Be a Tour driver and stretch the mind ! !. ?
Steering the coach is not All, you do.
We finally pulled up in front of the hotel in Kabul for our few nights stay, having been many weeks on the road stopping and starting our sightseeing way through all of those many countries, travelling on The Sundowners Overland journey, having set out from London.
All we had now in front of us was to drive our winding way through the Khyber pass out of Afghanistan, and into the North West frontier town of Peshawar, on to Rawalpindi and then through that region of Pakistan to Lahore for a few more nights.
We would then exit Pakistan and enter the Punjab region of India, the last leg of our twelve plus weeks journey England to India Overland tour.
That was what we were supposed to do, until the authorities informed me that we could travel no further in that direction, Kabul was as far as we could go, the borders were closed between Pakistan and India and there was much shooting and bombing going on between those two countries and certainly tourists like us would not be expected nor welcome to travel further in that direction.
It certainly caused concern as it would mean the existing passengers could not meet their onward travel connections from India and on to Australia, and it seemed we would need to return again into Iran to Tehran, the closest International airport.
Its a long drive back to Tehran, a place we had left several weeks ago travelling a lot of the time on the unmade and terrible gravel roads in Iran with pot holes that allowed us to travel at times at only a few miles an hour.
The main Afghanistan road was much better, being half built by the Americans and the other by the Russians.
The other concern was that I am supposed to meet a returning group, who right now are on the high seas sailing towards Bombay from Australia, and they're supposed to be met by myself and our coach, to transport them from the ocean liner from the port of Bombay, to our first nights accommodations in Bombay.
From there to begin our tour with them on the return Journey Overland from India to England.
Experience should teach us that when there is a problem you must find the solution to that problem, that is assuming there is a solution to be found, so I began to make the rounds to enquire, how to get to our group to where we cannot go, without turning back.
I was finally to learn that there may be another away for us to continue, although it wasn't certain, they would have to check and see if it could be done, so we waited for whatever the news might be.
The following day the authorities informed me that the country of Afghanistan and India were not disputing any land area, and as luck would have it Afghan Ariana Airlines would be flying a D.C six flight, Kabul to Amritsar, in Northern India on the Tuesday, over and back each Tuesday.
Now that could be very good news for us all, the aeroplane is used mainly for cargo but as there is no other way for us, well we will wait and see.
Having made a few visits to the right place, I finally receive permission for us to fly and I purchased tickets for the flight.
The tickets were purchased in Afghan money for the flight, Kabul over the range of mountains to Amritsar, in India.
We are informed that the aeroplane a D.C 6, will have seats and will carry myself and the passengers plus their baggage, no worries.
In reply to an interesting question from one of the passengers regarding the safety, the answer was.
OH, it is a very safe plane and do not to worry, you will enjoy, this plane has done this flight many times before.
I parked the coach, and locked it, the hotel manager tells me, do not worry it will be safe, he will put on a guard, and everything will be as it is, when I get back to Kabul with the new people I will bring to him, those I'm yet to meet arriving by sea down at Bombay, India.
They were right about the flight, it was just wonderful flying over those mountains so close, they were just there, right below, they didn't tell us that included in the fare were bumps, lots of shakes, many wind pockets up and down, and many loud cries, screams and nervous laughs from our group as we held tight onto our seats.
The one thing that was utmost in my mind was, that in a few weeks I would be returning back over this same flight route, back into Kabul, I wasn't looking forward to that.
There were jokes about the time it took to make the flight, and we all agreed, the plane went as many miles up and down as it did going forward.
But all in all we arrived into Amritsar airport in good shape, and all were very happy to be able to walk on the mother earth once more, even if it was in India, my passengers they all agreed that it was a very interesting flight and an experience to remember, another one of those once in a life time experiences, but not one that they would ever wish to repeat again.
We were then met by the official Ariana airline manager for India, Tiny, by name, but not by stature he was a big man in every way, not only the manager of the airline but owner of the hotel where we would stay for our few nights in Amritsar, and a very cooperative Indian gentleman he could be too.
The passengers were able to explore the Golden Temple of the Sikhs and other sights of the city, whilst Tiny and myself sat in his office and made a plan.
There were trains that ran down from Amritsar to Delhi, and Tiny arranged for the purchase of those rail tickets, all paid for in Indian rupees so it wasn't a lot of financial outlay.
The real truth was that Indian trains are always full, and I mean full to the brim and over flowing with humanity, but we got seats even so.
The fast approaching fact now, was the realisation for the group that this was near the end of their tour,
In a few more days we would all be in Delhi, there to say our good byes and go our separate ways.
All meeting in London, most were strangers coming on board the coach not knowing anything at all about each other except they were all going overland on a tour for twelve plus weeks travelling through a multitude of different and historical countries into valleys and coastal places, up mountains and over the mighty rivers, motoring slowly along on sand tracks and unmade gravel type roads.
Then at other times on very good roads which were mainly between cities or the bigger towns.
Where ever we travelled we were to witness the ever changing country some beautiful, so unchanged that when the breeze was right and if you listened, you could imagine hearing the jingle of the harness and the strange languages of the other visitors long gone.
The one thing all these passengers had in common was that they had the spirit of adventure and the want of better knowledge of things that were in their history books and in the Bible but as yet, were unknown visually to them.
They were following in the footsteps of another great traveller from long ago, hence the name of this long overland tour, they were on the one we called the Alexander Overland.
So often I have seen the loud passenger become quiet, and the quiet passenger become more outspoken and more sure of themselves, as the weeks pass, a sort of a finding out and discovery of themselves takes place, travelling does that to a person over a long journey, especially through these amazing countries.
The thousands of years of history, much of it found in the Bible, great mountains and well known rivers the crossing of great deserts where no one could live, but do live, discovering what some people have to exist on, the poverty that is there for all to see, as well as the other side too, where there is plenty, perhaps too much.
The one constant outstanding thing that was always there, just below the surface, waiting to rise in a moment was just how generous the every day people within these countries could be.
The average person would invite you to either have tea or to eat with them, to visit their homes, even though mostly they had very little of anything of material value, they often couldn't speak a word of our language, or we theirs, however that never slowed their will to share with us, we who was the traveller and the visitor to that place.
It was these type of experiences that enabled those who were able, a realization, the finding of a balance to a life, a sort of better understanding of what is really required to reach the important thing that all wise people should search for, a happiness and a contentment.
Some people have that realisation and seek to further embrace what they have thought they had learnt about themselves, for many others it will be a wrestle for a time, but like many things as in nature, all will eventually once again return unto itself.
New Delhi this time, was the farewell city, and after all everyone had been through for all those weeks of travel, it is always hard to say our goodbyes, but by now the call of home is very strong within them, many having been away for a couple of years or more, living in England and travelling around Europe, and for them, their home and family and their missed friends are now just a matter of days away.
I was rather envious of them all heading home to the Aussie, I too wanted to go, however I had completed but one half of what had to be done, so after all the farewells, it was off on the rail to Bombay for me, in search of the New Overland return group.
Robert, ( Bob Wilko ) Wilkinson.
Robe on the Limestone coast
July 1964----------Nov 1977
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