We had only been abroad once and that was a package tour to Majorca in 1968. We wanted to see the world and Dave sat down with an atlas to see how far we could drive by road from Hull. Due to the political situation in Bangladesh at the time the furthest open route would take us to India. We bought an old BMC ex- meals on wheels van and started to convert it to a camper van. It was a 1962 model with an alloy body and wooden floor. Dave's Father , a diesel mechanic, helped to prepare the engine and we fitted it out with cooker, sink, toilet, and table and bench seating which converted to a double bed. Also a drop down shelf bed for Sarah who was only 2 and a half. We were in business with a greengrocers shop and having run it successfully for 10 years we quickly sold it and made preparations to leave. Having joined the RAC we ordered a route chart from them which cost two pounds. It was from Hull to Katmandu via Delhi, by the scenic route. This arrived complete with maps and was invaluable. We had never driven abroad before and had to buy special covers to alter the headlights and change the colour to yellow for France. Friday 21st November. 1975. Ready to go. Dave's parents came to wave us off and took a photo of us outside our house with the van. Eleven O'clock saw us waving goodbye as we headed for the A1. We passed through London at 7pm and arrived at Dover at 10pm. The ferry office was open and we booked a passage to Calais for 10.50 the next morning. We parked below the white cliffs of Dover for the night hardly sleeping with excitement. Saturday dawned calm and bright and Sarah was very excited to be going on a boat. We took it easy at first getting used to driving on the right and recognizing road signs. Finally parking in a lay by just outside Reims, for the night. As we approached the Swiss border the weather became colder and there was snow on the ground. We went through the France/Swiss customs and everything looked different, much richer and the scenery was spectacular. Mountains and lakes all around and we were really enjoying ourselves. We drove through the St. Bernard tunnel to Italy where we changed money before driving onto the autostrada and stopping at a service area for the night. The next day we drove all the way to Venice and parked in a multi-story car park for the night. We went for a walk around to look at the canals, but it was getting dark so we went to bed for the night. In the morning we caught the water bus to St. Marks Square and explored the whole area wondering at the painted ceilings in the Doges' Palace, we went across the bridge of Sighs and then had our lunch in the plaza and fed the pigeons. We walked to the rialto bridge and then caught the water bus back to Plaza Roma where the van was parked. Our next stop was at the Yugoslav border where we got the first stamp in our passports and again changed money to a different currency and then parked for the night. In the morning we were wakened by the border police who told us that we were not allowed to park within 2 Kilometers of the border. We drove 300 miles along this flat monotonous road. The driving standards are terrible and we were nearly pushed off the road by a lorry. We spent the night in a lorry park surrounded by about 50 lorries, most of who left their engines running all the time. As we proceeded East the people seemed to get poorer and vehicles gave way to ox carts. When we reached Bulgaria we had to pay for transit visas and change our dinars to Bulgarian money. The weather got even colder and we had so much frost on the windscreen that we had to stop every 500 yards to clear it. We Stopped on a piece of waste ground near Sophia for the night, on the main road to Istanbul. Next morning dawned much milder and we continued on through Bulgaria keeping a wary eye for sudden stop signs on the road which are manned by police holding funny little lollipop signs in their hands, we can never tell if they are waving us on or swatting flies. We stopped to buy fuel, only to be told that we should have bought coupons at the border, so we switched on the spare fuel tank that Dave fitted at home, for just such a contingency. We arrived at the Turkish border at teatime but could not change our Bulgarian money, apparently it is worthless. The Turkish customs officers are not in uniform and it is hard to tell who is who. They really searched some vehicles but just glanced at us and waved us through. They checked our Carnet de passage which we had made sure that we got in England. The person we bought our spare tank from had driven Turkey, only to be turned back because he did not have one. We got another stamp in our passport and then drove to a garage to fill with diesel. The attendant was very friendly and helped himself to a tip! We have covered 2000 miles now and spent the night in a lay by. The next day we saw our first mosque as we drove towards Istanbul. More by luck than good judgment we found ourselves at the Blue Mosque, and then visited the Bazaar, which was a wonderful Aladdin's Cave of shiny jewels and coloured plates. We also visited the Suleymaniye Mosque and Topkapi Palace. Sarah attracted a lot of attention with her blonde hair as we toured all the sights.. The driving was really erratic and we were happy to head over the Bosphorus en-route to Ankara. ( NEXT )

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