Because we requested the scenic road we were taken via the Black Sea by our RAC route via Trabzon before heading up the mountains to Erzurum. The weather was really cold in the mountains and one morning the van would not start as the oil was like treacle and the diesel had frozen. Dave warmed some in a pan on the gas cooker and this melted the other fuel and did the trick. We had to do this each morning whilst in the Turkish high passes. One day we saw a British Land Rover parked at a garage. Apparently in difficulty. We stopped to help and the occupants Nigel and Jenny told us that they were being threatened. Someone had said that they would slash their tyres if they did not pay them. We towed them out of there fast!! The Land Rover had a faulty fuel pipe and Dave replaced it with some of the spare that we carried. They are driving to India too so we decided to travel together for a while. We drove along a road past Mount Ararat, which looked lovely, and on to the Iranian Border. Our single passport is causing a lot of curiosity and they cannot understand why there is no photo of Sarah, but let us proceed on our way. We stopped at a garage for the night with Nigel and Jenny. The van started the next morning but we discovered that we had broken a shock absorber on the bad roads. We went to a garage in Tabriz where we had it mended before heading East to Tehran. Nigel and Jenny decided to carry on ahead and leave us as they only have 9 weeks for the round trip. We hit Tehran at rush hour, not a good experience, and decided to continue on out of the city and found Nigel and Jenny parked in a lay by so joined them for the night. Dave had to fit the spare starter in the morning as the van would not start, before we set off to climb a 9000 ft. pass. Our route took us close to the Caspian Sea and the weather became much milder. When we arrived at Meshad it was a public holiday so we had to wait 2 days to get a visa for Afghanistan. Iran was much different than we expected. The cities were very modern, and in the countryside people lived in mud huts, but everyone was very friendly. The Iranian year is different from ours here it is 1954. Afghanistan customs were really terrible. It was like something from a film, we were ushered into a dimly lit room and kept there for an hour whilst we filled forms declaring what spare parts, cameras, radios etc. we were carrying. Then across the road to a doctor to verify our health and finally to a bank and a police check. We had to buy insurance and then were approached by an American couple who wanted a lift . We drove to Herat, where they booked into a hotel, which let us park in the courtyard for the night. The next morning we really felt that we had reached the East. Herat is exactly what we imagined. Lots of camels, mud houses and no traffic. The women are completely covered from head to toe and every one was very friendly. We visited the Friday mosque, then bought some fresh produce before heading across the desert road 600miles to Kandahar. We arrived at 1.45 am and were directed to a hotel by two policemen wearing riot helmets. En-route we had passed lots of camels and nomad camps in the desert. The weather was lovely and warm as we drove towards Kabul, the desert scenery was awe-inspiring and there were lots of deserted old forts just off the road. There was no vehicular traffic in fact we have only seen 3 lorries in the last 2 days. We found a hotel to park at for the night and decide to carry on the next morning as we were being surrounded by people trying to sell us stuff every where we went .We left Kabul and drove through the Pai-Par pass in the Hindu Kush mountains, the scenery was fantastic, we were sorry that we could not linger longer but we were worried that we may get stuck if the snow began to fall. We arrived at the Afghan customs at teatime and got through okay, but the Pakistan customs a short drive away were closed for the night so we and to park up and wait for the morning. We cleared customs quickly and are now driving on the left again. We headed towards Rawalpindi , but got a puncture and had to stop to get it repaired. The van was surrounded by people trying to look in and I had to draw the curtains and sit in the back with Sarah ,whilst the repair was done. We stopped for the night at he Flashman Hotel which was very flash, with a swimming pool and European type showers and toilets. Travelling East towards the Khyber pass the roads became very crowded with ox-carts, bikes, buses, brightly painted lorries and people, all the way to Lahore. We arrived after dark and found our way to the border road and parked outside a police station for the night. Exactly a month from leaving home we finally crossed into India. Sarah accidentally left her pink bunny which she uses to go to sleep at the Pakistan customs, and as we left the official tried to confiscate our map of India, which he said it was illegal to have, as we bought it in Hull at W.H. Smiths we did not believe him and refused to hand it over. The Indian customs were much easier and as we passed through we called at a tourist office who booked us into a youth hostel for the night. The Americans that we had met earlier were at the border and we gave them a lift to the youth hostel. It is much nicer here in India and tomorrow we plan to go to the Golden Temple, here in Amritsar. We went in a cycle rickshaw, which Sarah loved, and were very impressed with the temple which is the most holy place of the Sikh religion. Inside there were musicians playing and mothers were bathing their children in the water surrounding the temple. When we came out we bought some bangles and a small carved elephant for Sarah's birthday the following day. We are really lucky that hotels and youth hostels allow us to park and camp in their grounds as it is a nice cheap way to travel. Dave spent the evening making a card for Sarah's 3rd birthday tomorrow and we are waiting for her to go to sleep so that we can wrap her gifts. Happy Birthday to Sarah. She liked the gifts that we gave her but loved the teddy bear that we had hidden in the van from her grandma , she never left it out of sight, she even ignored her spare pink bunny that we had brought with us in favour of it. We set off on the road to Delhi and stopped at a garage for the night. We had a little party with Sarah, and had hardboiled eggs with faces painted on them, salad, and a pudding. She loved it. The drive down to Delhi was really nice we saw an ox turning a water wheel and lots of ladies in really bright saris. We arrived in Delhi at 2pm and found the A.A. office where we bought insurance for the van, then went to the post office to collect mail. We got lots of Christmas cards but also a telegram from my brother telling us that my mother had been taken ill and was in hospital. As it was very busy holiday we had to wait until Christmas day to call home. During a visit to the bazaar we bought a few things for Christmas to top up what we had brought from home. We visited the Americans at their hotel and they gave Sarah a tigers eye ring for her birthday, and we were allowed to camp in the car park for the night. Merry Xmas! Sarah loved her presents and we enjoyed watching her open them. I had to book a call to England at the post office and it came through at noon. My brother informed me that my mother had had a stroke and that he thought that she was improving, I arranged to pick up a telegram in Agra in a weeks time to check on her progress. We had a lovely Xmas dinner and then went to the zoo for the afternoon, where we saw a white rhino, hippos, and lots of very big birds. The sunset was lovely and we sat watching it before setting off to the tourist camp site and securing ourselves a pitch. It was really nice with showers and a shop with lots of grass to camp on. We saw our first elephant today as we drove to the campsite, it was being ridden around a roundabout by its trainer. We spent a few days in New Delhi. Dave gave the van a good service and I did a lot of washing and stocking up. One day we packed a picnic lunch and took a rickshaw to the Red Fort, where we saw some dancing bears and snake charmers , then we walked to Chandni Chowk Delhi's busiest road to look in the shops, and finished off the day with a visit to the Jama Masjid mosque. We visited the American couple at their hotel and offered to drive them down to Agra and the Taj Mahal, they were very pleased and we made plans for the next day. On the way we visited the Qutb Minar an elaborate tower and in its grounds an iron pillar 900years old which has never rusted. We finally arrived in Agra at 8pm and parked at a tourist bungalow for the evening, Betsy and Jay have taken a room here and we are all going to the Taj Mahal tomorrow. The Taj Mahal exceeded all our expectations, it is beautiful and the workmanship in the marble is incredible, it had semiprecious stones inlaid to look like flowers and fantastic intricately carved marble screens. We were very impressed by it all. The following day we visited the Red Fort at Agra, it was better than the one in Delhi and had a lovely small Mosque called the Pearl Mosque which was made of white marble and very interesting. When we called at the post office there was a telegram from my brother asking me to call home. It took 2 hours to book a call and it was answered by Dave's Mother. She was waiting at the house to answer the telephone as my brother and sisters were at my mothers funeral. She had died on December 26th after her condition worsened. ( NEXT )

Kindness is the golden chain by which society is bound together.



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