Overland towards Australia

Overland towards Australia

Overland towards Australia 1965

overland... Arriving on the border to East Germany we were treated like spies. The very officious guards (mostly those guys from Dresden with the strange dialect) just could not believe their luck when they saw a UK-registered car with an Australian flag on the back, a West Berliner and an Australian passenger and no room in the car to put another spare sock. Off we drove into a closed garage over an inspection hole. Our passports were taken away, put through a slit in the wall and some ghosts on the other side most likely studied those with great interest. Not enough, we had to unpack every item from the car, open our bags, they went through my notebook and I had to explain every relationship to the names written in there. Not a very pleasant event and when we were finally released after 2½ hours we probably beat the world record in repacking our gear into a VW Beetle. The sad farewells of only a few hours earlier turned into relief and expectations of better things to come after that border experience…

.. The rest of Greece was rushed through as we needed to get our onward trip organised in Istanbul by getting visas for the countries we intended or had to drive through…

..Then the fun began: running around, filling in forms, paying fees and explaining what we really intended to do in the countries we intended to visit. No, we did not intend to spy on anything, just play dumb tourists willing to spend some money in their country. Luckily we did not have to disclose how little change we actually had in our pockets…………

…The first destination was Jerusalem. Check your calendar again, in 1965 half of Jerusalem was part of Jordan and we did not have to enter Israel to see the holy sites in that city. There was a border crossing but once in Israel we would have had to take a ship out as any Israeli stamp in our passports would have been a big “No No” for entering any other Arab country again…

…We continued the long haul to Baghdad and went straight to the British Embassy to check for mail. We also got directions to a small oasis outside Baghdad which was the best and probably the only camping place in or around Baghdad. When leaving the Embassy one chap followed Alan outside and quietly told him to come straight back in case we noticed any trouble at all. It seems the word was out that a possible coup was about to happen in the country and things could get out of hand…

…We had a simple meal and were sitting inside the tent for a cup of tea when we heard noises outside, the tent opened and two fellows in uniform pointed their rifles at us. Not a pleasant moment but the short story was we had to break camp immediately, one guy each in our cars to escort us some 20 km up the road to a road check point where we could pitch our tents once again. Security was tight near the border as incursions by Kurdish tribesman seem to be a regular event and finally we were told that two young French guys had their throats cut only a couple of weeks before..

…We had to make the final decision to go the short route from Kandahar to Karachi or the long distance via Kabul. Since we had already come so far along the road in Afghanistan we did not want to miss out on the Khyber Pass crossing, therefore Kabul it was. No regrets. Kabul was fascinating. We saw a very old city with a small river running through the middle flanked by local markets. Families were having picnics on the river bank, taking the water and boiling tea. Further upstream or downstream others did their daily ablution and washed themselves in the same river. All very harmonious I may add but we did not take any risks. All our water we carried with us was treated by putting some tablets in the container and we always boiled our water to death before drinking any…

 

..We were stuck in Karachi waiting for the chance that some other booked passengers would run out of time and take the plane instead so we could grab their berth…

….In our daily rounds to the various shipping companies we had to buy some petrol at a local garage. Mind you, three litres maximum at a time because we did not have enough money and we would have to empty the tank eventually anyway before taking the car on board a ship. So we decided to open our own mini bazaar at the petrol station by displaying our goodies on top of the VW hood. Some jumpers, some warm socks, some shirts, a scarf and my beloved travel typewriter found interested parties and the proceeds paid our way for the rent of the apartment and some basic food to survive a bit longer…

…We got the good news from British India. Two elderly ladies who were booked on the “Carpentaria” to sail home got totally frustrated about the delays, cancelled their booking and flew home instead. Great news for us, we got their berth and we would worry about money and other things later; just to get out of the country was worth a celebration…

…It was still early in the morning when we slowly moved through Sydney Harbour, inspected Sydney Harbour Bridge from underneath in the first light and came alongside the dock to attend to the Immigration and Customs formalities. It was Sunday, 16th January 1966, my official entry into Australia as an approved migrant. (And yes, Immigration and Customs did work on that Sunday.) It was a nostalgic moment to say farewell to the crew, the other passengers and our “home” for the last five weeks, the good ship “Carpentaria”…