The first task was to try to finance the trip as far as possible ourselves. We wrote to various organisations to obtain financial grants, several of which were forthcoming, and we received generous gifts of medical supplies, camping equipment, food, thousands of cigarettes (wonderful for bartering) and six brand new tyres from Goodyear. Martin was able to find a second-hand Long Wheel Land Rover at a modest price and attended a free five-day residential course at Land Rover on how to maintain the vehicle throughout the trip.
Within a few years, overland trips to India would become commonplace, however at that time India and Pakistan had only been independent for 15 years or so and we were uncertain what sort of reception we would face. We were however pleasantly surprised by how friendly and hospitable everyone was throughout our trip, particularly in India. When we arrived in Delhi our undertaking was something of a novelty and a photo of us appeared on the front page of The Times of India with the caption “They Emerged From The Desert”. Sadly, we do not have a copy to prove our fame!
The overland journey to Delhi, some 6,000 miles, took exactly three weeks – an average of only 300 miles a day, but on very poor roads (particularly in Persia [now Iran] as it then was, between Tehran and Baluchistan), very long customs checks (most notably entering Bulgaria and leaving Persia) and several days lost for Land Rover repairs mainly to do with the suspension.
It was for the most part very hot, so we would rise at daybreak (around 4am), have breakfast, load the Land Rover and set off, drive for around 12 hours and finish a couple of hours before nightfall. Initially, we drove in two-hour shifts which we reduced when the roads deteriorated, and more intense concentration was needed to avoid potholes. The Land Rover had no air conditioning but leaving the windows open meant being caked with dust, so we had to keep them closed which was horrendous, especially when the temperature reached 120 degrees as it did in Baluchistan!
When stopping for the night the first activity would be to pump up the Primus stove, an old friend from Bradfield days, and brew up a large pan of boiling water and drink tea to rehydrate. All other drinking water we filtered. On the route to and from India we were mostly self-sufficient, brewing up packets on the Primus stove and eating tins of food given to us by companies such as Heinz and Unilever. In India, we overnighted at Dak (Travellers) Bungalows, still maintained after Independence, but originally built for visiting magistrates and other government officials. A bed for the night cost one rupee and another rupee for the evening meal. In Paderu, we had our own cook, Moses, until he was dismissed for drinking from our bottle of whisky and trying to hide the fact by substituting non-filtered water. Otherwise we ate locally, invariably rice and curry eaten by hand off a banana leaf. Simple, but delicious, and quite safe if eaten fresh from the stove. The locally grown coffee was excellent.