HOT SOUP & COLD CAMPING BY THE SEA OF MARMARA – OVERLANDERS ON THE ROAD AGAIN, 1976

TUESDAY 19TH OCTOBER, 1976

Young cotton picker in Western Turkey

Up early and raining.  Big clear out of Chinese laundry image!  Coffee at bar before left.  Boring drive back along road to Greek border.

Became very cold during day.  Stopped again at small port, bought hot bread and honey.  Eventually turned off down coast and followed Sea of Marmara.

Eventually near Eceabat made camp.  Very windy and bitingly cold.  Pitched in dark beside a derelict wall (apparently people sometimes live in it!) Very near sea, very rough, could see ships’ lights in the dark.

Had hot soup and stew.  Some of us walked (or rather were blown) into Eceabat – 2km – and had beer and cay at a quayside cafe.  No room indoors because all watching telly, so sat outside and froze!  (Chris, Nikki, me, Pam, Mark, Neva and Diana).  Walked back – very cold night.”

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DELPHI, GREECE – AMONG GODS, PIGEONS AND MURMURING CROWDS, 1976

WEDNESDAY 13TH OCTOBER, 1976

“Left Athens.  Dropped Nanette.  Making for Delphi. Incredible amount of shrines along roadside – only seen 1 vandalised yet had loads of small crosses and cups etc inside.  Began to get mountainous – Delphi in big mountains – ruins all the way up mountain slope.

Made my sacrifice of 30 drachma (i.e. full price) and went in.  Got in on bad tour, woman couldn’t find the baize of the tripod!  Saw Temple of Apollo and amphitheatre.  Decided to climb even further to see the Stadium – went up dusty windy path, cheap of birds, disturbed a few pigeons.  Reached Stadium, really high up and hidden among trees.  FANTASTIC sight, just me and the gods up there, could almost see the chariot tracks in the dust.  A gust of wind in the trees sounded like the murmur of the crowd!  All the seats around one side of the stadium still well preserved; big square pillars at one end.  (Went to the loo looking down over the stadium – what a boast!)  Fantastic view of the mountains looking down from the top.

Travelled on through striking mountain scenery (much hazier and drier that Jugoslavia.  Idyllic pastoral scene cant have been so idyllic on such arid, dusty mountain slopes).  Clouded over.  Worked way down hairpin bends to a small town where we stopped for a “coffee stop” – taken to drinking nescafe to avoid sweetened Turkish coffee.

Camped again at Stylis – different part of coast, very near beach again and a quiet bar (with great toilet facilities!)  Had a nice Amstel beer then a good camp supperof steak and kidney and fresh melon!  Ground really hard; dark when we pitched – think it’s on a road in an orchard!”

METHONI, GREECE – SWIMMING, DANCING, ‘SMASHED’ 1976

On cooking duty in Greece – went over budget and overboard with the garlic and sustained a blister courtesy of the bubbling Smash (does anyone else remember that distinctive industrial taste of powdered mashed potato?)  Had my first and last encounter with the mind bending substance Ouzo – now I understand the warning: beware of Greeks bearing gifts … 

SATURDAY 9TH OCTOBER, 1976

“Left early for Greek border.  I was doing cooking with Nikki and Chris.  Stopped at small town to shop – lots of sign language in the market (all 4 stalls!).  Overspent money.  Crossed border making butties!  Beer at border a rip-off.

Made for east coast, camped in afternoon at Methoni fishing village.  All went down to the beach (tents a stone’s throw away from sea), swam in the Aegean Sea! – very slimy and shallow!

Prepared meal with frisbies flying everywhere – got one in the back of the neck!  Fantastic spicy, garlic etc stew (La stew as opposed to Le Stew.  Drew up stupid menu – wide-mouthed frog and caterpiller pie, les afters, tic tac a la Robert etc!)  The smash (volcanic) spat at me and burnt finger – gorgeous blister.

Then all went down to nearest bar – some people been there since very early.  Tested out ouzo – only drank half bottle (too many).  Other Greeks there playing instruments – so some got up and did Greek dancing with them – Shirley being one of course.  Adrian keeled over – took 4 of us to get him to tent where spewed up.

Other group – 2 Scouse, I Irish and girl who is getting lift to Athens with us.  I thought I was OK but got to bus and memory is a complete blank!  Apparently I was feeling awful, hanging out of bus window and sounding upset.  Remember heading for sea at one point and sitting there – Rob came and rescued me, got things out of bus and found my tent.  After that I escaped again and headed for bus because heard music playing.  Apparently nearly murdered tape deck and shouted obscenities at Fred and Jan about the noise – vague recollection – Fred said that’s last time I get to choose music!”

FUSINA CAMPSITE, VENICE – fog, fleas, foamies and fun! 1976

OFF TO VENICE AND FUSINA CAMPSITE …

SATURDAY 2ND OCTOBER, 1976

“Up early.  Rolled the foamies!!
The foamies are explained in a letter home: “we’re quite efficient at getting up, fed and tents packed etc in 1 and a half hours (up at 6 every travelling day!)  The worst job in the morning is rolling the foamies (that go under our sleeping bags) and squeezing them all in between 2 sets of seats; they are rather temperamental things and tend to spring out and flow into the gangway if not given their due attention.”

Left for Venice.  Good card games at the back.  Scenery of hills, trees and picturesque houses – tunnels etc (hopeless to try and read!)  Then fog descended and saw nothing.

Got to Fusina after lunch – cabins not tents!!  Seems nice campsite but lots of mosquitoes.
My letter home says: “The campsite was really rather luxurious – hot showers and what’s more we managed to book into cabins and so got a bed!  It may have been rather flea infested but it was real high living.”

Run into Venice briefly in afternoon and saw gondolas tied up by canals, lovely bridges; not time to see much else (apart from station).

Evening spent in the bar of camp – Fusina is rather famous for rowdy evenings in the bar because the camp is always full of bus tours!  Graffiti on walls, exuberant barmen etc.  Eventually only Julie, Paul, Mark and me left, retired to bus – few others there.  Sat at back listening to Supertramp.

We’ve had t-shirts designed with Asian Greyhound on – the design is a bus inside a large carafe of wine! ”

More photos on Facebook Page, Overlanders: http://bit.ly/bEVp5V

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This campsite was used as the setting in my novel THE VANISHING OF RUTH to introduce one of the key characters – the charismatic Marcus.

TALES FROM AN UNTIDY BUS – washing strewn everywhere and there’s a body in the aisle, 1976

EXTRACTS FROM LETTER HOME, WRITTEN IN FLORENCE, ITALY, 1976

” … refrained from spending small fortunes on leather goods (and of course the pink inflatable pocket size statue of David – thought you’d like it for the new mantelpiece at Suardal!)
However we treated ourselves to real Italian pizzas and ice cream (water melon flavour)

… the rain has caught up with us again I think we’re cursed.  Tonight we’re going into a disco – the Red Garter.

By the way we’re not going to Tehran which is a bit of a shame, so don’t write there.  Geoff the driver (a Scot) said that writing on p.cs or aerogrammes to Asia is advisable so no one will break into them.  (It takes about 4 days for a letter to get to Istanbul).

We’re a day ahead of schedule if you’re following on the map!  The group we met in Paris were a month overdue from Kathmandu, so I may be spending Xmas in the Khyber Pass!  Half their group were struck by hypertytus [sic] and flown home!

Well, signing off – got to tidy the bus!  At the moment all the packs are down, washing is strewn from railings and there’s a body sleeping in the aisle (Fred who appeared in Paris and makes himself useful cleaning windows etc – done the trip before).

Off to Venice tomorrow,
Love and kisses,
Jan

SEVEN MINUTES IN TIBET – or at least gazing at the sentry post! Tibetan border trip, 1976

[Overland drivers were a resourceful lot and often had to supplement low wages (or no wages) with side trips until they got paid.  They held the trump card – the bus itself.  The Derek referred to in the diary was Derek Amey, another driver for Asian Greyhound whose overland trip had set off a little before ours.  I signed up for his day trip to the Tibetan border – that mysterious land under Chinese control that had fascinated me since reading ‘Seven Year in Tibet’ by Heinrich Harrer. 

In the 1920s my mother had been a baby carried around on a makeshift carriage through the Himilayas on my grandfather Bob Gorrie’s forestry work.  A family story tells that some high up British diplomat was piqued to discover that some British baby had beaten him into Tibet!

Derek Amey, who now lives in Australia, has set up a brilliant overland website covering many trips and bus companies from the 60s and 70s.  http://www.indiaoverland.biz/]

SUNDAY 19TH DECEMBER, 1976

Up early – Derek’s bus trip to Chinese border (ie Tibet).  Misty to begin with.  Lovely scenery into foothills – wooded winding gorges, green rivers; stopped at one which begins in Tibet and flows into Ganges!  Stopped at fantastic waterfall – another division between Tibet and Nepal.

Saw brown mountains of Tibet peeping between green slopes at borderBridge with Chinese guard in green sentry box at the other end.  Had passport stamped on Nepal side. [Kodari]

Stopped for lunch by river and hot spring baths (grotty concrete affair) – good KC’s packed lunch.

Stopped at swing bridge for fools to rush across (ie I didn’t!)  Grandmother, mother and happy kid – old woman with huge earrings in ears and big discs in nose.

Saw rice paper factory at side of road – mill to grind corn then muslin screens which woman used to sieve water and pulp mixture (bark pulp and ground corn) then left to dry in open air and then paper peeled off.

Lovely villages – mellow orange brick and dark thatch.  Women breast feeding by road.  Little kids carrying even littler kids!  Got back sixish.

Went to Shangri la with quite a few of the others – so service slow.  But nice when it came – shared a Tibetan dish with Di (like omelette) and also Buff Bean Curd (Buffalo meat) Nice.”

BHAKTAPUR – snake gods and feisty kings, Nepal 1976

[It was goodbye to room-mate Neva who was returning home to Australia for Christmas – we’d shared many a delicious pastry and cake along the trail and a lot of laughs.  Then our driver Geoff took us to look round the amazing medieval town of Bhaktapur – vibrant, squalid, artistic and mystical]

SATURDAY 18TH DECEMBER, 1976

“Neva woke early – very excited, smoking like mad!  We all went in convoy to airport (flap on because clothes not dry!)  Tearful partings then we all shouted rude things as she walked to the plane – “Can we have some more music please?!”

Then Geoff took us on trip to Bhaktapur– one of 3 capital cities – medieval town.  Big square with pagoda temple 15th century.  Old run down brick and wooden houses – ancient carvings – museum full of them (various Hindu and Buddhist gods and goddesses and ghosts).

Art gallery full of rice paper paintings and wooden paintings – highly elaborate, colourful, intricate, often horrific paintings of gods – snakes with big gaping mouths etc.  Collection of paintings depicting life of Krishna; one or two modern paintings of mountains and town (good).  Old wall paintings of warrior figures – great costumes.  Several artists’ impressions of Nepali kings (since 18th century) – all look the same – underneath is explanation of each one – rather interesting.  Great praise for one who repulsed British influence – worshipped as a god.

Tallest pagoda temple in Nepal was a little beyond Durbar Square in smaller square.  Very dirty and poor – dead dog covered in stones, loads of chickens, people pulling lice out of each others hair!  Saw the outside of Buddhist temple – the horse of the temple was tied up outside – statue of god and goddess by small door, so all bow when go through it; 5 small windows for Buddhas (a young boy pointed all this out to me).”