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Highroad for Oz

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Highroad for Oz story overview


Welcome to . . .
a great little adventure
for young people of all ages

was once an old bus that started
a new life because the Dream said
it was possible. And it was!

This book is for the young at heart.


Chas longed to explore the world, his only problem being he was still at school. The family travel bug was already entrenched in his older brother Andy who one day took off to Australia by road - returning two years later in a bus. His bus. A double-decker named - ALBERT!

Fascinated with the endless stories of passport panic, border intrigue, roadside breakdowns, diversions, invisible roads, freezing mountains, scorching deserts and all the curiosities of different cultures and people that Andy would bring back to the dinner table after each trip, it was Ma and Pa who were finally persuaded to go see the East for themselves and, amazingly . . Chas was invited along too!

Chapter 1

"You've got a chance I never had"

Charles was stunned as he took leave of his headmaster. On the floor outside the study he had thrown down his satchel full of books for the evening's homework. He now gave it a thumping kick, then another. Hauling it up on to his back he staggered bewildered into the crowded cloakroom and suddenly swung it through the air straight at a row of Wellington boots. There was a slither and a glorious scattering of boots. S..rrup!

"Yippee!" he yelled at the top of his voice.

His schoolmates stared as he tore unhampered from the building, across the playground, through the gates and along the road. He ran and ran and ran until he slumped to a walk from sheer exhaustion and shock. Life for Chas Stewart had changed - for ever.

The 'Old Rook', his headmaster, had spoken words which still echoed in his mind: ". . and for you this is the last day of school term . . fill a journal . . tell the sloggers here about the places, the people - about ALBERT! Sketches, do some, you've got the knack . ." And he said something else. "Chas!" he had called, using the boy's family nickname, "you've got a chance I never had."

Finally, with what seemed an approving sigh, "fancy your brother owning that marvellous bus!" Who would have guessed the Rook was an ALBERT fan? Not everyone was.

Chapter 5

"Seen a doppel-decker?"

Chas, Iain and Jason were watching ahead again. A short street, full of quaint little old-fashioned shops and milling sightseers led to a very small square. At the far side of the square was a spider-hole - a low arch beneath which cables for the single-deck trolley buses swooped under. Albert was a double-decker. Albert slowed down.

"Thank goodness he's turning," observed Jason. "Andy's a good driver but he won't try to get Albert through that one."

Half-way through the turn there was an eerie scraping sound, then something hit the roof like a giant thunder-clap. BANG!!

"Heck!" shouted Jason. "Duck . . !"

Albert stopped. No noise; no-one screamed; no-one outside rushed forward to give any warning. So Albert moved forward again very slowly . . . but now there was another much more menacing scrape, a clout like a giant's shillelagh and a very unpleasant sizzle noise.

Upstairs, the three in the Obs were under the seats, lying flat on the floor! Then total silence! "Are we alive?" enquired Jason cautiously.

"Don't move." Iain was in a position to see how near the city's overhead cables were to the roof. "Stay still. Electric trolley-bus cables are hanging loose round us."

Chapter 9

Rising high

"Chasy." Andy was de-capping the fuel tank.

"Stand by that historic bowser over there and check the dial is in the 12 o'Álock position."

Chas moved over to have a look. The dial was not visible because a Turkish lad about his own age was standing right in front of it.

"Hang on, I'll come over." Andy strode forward. He and the Turk grinned at each other. Andy gave him a friendly pat on the shoulder - with a local greeting.
"Salaam Malekum!" he said. This is the greeting of Islam, to which the response is inverted . . "Malekum salaam!"

Andy's greeting, sincere as it was, had the desired effect of swivelling the young man to one side so the fuel pump dial could now be viewed.

"See what I mean?" questioned Andy, looking towards Chas. "The hand points to 2100 hours, in other words the 75 litres the last fellow paid for, which was not cancelled on the dial . .

. . the fuel hand was re-set to zero, at 12 o'clock on the dial, the fuel was pumped through and the correct money paid.

Chas took a last look at the pump dial. "Andy, it's still marking up our fuel, for the next customer!"

Chapter 19

Bandit Country

Torkham, the Afghan border village, was a mud coloured cluster of ramshackle huts and hopeful tourist centre.

Up the hill, turn to the right and you entered Landi Khotal, a gun-toting town if ever there was one where guns were traded - had been for many years - and smuggling was a major slice of the economy.

Beyond there, the Khyber Pass opened up.

At a coffee halt before entering the Khyber Pass Andy called his young brother aside. "Watch out," he said. "You will see two roads, one higher

than the other. We'll follow the upper one; the lower one is for hoof traffic; donkeys, camels, smugglers.

"I say! Real smugglers?"

"Well, let's say they carry out some very crafty market transactions with tyres."

"How do you know?"

"We are running on two of them!"

Armed with his insatiable curiosity and daily journal which constantly "needs to know" even the minutest of detail, Chas will enroll you into Albert's crew where you will experience first-hand the amazing encounters of a bus adventure which was once dreamed about and then actually happened.

With never a dull moment here
you find a tale full of surprises, in Europe the unexpected, in Asia the unimagined. From his viewing position in the upstairs Obs Chas' wonderful world is seen, is debated with his travel friends and intimately logged in his journal with each day in the bus becoming an adventure of its own as personalities are revealed along with the permanent problem of ALBERT's height.

Highroad for Oz is a real life ride in a passionately patriotic bus where the jubilations and frustrations of the long distance journey are innocently revealed for all to share. Here, no ordinary ticket to ride. ALBERT's "crew" knows it; the folks who are passed along the way know it; and ALBERT knows it - and he shows it too. There is the magic!

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Chapter 20

Hindu Hullabaloo

. . . Albert was coaxed slowly down towards the water, stopping short of a tall stone pier supporting the bridge above. At this point it was necessary to fill in and level the broken section of the underwater ford and make it solid enough to take Albert's ten ton weight.

Memories of the broken road ledge in Sharpasand in Iran invaded the minds of each one of the crew.

It was already noon and the sun was giving out a cruel heat. A water buffalo and her calf wandered into a big pool, sinking up to their hairy chins in its coolth. The sight of unexpected entertainment around Albert drew herdsmen and other local travellers from the road above to enjoy the fun.

A young herdsman squatted on a dry patch at the foot of a bridge pier while his goats pottered about inquisitively. Then a laden camel with its nomadic entourage came right alongside Albert for a drink, its big splayed hooves making road building beneath the water surface a very difficult exercise.

Updated from Adelaide Oct 16 2020

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