame seeds, cottage cheese and grapes and bananas. Our room, which sleeps eight gets very hot and the toilet flushes very noisily.
Then it’s on to the Temple Mount (4500 Shekels to see the exhibits). The Al Aqsa Mosque, the Muslim Museum and the Dome of the Rock – pretty impressive, but I find the Arab attitude annoying (and so do most of the others). We also visit the Church of the Holy Sepulchre which reeks of tradition and splendour. From there we pass through a few more shops and try to avoid being hassled. I accompany some of the girls to a mass at Ecce Homo, a church along the Via Dolorosa, which is pleasing. A pizza at a small café. Again we notice the tension as a few locals almost come to blows in the street near us. It’s a closed-in, tight city. I head off to Jericho and catch an Arab bus. At the Jericho end I meet with two Irish girls, Eileen and Cleona, who are travelling around Israel for two weeks. .
Transit: Greece, Yogoslavia
We spend a few hours at the Yugoslav border, while the border officials eat their dinner. Four hours later we clear the border gate and drive through the night towards Belgrade. Early in the morning we drive through Belgrade and continue along the highway through Yugoslavia. Most of the day is spent driving through flat, boring countryside. In the late afternoon the scenery improves considerably, green hills now sporadically covered with pine forests are interspersed with small villages. The scents of the forests are so fresh and pleasant. We stop at a town to buy some food and visit some Yugoslav shops. People dress more trendily here. We push on to the Italian border where the police check our bus for drugs with a sniffer dog.
Early shower, clothes washed at Kaya Camping site at Goreme. What a sunny morning. Goreme is an area consisting of a number of small villages. This area is famous for its naturally sculpted hillsides, rocks and caves. There are many German and French tourists here. Down for an early morning swim. Peter and Martin swim the 1 km to the island fort. The water here is pleasantly warm and we all spend the morning splashing and swimming in the Mediterranean.
Anzac Cove. Next it’s off to the town of Silifke to buy food. Lunch is a fantastic spread of fresh bread, cheese, cold meat, salad and parsley. 6.00 am start (cooking again). We said au revoir to the girls from the other bus and headed off to Anzac Cove and Lone Pine, the landing places where the Anzacs attempted to gain a strategic foothold in Turkey during the First World War. There are graves and memorials.
I caught up with the others and we spent a very pleasant afternoon in one of the outdoor cafes. We wended our way back to the buses at twilight and I could see that this was a festival city. At Fuscina Camping we ate horse spare ribs and roast chicken. The celebrations continued.
Up early and breakfast. We slept well due to the low overnight temperatures. There are queues for the showers so you have to get in early and you need a token for hot water. We caught the free bus into the grounds of the festival.
We miss the 03.00 am ferry, but manage to secure a berth at 6.00 am.The bus is driven on and we head up to the upper decks which include a restaurant, duty free shop, cinema, poker machines, a bar and overnight accommodation. Our destination. In some ways it felt as if you were a new version of “Barry MacKenzie” visiting the motherland. Certainly Dekkers Hotel in Earls Court helped keep that image alive.
kathmandu to london
Back in the 70s and 80s this was the way to see this part of the world at an affordable cost.
“A once in a lifetime experience” – for us passengers, known as “Punters”. Many of the drivers and couriers made many such journeys. It was a wonderful opportunity to meet other travellers and to visit so many exotic places that you usually only read about or see in movies!