I remember feeling pretty unhappy with the hotel we were using in Aleppo, and on one trip there spending some time looking for a better one. I found the Baron Hotel https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baron_Hotel. Kit, I'm pretty sure that I told you about it and that afterwards you got some trips to stay there; just a few before the overland closed.
Is anyone out there who stayed there? Unlike poor old Hotel de Paris and presumably others it is still going strong - or at least it was until the current problems there started. I hope it's OK; it had a bit of style, and lots of famous people had stayed there, between the two world wars in particular.
It is a different world. But other places have opened up. A few years ago my son back-packed from Costa Rica up through Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. These places were not nice places to be in the 70's and early 80's, but he had a great time and much of what he described sounded like what we experienced in Asia.
How about that? I have never been to Aleppo but as I am reading the latest post on this subject the name is mentioned on the news. They spoke about the fighting there and nearby villages. Tanks had leveled many of the buildings. So while some places, gratefully, may have improved we are still left others that have gone backwards.
Tom Sawyer mentioned the other day when we were discussing the demise of several countries how he was fortunate. He is able to reminisce on climbing the Buddha carvings cut into the wall at Bamiyan. As we know this is no longer possible.
Stayed here once on 28/10/80 on P13H with Peter Housego(Fingers R.I.P). Even then you could hear gunfire during the night. We were told don't go out in the street after dark and it was certainly a good warning. Just for the record we had close to a full coachload (don't call it a bus because Fingers was a Pom and he called it a coach) on "Rodney" ROD 622N, a Volvo with a bit of grunt in it, as Fingers would say. We got to Athens, flew done to Egypt for 9 days, back to Athens then flew Royal Jordanian Airlines via Amman and Dubai to Karachi where we were meet by John Peat in PBA 790M a Ford which Peaty had christened "Lady Jane".
I see you worked with Fingers too; you will probably endorse my earlier comments about what a great guy he was to work with.
I remember Rodney. I'm pretty sure it was the coach that Budgie picked up P37 in when we had to fly over Iran (as yours was P13H, the Pharoah itinerary must have numbered hotel trips differently from camping ones). If so, Rodney was a good 'un and Budgie was one happy driver.
Another coach, a Capricorn one that Kevin Venville drove, got caught up in a sandstorm in Syria when we were coming back from Palmyra. The visibility was practically zero, such that we had to pull off the road and wait until it eased up, for fear of colliding with another vehicle. Later, we left the coach in Istanbul and flew to Kabul, where Tom Sawyer picked us up.
Much later, someone else picked up the coach from the customs compound in Istanbul and took it back on a westbound. We heard that when a punter asked the driver to turn on the fanning system, there was a puff and the driver looked around to see everone looking a bit like they were from the Black and White Minstrel Show.
Yep, that was Rodney all right that Budgie drove to London on the west side of P37. It features in a narrative of that trip that I put on the Capricorn page at indiaoverland.biz in June 2011. I have a few other pix of it, a couple of which show its number plate.
That trip went from April to June 1979, so presumably Rodney had a few trips in between P37 and P13H, Chop, so maybe it went back into Syria with some other crew/s.
If you go to page 16 in Your Pictures, which is the very first page, you will see 2 photo's of ROD 622N. Both photo's show the coach with panel damage which was done in Pakistan. I don't know if these photo's were taken after the trips to the Middle East or before. I think Kit was in the office when these photo's were taken.
I guess the prang could have been before or after P37. Whatever, when we jumped into it, Rodney was in its full glory, so if it had been repaired beforehand it must have had quite a makeover when it got back to the UK. But I don't recall Budgie telling me about it, and he would have known, so maybe it did a Nok Kundi - Quetta eastbound after and suffered the prang then.
Mind you, Budgie could have told me and I have forgotten. Hard to believe, I know, as it was only 33 years ago, but I'm getting old ...
I don't remember who was driving the coach or who was the courier, Chris Patterson may have been the courier. It was driven back to London like that, and apparently the easiest way to get into the coach was through the rear door.
There was 3 accidents in India and Pakistan in the latter years. Turbo Tom had a mishap in the Bolan Pass,Pakistan, his courier from memory was Bruce Faraday.
Peter Norris had a head on with a TATA truck between Varanisi and Dehli. There no passengers on board.
I'm sure that in October, over a few drinks, we will solve many HALF forgotten stories and get to the truth.
How many Volvo's did Sundowners have ? I only see Rodney in all the photos, in Claps photos around Europe (that old Ford that ended up in South America is there as well).
I drove a Volvo to Beerfest in 78 and it was great to drive compared to everything else up to that point, I did a bit of driving around Munich as I recall and we were set-up next to a permanent Contiki arrangement which was entertaining in its own right.
Greg Paul and I pulled a Volvo gearbox out in London and Greg had to rerace it but the coach was in good nick but I am battling to put a date on this, Budge came with me to the US in late 79 and I am thinking the only wreck on his mind was romantic.
These early Volvo's were fairly low to the ground and mid mounted as well which would have made life difficult in India/Nepal, later versions had airbag suspension which could be easily raised.
Those photos of the crashes Col are fairly frightening, did we every lose any crew in accidents?
There were 2 Volvo's, ROD 622N and MYY !!!P.
We never lost any Crew or Passengers and nobody was ever injured.
The coach LTD 729P, which was involved in the head on with the TATA truck was a real mess, Peter Norris was lucky not to be injured in that smash. I ended up giving it to the Indian Government as Sundowners were low on funds and it would have cost an arm and a leg to fix. I do believe that the Indian's straightened it up and put it back on the road.
it had a serious prang in switzerland, near lausanne. we took a replacement coach out, and brought baby back. i cant remember who was with me. i can remember the black beetles coming out of the gaps between the white lines on the foggy autoroute on the way back. time for a sleep.
baby was driven by murray clifford first, and was bought new. rod was bought 2nd hand. I think from trathens but not sure. I think silver had that one first.
both the volvos were good coaches.
when greg paul did the gear box job on rod, he took the heads off to check inside. it had done around 600,000 miles, and the original hone marks were still on the cylinder walls.
they were really powerful, 265 bhp compared to the 140 bhp of the fords. smooth, good brakes. only a 5 speed gearbox, but the extra power and torque made up for it.
merv lapwood was driving ROD when it came unstuck in India,story goes he spent 3 days sitting in a dirty dam to keep his temperature down as was suffering from yellow fever , while they did repairs ..Great job you have done graeme setting up the sight.Will put a brief message up about my time with Sundowners from march 78 to feb 82 cheers