London to Delhi by Bus

  • prefix  The year is 1957. The Suez Canal is blocked with ships scuppered by Gamal Abdel Nasser in the aftermath of the failed invasion by Britain and France to reclaim that waterway. The only sea route to Malaya, where I am headed, is via the Cape and beyond my means. All I can afford is 80 pounds Sterling for a seat on the first ever commercial overland bus route that has just commenced operation.
  • Victoria Coach Station  On 25 August 1957, fifteen of us who have never met before gather at Victoria coach station in London to board a bus with a route map to India painted down its sides. Eight of us are men and the rest women, most of us in our twenties and from widely varied callings.
  • 003a The crossing  We spend the night in a hotel halfway to Dover and the following day the famed white cliffs are retreating behind our cross-Channel ferry.
  • 002a farewell to the white cliffs  The sea is so rough that my camera's viewfinder is suddenly obscured by a descending wave that crashes overboard, drenches me from head to foot and drives me shivering below decks to change my clothing in the darkness of the savagely pitching and yawing vehicular deck.
  • 003c The crossing  Fortunately I recover my diary and sketchpad, to record the fact that a sense of detachment from reality is rapidly overtaken by helpless nausea, which seems to afflict mainly us men. The English Channel is raging and most of us are violently ill.
  • 004a Montreuil  We stop for sandwiches halfway to Paris in a cobbled square in Montreuil, where the funereal quiet is broken only by the rustle of the first dead leaves on the stones. I sit on a bench with my packet on my knees, salting a couple of tomatoes, when the wind blows the paper away. It carries a damp chill that drives me back into the bus.
  • 005a Paris Opera  And then Paris. So much to see, so little time. And in my case so little money. My entire allowance for the whole of the 45 day trip is exactly 45 pounds Sterling, and Paris is threatening to eat up most of that. We gather on the steps of the Paris Opera, Robin Whitelaw, Ron Veitch, Nigel Service and I, wondering what to do and where to go.
  • 006c Paris  The Avenue des Champs-Élysées perhaps? All those girls, all that wine (and all that expense).
  • 005c Paris  But how can we not? So the Avenue des Champs-Élysées it is. Under those famous umbrellas, nursing our costly coffees to make them last, Nigel and I watch the girls go past . . . and the time race by.
  • 004d Montreuil  We glance around and nurture the fond illusion that some of those girls may just be watching us.
  • 006a Paris  Then up to the roof of the Arc de Triomphe, paying our 100 francs each to get there and to see Paris radiating away in all directions - so regulated! A giant man-made landscape, formal as a garden in Versailles.
  • 006b Paris  And the traffic below, whirling around counterclockwise like a massive time mechanism gone into reverse!
  • 005d Paris  We pause to watch an artist cherishing a view.
  • 007a Seine  And then, walk, walk, walk. From the Arc to the Eiffel Tower, to the Place des Invalides (who by this time we feel like joining) and on to the Notre Dame and the Left Bank of the Seine.
  • 007b Seine  Where I sit on a parapet and watch fishermen casting theirlines in the stream. All these many years later, I wonder, do they still do that now? Are there still fish in the Seine?
  • 007d Left Bank  Thank God for those wonderfully convenient and accessible pissoirs! With their deliciously provocative advertiising!
  • 007c Left Bank  And ah the temptations of the Left Bank (La Rive Gauche), with all those stalls selling prints, artwork, historical volumes! Nigel may succumb, but how far can I get with my lean budget and my basic "la plume de ma tante" French?
  • 008c Le Cop  Les gendarmes! Ils sont très amiables et obligeant . . . so long as you speak French.
  • 008b Les Boules  At the Esplanade des Invalides we find them playing boules, which is as mystifying to us as cricket must seem to them.
  • 008a Les Boules  Or could it possibly be just a little bit like lawn bowls?
  • 009b Le conference  28 August 1957: A conference by the river bank at Lyon, with our sole driver, operator and inspiration behind the entire enterprise, Paddy Garrow-Fisher (left) calling the shots. Third from right is his Indian wife Moti, who will sit beside him through the entire journey on a tightly-bound bedroll, feeding him cold dhal to keep him going.
  • 009a Le conference  Paddy decides: We're going to go flat out all day, heading for Turin via Chambéry and the Rhone valley. Moti (right) quietly listens and holds her peace.
  • 010a en route to Turin  It's a long but lovely trip and the views are so seductive that we keep sabotaging Paddy's timetable with halts for photographs.
  • 011a en route to Turin  And it's all so historic! This valley separates the Chartreuse Massif from the Bauges mountains, an important strategic position commanding the entrance to the big Alpine valleys leading to the passes into Italy. Chambéry grew up around the Château built by Count Thomas of Savoie in 1232, and became the Savoyard capital, enjoying its Golden Age in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.
  • 009c Les paysans pauvres  Regardez les pauvres paysannes in the valleys below! See how hard ils travails!
  • 011b en route to Turin  I'm really spreading myself thin on this trip. I've brought along just two rolls of 35mm film for my ancient Japanese camera, and I'm halfway through that already. But the views are irresistible, and they get better round each corner.
  • 010c en route to Turin  Freddie Taylor (centre) displays the braces that will provoke increasing curiosity as the trip progresses. He's the oldest of our motley crew.
  • 012b en route to Turin  Every time we stop I look for the higher vantage point to get in the bus in as well, for it's such an exotic and unexpected intruder in these surroundings. London to Caclutta is a bit of a misnomer though, since we're actually heading for Bombay, and I'm planning to disembark in Delhi.
  • 012c en route to Turin  Ooh la la! What are these imbeciles Anglais up to?
  • 013a en route to Turin  Isobel Hayes, Freddie Taylor and Norman Anderson are content just to admire the scenery, while Sheila Mace has to crouch down for a better angle. She carries two cameras and we later discover she's keeping notes for an article she hopes to submit to "National Geographic".
  • 013b en route to Turin  It's really a trip for camera addicts anonymous, and Nigel Service, Paddy Garrow-Fisher and Robin Whitelaw love nothing better than to discuss apertures and light settings. I have a primitive light meter to help me, but it's mostly guesswork.
  • 013d en route to Turin  I'm still consuming the only food I could afford to buy in Paris - a loaf of bread and a flask of wine, with Omar Khayyám's 'Thou' replaced by a round of cheese.
  • 014a en route to Turin  What photographer could resist this monastery backed by a solitary mountain capped with snow? In Paris we had been joined by Jamila Khan from Pakistan (right) talking to Sheila Mace.
  • 014b en route to Turin  The view is so tempting that even Freddie Eddy (just Eddy to us, and seen here walking away from the bus) brings out his Rolleicord; quite an event.
  • 016a en route to Turin  Yet another stop; this time by a carpenter's shed. Paddy remembers he needs a sturdy plank to help us haul the bus over the deserts ahead - an announcement greeted by shocked silence. We all pile out to see how big and sturdy this plank is going to prove.
  • 015b en route to Turin  The shed is filled with planks of all sizes, and populated by a solitary carpenter, who essentially ignores us. Paddy casts a speculative eye over assorted candidates, but never buys one.
  • 016b en route to Turin  A while later we stopp at a village which Paddy confesses is unfamiliar to him. We must have strayed off the route somewhere, but where the hell are we? France? Italy? Switzerland?
  • 019d en route to Turin  Passers-by stop and stare, but shake their heads when we try questioning them. We are clearly in the land of je ne sais quoi.
  • 017b en route to Turin  Motor bike riders ominously start to assemble. Are they emulating Marlon Brando and 'The Wild Ones'?
  • 017d en route to Turin  Nigel, June Rowley, Jamila and Sheila pore over June's map, which isn't very helpful.
  • 018a en route to Turin  More spectators gather. "Londres a Calcutta? Dans cette autobus? Impossibles!" "Les choses qui sont impossibles aux hommes, sont possibles à Dieu." "Possiblement. Mais ce n'est pas naturelle."
  • 019b en route to Turin  Eventually we get going again, and it looks like we're approaching the frontier to somewhere.
  • 020b en route to Turin  But first we have to climb the Col du Mont Cenis, marking the limit between the Cottian and Graian Alps. There are some who believe it to have been Hannibal's Pass. The Col is 2083 metres high and our radiator is boiling. We stop to let the engine cool and then investigate a mounument to the heroism of beings unidentifiable. I suggest they might be St. Bernard dogs.
  • 020c Turin  Turin at last! A moonlit courtyard, latticed windows, Neopolitan music and a smell of macaroni. This could only be Italy.
  • 0021ge Padua  29 August 1957:: We arrive in Milan at lunchtime, when the square is near deserted and silent as a graveyard. I'm not allowed into the cathedral because I'm wearing shorts and sandals.
  • 021a Milan  The grounds of the Borgia castle in Milan. My last photograph until I get the chance to buy some more film.
  • 0021b Milan  We stop to stock up with food on the elbow of a bend where traffic alternately whizzes and crawls by, and women are washing clothes at a fountain topped by curlicued fish. A cheeky young lad keeps pushing in front of the camera, no doubt assuming I'll pay to capture him drinking at the fountain, which I emphatically will not.
  • 0021c Milan  June Rowley and John Huzenroeder relax on a parapet, waiting for us hunter gatherers to return with our supplies.
  • 0021dd Milan  I have this fanciful image of what a pretty North Italian village should look like, but I can't find anything that remotely resembles it.
  • 0021d Milan  We break out the tents for the first time, to camp on the shore of Lake Garda, largest body of inland water in Italy, situated halfway between Milan and Venice. Formed by glaciers at the end of the last ice age, the lake and its shoreline are divided between the provinces of Verona (to the south-east), Brescia (south-west), and Trento (north). I swim out alone under the stars.
  • 0021e Padua  30 August 1957. We press on into the heart of Italy, so beloved and geographically misunderstood by Shakespeare, who never came anywhere near it himself. Why are so many of his plays set here? Is it the volatile temperament of its inhabitants that he thought guaranteed a higher degree of drama? If so, why does it all look so tranquil and sleepy?
  • 0021gc Mantua  Do you have anything in English? Chiedo scusa, signore.
  • 0021f Padua  Verona! One wants to shout the lines to hear how they will echo amid the shadows and decay of narrow alleyways. A plague on both your houses! As is the bud bit with an envious worm ere he can spread his sweet leaves to the air, or dedicate his beauty to the sun.
  • 0021gc Padua  O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo? Deny thy father and refuse thy name; Or if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love And I'll no longer be a Capulet.
  • 0021gg Padua  Romantic Verona, celebrated in verse that few of its inhabitants will ever have read, spread with cobbled shadow, draped in last week's washing and impregnated with yesterday's cooking smells.
  • 0021gd Padua  I find it hard to take it all in, and wish I'd read more before I came. Built along the Adige River, Verona was the home of Dante Alighieri, but I don't know this at the time. I'm aware that, aside from Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare's Two Gentlemen came from here, but I can't recall what they were doing here.
  • 0021gaa Padua  The photographer photographed, while giggling townswomen in the background try to make out - in those pre-tourist days - why on earth we've come.
  • 0021g Padua  En route from Verona to Padua, we pass through a countryside where melons are in season.
  • 0021g Mantua  To Padua, in The Taming of the Shrew, came Petruchio, seeking a rich wife. It certainly looks like the kind of town he would select for that purpose.
  • 0021gb Mantua  A dense network of arcaded streets connects large communal piazzas, and many bridges cross the various branches of the River Bacchiglione, which once surrounded the ancient walls like a moat. The river is elegantly lined with handsome statues.
  • 0021ga Mantua  The afternoon siesta finds citizens so deep in slumber that they are unaware the radials of shadow have slowly abandoned them to the sun.
  • 0021gd Mantua  Norman Anderson finds an empty pedestal, and momentarily joins the august but long-gone personages assembled on either side.
  • 0021gf Padua  It's still the 1950s, so my brush follows the dictates of the contemporary art form.
  • 0021gh Padua  Padua - I later discover - claims to be the oldest city in northern Italy. According to a tradition dated at least to Virgil's Eneide, and rediscovered by the medieval commune to glorify itself, it was founded in 1183 BC by the Trojan prince Antenor, who was supposed to have led the people of Eneti or Veneti from the Balcanic region to Italy. The city exhumed a large stone sarcophagus in the year 1274 and declared these to represent Antenor's relics.
  • 0021w Venice  Breaking out our tents again, we camp in a field outside Venice, where my face is so badly swollen with mosquito bites that I find it difficult to open my eyes.
  • 021h Venice  Truman Capote said Venice is like eating an entire box of chocolate liqueurs in one go. I agree with him. Heady, cloying stuff, but hopelesssly irresistible.
  • 022a Venice  Everywhere you look, you've got to click that shutter. Once did she hold the gorgeous East in fee, and was the safeguard of the West. - William Wordsworth, Sonnet on the extinction of the Venetian Republic
  • 022b Venice  In Venice, Tasso's echoes are no more, And silent rows the songless gondolier; Her palaces are crumbling to the shore, And music meets not always now the ear. - Lord Byron, Childe Harold (canto IV, st. 3)
  • 022d Venice  The basic elements keep repeating themselves in endless variations; the canal, the bridge, the lantern, the crumbling plaster on light-dappled walls.
  • 022f Venice  And the sighs are not just for that one bridge, the Ponte dei Sospiri, but for all of it. And not just wrung from those on their way to the interrogation rooms in the Doge's Palace, but from everyone who comes, sees and is immediately conquered.
  • 023a Venice  You have no fear of getting lost. You would welcome it. You just want to probe deeper and deeper into that maze of waterways, to cross every bridge and linger at every prospect.
  • 022g Venice  You take a breather in St. Mark's Square and spend an exorbitant five shillings on a cup of coffee that must surely be the most expensive in the world. But it's somehow worth it just to sit there and soak in that view.
  • 022e Venice  You walk on, and suddenly you burst upon the lagoon, where the bargees are poling their cargoes. Byron wrote: I loved her from my boyhood; she to me was as a fairy city of the heart, rising like water-columns from the sea, of joy the sojourn, and of wealth the mart; and Otway, Radcliffe, Schiller, Shakespeare's art, had stamp'd her image in me.
  • 024a Venice  Henry Wadsworth Longfellow also got a bit daffodilian about it: White swan of cities, slumbering in thy nest so wonderfully built among the reeds of the lagoon, that fences thee and feeds, as sayeth thy old historian and thy guest!
  • 023d Venice  Not to mention Lord Edward Robert Bulwer Lytton, 1st Earl of Lytton: The sylphs and ondines and the sea-kings and queens long ago, long ago, on the waves built a city, as lovely as seems to some bard in his dreams, the soul of his latest love-ditty.
  • 024c Venice  Not all were smitten by the urge for love-ditties: And grieve, my friend, as much as thou, to live in such a wretched state as this of Venice, where all agree to spoil the public good, and villains fatten with the brave man's labours. - Thomas Otway, Venice Preserved
  • 023b Venice  To my mind the beauty flowing always through the tangled humanity of Venice reduces its squalors to irrelevance - Jan Morris
  • 024e Venice  I stumble across courtyards I will later recognise in Visconti's film Death in Venice, where Gustav von Aschenbach is pursuing a deliberately tantalising Tadzio to the strains of the Adagietto from Mahler's Fifth Symphony.
  • 025e Venice  All too much for me. So back to the piazza again for a bottle of chianti while the sun does its worst.
  • 025b Venice  And once more unto the breach to capture as much of it as I can. How right you were, Truman Capote. But then you also said that 'finishing a book is just like you took a child out in the back yard and shot it'. I don't want it to end.
  • 025d Venice  I suppose if you live here you get immune to it. Puttering along this canal, oblivious to the echoes of the engine reverberating off the walls, is just a way of earning a living. Familiarity must eventually blunt the romance. So best, perhaps, to see it once, and enshrine it in the memory.
  • 026a Venice  When the echoes of the engines die, there's just the splashing of an oar from a passing gondolier, from whom you dread the sudden lusty outpouring of a Neopolitan serenade.
  • 026c Venice  I hear their footsteps still ringing on the flagstones. Thomas Mann, John Ruskin, Henry James, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Marcel Proust, among others. They all came trooping through here, and they all wrote about it in one form or other. It's certainly too late to say anything NEW about Venice, and yet one keeps trying.
  • 026e Venice  How to encompass the whole of it; this seemingly floating city of brick and mortar, gondolas and flowered balconies, ripples lapping on long-closed doors, with the creak of oars and muted cries of half-heard songs issuing from shuttered windows strung with washing?
  • 027b Venice  A few canals away, they're tossing melons from hand to hand across barges like drifting cornucopias, laden with green orbs glowing in the sunlight.
  • 026g Venice  A light so luminous that surely it was for this dazzling spectacle that sunglasses were invented.
  • 028a Venice  Suddenly a woman flies out of a doorway and disturbs the peace with a shrill stream of Italian, directed at a melon boatman who takes on an appropriately melancholy aspect. Do they perhaps figure in a melange à trois?
  • 027a Venice  In a more peaceful backwater, shaded and deserted, where there's no hurry to deliver this cargo of timber, siesta asserts its quiet claim.
  • 027d Venice  When does a place become a principal character in its own right, rather than a mere setting or background? To a question that has fascinated writers of all times, Venice supplies the answer.
  • 028b Venice  I stumble upon what is clearly a boatyard, haunted by an all-pervading smell of tar.
  • 029a Venice  And I know by now that I'm hopelessly lost, carried along like flotsam in the stream, hoping for a confluence with more recognisable waterways.
  • 031e Venice  Around a corner I come across someone playing a mandolin, or whatever. And singing. Though he doesn't seem to be doing it for a living, for there's no cap in which to deposit coins.
  • 029c Venice  I'm back in the outer periphery of the tourist circuit. Tables and chairs are set out under umbrellas. There appears to be a landing for a vaporetto to arrive. Frank Key says: Whenever I think about Dirk Bogarde, with a moustache, in a vaporetto, I hear the Adagietto from Gustav Mahler’s fifth symphony. Such is the power of cinema.
  • 030a Venice  Ah yes, the vaporetto is coming. I can hear it echoing off the walls. Should I catch it? But where will it take me? And how will I know where I am when I'm there? Better to stay lost on my own two feet.
  • 030b Venice  Amazingly, I've arrived! I'm back again. I feel like the girl among the pigeons, arms outstretched, celebrating the sheer joy of Venice. I'd love to linger over another of those expensive coffees, but funds are running low and time is running out.
  • 030c Venice  The last thing I want is to sit at a table within earshot of those Americans, who look as if they've come dressed way out of season for a Carnival.
  • 031a Venice  Instead, I'm delighted to be joined by a fellow bus passenger, Renee, who like me has plunged recklessly into the current to let it carry her where it will. We briefly keep each other company before the wild impulse returns, urging us to seek our separate ways.
  • 031b Venice  She to the Campanile and I, reluctantly, back to my tent in that mosquito-infested vineyard.
  • 031c Venice  The setting sun sends long shadows flying among the ornate lampposts along the embankment. I sit down awhile and wonder if I will ever return, or if it's even wise to return. Some sensations are best bottled and stored away, to be regarded lovingly on the shelf but never again opened for fear they have staled.
  • 032a Trieste  On the road from Venice to Trieste, high above the Adriatic Sea, I'm fully recovered from mosquito bites and back in good spirits, determined to eke out the rest of my budget more cautiously, now that it has fallen well below my target of no more than a pound a day.
  • 032b Trieste  "I cannot always see Trieste in my mind's eye," Jan Morris will say when, nearly half a century later, she comes to write "Trieste and the Meaning of Nowhere". I know nothing about Trieste when our bus pauses here for an hour on 1 September 1957, just long enough for us to bargain with a souvenir seller and stock up with two crates of chianti.
  • 033a frontier  We arrive at the frontier. Yugoslavia is still one country. Josip Broz Tito is still in power, the most open minded and best loved of all communist dictators. "We have spilt an ocean of blood for brotherhood and unity of our peoples and we shall not allow anyone to touch or destroy it from within," he said. But apres lui, le deluge, though not till many years hence, for he will only die in 1980.
  • 033c frontier  We sit waiting in the shade for our passports to be cleared, fully expecting that our luggage will be searched and our hoard of chianti discovered. But our fears are in vain. That won't happen until we get to the Pakistan/India border weeks later, when clouds of accumulated dust will repel the customs officials with cries of "Barparee, barp".
  • 033d frontier  Passports! Passports!
  • 034c Yugoslavia  The Yugoslav countryside offers tableaux of healthful agrarian pursuits from the pages of a socialist pictorial. They all seem so robust, so contented, so blond, so Aryan.
  • 034a Yugoslavia  But what a patchwork quilt of a country this is, with only the firm hand of Tito to hold it all together. The first country to be known by this name was the "Kingdom of Yugoslavia", which before 3 October 1929 was known as the "Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes". It was established on 1 December 1918 by the union of the State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs and the Kingdom of Serbia.
  • 034d Yugoslavia
  • 034b Yugoslavia  Proclaimed the "Democratic Federal Yugoslavia" in 1943, by the communist resistance movement of World War II, it was renamed the "Federal People's Republic of Yugoslavia" in 1946, when a communist government was established. In 1963, six years after we traverse it, it will be renamed again as the "Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia".
  • 035a Yugoslavia  The quaint little villages and rounded green hills have a Cinderella beauty about them. But like jealous Ugly Sisters, the Axis powers occupied Yugoslavia and split it up. The Independent State of Croatia was established as a Nazi puppet state, ruled by the fascist militia known as the Ustaše that came into existence in 1929, but was relatively limited in its activities until 1941. German troops occupied Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as part of Serbia and Slovenia, while other parts of the country were occupied by Bulgaria, Hungary, and Italy. A real dog's breakfast they made of it.
  • 035c Yugoslavia  We head for the city with the funny, almost unpronouncable name of Ljubljana, whose geographical position has governed its colourful past. A brisk migration of nations has flowed through the Ljubljana gateway, which has served as the natural entrance from Central Europe to the Mediterranean, the Balkans and on towards the East.
  • 035d Yugoslavia  That night we climb to the floodlit castle, through streets clattering with footsteps. In a vault lined by bizarre murals we sit with our beers, listening to hearty Slavic songs.
  • 036c Yugoslavia  Our winding, dusty road continued through deep valleys and high mountain passes, with frequent stops to cool the sorely burdened radiator, allowing plenty of time to fire off more photpgraphs.
  • 036b Yugoslavia  When the roads here are good they are very, very good, and when they are bad they are horrid. Mostly we seem to be confined to the horrid ones.
  • 037b Yugoslavia  In a square in Zagreb we find these youngsters leaning over crouching statues to drink at a fountain. The farther east we travel, the more the prevailing physiognomy alters. Skin and hair become darker, to the point where we wonder if we're still in the same country.
  • 037c Yugoslavia
  • 038a Yugoslavia  At an open air roadside cafe cum filling station I share a table with Ron Veitch, Nigel and Mildred Read. The menu is noodle soup, goulash and salad with a delicious sweetish beer.
  • 038b Yugoslavia  Tuesday, 3 September 1957: We arrive in Belgrade, where Robin Whitelaw and I find these children in a park. The young girl speaks excellent English. Also in the park is an excellent sculpture exhibition.
  • 039d Yugoslavia
  • 039a Yugoslavia  Beyond Belgrade we seem to be regressing into a past century of cowbells and oxcarts in which the pace of life slows and congeals and time ceases to matter.
  • 039c Yugoslavia  So what the hell, we won't let it matter to us either. Let Paddy worry about where we go next. The clanking of a passing oxcart lulls us to sleep in a wayside ditch, with Ron still firmly clutching his bottle of chianti.
  • 038d Yugoslavia  Asking the way becomes easy once you wordlessly point to a spot on the map and imploringly raise your eyebrows.
  • 040a Yugoslavia  Paddy suddenly suggests, out of the blue, that we should camp again. So we stop off to buy milk in a one-horse village where the locals smile affably and show us to the head of the queue. A row flares up between Paddy and Isobel over the hotel/no-hotel question and Moti's foot is run over by - of all things - a motorbike, in a village where nothing else seems to move except that one horse.
  • 040b Yugoslavia  Norman and I stroll down the railway line to a siding where hurricane lamps burn and men in khaki denims are unloading trucks. Should I take their picture, I wonder. They don't seem to mind.
  • 040c Yugoslavia  But they are curious as to what we are doing here. And who can blame them when we can't seem to agree on that point among ourselves?
  • 040d Yugoslavia  The guys in the khaki denims offer to fill Moti's precious canvas water bags for us.
  • 041b Yugoslavia  Wednesday September 4 1957 - The start of a particularly eventful day for me, and for Robin Whitelaw. We arrive in the slightly larger two-horse, two-ox village of Aleksinac in eastern Yogoslavia, where the peasants look more rustic than anywhere else we've seen so far.
  • 041c Yugoslavia  Peddling bunches of grapes and offering to shine our shoes.
  • 042b Yugoslavia  Jamila Khan borrows my camera to take a picture of me having my shoes shone.
  • 042a Yugoslavia  And I take a picture of Jamila getting the same treatment. Suddenly a policeman in a smart grey uniform catches my sleeve and murmurs "Passport". This apparently is the entire extent of his English vocabulary, for when I protest at the sight of that all-important document disappearing into his wallet he merely smiles and declines to say another word. All appeals from Paddy and the rest of the gang are to no avail. He simply waits until Robin Whitelaw appears and promptly confiscates both his camera and mine, signalling us to follow him. When we refuse to do so until he explains why he mutters the only other intelligible word we are to hear from him: "Espionage". Open-mouthed villagers stare as we are marched towards a cold, forbidding police station.
  • 042c Yugoslavia  Left to ourselves on a bench in an otherwise empty corridor, the last of our cigarettes joins the litter of stubs on the floor as we frenziedly joke about brick walls and rifle barrels viewed from the wrong end, wondering if we will be offered blindfolds. An hour later our warder returns, leads us back into the street and escorts us to a decrepit photographic salon with faded Victorian portraits hanging askew on the walls. We wait while the film from Robin's camera is developed in the darkroom and then we are released with apologies. For of course there is nothing on it remotely incriminating.
  • 044a Istanbul  At the Bulgarian border our cameras are sealed and we are granted just 24 hours to traverse the entire country. In the capital, Sofia, an unusually large crowd surrounds the bus, clamouring for our names and addresses as pen friends and begging to accompany us onward. The only hotel we can find with any rooms available is the Balkan, and at their prices they have plenty of them. Seven storeys high we sit in our luxurious suites revanously munching stale sandwiches because we can't afford their restaurant. The following day, Thursday 5 September 1957, we are relieved to cross the border into Turkey.
  • 045c Istanbul  Istanbul, Constantinopolis. We do a day-tripper tour around the city and visit the Uzunkemer, a 711 metre long, 25 metre high aqueduct which still forms part of a conveyance system supplying water to Istanbul. The remains of a Roman aqueduct were restored in the mid-sixteenth century to provide water to the Ottoman capital . The structure has been in use ever since, but its stones have deteriorated and it is affected by environmental changes.
  • 045a Istanbul  My hotel room overlooks the bus and railway stations, noisy and garrulous with constant comings and goings. Buses arrive and depart from and to Ankara and all points east and west, bus boys shout to each other as they haul luggage from the rooftops and passengers argue as to who's going to sit where.
  • 044b Istanbul  There is no bridge as yet across the Bosphorus. Just ferries to the other side. Down by the Golden Horn cargo ships lie at anchor.
  • 045d Istanbul  In the square near our hotel dozens of shoeshine boys sit in rows, calling after us as we pass.
  • 046a Istanbul  Nigel accompanies me for a stroll along the shore of the Bosphorus south of the Golden Horn. Here we can see straight across the clean blue water of the straits and watch the fishermen prepare their colourful craft. Occasionally we are blinded by fine dust as some enormous truck rattles past with its load of materials for constructing the grand new airport road.
  • 046d Istanbul  I'm told the Mayor of Istanbul gets his inspiration in his bathtub, and immediately reaches for the telephone. "I want a road from this sector to that sector. Everyone living in the way must move out by tomorrow night." Everything in the way will be pushed to one side, into the sea if necessary.
  • 047a Istanbul  The Turks come down here to swim in their underpants.
  • 046f Istanbul  So when they skin themselves on concealed concrete debris they remember their Mayor.
  • 048e Istanbul  We walk for miles along the curve of the shore and come upon a ragged urchin, gazing at a fishing vessel heading in from the open sea.
  • 047d Istanbul  Nigel and I venture onto the harbour wall with the Sea of Marmara stretching to a distant haze of islands, its water as calm as a lake. Fishing nets on drying racks form swaying, dark brown corridors.
  • 048b Istanbul  A friendly fisherman invites me to photograph his crew at their supper.
  • 048a Istanbul  Another man with an excellent command of English engages us in convsrsation and eventually directs us back to our hotel.
  • 049a Istanbul  In the evening shadows, on the waste ground before the Blue Mosque, children are looking for cicadas among the terraced ruins of what once stood here.
  • 047f Istanbul  At night Istanbul's minarets reach for the stars . . .
  • 043a Book 2 frontispiece  . . . and move me to verse.
  • 049e Istanbul  I was 22, vulnerably impressionable and much smitten by Edward FitzGerald's translation of the Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám.
  • 051a Ankara  Monday 9 September 1957 - We arrive in Ankara with Sheila Mace prostrate and fever-ridden across the two front seats. A doctor is summoned to examine her, and declares she has Asian flu. Are we all going to get it? How much of a delay will this mean?
  • 050a Ankara  Disconsolate, I head for the Mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, founder and first President of the Republic of Turkey. It spreads huge across the hilltop heights, dominating the city like the Acropolis above Athens. The sun is setting and it's all but deserted, except for me.
  • 049c Istanbul  I'm really not in the mood to appreciate it, worried that Sheila's Asian flu is going to put an end to our journey, for if Paddy succumbs to it where will that leave us? He's an entirely one-man show, so our fate is in his hands.
  • 051c Ankara  In an almost visible aura of gloom I return to our hotel.
  • 052a Ankara  Robin and the others are pretty depressed too.
  • 051b Ankara  We have a conflab and decide that tomorrow, if there's no improvement, we'll go out and explore the old city, up on the hills, which looks much more interesting than this new one with its carefully ordered thoroughfares.
  • 052aa Ankara  Feeling more relaxed, I retire into a corner of the roof to play my harmonica and eat some more of my watermelon.
  • 052c Ankara  The following day we set out for the old town, from the walls of which we look down on a dried up ravine where works are in progress to channel the bed of a shallow river. Cars are parked, people are strolling around.
  • 052d Ankara  There's even a horse and cart down there among the parked automobiles.
  • 052bb Ankara  We turn away to photograph a group of smiling children, and hear cries and screams from the parapet we have just left. We hasten back to see that . . .
  • 053a Ankara  A great torrent has descended upon the ravine, scouring it and wiping away all trace of the people and carts, the horse and cart, that were there but moments ago. We're observing a colossal tragedy in the making.
  • 053b Ankara  None of us has ever witnessed anything on a scale to compare with this.
  • 053e Ankara
  • 054g Ankara  A mood of numbed shock descends on all of us spectators.
  • 053d Ankara  Down there a giant crane is whirling helplessly in the current.
  • 054b Ankara  Where has all this water suddenly come from? The skies above are blue, almost entirely free of cloud. What could account for it?
  • 055a Ankara  We later learn that a distant thunderstorm in the hills  caused the collapse of an old dam that released this torrent entirely without warning on hapless Ankara.
  • 054a Ankara  Down there, residents of buildings at the edge of the flood, fearing that the waters will rise higher, are throwing their possessions into the street below in hopes of saving what they can.
  • 055e Ankara  Eventually we tear ourselves away from this hypnotic scene and see if we can make our way back to our hotel. For a while it doesn't look as if we will, for this lake wasn't there when we came this way earlier.
  • 055g Ankara  But we finally succeed in tracing a circuitous detour back to our lodgings, past the battered remains of flood-borne vehicles.
  • 056a Ankara  The following morning, when Sheila is well enough to travel again and we set off to continue our journey, we encounter further scenes of devastation.
  • 056c Ankara  Down by the railway tracks, mounted policemen are trying to clear a path.
  • 056d Ankara  The crowd are standing around, still listless with shock.
  • 057a Ankara  But the riders have a job to do and a path to clear.
  • 057b Ankara  There are vehicles, and bodies, still scattered along the river bed, where the flood waters are now subsiding.
  • 056f Ankara
  • 057e Ankara  The flash flood has caused such a wide swathe of destruction that it cuts us off from our intended route. We will have to detour southward, deeper into Anatolia, adding hours if not days to our journey.
  • 058a Ankara  Even Paddy is not sure of this route. Although he knows Turkey well enough, he has never been this far south. The name Anatolia, someone's guide book tells us, comes from the Greek Aνατολή (Αnatolí), "rise (i.e. sunrise)," or Ανατολία (Anatolía), "(land) of the sunrise" or simply the "East." It likely dates back at least 3,000 years, from the Ionian settlement period called the 1st millennium BC. The Byzantine Greek term Anatolikon (the "Eastern One") signified the lands to the East of Europe and of the Byzantine Empire's capital city of Constantinople (now Istanbul).
  • 058b Ankara  We have not proceeded many miles further when a stretch of mud across the road brings us to another halt. Yes, the floods have reached as far as this. Out come the spades from our already dusty boot.
  • 059a Anatolia  Paddy sets a good example, with Norman helping him, while - I regret to say - the rest of us feel our best contribution is to record the whole episode on film.
  • 059c Anatolia  Then a whole mass of passengers arrives, transferring from one stranded bus to another, and further muddies the situation.
  • 058d Ankara  There's even a timid calf, hurried along by a barefoot cowherd.
  • 060a Anatolia  The one stranger who helped dig us out waves us goodbye . . .
  • 060b Anatolia  . . as finally we break free and contine our journey. The extinct volcano in the distance is Hasan Dag, rising from a parched land of shoebox-shaped mud houses scattered along our path.
  • 060e Anatolia  Friday 13 September lives up to its reputation. We circle Niğde, a small rural province in the southern part of Central Anatolia, and start heading north again towards the route we should have taken.
  • 060h Anatolia
  • 062a Anatolia  We stop to fill our water bags at a well whose boom arm we have seen leaning like a starving stork on the horizon.
  • 061b Anatolia  Moti, as usual, does most of the beast of burden stuff. Isabel Hayes looks on empathetically.
  • dust storm  And then a blinding dust storm hits us, putting an end to further work for the moment.
  • 061a Anatolia  But the storm clears as quickly as it came, leaving the farmers to continue their harvest.
  • 061f Anatolia  The houses are small, compact, box-like structres, built of clay to crumble readily in the next earthquake to hit this volatile, seismically insecure terrain without the death toll that would accompany larger, more rigid dwellings.
  • 062c Anatolia  We stop for food and the villagers - all male - gather around us, most wearing the kind of cloth caps that would look good on a golf course. Was this what Atatürk had in mind when he modernised Turkey and banished the fez?
  • 062f Anatolia  I go for a stroll and find nothing but signs in Turkish, advertising watermelons. Already I'm heartily sick of watermelons.
  • 063a Anatolia  Saturday 14 September 1957 - We begin the long climb through the heights of East Turkey, which start out as deceptively gentle slops, scattered with sheep and footed by singing streams.
  • 063d Anatolia  We stop to wash our dust caked clothes in a cattle trough by a fig tree, in the shade of which a couple of lorry drivers are dining.
  • 063f Anatolia  The sheep are peculiar looking things, but what concerns us is the ferocity of their sheepdogs, which come tearing out from the scrub to launch attacks on our tyres, like hyenas assailing an elephant. They actually seem to entertain the hope of gnawing the rubber off and bringing us to a standstill, when they will storm the door in the hopes of gaining admittance. We don't relish the thought of sleeping in the open with these monsters on the prowl.
  • 064a Anatolia  We come across a wrecked petrol tanker lying at the foot of a slope, its driver ruefully examining it and nursing a cut hand. He didn't quite make the bend.
  • 064b Anatolia  This is high country; a world of boulders, scrub thorn and crickets. The bends are so sharp our left rear wheel frequently leaves the road, and Nigel and I, seated directly above it in the last row, are conscious of momentarily dangling in mid air.
  • 064h Anatolia  Another stop for water, Moti once again busy with the water bags.
  • 064f Anatolia  It also provides a chance to do our laundry, and for Freddie Eddy to have a quick shave.
  • 064g Anatolia  But what's this? Moti is in despair. One of the water bags has burst. Irreplacable! We're all going to die of thirst. Returning, in the distance, from my obligatory trip to the bushes, I decide that stocking up with water melons may not be a bad idea after all.
  • 064dd Anatolia  But the sky is clear, the sun is setting, the night is young and I feel a poem coming on. Here, snug within my sleeping bag I lie, and watch red meteors light up the sky. Around me in the desert crickets sing, and sleep lays heavy fingers on my eye.
  • 067e Anatolia  Before I sleep though I've had to go through the ritual of 'putting up the tent'. We each have one, and they drive us mad.
  • 064k Anatolia  The ground is too damn hard to hammer in the aluminium pegs, all of which are bent out of shape. So we wrap ourselves round with their canvas for extra warmth and collapse onto our air beds, which sure as hell are going to leak slowly through the night until we end up on the bare stones.
  • 065a Anatolia  In the morning I creep up on Betty and Renee, but they've seen me coming. No sheepdog hounds from the Baskervilles last night, thank God.
  • Nigel's tent  Somehow Nigel has contrived to do something clever with his tent, and has actually used it as it was meant to be used. Who else but Nigel? He and I have perfected our own dish, which we have named after a combination of our surnames. it's called Mosserve, and its ingredients are egg, tomato, onion and pimento, beaten together in a frying pan. It's usually too dark to see what we're doing by the time we get to cook it over a kerosene stove, so more often than not it's served burnt. But of course its delicious nonetheless.
  • 065b Anatolia  Paddy feeds a surprisingly tame goat that comes to check us out. No doubt it feels safe enough, aware that its guardian sheepdog is close at hand. So cave canem everyone!
  • 064gg Anatolia
  • 066a Anatolia  As Paddy backs the bus out on to the road, shepherd boys start to gather. But no sheepdog, thank goodness. We've heard that when these animals are puppies, their tails are cut off and fed to them, still wagging. No wonder they're fierce.
  • 065d Anatolia
  • 066c Anatolia  The landscape flattens out again as we approach the border with Iran. Closer to us now is Mount Ararat, still wreathed in cloud, legendary home of Noah's Ark. Strange place to park an ark.
  • 067a Anatolia  We take time out for breakfast . . .
  • 067aa Anatolia  . . and I get to check my light meter. Is it still working? In the distance I see a young camel grazing; a photo opportunity. I creep up behind it, catch it by surprise and get kicked in the teeth, with a blow that stops just short of breaking my jaw.
  • 067c Anatolia  Tricky things, camels, and mean natured. But the way they're treated, why shouldn't they be?
  • 066f Anatolia  We continue our journey across the border into Iran.
  • 069a Iran  Not much change in the landscape.
  • 068a Iran  So now we're in Iran, where we find a decent hotel in Tabriz. The road south from here winds all over the place, and we always seem just ahead of the rain. We picnic beside a tea shop in a grove of silver beeches.
  • 068d Iran  Through the trees we see a farmer scything his field. Paddy breaks his windscreen and has to drive with its ventilators closed. It's so hot he drives in his vest. We begin to collect an assortment of containers, earthenware jars, anything that will hold water. Moti is appeased.
  • 069c Iran  In Zanjan, 186 miles northwest of Tehran, half of us find accommodation in a mosque converted into a school. Our hosts are hospitable, and seem to think we're students. We do not disabuse them of that impression, for essentially, in this land, we are. We're invited to bed down on the Persian rugs in the hall.
  • 070a Iran  I reverently lay out my sleeping bag on richly brocaded carpets, far too good for it, breathe a contented sigh and murmur remembered verses from Omar Khayyám.
  • 071c Iran  Yon rising Moon that looks for us again, How oft hereafter will she wax and wane, How oft hereafter rising look for us Through this same Garden, and for one in vain! And when like her, oh, Saki, you shall pass Among the Guests Star-scatter'd on the Grass, And in your joyous errand reach the spot Where I made One, turn down an empty Glass!
  • 071a Iran  Despite the fact that it has been declared a capital in the last century, Tehran is still a city in the making, proliferating – though in a slightly more orderly manner – like a virus culture in a glass dish. Nine-tenths of the built-up area is set in square blocks with absolutely straight boulevards. From the walls of these blocks, from yardarms intersecting lampposts, from smaller portraits adorning coffee houses and restaurants, the visage of the last Shah of the Pahlavis (how are we to know this at the time?) beams magnanimously down upon us in ubiquitous reminder of the source of all this rapid projection into the twentieth century. But here's a statue that obviously isn't of him. Can this be Omar Khayyám?
  • 071b Iran  We pass a restaurant where actual goats' eyes are on display in a large dish, staring at us accusingly as if WE'RE the ones who allowed this to happen. The owner offers one to Nigel, who ever so delicately declines.
  • 070c Iran  And then back to our hotel to refill our bathtubs and wallow again and again, scrubbing every clogged pore. We shake out our bags and launder every item of clothing, used and unused, remarking how the cloth is already beginning to show signs of the disintegration we have been warned to expect. And we're only halfway to India! But, I reflect, as I recline on the hotel roof high above Tehran, our journey is a glass half full, not half empty.