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India to England Overland 
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Elisabeth Dening's Travel Journal

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Week Six: Erzurum, Turkey to Negotino, Macedonia
Map here

Day 36: Wednesday, May 30th 1979
4,988 miles travelled from Delhi

Erzurum, to Sivas (Turkey) 279 miles
Map here

We set out gaily, thinking this was to be one of the easier days. In fact it was the worst! Nothing prepared us for the long, long, terribly high mountain passes over very bad surfaces. We are now on the main T.I.R. Route and see dozens of lumbering trucks going by, mainly from Eastern Bloc, Bulgaria etc. First saw Turkish *Che Gui out on obvious summer games, but all very disciplined, well-ordered convoys, well spaced out for overtaking vehicles to get by and going very slowly and also very smart.

I was driving when we realised we had been climbing for a very long while and the car was dangerously hot. Just over a real **Porlock slope, she expired in a cloud of steam and smoke and the radiator which had given Tim so much trouble in India had gone again. Fortunately there was a mountain stream down a steep slope which could provide water. Tim did a smashing temporary repair with some patent sealer. Another local car also came to grief. The T.I.R. trucks all asked if they could help, but there was nothing they could do. After half an hour to allow the stuff to dry, we set off and managed to make it to the top of the pass. Snow still around on the edges.

Coasted down and cooled off, but in the next village we found no garage, no repairs and no petrol. There was a snow-covered range of mountains ahead and Tim said "Wouldn’t it be funny if we have to go over that?"

Eastern Anatolia.

We did and died again on a dreadful surface. The tar packed up before the mountains and we also had a storm to really yuk the surface, or what passed as such. Same procedure - more sealer and then off again over a really wicked new road, soft and treacherous. Very thankful we had changed the tyres. Still climbing up and down, but mercifully the sealer held for 120 miles to Sivas. We reached there at 6.30 p.m. Tim had slipped and hurt his leg at one of the stops and had had more than enough. Fell into the really poor Hotel Sultan without caring.

Beds clean, room small, basin leaking. Squat pan loos but reasonably clean. No shower. Cooked chilli con carne ( I am beginning to hate the stuff***) with 2 cold boiled eggs thrown in as a bit of exotica for the day’s hero. Cup of coffee. Started a new camping gas stove successfully and so to bed.

Sivas itself is uninspiring, although modern Turkey was conceived here by Attaturk. Appalling pot-holed, mud streets, narrow alleys and none of it improved by pouring rain. However, it did provide shelter and we can get the radiator repaired (we hope) in the street of the radiator menders tomorrow. The hotelier is German speaking, but our linguist**** is a little confused by the rapid change from Urdu and can only speak Lunda from our African past!


* Where Che Gui is mentioned, it is a secret reference to the militia, in case they ever asked to see what Betty was writing. (Taken from Che Guivara - it seemed suitable at the time!!)

** There is a very steep incline at Porlock in North Somerset, England, well known to Betty and Tim.

*** Tim and Betty had packed a case of 24 tins of chilli con carne with them to provide staple meals along the route!

**** Tim was the linguist and spoke several languages including Urdu and German.


Day 37: Thursday, May 31st
5,267 miles travelled from Delhi

Sivas to Ankara (Turkey) 278 miles
Map here

Awake by 6 a.m. and up by 6.30. Room chaotic! We had breakfast in the room - coffee, hard boiled eggs and rusks. Tim was off by 7.30 a.m. to negotiate car repairs and possibly insurance, as we could not get this at the border and it’s not nice to know you have no third party. The day was gloomy, although not actually raining. The repairs were effected speedily and we were on the road by 10.30 a.m. Good going at first and then hilly and bad surface.

Picnic stop in Eastern Anatolia. Had a pleasant picnic lunch, actually out of the car.

Then we managed to pick up our first petrol, sadly after first filling the tank half full a little while previously with our own supplies.

Then disaster struck a second time. A large stone shattered our windscreen, which to our amazement went opaque. We had to stop and bash out the glass. What a business. Fitted (with difficulty) the plastic spare, which was very opaque. It was very windy and difficult to keep it in place. Very worrying, as the road was awful, there was fairly heavy traffic and it looked like rain. We moved with the greatest of difficulty as the visibility was awful, but Tim was superb. We had to keep stopping to fix it. We could not have gone 120 miles without one as the wind and dust were terrific. Passed an Australian family in a very heavily wired and protected Land Rover travelling in the same direction.

Traffic very heavy into Ankara and just imagine entering a city in rush hour with right hand drive and visibility nil! Again, a Guardian Angel came to our rescue. An English speaking student guided us to a hotel with excellent directions. Roma Otel Class1, but no hot water. Very irate about this.

Roman Bath ruins, Ankara Good beds and a nice view over Roman Bath ruins.

The car was guarded outside.

Ate in the hotel. Poor, expensive meal, but good lamb - we were absolutely ravenous.


Roman Bath ruins, Ankara

Very thankfully to bed for a total repack tomorrow and we are to spend two nights here for general maintenance.



Day 38: Friday, June 1st
At Ankara (NO miles!)

Out in the morning after breakfast in the room. I had to be taken to the bank to cash traveller's cheques. Tim is absolutely dreadful at crossing the street. I fear for him. He thinks it is like Ceylon and nobody will wilfully run you over. After Tim went off to get the windscreen fixed and insurance cover, I did a mammoth wash, washed my hair and set it with an ivory letter opener (have lost my tail comb). Sorted out all the food and clothes as we are now out of the madly Muslim area and can hope to wear something more Western style.

Friday is a working day here, very emancipated. Had lunch in the room - very bready toasted sandwiches bought from a stall. Wrote masses of letters and postcards and finished sorting. Very hard working day, but badly needed. To bed late.



Day 39: Saturday, June 2nd
5,545 miles travelled from Delhi

Ankara to Istanbul (Turkey) 280 miles
Map here

Packed early, then everything went wrong! Tim disappeared in a rage after breakfast, as the hotel announced it did not accept American Express after all. Infuriating. He was gone two and a half hours and I was in a perfect frenzy imagining him run over, as he is extra bad road-wise when searching for things.

I had just decided if he did not turn up by 12 midday, I would get in touch with the Embassy, when he arrived with an incredible story of all the banks being shut and how he had therefore been told to go on a bus to the Air Force base where they could easily cash a cheque. However, he got on the wrong bus, with highly helpful passengers who gave good advice and paid his bus fare!

Bronze Statue of Ataturk in Ulus Square, Ankara. He came back to Ulus Square (where there was a very fine statue of Attaturk on a horse in bronze). He then set off in the car to a flash hotel, spent £4 on taxis and finally got the cash.

I was so relieved to see him I did not do my usual nagging act.


Bronze Statue of Ataturk in Ulus Square, Ankara.

Left at 12 midday with a brand new windscreen which they had very cleverly cut, as they did not have the right size. Got out with little difficulty, but there were long, aggressive queues for petrol everywhere. We eventually managed to get two lots of 10 litres in country pumps, which should get us to the border with luck. We were very lucky to get it. We only managed by seeing when they were actually filling up a local’s car and they then did not like to refuse us.

Fair drive. Lunch in a mountain pass. Flowers pretty. Finally reached Izmit and saw signs for Istanbul. As the road had become very congested along the coast, we did the wrong thing and followed it through very narrow back streets of town and finally up into mountains into incredibly beautiful forest and Devon-like countryside. Good, winding road and one or two villages. No traffic at all. Followed it for about 30 miles - quite lovely, bracken and wild flowers and real summer smells. A lovely evening, but a bit fraught about arriving in Istanbul late and it was now 7.30. Finally got back onto the main road at Gebse and then dual carriageway into Istanbul. Stopped by the military. Heard later, the country was under martial law!

Arrived in Istanbul on the autostrada which took us over the Bosphorus suspension bridge. A great moment. Splendid view from the bridge and a great achievement felt as we passed from Asia into Europe under our own steam.


With many an error in narrow streets and many misdirections, we finally arrived at Hotel Etap which had a car park. Very, very nice and civilized. Good dinner and we resolved to celebrate and stay for two nights instead of the one we had planned. Had a bottle of wine for dinner and toasted each other in Turkish (rather vinegary white wine). Arranged an all day tour of mosques and Harem for tomorrow.

The view over the Golden Horn from the bedroom is spectacular. All the mosques are floodlit at night and it looks straight out of the Arabian Nights. The city, intersected by so much water, is itself very beautiful.

A marvellous bathroom and loads of hot water and so to bed and what a comfortable one too!


Day 40: Sunday, June 3rd
5,825 miles travelled from Delhi

In Istanbul (No miles)

Up early to arrange the tour and get ready. Breakfast in the coffee bar, then away with the guide in a taxi, plus a New Zealand man, Charles, with his Romanian wife Trina. (They were bussing and training through Europe.) Exciting, but hard day.

The underground Roman Cisterns, Istanbul. We saw the Topkapi Palace and Blue Mosque, St Sophia’s Mosque, Suleiman’s Mosque and St Saviour’s, as well as the underground Roman Cisterns for storing water - three still in use.



The underground Roman Cisterns, Istanbul.

Suleiman’s Mosque had a magnificent carpet and was huge with elephant support pillars. St Sophia’s is one of the seven wonders of the world, for it was supported not by pillars, but by carefully graded half domes. St Saviour’s had beautiful frescoes inlaid with gold, !4th Century.

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The Harem at Topkapi was fascinating. There was a pool for concubines - they never saw the light of day once they were inside. Black Eunuch’s quarters. There were also White Eunuchs, who were the Sultan’s slaves. He had four proper wives and 400 concubines. The Harem was enclosed.

Saw the bedrooms of the Queen Mother and the Sultan and the heir’s study. Beautiful view from the balcony over the Golden Horn and Sea of Marmara.

Outside the Harem, there was the execution block where people who had lost favour (and that included the Sultan himself) were executed by being beheaded by the Janissaries.

Then we saw the Treasure House. The Topkapi Dagger - fabulous, as seen in the film and riches beyond belief. The Spoon Diamond and opals and emeralds as big as chicken eggs. It makes you wonder why they don’t flog some of it to buy petrol!

There were also museums of Chinese porcelain in every day use in 14th Century. Now you could not price it - displayed in the old Palace kitchens. There used to be 10,000 people, including an army of Janissaries. The Grand Vizier was also a frequent candidate for the execution block!

Back to the hotel and lunch in the cafe as part of the tour and then a visit to a fur shop. Early dinner and so to bed for early start. Grand views from the flat roof of the hotel, but cold and strong wind blowing. Took lots of photographs from the roof.

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Day 41: Monday, June 4th
5,825 miles travelled from Delhi

Istanbul (Turkey) to Kavala (Greece) 280 miles
Map here

Got away by 8 a.m. - too late, rush hour started. Got lost, but eventually got over Golata Bridge and onto the motorway out of the city, heading for Alexandropolis, sign posted Edirne. Long queues for petrol everywhere, but we have enough.

Stopped for a break after Tekirdag and tried to heat water in a howling gale near the sea. Very bad tempered. Tim caught butterflies. Filled the tank with the last of the Iranian petrol, then headed for the border.

Finally got there and negotiated both with maximum of ease and then into Greece. Stopped immediately for our first fill of petrol - Super at £1.60 a gallon. It would not have mattered if it had been £2.60 - we were so pleased to have a full tank again.

Had fried egg in a cafe at the border for lunch and then on into lovely sunny countryside, really high summer meadows. Stopped for a butterfly session. Road good and not heavily used.

Decided to stay the night at Kavala. Gorgeous drive in full view of the sea, which was deep blue. Decided we must come back and camp at one of the many camp sites.

galaxy.JPG (200344 bytes) Finally into Kavala. Did terrible things at a roundabout, but were saved by a policeman who recommended the Galaxy Hotel.

This was good.
Right on the seafront.


Nice town. Real holiday centre. It is very reminiscent of Kyrenia, with a Crusader castle on the hill.

Kavala, Greece.


Hotel room and bathroom superb. A lovely view over the harbour and a small balcony. Had a bath and did the washing.

Out for a fish dinner and huge shrimps at a pavement cafe. Salad and whole grilled fish - very expensive though. Walked along the sea front. Many people on holiday and many fishing boats. As usual, in the fish restaurant we fed a tribe of cats - very wild.

On our balcony we have Swifts nesting, just tails showing. And so to bed.



Day 42:   Tuesday, June 5th
6,105 miles travelled from Delhi

Kavala (Greece) to Negotino (then Yugoslavia, now Macedonia) 180 miles
Map here

Left Kavala after arranging third party and doing some picnic shopping. Very well signposted.

The run to Thessaloniki was very pretty, many camping sites, mountains and sea. Expensive country, but it would be cheaper camping.

High summer. Hedges ablaze with flowers and fields with poppies. Large unusual maroon lily. Pretty red and white villages. June is the best month in South Europe.

Finally, Thessaloniki, the old Salonika of First World War fame. Passed war cemetery, then fought our way through the surprisingly badly signposted town onto the autobahn which had many lay-bys. It is obviously the main route from Yugoslavia to Athens. Had lunch. It is only single carriage for ten miles and then dual carriage to the border. Tim in a bad way as he had completely missed all the butterflies seen. Had bought peaches and cherries in Thessaloniki, which we ate - very good. The motorway was 56 km and must be the loneliest motorway in the world except for the season when the campers are going down to Greece.

Clean, efficient Greek and Yugoslavian customs and we were at last able to buy Yugoslavian third party insurance at the border. Tim still manic and muttering over butterflies. Went off for an hour soon after the border leaving me in a lay by. Resulted in a break down of relations on his return. Pulled into Park Hotel off the motorway. Very good. Smart, modern, nice room. Good dinner, but again no hot water. Good beds. The clock went back two hours, so we are all at sea with the timing. And so to bed.



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İE.G.L. Dening
Images and text are copyright E.G.L. Dening 1979/ 2008