Iran 1978

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Iran 1978

Lee Eccleston
In October 1978 Barney,Tom Sawyer and I departed on a Caravan.Gaye Miller was a passenger,heading home.
There were fuel shortages in Turkey as they weren't paying their bills.
Between Tabriz and Hamadan met Fred Sparksman coming the other way.He informed us our Hamadan hotel had been firebombed.So we drove overnight and arrived in Esfahan early in the morning.We closed all the coach curtains,as there was military at every roundabout.I remember this very clearly as I had a machine gun to the ribs when we pulled up near .
the Iran Tours hotel
At our hotel met up with Jaffa and he advised to stay in the hotel for the next 36 hours and he arranged for a hiding place for our coach.
This was the peak of demonstrations against the Shah.I think it may have been his Birthday.
He escaped to Egypt the next January.
We managed one day of sightseeing in Esfahan,and departed early the next morning for Tehran stopping at Qom for breakfast.It was eerily quiet in Qom,we had all the curtains drawn,everyone was  advised to return to the coach quickly at the first sign of trouble.Everyone had only gone a few metres away when a large demonstration came around the corner.I had everyone lying on the floor
The demonstrators although hammering on the sides of the coach seemed to be restrained by their mullahs.No broken windows unlike most of the other tours behind us.
We all met in Kathmandu for the big Sundowners Capricorn amalgamation at the end of 1978
In early 1979 all our tours overflew Iran from Kabul to Istanbul.
The coaches shuttled until mid 1979 when Plough was last one to turn out the lights in Afghanistan.
The Russians were invited to invade Afghanistan Xmas 1979.So we were the fortunate few to be able to go to Afghanistan although a few drivers who were detained unwillingly may disagree.
I ran we ran through Iran 1978.
Rocky
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Re: Iran 1978

kit carr
I remember the T Shirt.

Breakfast in Qom !
That was a big call, with a bad menu. A logical place to stop, as we did too, but one that was subsequently avoided.
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Re: Iran 1978

Vicar
Administrator
In reply to this post by Lee Eccleston
O.K. I’ll buy in.
Forgive me if I have told some or all of this before.

Towards the end of 1979 Chop and I did an overlander from Kathmandu. As we headed west we came across other crews coming the other way.  They were from other companies and were mainly truck trips. We had heard about the troubles both in Afghanistan and Iran so we headed south in Pakistan to go via Quetta into Iran. One of the truckies said that they had difficulties with one stretch of the road and doubted a bus could make it. With limited options we tried our luck. All but for a short section of road we did it easily and the other just required the best bus driver in the world to cover it. Luckily I was there to drive it and my only disappointment came when I learnt that so many others could do it also.  

You can match up my other story about running booze into Pakistan and Iran with this trip.

We had stopped in a small village in southern Iran for lunch and all seemed peaceful. We had only been there about 20 minutes when I was approached by a policeman. He enquired if I was the driver of the bus out the front of the shop. After confirming I was he suggested I round up the passengers and get going. Even though it was not evident to me he said the locals were considering setting fire to the bus. That was enough for me to saddle up and get out of there.

A day or two later we had stopped at another southern village to have a break. As I sat at the wheel a local came in the bus and asked if we had any Americans on-board. We did but the guy had teamed up with an English woman and placed a picture of him in the front of her passport. This he had hoped would have them believe the two of them were travelling on the one passport.

Once I had said we didn’t have any Americans on-board I then asked him, why do you ask?
He replied we would kill them. My next question was why? His answer, I don’t know but we would. Go figure. I later found out he was a teacher, possibly more educated than the average Iranian.

So we too ran our booze through Iran, sorry I meant to say we ran through Iran also but no T shirt.
Vicar
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Re: Iran 1978

Mike McDermott
In reply to this post by Lee Eccleston

Rocky, I concede having a machine gun pointed at you trumps the various less impressive weapons pointed at me while I was on the road. It is a competition that I would rather not start up again, but your recollection served to remind me of one such incident which triggers the question at the end of this post.
 
Of all places, this happened in London. I was walking somewhere with Meggsy, and having an interesting discussion. When we stopped at an intersection I made what I had thought to be quite a telling point, and Meggsy's eyes widened and jaw dropped. I thought that was a quite satisfying reaction, even if perhaps a tad over the top. But then I realised that he wasn't looking at me, but at someone to my right. So I turned around and found that there was a pistol about six inches away, pointed at my head.

My reaction was to lean back away from the gun and say “piss off”.

With the wisdom I have gathered since, I realise that this was probably not the best thing to say to someone threatening with a gun. He then said, “I'm a hit man for the mafia”.

KGB? (Yes: Eugene, you bastard!). But then, why the mafia? CIA? Maybe it's that CIA mafia connection? If so, why me? Obviously, I should then have engaged all my skills in martial arts, thrown him to the ground, grabbed his gun and said, “go ahead, punk, make my day”, but at that time Clint Eastwood had yet to guide us so.

But then he said, “but don't worry, it's not loaded”, chuckled merrily, and walked off.

That put a damper on our conversation, and I never got the reaction from Meggsy that I felt my comment had deserved.

So, the question: who else remembers Meggsy, and does anyone know where he is? I think he was with Autotours, and so this would be after they took over Sundowners, but I'm not sure.
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Re: Iran 1978

Lee Eccleston
In reply to this post by Vicar
Vicar
As you may realise I am now retired, and have lots of time to reflect on our salad days.
I am interested to know about your overland in 1979 with Chop.
Did you do a Flyer to Kathmandu?What route did you take?
As you returned via Quetta and Nok Khundi ,was 1978 the last year of the traditional overland via Iran and Afghanistan?
Kit may be able to help us with this one?
Mike
I rememember Meggsy from Autotours.He used to work with Rick Haynes late 70"s early 80's
Last I heard was living in Melbourne.
I am going to an Autotours reunion next March ,so will make some enquiries.
Rocky
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Re: Iran 1978

Colin Davidson
Rocky,
Early 79, I picked up Rabbit in Istanbul after a fly over from Kabul and took him on to London. I then flew to Kabul and met up with Sid. He flew to Istanbul with his passengers and I took his coach back to Katmandu and did TK 210 with Grant Short. He and the pax flew to Istanbul and I drove through Afghanistan and Iran. So in answer to you question, the last full trips through Iran - Afghanistan would have been late 78.
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Re: Iran 1978

Mike McDermott
In reply to this post by Lee Eccleston
Thanks Rocky,

All the Best,

Mike
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Re: Iran 1978

SIMON ARMS
In reply to this post by Lee Eccleston
Rocky, I am not enjoying your retirement! I have lost some sleep over your take on what happened in Iran in 1978. The first problem I had was finding my old passports and then those border people did have such awful handwriting!
The date the Shah left Iran caused me the most concern as I had previously claimed that when I repaired the piston in Turkey Mr Dick had told me the Shah had left but after hours of investigation I now realise that when I rang Dick he had told me that “the Shah had decreed Military Control in Iran” ( a fine point in history but I like to have my facts correct) and he went on to say “ you are the person on the spot and best positioned to decide what action to take”, so I ran through Iran, two days via the Caspian Sea with Americans on board.
You also said that the Russians invaded around Xmas 1979, I still have memories of looking down tank and AK barrels being operated by soldiers who I was sure were Russian (you know, new uniforms vs bits of cloth) and I got really close to them several times between Kabul and Herat in June 1979. Which of course brings me to the much debated point of who really was the last person to drive through Afghanistan? I have a visa issued in Kabul for Iran dated June 2nd 1979 and I entered Iran June 5th, Turkey June 7th and arrived via Habitat into London on June 15th. Plough was going to look at his records but as yet I haven’t seen any claims.
I did manage to clear up another point which had concerned me and that was that I had the girls from the Christian Youth group using my cigarette rolling machine for Kit in Kabul on March 26th, 1979 and so I am very relieved to announce that Kit was not in two places at once. I went back to Kathmandu with Grant (actually the Nepalese border where Col caught up with us – after one of your breakdowns was it Col?).
Meggsy and I spent a fair bit of time together in London, we got thrown out of the Kings Head for arguing (with each other) to loudly and he was the prime suspect in the case of the “Beware of the Dog” sign which appeared on the front of the workshop. Last I heard Meggsy works with Barry & Sandra at Deacon Automotive in Melbourne.
The only window breakage I knew about in Iran was God who lost the lot at Basra, I imagine there could have been others.
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Re: Iran 1978

Vicar
Administrator
In reply to this post by Lee Eccleston
Today's history lesson brought to you by Wikipedia.

Demonstrations started in Iran in October 1977 and when they escalated in January of 1978 the Shah went into exile, it was the 16th.

The reign collapsed on February 11th. Iran voted to be an Islamic Republic on 1st April 1979.

The Russians invaded Afghanistan on 24th December 1979.

So all in all a busy time in that part of the world back in 1979.

We all know Wikipedia is never wrong, so there you have it.
Vicar
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Re: Iran 1978

Lee Eccleston
Simon
Wikipedia is never wrong.
I googled Ayatollah Khomeini
Refused to return to Iran until the Shah left.He returned to Iran 1st Feb 1979.
Googled Shah of Iran.
Born 26th October 1919.We were in Esfahan on his Birthday.The revolution did begin October 1977
escalating October 1978.
Departed on holidays to Egypt 17th Jan 1979 never to return
Surely reading all this Iranian History is tiring.
Rocky
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Re: Iran 1978

SIMON ARMS
In reply to this post by Lee Eccleston
When I read Rocky’s story I immediately went to Wikipedia and I could see that what I had thought was wrong and he was correct but I knew for a fact that some momentous event had taken place in Iran on November 6th 1978 and everything in Iran changed from that date.
Russia officially invaded on December 24th, 1978 but I feel confident I encountered Russian Soldiers in Afghanistan between Kabul and Herat in June 1978. The Afghanistan soldier is not difficult to identify, think very scruffy, blank look on the face etc vs smartly dressed, new uniform and outwardly disciplined. I am a bit surprised that others had not come across these soldiers.
Sorry Rocky to tire you with history but you said that Plough was the last to drive through Afghanistan and I believe that this matter is yet to finalised.  
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Re: Iran 1978

Colin Davidson
In reply to this post by SIMON ARMS
CONTENTS DELETED
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Re: Iran 1978

Lee Eccleston
In reply to this post by Lee Eccleston
Hi Simon
I am quite enjoying reading Iranian history.I only suggested you may find it tiring as my take on history was causing you to lose sleep.
The major event of November 1978 was the proclamation of martial law.The country was paralysed by general strikes and it was generally accepted that the Shah had to go.He replaced his Prime Minister and sacked the head of Savak,but that didn't save him.
Although the Russians didn't invade Afghanistan until Xmas 1979,I was under the impression that there was extensive numbers of military advisors.
I thought that it had been accepted in previous discussions that Plough was last out of Afghanistan
I was in Kabul for the last time early March 1979,and can't recall a Russian presence at that stage.
Rocky
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Re: Iran 1978

Mike McDermott
In reply to this post by Colin Davidson
Whatever one might think of the central premise, there is a detailed timeline on the Iranian Revolution at http://dmc.members.sonic.net/sentinel/1earth2.html, and there is a timeline on Afghanistan at http://www.timeline-help.com/soviet-invasion-of-afghanistan-timeline.html

As reported earlier in this forum, the last time I was in Afghanistan was during the Saur Revolution of April 1978 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saur_Revolution. At the time, Brendon had noted the relative lack of skills of the tank drivers in time to step back and avoid being squashed by one, unlike the poor sod he had been standing beside a few seconds before. However, we all thought that the skills of the pilots later attacking the palace on the opposite side of the square from us was, in our lay opinions, pretty damn good. Later, it was said that they were elite Russian pilots, but again I can't say.

So I think it's highly likely that Simon is right: the soldiers he saw would have been Soviet troops. The two revolutions were likely both cold war engineered. Sometimes the cold war wasn't that cold at all.

Irritatingly, whenever bombs went off that night (27-28 April 1978) punters would race into my room to see what was happening. The next morning they wrote in the trip book, “the slogan goes, make love not war: Mike has a better idea; make love during war”.

I don't remember the date of our last trip through Iran, but it was just after the fall of the Shah and, I think, before the hostage crisis, which would make it early 1979. We were westbound, and I remember being helped to find a hotel in Zahedan by a friendly young Iranian and how proud he  was of their revolution. I also remember that an eastbound trip told us not to buy any carpets in Iran, because they would be confiscated if we did because they were national treasures. Some ignored that advice and bought some off Jaffa in Isfahan, but sure enough the coach was searched going out of Iran into Turkey and the carpets were confiscated. I think we had rolled them in with our tents, which was pretty incriminating, but they let us go.

I had quizzed Jaffa in Isfahan, and he had money-back-guaranteed that the reports of carpet confiscations were untrue.  Later I met Jaffa again in the pub in London. He promised to refund the money, but I am still waiting. I am sure that it won't be much longer before he does. Patience is, after all, a virtue
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Re: Iran 1978

Lee Eccleston
Jaffa was always helpful,as were most of our contacts.
On a westbound in 1980 with the late Peter Housego <Fingers>,Jaffa wanted some carpets taken back to London,for KD. I was fairly sure KD knew nothing about them put packed them at the bottom of the drivers side pigpen under lots of luggage.
The Iranian Customs went straight to that pigpen,but somehow was persuaded to search all the roofracks first,followed by every suitcase in the boot,by this time had lost interest in the pigpens,and let us go,intact.
Last heard of Jaffa was living in Northern Italy.I would doubt he is still alive.
KD later confirmed Jaffa had indeed retrieved his carpets in London
Rocky
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Re: Iran 1978

Mike McDermott
>Jaffa was always helpful,as were most of our contacts.

True, Rocky. I don't blame him; he was in a desperate situation.

The guy that sold us leather coats in Istanbul later moved to Adelaide; I visited him in his shop in Melbourne Street where he continued to sell them. I hope he's still well.

I mentioned that Akram died and I visited his family in Lahore when I was there

And then, there was  Tommy ... to me, that is still a very painful story. When I recommended to Kit that we not move over to his hotel in Jaipur but stay where we were, I did not think that he would burn himself to death.
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Re: Iran 1978

Grant Short
In reply to this post by Lee Eccleston
Hi guys: L31 passed through Afghanistan in April 1979 on my way out to do TK210 on the way back.

Remember it well as managed to get to Bamian that trip. Entered Pakistan at Torkham 6 April 1979. Have been trying to write my "memoirs" as instructed by my children, and have reconstructed the timing etc of all the trips from my passports.

However the most memorable traverse of Iran was when three of us (memory blank as to the other two) were flown out to Karachi to repatriate a coach that had an accident in Pakistan. That involved a passport on my chest saving my life when it was my turn to get some zzz' says we ran, ran, ran, only stopping for diesel , and we were stopped an boarded. Woke up to the cold steel of a muzzle in one of my nostrils and a somwhat 'glazed' young Iranian hoping that I was an American - pointing to the passport and saying New Zealand satisfied him.

Never the less the Turkish border was a welcome sight.

Still trying to get time to organise myself to add photos etc to the site


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Re: Iran 1978

Grant Short
In reply to this post by Lee Eccleston
Hi guys: L31 passed through Afghanistan in April 1979 on my way out to do TK210 on the way back.

Remember it well as managed to get to Bamian that trip. Entered Pakistan at Torkham 6 April 1979. Have been trying to write my "memoirs" as instructed by my children, and have reconstructed the timing etc of all the trips from my passports.

However the most memorable traverse of Iran was when three of us (memory blank as to the other two) were flown out to Karachi to repatriate a coach that had an accident in Pakistan. That involved a passport on my chest saving my life when it was my turn to get some zzz' says we ran, ran, ran, only stopping for diesel , and we were stopped an boarded. Woke up to the cold steel of a muzzle in one of my nostrils and a somwhat 'glazed' young Iranian hoping that I was an American - pointing to the passport and saying New Zealand satisfied him.

Never the less the Turkish border was a welcome sight.

Still trying to get time to organise myself to add photos etc to the site


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Re: Iran 1978

Grant Short
In reply to this post by Lee Eccleston
Hi guys: L31 passed through Afghanistan in April 1979 on my way out to do TK210 on the way back.

Remember it well as managed to get to Bamian that trip. Entered Pakistan at Torkham 6 April 1979. Have been trying to write my "memoirs" as instructed by my children, and have reconstructed the timing etc of all the trips from my passports.

However the most memorable traverse of Iran was when three of us (memory blank as to the other two) were flown out to Karachi to repatriate a coach that had an accident in Pakistan. That involved a passport on my chest saving my life when it was my turn to get some zzz' says we ran, ran, ran, only stopping for diesel , and we were stopped an boarded. Woke up to the cold steel of a muzzle in one of my nostrils and a somwhat 'glazed' young Iranian hoping that I was an American - pointing to the passport and saying New Zealand satisfied him.

Never the less the Turkish border was a welcome sight.

Still trying to get time to organise myself to add photos etc to the site


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Re: Iran 1978

kit carr
As far as I can recall we stopped doing full overlands in 1978, and started flying punters from Kabul to Istanbul (I think).
We called the "Indian Leg" KK tours: Katmandu to Kabul.

At this time Iran was a bit messy, and considered unsafe for punters generally but OK for road crew.

I was in Kabul when one of Simon's punters assisted my breathing activities as mentioned about. We were there to repair Kees van Yperens bus, and bring it back to London. We ended up leaving it in Istanbul I think and flew back from there.

The bus was being repaired at a trucking depot, owned by a dutch comnpany. Theyt had a really well equipped workshop, and dutch trained Afghani mechanics. They did a good job of repairing the Seddon. Effectively a full engine rebuild was required. The job was charged in Afghanis and the bill paid in Holland.

The workshop manager was a grteat guy named Barry. He was related to the deposed Royal Family, and spoke English, French and Italian as well as Dari and Pashto. We went to his house one day for tea. It was a nice house, in a compound some distance from the workshop, and in a nice part of Kabul. The work took some days, and the longest part was waiting for the payment to be made in Holland.

When the work was nearly finished Barry did not come into work one day. It was one or two days after we had been at his place for Tea. We went to his house to see if he was Ok, and it was completely empty. Nothing in it at all. Barry had completely disappeared. We never saw him again.

At this time the Russian influence in Kabul was strong, but the Russians had not invaded at that time. The Russians were all "Advisors" who had been asked to help by the Afghani Government. Many wore uniforms without badges, and civvies, but carried weapons. They controlled the information in and out of Kabul as I found out when I tried to send a telex. It stopped sending a paragraph in, and two Russians with short hair came and had a chat.

When Afghanistan closed after the Russian Invasion the flights were changed to Karachi-Athens flights. I remember Dick arranging a special flight using a tariff arranged for repatriating greek seamen. There were lots of jokes about the spelling at the time :-)

Jaffa was mentioned above.

The last time I went through Iran we stopped in Esfehan and saw Jaffa. HE contacted KD and made an arrangement for me to take some money out of Iran for him, which would be used by the buses as expenses. Sndowners were going to pay him back by depositing the money in London. I tooke the money and did with it as instructed, finished the tour and my time with Sundowners and returned to NZ.

About a year or two later I was contacted by a solicitor, acting for an Englsih solicitor seeking payment of the money I had taken under instrucution from Esfahan, along with interest and costs.
SOme legal expenses were incurred justifying my position, and after about a year (and some money and stress) I heard no more. I guess that Jaffa too was burned by the Sundowner management
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