Martin and Anne Farndale
Driving from Malaya to Britain in a Ford Prefect
January to March 1962
In due course this page will include a link to a converted cine film of the Journey.
In two months from January to March 1962, Martin and Anne drove home from their posting in Seremban, Malaya. This was a remarkable 13,000 mile journey through Malaya, Burma, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Iran, Turkey and across Europe at a time just before the great age of large scale travel had started. They took photographs and a cine film of the journey. This is a remarkable record of a journey half way around the world just before the great age of travel, which provides glimpses of a world which has fundamentally changed since then.
Leaving Malaya (now Malaysia)
After two years in Serenban in Malaya, we were seen off by a crowd of friends from the Sugei Ujong club, at the beginning of our journey home over land. It was early evening.
We drove to Penang where we stayed at the rest house by the sea for a couple of days.
The Ford Prefect
We were driving a Ford prefect with a box on top for spare parts, The boot had luggage, and hidden under the back seat we had lots of tins of Compo (army rations) which we needed in reserve.
We had the car loaded onto a British India ship which was to take us to Calcutta
Burma (now Myanmar)
On the way, we went to Burma, to Rangoon. We walked round the glittering Shwedagon. Temple., and visited the services cemetery. It was am immaculately kept, as they always are.
We sailed on to Calcutta and it took five days and endless chaos to get the car off the ship. We went to the Port Authority offices, and there were simply piles of files all over the floor!
Eventually we got away, and drove through India to Patna. We left the car in a car showroom window for comparative safety, and luckily it wasn't sold in our absence! After waiting three days because of bad weather, we took off for Nepal, for Kathmandu. While we waited at Patna airport, a Hindu holy man arrived with many people throwing garlands around his neck. Then the car which had come to meet him wouldn't start!
Eventually we flew over the Himalayas in bright sunshine with a wonderful view of Mount Everest. As we flew into Kathmandu, the pilot let us stand in the cockpit to get a better view.
Kathmandu is a most lovely place with what looked like all ancient buildings. It was unchanged by time. We only saw one other couple of visitors at that time. The hippie era had not yet arrived.
We were staying with the military attache, Charles Wilie, in his bungalow. He had been on the famous Everest expedition and showed his film of that. I had seen the same film during a lecture given by him and a colleague at the Dome at Brighton.
We walked around the town and saw the temples in the Durbar Square and the palace. The temple roofs have bells, and some with explicit paintings.
We went down to the river to see the burning ghats with bodies burnt, presumably by relatives, and then to pattern.
We went to Badgaon, Bodnath, Swayambunat which had Buddhist eyes all round, and here we saw some Tibetan refugees, tall, fine looking men who are much taller than the Nepalese. The prayer wheels were being turned.
We stayed in Kathmandu for five days, and would have loved to have stayed in that fascinating place for longer. While we were there, one day we went for a walk in the foothills, hoping to see Everest, but unfortunately the clouds came down that time, so we were unable to see it from the ground. Local people were carrying huge loads on their backs, and everyone looked at me wearing slacks, which they were not used to seeing. On the way back, we passed a little school, out of doors, under an awning.
Benares and the Ganges
And then back to India (our car hadn't been sold!), and back to the endless crowds of people, the narrow roads, generally only one track of actual road, and to the many bullock and horse carts.
We then went to Benares and stayed at the Hotel de Paris, with different people to take your luggage upstairsEveryone seemed to be given a job, however small. Most of the time we were staying in DAK bungalows, (government bungalows) which were mostly clean and quite comfortable with our sleeping bags, and a chaukidar guarding the place.
We went out in a boat on the Ganges and saw the crowds washing, and the women beating and washing clothes in filthy water. On platforms, the sadus or holy men were praying, and one very holy one was covered in ashes. A sight you often see in India. In one place down river were the burning ghats. The women's dead bodies were in coloured shrouds. It was only on one side of the Ganges that all this activity was going on. The other side had a few sedate temples. In the midst of it all, a dead donkey floated down the river, bloated.
And then on to Agra and the beautiful vision of the Taj Mahal. It is equally lovely by day or by moonlight. Sadly, now it is getting rather damaged by pollution from factories. The Taj Mahal is, of course, the tomb of white marble built by Shah Jehan in memory of his beloved and favourite wife, Mumtaj Mahal. There should have been an identical black marble tomb on the other side of the river, for Shah Jehan, but his son imprisoned him before he could build it. Now they are both buried together in the Taj Mahal.
We then went to Fatehpur Sikri, the palace deserted after three years because the water ran out. then on to the pink city of Jaipur, and the Palace of the Winds. The women wore the most beautiful coloured saris in Jaipur.
We aimed to travel in the morning and see the sights and have a meal in the afternoon, sometimes stopping for a cup of coffee on the way using our little gaz cooker. This was mostly in the desert, as in India there were always people who gathered around as soon as you stopped. Once we stopped to photograph two mahouts on elephants, but they hemmed us in and tried to stop us getting away; presumably they wanted to rob us. Martin quickly got in the car with me, and we managed to back out fast.
Then Delhi and the Red Fort. We didn't stay there long as it was so crowded.
Then onto Amritsar with its exquisite Sikh temple. On the way we saw a group of vultures eating a dead donkey. They appear as from nowhere at the sight of anythingb dead.
On to Pakistan and Quetta where we stayed in a rest house. While we were there, we took the car to a garage to have it checked over, and there were three cars there that had just come across the Bam desert from Iran. This was where we were about to go. There was a Land Rover and two other quite tough looking cars, but the garage mechanic told us that they were all in quite a bad way, after travelling over thousands of miles of rough tracks with no proper roads at all. We were quite concerned, but our car was fitted with spring leaves, which apparently made a difference. Our amazing car went right across the Bam Desert and Iran into Turkey with no trouble. We carried petrol with us at the front of the box on top of the car, and very occasionally we found somewhere where we could get more. At one stage when we left Quetta, we were blinded by sandstorm, and sand covered the car.
At the Dalbandin rest house we were showed into a room with several beds. Luckily we only occupied two and the rest were empty!
We travelled through hundreds of miles of desert over the corrugated bumps. We found that travelling at 30 miles an hour worked fairly well, as you could negotiate the bumps.
Then, we suddenly came out of the desert to the most beautiful city of Isfahan. It has a square in the middle, the Maidan, and a lovely skyline of mosques in brilliantly glazed tiling. The King’s Mosque and the Queen’s Mosque were there, and we took a lot of photographs as there were so many fascinating things to take. We saw a Zoroastrian temple and a shaking minaret.
Then back to the desert again, and mile after mile of bumpy tracks. Sometimes we would pass nothing all day, or perhaps a single lorry. We went through Tehran.
We then wernt on to Turkey and Mount Ararat, where the Ark was reputed to have landed. By now it was getting much colder and the snow was piling up. Luckily, a snowplough had been through as the snow in places was piled up over 6 feet high on each side of the narrow road. We might have had to wait for days if the road hadn't been cleared. At one stage on the car radio, we heard news of Yuri Galgarin becoming the first man in space. We felt rather strange hearing the news in this landscape through which we had travelled. We felt a lot of what we had seen had been a moon landscape.
In north Turkey, coming up towards the coast, we drove into a military prohibited area. Here we had two guards squeezed into the back of the car, who stayed with us for a long way. Then we drove along the Black Sea coast to Istanbul. Along the coast we negotiated a flooded river, but just managed to get through. The Turkish people were dressed in a much more western way, and from Istanbul onwards we felt we were nearly home!
We stayed in Istanbul and visited the mosque of Saint Sophia, though I thought those big mosques were not nearly as attractive as the ones in Isfahan. Then our long-suffering car was lifted onto another ship, and we called at Ephesus en route for Athens. We were very fond of our little car. It had done so well, and we kept her for a year after we got home.
The famous ruins at Ephesus were very interesting. Ephesus played a large part in Saint Paul's life and it is where the Virgin Mary is reputed to have died.
At Athens, we disembarked at Pireaus. Then we saw the Acropolis, the cariads, and later Delphi.
In Yugoslavia we drove through a great storm in the mountains, before going down to the coast.
Then we drove to Italy and down to Venice.
We went through the Brenner Pass, over the Alps and to Salzburg.
We drove through Europe, Austria, Germany, France and Belgium.
We had hardly had any trouble with our car at all, but when we stopped for the night in Brussels, the tyres had all been let down. I imagine this was a prank, though rather tasteless after all our adventures.
Then, crossing the channel we saw the White Cliffs of Dover, and knew we were nearly home. As we drove along the coast we saw sheep with lambs playing and knew that spring had arrived.
We drove to the South Coast and to the village of Findon. Then we drove up to the South Downs and to the Mill House, with its lovely views in every direction, to where my parents were waiting to greet us.
It was wonderful to be home and to have made it, and it was a great trip that we shall always remember. We had travelled 13,000 miles in two months.