On Journey Part Four

tehran – Mashad – Afghan border

This journey was even worse than the train in Yugoslavia. The bus was packed to bursting with families with half a dozen noisy children each and packets of food, accompanied by goats tied onto the roof, chickens and a duck or two in baskets. In addition there were a small odd assortment of Western travellers including us.  A few hours into the journey and the constant loud Middle Eastern music was giving me a headache. It all sounded the same. On top of that was the noise of the people talking (or rather shouting) at one another – even if they were sitting side by side. Were all these folk deaf?  The children ran around the bus as if it were a playground, pushing and shoving each other and yelling and fighting and screaming. Then there was the noise and smell of the old diesel engine and the sound of our driver crunching his way through the gears as we wound our way up the mountains and down again. In addition to the noise is the smell. Stale sweaty bodies, curry spices, decaying food and animal shit. I tried hard to concentrate on staring out of the grimy window, hoping to take my mind off my personal discomfort. And forget toilet breaks. It appears that only the men in this country need to go to the toilet as we never stopped at anything like a service station and I never saw a solitary woman crawl into the stunted shrubbery along the way as I was forced into doing. It made me wonder what they had underneath the voluminous black garments. (I paid severely for this journey as it resulted in damaged kidneys that I suffered with for a number of years).

Finally, almost 24 hours later we pulled up at Mashhad where we met up with Graham and Diane – a Scots couple whom we had bumped into at the Afghanistan Embassy. They had travelled to the border in a more luxurious coach and had no idea of our suffering. OK, I shouldn’t really complain given that this journey was “free” but I did. I was realising that Jon was a bit of a tight-arse.

We all caught the 2 p.m. bus to the border crossing, arriving at six thirty only to discover that the border had closed at six. We had to sleep in a huge empty warehouse along with the rest of the bus passengers including an Australian couple carrying a very large Persian carpet between them. I’d love to know if they managed to get it home, but at least they had the most comfortable and luxurious mattress for the night.

The rest of us were on dusty concrete.

Early the following morning we caught a bus to the border .

The story about that experience can be found here.

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I have lived in the UK for most of my life, but when young I definitely had wanderlust and even ended up living in South Africa for several years which was a wonderful experience. I now look forward to a long and leisurely retirement doing what I like most - gardening, photography, walking and travelling.

35 thoughts on “On Journey Part Four”

  1. I thoroughly enjoyed reading from the comfort of my couch, but sending you lots of hugs as imagine writing this has brought back all the painful memories. What a journey!

  2. Yes what a harrowing journey. I always thought I would like to do an overland journey, it sounds so romantic. But you open my eyes to the reality of third world travel and I no longer regret missing out on the experience

    1. I have to wonder if it would be better now with the instant access to information, though of course this route is impossible. And I really didn’t have much money, about £300 and I needed to keep £100 for entry into Australia to purchase a one way ticket back to the UK.

    1. It wasn’t all bad, just the travel itself I think wore me down, but experiencing other cultures and landscapes and architecture was amazing. I just don’t seem to have written much about that aspect!

  3. Another hardship leg in your journey, Jude. I don’t know how you did it. As for the toilet, I never hesitate to jump out and go in the bushes if I need to, or to ask someone to pull off the road. I did that on a long bus ride in Turkey where I was about to burst. Others were going right alongside the bus and I did too! There are such horrible traveling conditions in countries such as this. I’ll be writing tomorrow a (very long) summation of my India trip, which has similar impressions. Thanks for sharing your intrepid self. Do you want me to add this to my journey post as well?

    1. I only wish I had been wearing a long skirt, that would have made things much easier! And yes, please add the link if you would like to. There aren’t many more stages in this experience! I wonder whether your impressions of India will be similar to mine?(already written, so if there are similarities they will be purely coincidental). I look forward to reading it.

      1. And you always think you’ll recall much more than you do. I’m amazed how hazy my memories are, when it all seemed so high definition at the time.

    1. I learned a lesson from that journey. When travelling long distances in Africa on my camping trip I did not hesitate to ask for a toilet stop!

  4. This does not sound pleasant at all. Were you tempted to pick up your bag and go home at any stage? I’m enjoying all the travel memoirs being posted at the moment, but the other night I was so confused I called Cathy Jude. Ooops. 🙂

  5. >This journey was even worse than the train in Yugoslavia.
    This reminds me of sentences that are nominated for “best opening line in a novel” because it prompts all sorts of questions — which journey are we embarking upon, what happened in Yugoslavia, why a train there — and it’s short.
    Great tale, and I’m utterly glad not to have experienced it. 🙂

  6. You really travelled local. What wonderful atmosphere. The kidneys not so wonderful. I remember a friend travelling in Russia donkey’s years ago – she had to squat at the business end of a machine gun.

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