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The start, my first overland trip. In our own truck from England to Nepal, and back.
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This story is about a trip Pete Dryer and Ivan Hurst (me) made in 1975 from England to Nepal in our own truck.
This whole travelling thing started in March 1975. Pete and I were travelling to work one morning and we started talking about how far you could travel by road once across the channel. We had heard about the Grand Trunk Road and thought it would an adventure to drive along it in our own truck. That was it, the decision was made. However, it was not quite as simple to translate the decision into actuality. The internet was not invented and information was a lot more difficult to find. Mass long distance travelling had not really taken off and unless you knew how and where to find it there was little help to be found. Mobile phones were not available so general communications were limited to letters, telegrams, or very rarely telex, unless you met face to face and had a conversation.
Pete and I had met at college and were at the time working for the same company, Percy Bilton Ltd, at the same road construction site in north London. We had one company mini van between us as we both lived in different parts of Hatfield, having not moved away since attending college there. The van was a treat, not an entitlement. On the way home that day we talked about next steps. Pete asked his fiancée what she thought about the idea. I asked my girlfriend. When Pete picked me up from my home the next morning we compared notes. Pete and his fiancée were up for the trip whilst my girlfriend would stay at home. So the crew was set at three.
Over the next few weeks we asked around friends and got offers of help and a couple of additional people interested in the trip. We also discussed the route and what sort of vehicle we should take. One of the new team had recently passed his navigation exams. So our most ambitious route involved a boat. We would drive to New Delhi and then to South West India where they are famous for the quality of the boats they build. Not luxurious western style but thoroughly seaworthy, and considerably cheaper than a UK built boat. We were going to take a marine diesel engine in the back of the truck to put in the boat as that is the difficult part to acquire in India. The trip would then recommence as a sea voyage hugging the coast all the way to China. After that the plans were somewhat vague. That plan started to fall apart when we realised that we would be at sea during the cyclone season. It was totally canned when our navigator dropped out of the trip.
We re-planned the trip again, still New Delhi and then across the north of India, Bangladesh, Burma, Thailand, Laos and China. So back to the concept of the Grand Trunk Road, which is still acknowledged as a major highway of the world. Another trip to the library required. Oh dear, Burma is closed. OK, the destination is Nepal. And that is where we went for my first ever trip abroad apart from a trip to Ireland with my parents when I was a kid.
Back to the choice of vehicle. We did not know the condition of the roads we were going to encounter. We wanted something tough, easy to maintain and easy to get spares for, wherever we where. We considered the ubiquitous Land Rover but decided it would be too small. We found a old Bedford TK truck previously owned by Kraft. It was a box truck used for chilled foods and was insulated. Only thinly, not as thick as a frozen food truck and instead of a heavy door it had a roller shutter. The insulation would be beneficial in the hot countries. It weighed less than 7.5 tons so we did not need a HGV license to be able to drive it. The equivalent 4x4 Bedford MJ has a GVW about two tons more, and that is for a soft top. We wanted a hard box for reasons of security.
We bought that truck for about £300 after a friend, a truck mechanic, had looked it over. He also prepared it for the journey, repairing the worn out bits and a giving it good service. We found some very old truck, split opening front windscreen in a truck scrap yard and fitted them as windows to the front of the box above the cab. Add some side windows and an elevated platform with two pairs of coach seats and we have room for a crew of seven. Its amazing how versatile some surplus 4x2 timber and external ply can be in skilled hands. Put up some blue curtains, and you have cosy. Although the curtains did approach horizontal with the truck on tarmac roads with the front windows open. We also built a storage box along the side of the box for our food and stuff. It also served as a single bed. Otherwise, the floor was the bed. We did not go for luxury.
We slowly found out about international driving licenses, visas, and inoculations, and got them sorted. We started taking malaria tablets and Vitamin B12. Apparently the latter makes you smell unattractive to mosquitoes. We decided against salt tablets as this could be sorted out on the road. We gave up sugar in tea and coffee so that we did not miss it on the trip. Just in time we found out about Carnet de Passages en Douane and obtained one from the RAC. The place on the ferry was booked. We also found out about the travel service the RAC offered. I remember my Dad using it as well. We wrote to the RAC with our destination, paid them some money, and they would plan your route from say Southampton to Aberystwyth, mark it on a map,and post the map and directions to you. All done by hand. Well, our destination was Kathmandu. They did the same service, for the same fee, just a little further. I still have bits of the RAC map from our second trip.
We did the shopping and filled the truck and parked it up ready for the morning. It is fun pushing around six trolleys around the supermarket, and then asking to speak to the manager, to get a discount. I arrived at Woolworth’s car park in the centre of Hatfield ready for our early departure and waited for Pete and Chris to arrive whilst warming up the engine. I think it may have been raining lightly. Eventually Pete turned up, but without Chris. That morning she had decided than she was not coming. She would stay in the UK and wait for him to return. Pete and I discussed this and then, all things sorted out, we departed for our Grand Tour, our first grand adventure.
We did the shopping and filled the truck and parked it up ready for the morning. I arrived at Woolworth’s car park in the centre of Hatfield ready for our early departure and waited for Pete and Chris to arrive whilst warming up the engine. I think it may have been raining lightly. Eventually Pete turned up, but without Chris. That morning she had decided than she was not coming. She would stay in the UK and wait for him to return. Pete and I discussed this and then, all things sorted out, we departed for our Grand Tour, our first grand adventure.
So, not such a good start to day one.
We had a ferry to catch. Not a huge amount of discussion about our latest drop out. No recriminations, either about Chris or any of the others. In fact it was better not to come if your heart was not in it, if you were not sure. If you are going on a trip, or anything else for that matter, and you are only doing it because of a perceived duty, or because some time in the past you said you would, it is difficult to maintain a front of enjoyment. This is even more acute when that trip is for six months or more. We had only planned the departure, everything else was in the lap of the Gods, as it were.
Anyway, as I write this, I am thinking, thanks Chris for not coming, How would three have worked? Yes, there were three seats in the cab, so that was not a particular problem, just a bit cozy. Would Pete and I expect Chris to do all the cooking and cleaning as we were the only drivers? Then there is the question of the nights. There were no separate bedrooms in the back of the truck. It was totally open plan, and I mean totally. Everything that was to happen would be in full view of anybody else. There was no privacy. How long would it be before relationships would have become strained? Or would it have evolved into nightly threesomes? So, all in all, I think Chris made the right decision, both for her and the trip. Enough of the now, and back to the then.
Hatfield is a small town North of London. Currently it has the A1(M) running through it with a shopping centre built above part of the motorway. At the time there were discussions going on about what to build and what to demolish. Consultation papers were distributed around the collage. The most extreme proposal appeared to be a 16 lane wide road. This sounds unbelievable, but it was made up of the motorway, junction roads, the existing bypass and distributor roads. A simpler solution was eventually found. Graham Byles, our friend who was to be our navigator, in previous iterations of this trip, lived in one of the blocks of flats that were due to be demolished. As I recall, he was of the opinion that anytime would not be soon enough to get rid of the rat infested, ... flats, that were just an eyesore on the horizon.
Well that is what happened, in the future. We left the town centre car park, it was to be early in the morning, before the traffic started to pickup, but ended up later than planned. A short drive got us to not the Grand Asian Truck Road, I must stop calling it that, its proper name is Grand Trunk Road, but to the Great North Road. A roman road between London and Scotland. Follow the sign Hatfield and the North.
Then just head south on the A1 towards London, as the traffic slowly built up. Crossing London was uneventful, joining the A2 / A20 and off towards the port of Dover. Dover Ferry Photos Forums - past and present. A posible contender for the ship is MV European Trader More research required. Another possibility is the Townsend Thoresen Free Enterprise IV, with poscard below.
We arrived at the port in plenty of time at the paperwork was processed without hassle. I seem to recall that Customs put a dog in the back of the truck, all very friendly, but added, "it's just so you know, and are not tempted to bring anything back." Fair enough!
The trucks go on to there own deck on the car ferry, away from the cars, and are strapped down, in case of rough seas. The deck hands ensure maximum use is made of both the space and the strapping down points. It was our turn. I was driving, Pete in the passenger seat. We were pointed to a particular lane and I squared up inside it, driving slowly up to the truck in front, which was already in its final position. The deck hand waved me forward, we were obviously not close enough. He stood in front of me and guided me closer to the truck in front.
Suddenly, he was absolutely stationary. Eyes wide open! His head was literally pinned between the drive knuckle of the wiper blade, right in front of me, and the back of the truck in front. I had stopped. He was motionless. He could not move. I could see the wiper blade pushing against his cheek, watching it change colour. I was petrified! He had a seven ton truck resting against his cheek. If I moved forward as a minimum I would crush his face. I could kill him. Just the roll forward as I released the break would cause him harm and pain. If I fail to find reverse gear and went forward ... ( It is more difficult to select gears in a truck of that vintage, than it is in a car or truck today).
Another deck hand came up to see what was happening. I managed to get both right and move slowly backwards without further injury. He was quickly led away. I was visibly shaking. I finished parking, and jumped down. I asked how he was, still with the image of his eyes, just there, pleading, please don't kill me. "Oh, he's OK, just a bit shocked. It's his own fault, he's been trained not to stand between the trucks. Wave from the side.
Quickly out on deck, in the see air. Still in dock. Time for a stiff Brandy.
It was just as well it was a long crossing, it took a while for me to recovery.
I suspect he had a good bruise, but hopefully nothing more.
View Trans Asia 1975 - Day One in a larger map
Started from Woolworth car park in Hatfield, Hertfordshire, UK.
Left Hatfield at about 11:00 on Thursday 5th June 1975. The beginning of our Grand Tour. Mileage 69540.
Arrived at Dover Docks at about 3:30 and caught the 5:30pm ferry to Zeebrugge. Arrived 4hrs later.
The A1(M) and the M25/M20 had not been built at the time. The journey to Dover was by A roads. According to Google Maps the route would be longer at 105 miles but only take 1:45 on a good day, instead of the 4:30 it took on the day.
View Trans Asia 1975 in a larger map
View Trans Asia 1975 - Europe in a larger map
Map of Europe with approximate route
Whichever way you look at it, we had arrived in Europe. We were on the 'Continent', mainland Europe. It was my first time. The very first time that I had ever stood on mainland Europe. It was the 5th June 1975. OK it has taken awhile for me to get here, just over 22 years old, but here I am, on a great adventure.
Pete and I had crossed the English Channel, the only sea crossing, with our truck, the rest of the journey was on land.
Arrived at Zeebrugge recovered reasonably well from the loading incident. Off the ship, cleared customs and on our way.
Friday 6th June. Parked in a service area between Brussels and Liege on the E5. 96 miles from Zeebrugge at 12:30 AM. Mileage on the truck's odometer 69745
Slept the night in a layby, On our way in the morning.
We thought at the time that these motorway laybys, with rudimentary facilities were such a good idea. They were more frequent than UK motorway services at the time. Camping was allowed, so it was cheap and convenient.
Entered West Germany and had to declare how much fuel we had in the tank. We did not know about this before hand. Apparently it was something to do with paying tax on fuel which they consider should be bought in Germany. It was more of a problem in the other direction in reality. A lot of the big rigs / artics had 1000 gallon or more belly tanks on the trailers in addition to the huge tanks on the trucks. The drivers would fill up in somewhere like Iran for a shilling a gallon, that translates to 5p a gallon, or about 1p per litre. They could then travel across most of Europe without buying any more fuel. I wish!
At one fuel stop for us, one of the other truck drivers suggested we use the truck diesel pumps as it would be faster to fill our tank. It was. The nozzle size is about 2.5" or 60mm, which in itself would make it quicker. The pump was also on steroids. It took mere seconds for the tank to be full and overflowing. Diesel spraying everywhere. I don't recall using the big boys pump again, but perhaps we were just more careful having learnt the lesson.
We were driving along a four lane road, into a city centre somewhere in West Germany , when we were confronted with a low arch bridge. The question was how low, and how high was the truck. We knew the height in feet and inches, but not in metric. The signs were in metric. There was insufficient time to do the conversion in our heads. The bridge was upon us. I was driving again. There was nothing for it, headlights on, move to the centre of the road straddling both centre lanes, in the face of oncoming traffic, align with the highest part of the arch an proceed, with caution. As it happens there was plenty of headroom. Another lesson learnt. We wrote the height in metres on the dashboard next to the feet and inches.
The photo is of a Bedford TK box van from Archive of Transport, Travel & Trade with kind permission. Our truck was perviously in Kraft Foods livery but may have been leased to Kraft from Ryder.
Our cab was this yellow, but the yellow box had been overpainted white. Good for reflection in the hot sunshine to come.
Here the little truck came into its own. As a Kraft delivery lorry it had probably spent its life doing short hops, barley stretching her legs. We had blown the cobwebs out of the top of the cylinders in West Germany, and now we had some serious mountain passes to contend with.
Fortunately the early hills were dual carriageways. We'd spend a while overtaking some of the big artics on the slow crawl up hill, feeling good in ourselves and proud of her. She was a lot older and less powerful. Then they would crawl slowly past us, a different part of the hill, different gradient, and I guess slightly different gears for the big trucks with their multi split gearboxes. Sometimes as many as 12 synchromesh gears with splitter, compared to our 4. The truck successfully took whatever we threw at her, albeit, sometimes a little slowly.
Now, currently there is some confusion in my mind as to whether we went via Innsbruck and then into the very northern part of Italy, just for a few hours, or took a different route to stay in Austria until the Yugoslavian border. I would have thought I would have remembered the Europa Bridge!
The same trucks outside the Ryder office, but from the other side. Compare it to the black and white Kraft truck from a similar aspect. Note the different Bedford badge and word, and indicator / sidelights. Otherwise very similar despite the age difference.
We choose to take the motorway through the centre of the country. That may not have been the best choice. It was not a motorway as we knew it. It was an ordinary road, one lane in each direction. It was busy, very mixed traffic, so there was lots of occasions where we were faced with a vehicle on our side of the road, quite close, as it overtook a slower moving vehicle. Sometimes these were very close before they returned to their side of the road. The effect was not made any easier by the fact that the truck was right hand drive. Overtaking for use was a joint effort between Pete and I with the driver watching to others face as you pulled out into the oncoming traffic.
The road was littered with car wrecks, left just to the side of the road, perhaps as a warning to others. Frequently they had been turned into shrines, where a loved one had died. We noticed that sometimes truck drivers would act as if the whole length of the truck had completely cleared whatever they were overtaking as soon as the cab was passed, pushing the other one off the road, with nowhere to go. The technique is to anticipate that that is what is going to happen and break sharply as they pass, then you stay on the road. The further East we went the more the driving deteriorated.
Another thing we noticed was that big is mighty, and mighty is always right. The biggest truck always has right of way, and always wins. Adapt diving methods to accommodate local methods! And don't have an accident, even if it is not your fault. Have you heard this one before? "You are the foreigner. If you were not in our county there would not have been an accident, therefore it is your fault." Maybe not Yugoslavia, but definitely some regions.
It had the air of a fifties movie
Yugoslavia was probably the first experience of a significantly different culture. West Germany and Austria still had a Western European feel to them even if the language was different. Quite a few people could speak some English, so communicating was not a major obstacle. You can get by. Yugoslavia was different. It was communist for a start. It had the air of a fifties movie, a little stuck in time, unable to move forward, apart from isolated pockets. It was also very rural. There were towns and cities of course, and we drove through a few of them. But the lasting impression is of countryside, with farming still being part of the horse drawn era, with the occasional innovation of a small tractor. Perhaps a simpler idyll, or just a harsher existence.
We stopped at a very small village, a little away from the main route. Sometimes we would cook for ourselves, and sometimes we would allow somebody else to cook and wash up for us. We tentatively went into a place that may have been a bar / cafe. Yes, it was, and it was crowded, Full of the noise of happy people talking to each other. We ordered something to eat by the newly acquired skill of pointing to somebody else's plate. We were happily eating, when something very strange happened. It suddenly went quiet. Nobody had rung a bell or anything like that. just everybody stopped talking, and then they left. All of them. It was 8:00pm. We were left on our own with only the staff left. They did not try to chase us out as if it was past closing time, and we did not feel threatened by the circumstance. However, it did feel odd, so we finished our meal and left. Then back to the truck and our beds, on the floor.
Now, I know that it is wrong to make assumptions or generalisations about anything based on a single experience. But it did seem a bit like the communist state was involved. We will never really know but it was if it was an edict than between ?:00, maybe 7:00 and 8:00 you shall go out and enjoy oneself, but at 8:00pm you shall go home an get on with living you harsh existence. Produce for the common good an we will allow you an hour of happy chat. Yes, I know it is all more complicated than that.
In Greece the lasting memory is of the campsite in Thessaloniki. We also went to the motor repair district, but why? I don't recall, at the moment.
One of the early lessons we learnt in Istanbul is that traffic lights seem to be optional. I suspect that the Turkish police don't agree with this interpretation.
Istanbul is a big city, with large approach roads crawling slowly towards the centre. As with lots of cites, roads like that are littered with traffic lights. On reds we would dutifully stop, only to be passed by other vehicles ignoring the reds. This happened a few more times, so it was not a random aberration. Pete and I were both quite into people watching, which we would say gave us an advantage when trying to assimilate different situations. A few more times, an we thought we knew enough about the rules to join the game. Red traffic lights are optional, and the bigger the vehicle you have the more optional the red light becomes, the less often you have to stop and the more everybody else has to avoid you. Not in a film car chase sort of way, where chaos is the apparent aim, but more in the Jersey very controlled, courteous, and polite turn in turn or filter in turn.
Knowing these new rules became a bit of a party trick for subsequent trips. Jumping red lights!!
We continued to make our way into the centre, and found somewhere to park, relatively touristy.
Well that made it easy to find our way back to where we had parked. We were still sleeping in the back of the truck and nobody seemed to mind. It was after all a campsite, but on the street, outside a very famous tourist attraction.
Loo trips could not be just outside the truck though. There was a nearby public toilet, attended by a wizened old lady who took your money. It was of the squat variety. A raised footprint on either side of a 2" (50mm) hole. The problem was that the pipework was the same diameter. The system was not designed for, nor could it cope with toilet paper. There system was, there was a tap and a tin. You poured water into the tin and used your left hand and water to clean yourself after your ablutions. They found that a lot of Europeans could not, would not cope with this and insisted on bringing their own toilet paper, which they then used and put down the loo. Into the narrow pipes which then became blocked. Result, signs in lots of languages telling you not to put toilet paper down the loo, but into the bucket provided for used toilet paper. This in turn led to very smelly public toilets and lots and lots of flies. Pleasant subject. But if you have ever travelled into out of the way places, you will recognise that toilet becomes a major topic of conversation.
There was also a favoured cafe nearby, which for the cost of a cup of coffee, or two, provided a free sit down loo. Still the same problems with the pipework and toilet paper, but at least you could be more comfortable at the same time as being disgusted.
Don't worry though. you soon get used to it. If you don't you go home. And miss out.
The photo left is Pete sat in front of Sancta Sophia, previously a Greek Orthodox Cathedral, a Mosque for some years and now a museum. We were parked between Sancta Sophia and the Blue Mosque. However, both this and the Blue Mosque photo on the next page are from our next Trans Asia trip in 1977.
The Blue Mosque, Istanbul, into the sun. The view Pete saw sat on the fence in front of Sancta Sophia. The truck was parked between these two magnificent centuries old buildings.
I am glad the authorities were relaxed about us both camping and doing truck repairs outside the Blue Mosque, near the man with the dancing bear. We had found what we were looking for in Thessaloniki. The clutch work was not very difficult as access underneath is reasonable. However, everything is very big, so I guess it balances out. The truck gearbox is just a bit smaller than a small car engine. We probably stayed in Istanbul about a week. Apart from the stay at the campsite in Thessaloniki. This was the first place were we had stopped and taken a breath as it were. Until now it had been about getting to here, not about the journey, more about the achievement of miles per day.
Then we had rested and were ready to take the next leap of faith. Into Asia. Next day we left to cross the Bosphorus for Ankara, and Asia.
Both being into our civil engineering gave us an extra appreciation of this impressive, two year old bridge.
The Bosphorus Bridge remained the longest suspension bridge in Europe until the completion of the Humber Bridge in 1981.
This was a significant milestone but I don't recall any celebrations.
We were still in Turkey of course, but on a different continent.
Below is a map showing our approximate route form the Bosphorus in Turkey to the Afghanistan / Pakistan boarder just before the Khyber Pass in Pakistan.
View Trans Asia 1975 - Turkey to Afghanistan in a larger map
An important event, passed without note at the time.
The Crossroads of Europe and AsiaThis digital camera image was taken by the crew of the International Space Station on April 16, 2004.
When this image was taken, strong currents carried turbid coastal waters from the Black Sea through the Strait and into the Sea of Marmara. The rugged uplands to the north of the city are forested and contain vital reservoirs. Note Ataturk airport southwest of the city near the bottom of the image, the picturesque Prince Islands in the Sea of Marmara, and the sinuous waterway and harbor on the western shore known as the Golden Horn. Astronaut photograph ISS008-E-21752 was taken , with a Kodak DCS760 digital camera equipped with an 200-mm lens, and is provided by the Earth Observations Laboratory, Johnson Space Center. The International Space Station Program supports the laboratory to help astronauts take pictures of Earth that will be of the greatest value to scientists and the public, and to make those images freely available on the Internet. Additional images taken by astronauts and cosmonauts can be viewed at the NASA/JSC Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth.
Click on the photo to jump to the original article.
If memory serves there are three primary routes across the Asian part of Turkey. The pretty southern route. We took that route on the Encounter Overland trip in 1978. The northern, Black Sea route, which we took in 1977, and the central route. The central route is the main thoroughfare, used by the international trucks. Or should I say intercontinental trucks. The central route is the one most likely to be part of the Grand Trunk Road and may have been part of the Silk Route centuries before.
Populations tend to congregate and develop around water. Not surprisingly the Black Sea coast and the Mediterranean coast are more populated than the somewhat desolate centre.
We chose the Black Sea route.
The road to Samsun was a dirt track, but without potholes.
We rejoined the central route at Erzurum. The mountains were lovely, the central route, whilst still mountainous, less so.
View Trans Asia 1975 - Turkey in a larger map
We went to the Black Sea and had a pleasant 4 days edging our way along the coast. Enjoying the scenery and the sea. Samsum to Tirebolu, 4 days for 245 km.
Unfortunately neither Pete nor I took any photos of the area, so photos will have to be from another trip or from other people. I found this site, which will give you a good flavor of the area.
Below is a TURKEY PHYSICAL MAP showing the Pontic Mountains , Black Sea, Samsun, Trabzon, and Erzurum. It clearly indicates how mountainous Eastern Turkey is. Click on the map to go to the source.
Need something to fill this page
We went to the Black Sea and had a pleasant 4 days edging our way along the coast. Enjoying the senery and the sea. Then we travelled inland across the high moutain passes towards the central route.
I have checked the original letter and it does say 11,000 ft, however, this is a little optimistic. I have also checked a contour map which suggests that I should have written 2,440m. An entirely different result of about 8,000 ft. Assuming the route was along Trabzon Gümüşhane Yolu / Bayburt Gümüşhane Yolu / Erzurum Bayburt Yolu. The highest peak in the area appears to be Abdal Musa Peak at 3331 m, or 10,928 ft, which is close to 11,000 ft.
View Trans Asia 1975 - Turkey in a larger mapView Trans Asia 1975 - Turkey in a larger map
The Pontic Mountains or Pontic Alps
After spending a while following the coast road of the Turkish Black Sea it was time for the Mountain passes.
The Pontic Mountains or Pontic Alps stood between Trabzon on the coast inland to Erzurum, via Bayburt and Askale, where we joined the central road.
So it was summer when we drove through the mountains, and these photos are snow covered. The mountains are not high enough to be permanently snow covered. It does look pretty in the snow though. It was also many years later.
The sign below shows the altitude of the pass at 2409m, about 7,900ft. It was not just the height of the passes that was spectacular, nor the valleys and scenery. The roads themselves are just something else. The extract of the google map shows a small segment of the bends, loops, and zigzags as the dirt road climbs in and out of the valleys and over the passes along the route towards the center and then to the East and more mountains.
Wonderful roads with little traffic and no tourists. Proper drivers roads winding their way inland and higher and higher.
According to some of the websites I have visited recently, the Black Sea is still Turkey's Secret Coast and therefore I suspect that this road is not high on many tourist or traveler's destination lists.
Having looked at the websites, we missed out on a lot of things just off the road, which appear to be well worth the time to visit. However, without the internet or any guide books, it was just a case of exploring as we drove.
No diversions, no traffic signs, no cones
Trucks dominate that route, large trucks. Rules of the road are very much based on size. Just because it is the main road across a continent does not mean it is all metaled either. Sorry, getting technical. There is a noticeable absence of blacktop, with large lengths of road still being dirt. Pot holes abound. You know we complain about delays and 'cone city' when there are roadworks. Not a problem in Turkey. No diversions, no traffic signs, no cones, just a grader in the middle of the road coming towards you. Now I say middle, which may give a sense of size which is not necessarily correct. Frequently, you have to drive off the road to avoid said oncoming grader. And then there is the queue of trucks behind the grader, either not able to get past, or choosing not to as a re-graded road is so much better.
In the UK, in 2013, there is a crises in road maintenance. So little maintenance has been carried out on the minor, non trunk routes that the roads are becoming severely potholed following a number of severe winters. The surface starts to break up, and more frost adds to the damage. A quick surface dressing at this stage will generally cure the problem. On a dirt road, life is so much simpler. Potholes get very large and frequent. Send out the man and his grader. A few passes and all the potholes are filled, the surface re-cambered and dressed. The traffic provides the compaction, so no need for a roller. All sorted.
Just to give you a idea of what a grader looks like, below are some images from Caterpillar or Cat as it is more normally known as these days. The graders in 1975 would have been made by Caterpillar, older versions of those shown, but fairly similar.
A CAT promotional video about graders
With so many trucks travelling from Europe to India and back, full of exotic and expensive goods it is not surprising that they start to become the target of thieves. The result is a number of camps sprout up along the central route. Safe havens, for a good nights sleep. They are little more than a field with a fence around it, a pair of wide gates and a hut for the guards to stay in. The compounds are spaced at about a days drive. Restrictive driver hours and tachographs were not high on the addenda then, so days were set by sunrise and sunset. We followed suit and camped overnight in a compound, paying the fee for the security, not the facilities. Night temperatures in Eastern and central Turkey can plummet well below zero. Below zero is a significant problem when you are living in the cab of a truck, or in our case slightly less, in the back of a truck. In the dead of night, with not a sound to be heard, oh, apart from the truck engines left running all night, or the chiller motors keeping the goods frozen.
drivers starting fires under their trucks is somewhat disconcerting
Then comes the morning. The first time you see drivers starting fires under their trucks is somewhat disconcerting. Then you notice that the fires are directly beneath the fuel tanks. What is going on? Ah, some of the drivers are more organized. They have set up a primus stove and are making a brew. (still under the fuel tank).
Then there is the realisation. I don't know if you know, but diesel fuel is prone to waxing or gelling in cold weather conditions.Winter fuel was not available so some people pre-heated the fuel before starting their engines, by having fires under their fuel tanks. Logical, yes. Safe, ? Some drivers would add petrol to the diesel when they filled up. Not recommended these days. It is generally sorted with additives now.
Iran was under the rule of the Shah at this time, in 1975.
Mohammad Rezā Shāh Pahlavī was the last Shah (King) of Iran from 16 September 1941 until his overthrow by the Iranian Revolution on 11 February 1979. He was the second and last monarch of the House of Pahlavi of the Iranian monarchy.
Mohammad Rezā Shāh Pahlavī (Persian: محمد رضا شاه پهلوی, [mohæmˈmæd reˈzɒː ˈʃɒːhe pæhlæˈviː]; 26 October 1919 – 27 July 1980)
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There were no apparent undertones of revolution on our first visit. Tehran was busy and bright. Some of the women wore a yashmak in public. The names and meanings of the different outerwear escaped us at the time. Frequently you could see the bright makeup and fashion shoes beneath the plain black of a burqa.