the writer is a lonely hunter

writing by Gail Aldwin and other Dorset writers

On a road to somewhere

At a time when we’re restricted in our movements due to Covid19, it occurs to me that travelling by road is now something to savour. And there have been many journeys I’ve taken by road that are worth revisiting. From unsealed routes to highways, roads are symbolic of progress, a life path, even a map to the future and a way back to the past. But it’s the physical experience of travelling by road that I’m interested in exploring here. If you’ve followed my recent posts, you will be aware that the journey from Koboko to Yumbe in Uganda is along a red dust road. Travel behind another vehicle and visibility becomes a huge problem. Other hazards include cows (they always have right of way), motorbike taxis called boda bodas (which slip in the dust) and the inevitable potholes. The drive to Bidibidi refugee settlement is even worse especially when riding pillion on an off road bike. It felt like we were driving over corrugated iron and it was hard to believe the conditions could get any worse… but they did. With the arrival of the wet season in March, rivers of rain gouged deep tracks in the paths and on more than I occasion I got off the bike to walk rather than face negotiating another gully.

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Other occasions when I’ve walked alongside a vehicle include a journey from London to Kathmandu in 1981 with Top Deck. The travel company was started in the 1970s by a group of Australians who converted Bristol Lodekka buses into touring vehicles by fitting a kitchen and seating downstairs and installing bunks on the upper deck for sleeping.

Inside 'Snot' Turkey0001

photo: Philip Wadds

On the mountainous roads across northern India and into Nepal, we were frequently required to walk in order to lighten the load on the vehicle. Doug Foskett’s footage shows instances of us doing just that. Another perilous road, this time covered in snow, was negotiated with the use of only two snow chains for the wheels. As we approached the Turkish border with Iran, the bus slipped and slid so much we passengers were like crew on a dinghy, lurching from one side to the other in order to keep the bus steady.

Turkey Iran Border0001 (2)

photo: Philip Wadds

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More from the overland

It’s funny how the publication and marketing of Paisley Shirt has brought back a range of memories. As the original paisley pattern came from Kashmir, I have been investigating ways to share the experience of travelling the overland with you. The journey I took was back in 1981 when I travelled from London to Kathmandu on a converted double decker. The buses called Snot and Tadpoles followed the route together and I am still in touch with friends I made during that trip.

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Clouds on Dal Lake, Kashmir

Recently the courier on Tadpoles, Doug Foskett posted footage from the journey on Vimeo. You can see images from Kashmir in 1981 at 2:15 and I can be seen at 4:29 wearing denim dungarees. (We frequently had to walk during hazardous sections of the journey to lighten the load on the bus.)

If you’re planning to purchase a paperback copy of Paisley Shirt, I have recently been informed by Amazon that the expected dispatch dates has moved forward to between 7 and 30 March. Not too long to wait!

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

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