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Albert departs to London

Albert

Albert departs for London . . .

GPO Martin Place Sydney - 10.00am Tuesday 8th October 1968

Martin Place, Sydney - Tuesday 8th October, 1968

Sydney to Calcutta

"As the GPO clock struck ten o'clock Albert began to move, bedecked with balloons and streamers. Half-way down George Street there was a distinct lack of power and the bus came to a stop . . ." and so began Albert's log to London!

With a top speed of only 50 kph round-the-clock driving was applied. After finding a low rail bridge at Narranderra, getting lost in SA's Riverland, traversing a bone shattering unsealed Eyre Highway and being shaken by an earthquake in Meredin, Albert finally arrived in Perth . . relatively unscathed . . 6 days later.

The next phase was to find a ship to take the bus to India. Despite earlier research the ship expected to be seen in Fremantle was not there, but others were. In the event it was one to Singapore, a scary floating transfer in a barge, then a second ship to India.

Albert's "crew" of 13 sailed aboard the good ship "Centaur", a wonderful 5 day line voyage from Fremantle to Singapore from a past era, then by "jungle train" through Malaysia to Bangkok, then by air to the "City of Joy", Calcutta.

Calcutta to Quetta

Once all were safely reunited in Calcutta Albert took to India's Grand Trunk road with the daily challenge of cyclists, ox carts, wandering cows, low bridges and dangerously overhanging trees, all demanding the driver's attention and care. Not surprisingly the journey was slow, but fascinating always.

A routine soon set in to keep moving until late at night as best protection against intense curiousity from over friendly locals. Early every morning groups of villagers would be crouching roadside talking the name A-L-B-E-R-T and debating whether they were seeing a double or a triple decker bus.

The next major obstacle was at Dozan in the Bolan Pass, Pakistan, along the route via Quetta into southern Iran, where it was necessary to dig out a dry riverbed plus a piece of the mountain, well assisted by railway workers and the local tourist and highway departments
(see strip picture below - the railway crosses the parallel road via a bridge too low - out of picture).

India . . and always a crowd!

A railway crossing along the GT Road

Turkey - emerging from the mountains

Breakfast stop approaching the mild Black Sea Coast

Quetta to Istanbul

From Quetta a desolate Baluchistan led to the Iranian frontier at Zahedan then long dusty days over stoney desert to Esfahan and Tehran, our half-way point. Now mid-winter and cold . . the engine block froze up, but the lesson learned was invaluable - if it breaks - you fix it. Local tradesmen demonstrated skills long discarded in the west and a few days later Albert was rolling again.

Approaching Tabriz it was so cold the diesel froze. With a 44 gallon drum inside the bus and a fuel line via a window - the engine was kept running 24 hours a day. Entering Turkey the temperature fell even further (-27 C) followed by the vision of Horason bridge necessitating wheel removal and military assistance. All help unhesitatingly given in the warmest and most friendly spirit
(see below).

Along the Black Sea coast a welcome thaw set in before climbing again to Ankara to join a modern highway and Turkish drivers, who apparently can see round corners. After 4 months of travel, Australia's Nullarbor heat, the tropics, crossing oceans, deserts and mountains, and then into the freezing zone of northern Iran and Turkey, the arrival into Istanbul was a real comfort, a place to prepare for the final leg to London . . .

Istanbul to London

All past obstacles were there to be overcome, an accepted part of the challenge. Now safely in Europe - Albert having crossed the dividing Bosphorus waterway - the crew were looking forward to a smooth ride to the English Channel with, hopefully, some bonus wayside comforts to be included. But not so!

Snow was falling again as the bus departed for the Edirne border and travelling through Bulgaria, a country then closely allied to Cold War Russia, was like the weather, far from welcoming. As the highways became busier with frenzied European traffic Albert was beginning to feel a little bit slow and out of place.

After Salzburg came the autobahns of Germany; it was late afternoon. The first overhead bridges strangely displayed clearance signs in feet and inches, in English, each just a few inches over Albert's height. Then, without warning - Bang! A long weary night followed stopping at every bridge across Germany.

The ferryport at Zeebrugge arrived in a misty dawn but with some relief, crew confidence being that across the Channel double-decker bus height would no longer be a problem. Victoria Coach Station staff provided a great reception for the long distance arrival and agreed to make a bay available for Albert should there be a return service to Sydney. However that, friends, is another story too!

. . . and arriving in London

Victoria Coach Station - 11.00am Monday 17th February 1969

A journey of 132 days across 3 continents

Australia - Singapore - India - Pakistan - Iran - Turkey - Bulgaria - Yugoslavia - Austria - Germany - Belgium - England

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Updated from Adelaide Sep 26 2017 | andy@andystewart.com.au

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