Our early start was put back somewhat when we found that some lads from England, who were camped out in the same garage foyer, had just returned from the Hindu Kush. To our relief they had the same trouble as we are experiencing with the tyres at the moment. They informed us, much to our relief that they had purchased several good second hand tyres for about £6 each in Iran.
After a short but well needed wash and all the water tubes filled we started on our way about 6-o-clock.
At approximately 09:15hrs we stopped for breakfast. As it turned out we had stopped near a small stream which although it was rather dirty provided everyone with the chance to take a good wash top and bottom! While Ian, Colin and myself were in the water some local women came to wash their clothes etc. Much to their surprise as well as ours!
Before and after our washing session we searched the countryside for, fruit and vegetables etc. and after a couple of hours we ended up with a large assortment of fruit.
About 13:15hrs we made up a little more ground for about 3/4 hour and then stopped for tea. Tea constituted curry and a marrow which we borrowed from one of the fields and finished off with stewed apples and black barriers in milk.
About 6-o-clock we set out to get as near to the Bulgarian border as possible. We stopped for the night on the top of the Dragoman Pass (2628ft). The gorge leading up to the pass was absolutely spectacular.
The weather was very hot and sunny all day.
Note later some doubt arose as to whether we had camped on the Dragoman Pass or not?
Early start, motoring for about four hours then stopped for breakfast. During the heat of the day we made three short runs, the last one we stopped in Belgrade and had a few beers. We stopped for the night about 30 miles outside Belgrade. The weather was very warm and sunny all day.
Note, by now we were getting into a traveling routine and just as with life at home there were domestic chores as well as coping with unexpected happenings. Also there were few if none at all domestic arguments, we were a carefully chosen team and our pre expedition “Team Bonding” (not a phrase used in the 70’s) weekends was paying off.
Left Jesenice at five in the morning and motored quietly on to Ljubljana. Just before we entered Zagreb we had our third blow out, except this time it was the outside wheel that went. We decided therefore to buy a new tyre in Zagreb. Rod, Jim and Ian had quite a long walk to find somewhere that sold the right sort of tyre.
After several hour lazing about in the sun waiting for the lads to come back, we moved a further 35 or 45 miles and then stopped for the night. Besides the blow out we also had a spot of bother with the brakes. The return pipe was leaking thus causing a drop in vacuum. This was soon put right with the help of a little plastic filling.
About half ten everyone apart from Rod and Ian went to a nearby café and partook in a couple of beers. The weather was warm and sunny all day.
Five o’clock start with Jim driving for the first part of the ascent of the Alps. The Radstadt Pass was not too bad but one or two of the bridges were a bit on the close side. Ian then took over the driving for the Katschberg Pass. This was a bit of a bugger to say the least, but we made it, the first major geographical obstacle.
There was a bit of a near-do in a small picturesque town called Gmund. The town centre was part of an old walled town with double archway gates. To get under the first one we had to go onto the opposite side of the road, after hitting the one on our own side first. The gateway out was absolutely impossible so with the guidance of the local police we made a diversion through the back streets of the town. All this pissing about was watched by most of the locals and tourist, the tourist having no option because we stopped all the traffic for a short while. We had a short stop at Villach for something to eat and one or two lads went to buy some boots.
The Italian customs was a bit of a farce going in, most of the time was spent hanging about but at the other end it was even worse. The ba****ds charged us £1 tax for traveling through their grotty country.
We camped for the night in Yugoslavia near Jesenice. The weather was bad, it rained all day.
Note: my comments about Italy were partly because we were damp, tired and £1 forty five years ago had a bit more value than it does now. It also meant someone had to change some currency when we were only going to be in the country a few hours.
Germany and Austria
We had another early start again this morning. We drove without any trouble to Golling arriving about dinner time. The weather brightened up and became quite hot so we decided to call it a day.
The rest of the afternoon was spent swimming in a local open-air pool which was great for spotting the birds. Later on we drifted in twos and threes to a bar Jim and Ian had been to last year.
That night we camped in the bus on the road to the Radstadt Pass. During the night we had a thunderstorm which lasted all night and most of the morning. The bus was a little damp but not too uncomfortable.
I seem to remember at some point we acquired a very large ground sheet which we throw over the top of the bus and tied down when we thought there might be a storm in the night. Once we got into the hot countries there was no need for it. Somewhere along the trip we scrounged some road tar and corked the roof sheet joints, but we may have done this while we were parked up at our basecamp in India. May be I’ll come across this while I’m working through my diary. To date I’ve only got as far as leaving Tehran. Matching up our photos with exact dates is a bit harder than I thought and it’s surprising what memories it’s bringing back.
Because of the blowout yesterday we decided to travel early in the morning. We set off at five in the morning so most of the lads stayed in bed until about eight or nine. Today, thank God we have had no trouble with the old girl.
We camped about 35K outside of Munich next to a small lake, which served as a washing up bowl, swimming pool come washing machine.
The weather was dull at first but getting warmer and sunny in the afternoon.
Note, the downstairs of the bus was modified by removing all but the four front seats. We installed an additional fuel tank and over the back wheel arches we fitted two removable tables for cooking. Upstairs we removed two or three back seats to provide storage of rucksacks and we slept on/across the remaining seats. We also fitted a wooden door to the bus entrance which we could lock. We also had to wedge all the sliding windows when not being used and yes a little person could quite easily crawl through, however we very rarely left the bus unattended.
We got the OK from the German Border Guards and we set off at about 10 o’clock in the morning. Reasonably trouble-free journey until we were just ready for calling it a day, “BANG” another blow out. This was getting beyond a joke, but there’s not much we could do. We are now down to one spare front tyre and two back.
We camped about 10K out of Frankfurt.
The weather was warm with sunny intervals.
Spent most of the day was working on the bus which, we parked on the German side of the Border post. The roof took from 10 in the morning to about 9-o-clock at night to fix, after which we managed to knock back a couple of beers. During the process of lowering the roof several people came to look and enquire about us. This was done to such an extent that it became rather annoying after the first hundred or so.
During the night there was one hell of a thunderstorm which resulted in soaking everyone who slept on the top deck. At least now we know where all the leaks are.
We went into Ghent to meet members of the staff of Du-Pont and also to pick up their Dacron filled sleeping bags which they donated to the expedition. The meal they gave us was fantastic plus a promise of about £50 if we send them some black and white photographs of their sleeping bags back from the Himalayas before the 26th October. The route was changed owing to suggestions made by members of the Du-Pont staff. This they said would be the easier of the two because we would get on the Autobahn several miles earlier than our planned point.
Just when everything was going OK the officials at the German Border Post near Aachen said that we would not be able to pass through their country unless we had special permission plus that fact that they reckoned that our bus was too high for their bridges on the Autobahn. Rod and Jim are therefore going into Aachen tomorrow to sort things out. There may be a good chance that we will have to take the roof off the bus but we will decide on that in the morning.
The bridges on the route today were close but OK; the only two near misses or near hits were high power lines over level crossings.
The weather was again hot and sunny.
Below the route so far, getting our sleeping bags from Du-Pont and the B&W pic we eventually sent to claim out £50.
France and Belgium
The original boat we were supposed to have caught was still out of service so we were held up for about three hours and rerouted from Dover to Boulogne. We had a blow out just before Dunkirk which was a little un-nerving. The lad who was resting on the table that we had constructed over the rear wheel arch was lifted in to the air and dumped un-ceremonially onto the floor and twenty years of Preston’s dust filled the downstairs, but apart from that everyone remained in good spirits. In Dunkirk we made our first detour around a low bridge then passed through the Belgium border without any problems. We camped about 10K outside of Gent. The weather was very warm and sunny all day.
Below the progress map day 10, leaving Dover and arriving at Boulogne.