By the time we reached Turkey we had been on the road for three weeks, yet this was the first stop where we could pick up mail from home.  Imagine being out of contact with family and friends for that length of time in the 21st century – inconceivable!  Letters were like lottery wins and home entertainment rolled into one!


Early start – dark when got up – no one looked very bright!

Countryside fairly poor, flattish fields, lots of cart and oxen, dirty muddy rivers, mostly dried up; low hills in the distance.  Stopped at grotty town – spent last drachma on biscuits – funny blend of Turkish and European clothing – most women enveloped in black.  Little kids came after us for money – boys pushing smaller kids in prams – pathetic sight; came as quite a shock when felt a little tug at my elbow.

Stopped at border for a bit – some buses were made to empty completely – at Turkish side, bedding and things spread all around.

Long drive for most of the day.  Stopped for a cay stop in town on the coast.  Got a welcome in the cake shop (me and Neva needless to say!) everyone very friendly.  Had an eclair!

Eventually reached the Esso Campsite outside Istanbul – dark by that time, so haven’t seen anything yet.  Kitchen facilities – all ate in the dinning room area – Encounter [Overland] group singing away at other end of room.

Hot showers here too!!!  Windy and cold tonight.  1st mail stop.  Letters from Mum and Dad.”






THASSOS ISLAND – cakes, surf and dishy Greeks all to ourselves, 1976

Thassos Island and Keramoti on the Greek mainland were to be the inspiration for a disturbing incident in my novel THE VANISHING OF RUTH

Ferry to Thassos Island


Boat building

“Got the ferry across to Thassos Island – half hour trip (calmer than Skye crossing).  Fairly cloudly over island.  Landed at small town.  Wandered around streets with Neva and Sally – headed straight for cake shop.  Worked our way through apples, bicuits, pastries too!

Various ruins in town – bits of pillar lying around.  Walked out along front, began to clear.  Saw men sorting their fishing nets and further along there was a timber yard with 3 boats being made – just the skeletons so far.  Lovely smell of freshly treated wood.  Also passed a shed with boy scout emblems on the walls – they get everywhere!  (Boy scouts not walls).

Nosed round small crafty shops, selling clothes, pottery, belts, jewellery etc.  Walked along past ferry landing, sat by the sea.  Met 2 English blokes who had been on Island for 2 or 3 weeks – we were quite an event as most tourists had left by now.  The really fat one said there were no jellies today – I nearly split myself when I saw his flabby belly – a bit incongruous!  They directed us in the direction (good English) of a nearby beach; so we stocked up on more food (a real piggy day!) – bread, toast, honey, cheese, yoghurt – Neva had another cake!

Neva and Sally on Thassos Island

We walked out of the village, up a lovely wooded hill road – great forests covering all the mountains.  Lovely leafy, sunny walk, very quiet and deserted.  Came down to a group of chalets, passed various open air dance floors and bars – everything closed down, so didn’t have to pay, but made our way down to the private beach.  Fantastic breakers, so dashed straight in, whole beach to ourselves (only 1 little man in the distance).  Picturesque island just off the headland – Neva said looked like the Whitsun Islands.  Ate picnic and I snoozed in the sun.

Walking back, a taxi suddenly appeared and a man offered to take us in to the harbour – so got a free lift and reached the ferry in good time.  Met us with Bill and Shirley, Adrian, Chris and Hans.

Coming into Keramoti again – looked like South American swampy village, very flat.  Sally and I wandered around Keramoti – lots of hens and rather shabby plots, though houses were quite gayly painted.

Lovely sunset early evening – played with a football with a little local boy and Adrian – ball kept going into the flooded areas – my white trousers got an even worse coating of grime!

Keramoti beach bar

Most people had a meal out at the nearby bar – took ages to come.  I had 3 small fishes, tomato salad, chips and bread – washed down with plenty Domestica!  Bar filled up with Greeks – eventually we were all dancing.  I went and sat with some Greeks – 2 really dishy.  The Thessalonican medical student was a bit persistent, suggested a swim – eventually escaped saying my husband was waiting for me!  Hid in the bus.  Felt a bit down again – Mark cheered me up.
New girl finally caught up with bus – Mary (New Zealand).”



“Very windy and overcast.  Lovely coastal scenery once more, rather Scottish again with blue fingers of land and grey-blue sky.

Stopped at Lavadia for shopping stop.  Shops never very well presented.  Greek towns dirtier and less attractive than I’d imagined.  Had lovely pastries with cheese filling (Heidi, Frances and Diana) – I won’t lose any weight on this trip!

Picked up the other 6 at their beach camp.  They’d had lots of sun and fish barbecues etc.  Went to Thessalonika, tried to cash money, all banks close between 1 and 4 though.  Had sandwiches down by the waterside.  Very grey and windy, but quite stuffy too.  Others (Paul and Mark) had big gallon flask of ouzo type drink (“Cheepero”) which they tucked into.  Others of us drank wine – couldn’t touch the ouzo again!

Began to rain this evening.  Pressed on along coast to camp where ferry crosses to Thassos Island – absolutely chucking it down – had no trouble getting pegs in tonight!”



“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!”



” Late morning – 8.0!  Wrote pcs and lazed around in sun during morning.  Snooped round other Swagman bus and played Tamla Motown – they’ve much better selection than us.  Few of us left, had omelette and beans for lunch.

Lift in with Magic Bus.  Tried to get Nanette [girl we gave lift to from Methoni] away on the bus to London, but got there too late.  Chased round square to contact Geoff and get her luggage back to camp.  By late afternoon finally started sightseeing!

Made way up narrow lanes to Acropolis, kept losing everybody.  While at Acropolis most tourists were leaving and sun going down between the pillars of the Parthenon, hazy view out to sea.  View of Temple of Zeus and other hill (Athens not an attractive city – much of it dug up and half built, very dirty).  Guards and band appeared and played while flag lowered.  Men blew whistles frantically when anyone tried to go inside Parthenon.  One attendant gave us a pollo; another called Jan Athena, me Aphrodite and Rob Zeus!  All seem very friendly.

We wandered down small streets, little leather shops etc, till came to restaurant with tables in street, waiter just about dragged us off street and sat us in front of menu.  Presumed this was where we were to meet Fred.  Had Demestica while waited then ordered meal.  Had disappointing shishkebab and greasy cheese salad – flung half on floor trying to get off skewer – dogs ate it!  Loads of cats too.  Nanette came across us – had been lost in area.  Eventually Fred and other Swagman driver Steve found us.

At 9.0 we went up to see Son et Lumiere looking across at Acropolis.  Thought it over dramatic, some of it quite hilarious. “Thwack, wack, build and build” and mad dash of running feet, like something out of the Goons! Afterwards several of us went for a coffee down from Acropolis in big empty restaurant with carpets and bags on the wall.  Got lift home with other Swagman bus.”


Aussie Jan trying to climb out of hot spring at Thermopylae


” 1st stop, small town, had coffee.  2nd stop was the hot sulphur spring at Thermopylae – bathed feed in the water – fantastic, just like a hot bath (really slimy on bottom).  What a boast!

Then stopped to take picture of Spartan memorial, quite impressive.

Very dry, hazy countryside.  Felt bored and a bit low.  Got to Athens in the afternoon, camped and had fantastic cold shower.  Felt human again.  Met up with other Swagman bus – talked to nice Aussie bloke.
Had drink at bar (Chris, Nikki, Adrian, Chris, Rob, Sue, Pam, Diane) Felt really depressed.  Went and talked to Di and Frances, doing washing, they felt bit homesick too.  Pam pissed off too.”



“No after effects [of Ouzo] at all!
Headed down coast – dropped off 6 at a campsite [Platamon] – not coming to Athens – Paul, Julie, Mark, Pam, Neva and Sally.  A lot more room and quiet!  They wrote rude messages on bus as we left.

Made inland – detour to trip.  Suddenly left plain and huge rocks and cliffs appeared – very dramatic scenery.  Convents perched really high up on these cliffs, amazing sight [Monasteria of Meteora].  Climbed up road and stopped at Convent of St Stephen – had a look round – not allowed in unless wearing a dress and arms covered.  Let in across drawbridge – nuns almost totally covered in black.  Small courtyard inside – orphanage made up one side – no signs of kids until just leaving, then little faces appeared from a window.  View out over small town at foot of cliff-face and hazy blue horizon of plain – quite hot.

Small chapel – seats like monks at Durham, with small ledge so when dozed off seat collapses.  Very ornate icons, beeswax candles, incense etc.

(Before reaching here we stooped at a spring – very touristy, stalls selling corn on the cob, nuts, sticky sweets as well as religious emblems and bags and Davy Crocket hats.  Little chapel at other side, across suspension bridge, priest doing baptisms – very noisy and chaotic, walked round reciting while mother and baby follow, then slams down book and slaps wet cloths on the yelling baby.  Another fellow rushed in, stood at the lecturn and recited too, tourists milling in and out all the time).

Fred hung corn on the cob above table[on bus] – health hazard with flies.

Stopped and camped by sea again – Stylis.  We cooked another fantastic meal – my elaborately prepared custard was revoltingly runny!

That evening 3 Greeks bought us some beer at the nearby bar and ended up paying for all beer that evening!  They kept chucking the empties under the table and ordering more!  (Spent about £6 worth)  By the end (after a million ‘vivas!’) everyone was calling each other philo and phili!”

“remains of deadly corn on the cob – property of Fred and Jan”


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 … 


“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!”