Geoff and Jules - Chapter 7

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The truck started out again next morning, and we rolled on through flat open country, stopping and starting throughout the day. It was cold, and we lay stretched out in our sleeping-bags atop a load of cement and regarded the fantastic purple mountains rising sharply from the saltbush plains with a languorous disbelief. As the day progressed we acquired a goat, three hens and an assortment of wild Afghans, their turbans wound about their faces to protect them from the wind and the choking dust.

There were none of your city refinements about these fellows. They hawked and spat continuously, sometimes over the side, sometimes at each other, and occasionally at Geoff or myself. Then for a while they diverted themselves with boot-throwing and selected one or other of their number as targets, hurling boots at him until he rose up in wrath and beat his tormentors about the ears with the offending boot. All this went on with much good-tempered yelling and rich abuse. Finally it was my turn to be ‘target’. I was suffering somewhat from dysentery at the time and not really in the mood for this sort of boisterous fun. So after enduring several ‘direct hits’, I lost patience and hurled two of these aggravating boots into the desert. Sudden uproar. Were these not valuable boots? Had they not been acquired at great expense? Why then had this miserable one with the look of a sickly goat acted so offensively? A swarthy, brooding fellow on the roof of the cab started angrily toward me, and with a sinking feeling I remembered the policeman on the bus threatening murder for the loss of his cap.

Geoff, however, rose to his feet with a benign expression and, putting his outstretched palm gently against the chest of the advancing tribesman, rapped imperiously with the other on the roof of the cab. The driver pulled up and Geoff, bestowing a peaceful greeting on us all, climbed serenely down, retrieved the two boots from the desert and returned them to their owner. Then returning to his place, he joined his hands together in front of his face and bowed slightly, making the Indian ‘namaste’ greeting, and squatted down again without having spoken a word. Somewhat nonplussed by this, our companions clearly regarded his action as having some religious significance. Perhaps he was some kind of wandering holy man. In any case, henceforth we were treated with considerable deference.

We came to the city of Farah and pulled in at the bus-serai. There was time for bread and tea, and a compulsory interview with another resplendent police ‘general’, who made copious notes from our passports. Then away again, rolling across the arid plains. So the day passed. We rode along in a sort of torpor, not caring a damn about time. One hundred and sixty-five miles in twenty-four hours is fine going, you concede, when all the stops that have to be made are considered. After all, a man has to visit his relatives, chat to the camel-drivers, take chai, peer at the engine or squat in the dust to discuss the nature of things. These are the important matters of life, and if in the course of events, you happen to pass from Kandahar to Herat, then surely Allah has smiled on your affairs.

The sun set slowly, etching the mountains black against the rising stars, and the cold became more intense. Soon we fell asleep with the monotonous lurching and swaying of the truck as it continued along the rutted road.

We entered Herat in the morning in time to witness a parade of ‘generals’ - whole companies of policemen marching by, rank upon rank. Some were tailored Nazi-style, some Italian, but all wore high, peaked caps, jodhpurs and jackboots. Later we were brought to the police headquarters for the customary passport scrutiny and, taking the opportunity, brewed up some porridge in an unoccupied room. We were about to devour this when the door opened and in filed a line of ‘generals’, splendidly dressed in uniforms that almost bore a tailored appearance, so neatly did they fit. Their jackboots gleamed and the turquoise hatbands of their peaked caps were spotless.

"Come in! Take a seat!" said Geoff through a mouthful of porridge, inviting them in with an expansive wave of the hand. "Make yourselves at home." And we went on with our meal as though it were perfectly normal for us to have six Afghan ‘generals’ standing by at breakfast. Their names were Ahmed, Hussein, Abdul, and the like, nicely introduced to us by an English-speaking official specially summoned for the purpose, and they sat politely on a row of chairs watching expectantly. They seemed disappointed and a little confused when shortly we packed up our belongings, shook each of them by the hand and left. Later we discovered that they thought we were their new English teachers.

The Persian border was a mere seventy miles away, so we made inquiries about taking the bus. Estimates of the time of its departure ranged from eleven a.m. to four p.m., and the reckoning of the fare varied by as wide a margin. As a result we saw little of Herat, our last Afghan city, but the impression remains of wide, slow-moving streets, mud buildings glowing like pale gold in the warm sunshine against the deep blue sky; rich green parks bordered with great pine trees, and the ancient mosque, an apparently haphazard collection of domes and minarets, whose proportions and colours nevertheless deeply satisfied the eye.

Before we departed, our driver went across to buy some daffodils. Around the corner he bought meat, and further up the road he stopped for petrol. Finally we were away. The daffodils were given to a rough-clad soldier who, tiring of trying to fix his bayonet inside the bus, sat, daffodils in hand, sniffing blissfully. Some miles from the border town of Islam Q’ala, there was a nomad encampment of low-slung black, goat-hair tents, with a few camels tethered nearby. Several huge Afghan hounds ran out at us, baying. Fierce, deep-chested beasts, they loped alongside for a while, snarling and snapping.

Then we were at the border town and further passport inspections. Our visas expired that day, so we could scarcely have timed our departure better. There was vague, uncertain talk of a bus that would come from Iran that night, or the next day, or maybe the next night, and which would return as far as the Iranian city of Meshed. Meshed suited us well, but we were scarcely prepared to wait hours - or perhaps days - until the bus should arrive. We would walk.

Off we set determinedly to march across the desert into Iran. Night had fallen by the time we reached the stone column marking the Afghan border, so we unrolled our sleeping-bags and stretched out under a wide, deep sky alive with stars of incredible brilliance. We heard the sound of an approaching horse. A grey-clad soldier appeared out of the darkness, waving a bayonet. He dismounted and squatted with us while he smoked a cigarette, then rode off again into the night. He had been sent to find out whether we were still in Afghan territory.

Several hours’ trudging across the featureless plain in the morning toward a mirage of buildings brought us to a single, but undeniably real, building - the Iranian Quarantine Station - where we were greeted warmly and shown true Persian hospitality by the occupants. They plied us with tea and rye bread until a bus arrived to take us to Yusofabad, some miles further on, where later we were able to take another bus through to Meshed. The country was flat and largely barren, with a snow-capped range of mountains rising sharply from the plain. The road was rough and the ride bumpy, but we rolled along at a fine rate and pulled into Meshed early in the afternoon.

Geoff was anxious to press on to Teheran with all speed, since his money would be waiting there and he was fed up with being financially dependent on me. Accordingly, we took the night train to the capital and settled comfortably into a third-class compartment with three others. After the trains of India this was unparalleled luxury; seats for all, no crowding, and a man who regularly served us with tea. When it came time to sleep, Geoff climbed into the luggage rack, I slid under a seat, one man occupied the floor, and the others had a seat apiece.

In the morning we were visited by the ticket-collector. This man clearly enjoys a highly respected and much sought-after position in Iran, for a line of four or five dignitaries moved in solemn procession down the corridor, stopping for tickets at each compartment. They stopped at ours. A squat, short-necked man detached himself from the line and bowed, while his associates stood by respectfully. He put out his hands requesting our tickets and accepted them reverently in the manner of a high priest receiving a sacrificial offering. Holding the ticket in both hands he swept it aloft as though offering it to God, appraised it critically, clipped it back and front in a blur of speed, and returned it with a magnificent flourish and a polite bow. His duty thus satisfactorily discharged, the little man resumed his position at the head of the line and the whole assemblage bowed, smiled and moved on.

Teheran has none of the charm of the Afghan cities, being more like a provincial European town than anything else. Moving into the poorer quarter, we bought bread and made our way to a nearby tea-house. Dim and smoky, lit by a kerosene lamp which threw large and ominous shadows across the darkly stained walls and arches, this seemed more in keeping with the Persia of old, and its occupants were friendly and affable. We had learned an engaging Persian custom whereby strangers, with an expressive gesture, offer to share their food with one another before commencing to eat. These invitations are always returned, so it is nearly impossible to eat without being on the very best of terms with all and sundry. We offered our bread in this fashion and were accepted at once by the patrons of the tea-house. Geoff, who had never ceased to fill his diaries as we travelled, settled down at a table to write and described the place this way:

" it’s 7.30 p.m. and I’m sitting in a chai-house in Teheran, a dingy little place opening into a lane in the old part of town. The domed roof is stained with smoke, and brickwork shows through the fallen plaster. About twenty of the shiftiest-looking, unshaven hoboes this side of Sing Sing sit around on boxes, benches and rickety chairs. One bloke has his foot wrapped in a bag. In a secluded corner a man breaks loaf-sugar into small lumps with a hammer. He works ceaselessly, regardless of anyone else. Then there are the others. The proprietor dispenses tea dressed in a black beret and mustard-yellow roll-neck sweater. He could be in Marseilles. Then the bloke opposite me, a bleary, bloodshot type sucking a hashish-loaded hubble-bubble. ‘Gurgle, gurgle, gurgle,’ he says. Or the character in the woolly-lined jacket conversing with Jules in French. He says his mother was a Turk and that he spent eleven years decorating a shrine in Constantinople with gold inlay. Oh hell, I can’t describe this place - I’ve eaten too much bread - half a kilo - ugh! There’s patchy linoleum on the table, its pattern long sunk in grime, and I’ve got a white china plate with a pink flower design and a large hunk out of the rim. Shah Mohammed Reza is here too - a glossy print of him in evening dress peers down from an archway. The walls are covered with pictures from magazines; girls and wrestlers, rallies and the Yeomen of the Guard; an ad for Zeiss Ikon, another for Agfa. Cripes, there’s even pictures of Siamese twins and cowboys.

"This bloke opposite me is way out. He grins toothlessly, foolishly, the whistles at an imaginary cat under the chair. A hunchback sucks his tea from a saucer and wanders off into the night. The Turk talking turkey to Jules reckons we can doss in some place called the Club Internationale. Gaffers gape at their fluency in such a strange lingo. The place is thick with smoke - smoke like you never smelt - sort of Middle Eastern aromatic. It’ crikey, there is a cat under there, a white one. Persian, it would have to be - no, it’s gone, and the man in the corner chips away conscientiously at his loaf sugar."

The Turk informed us that all Iranians were ‘robbers and animals.’ It was a story we had heard many times before. In India we had been told that Pakistanis were thieves and would cut our throats, and the Pakistanis had told us that Afghans were murderers and not to be trusted. No doubt in due course the Turks would tell us about the cutthroats in Greece, and the Greeks about the appalling Yugoslavs. There seemed to be no way to convince these people that their neighbours were much like themselves and that we had found them all, in their different ways, good and decent people. The antagonisms are old and deep-seated and no doubt spring from ancient injustices, fancied and real. There does not seem to be much hope for peace in the world in the face of such foolishness, and perhaps only in the opportunities for increased travel and intermingling does much hope lie for the future.

We left the tea-house and set off for a large park to bed down for the night. Alas, we attracted a considerable crowd, all of whom were anxious to explain that sleeping in the park was forbidden, so we followed a man who promised to take us to a place where we could sleep undisturbed. He led us to the American Mission Church. A little embarrassed, we explained to the Mission Director how we came to be there, and he kindly allowed us to camp in the open compound. It seemed churlish not to attend the service in the morning, and we were much impressed to hear the sermon urging us to ‘shoulder our burdens and march along the rocky road to salvation.’

Shouldering our burdens we marched toward the Bank Melli-Iran, the national bank, where Geoff’s money and our mail was awaiting us. This bank, we discovered, was a stronghold of beaurocracy flourishing in hushed tones behind an impressive marble facade. We waited some hours for the man in charge of such affairs to appear, before learning that he was on leave and that since he had the key to the cupboard in which such mail was kept, nothing could be done. When would he return? Who could tell. We returned later in the day. The man was still away. Could someone else not open the cupboard and give us our mail? Impossible. Geoff picked up a large pair of scissors and advanced on the cupboard with the purposeful gleam of the wrecker in his eye. "Tut tut! Quel horreur!" squeaked the dapper clerks waving their hands in the air in a flutter of consternation. The manager was fetched, and with the utmost reluctance had the little cupboard broken into. This produced some money in sterling travellers’ cheques for Geoff and a letter from his Melbourne bank advising him that a draft of American dollars had also been sent. All this took the bank’s entire working day, so we retired to refresh ourselves before making another assault the following morning.

More shuffling about from one department to another in search of the missing draft, but without success. Finally we advanced upon the manager in his executive sanctuary. He made a number of phone calls and after an hour tracked down the amount in the ledgers of one of the bank’s branches. "That’s the trouble with these Australian banks," he said. "We have had trouble with them before. They think the Bank Melli-Iran is only some little bank around the corner and they just address mail to ‘Bank Melli-Iran, Central Office, Tehran! They don’t realise what a huge organisation this is. There are seven hundred people working here, and the postman gets so confused he could have left it on any one of seven hundred desks!" Finally, however, the money was produced and we retired, flushed with success.

Geoff’s passport was completely filled, so he had arranged to pick up a new one at the British Embassy. Here everything was very orderly in a clam and unruffled atmosphere, and while we waited we observed a brown tweeded gentleman, scarf round his neck and pipe in hand, looking very much at home as he took his constitutional in the grounds with a spaniel.

Such formalities completed, we struck out on the road to the Turkish border, having first secured an exit permit from the Security Police, an organisation so secret as to be almost impossible to locate. We progressed steadily with a series of lifts as far as the town of Khoi, where we came to a standstill, in the absence of traffic. It was a dreary town, high up in the stony unproductive country where icy winds cut into us from the snow on the mountainsides nearby. We slept in a haystack outside the town and were finally driven by the cold to catch a bus to the Turkish border at Bazargan. The buildings were set in the form of a square, forming a large courtyard, half of which was in Iran and half in Turkey. It was bitterly cold and snow lay all about. Through the gate on the Turkish side stood the beautiful snow-peaked shape of Mount Ararat, a few miles away to the north.

We commenced our stay in Turkey with Geoff hammering loudly on the glass door at the Turkish side of the Customs Inspection Room. Having taken our leave of Iran we were confronted with a locked door to Turkey and no sign of life. Continued hammering eventually produced a group of officials who materialised on the other side of the glass door only to point at us and laugh with great guffaws. The more Geoff danced about and hammered on the door the more uproariously they laughed, and only when they had extracted the maximum fun from the situation did they relent sufficiently to admit us. Once inside they set about the business of stamping our documents readily enough, and we set out to leave for the town of Erzerum. Stepping outside we found an unbroken blanket of snow stretching away along the road, and an icy wind. No vehicle had passed that way in the last few hours and none was expected. It was over twenty miles to the next town, so we sent back inside to where our border police were sitting about idly. Slipping into the unoccupied passport desk, Geoff donned a peaked cap lying there and demanded the papers of the official nearest him.

"Passport!" he cried peremptorily. "Passport!"

This fellow nearly wet himself with delight and produced his identity card, which Geoff stamped with a flourish, having peered carefully at all the entries. This pantomime was hugely enjoyed by the others, and they all lined up to have their cards stamped, chortling happily at such a lark. A fine joke like this could not be allowed to die, so I was required to take Geoff’s place and run through the whole performance once more. Just the a startled young German arrived to have his papers processed and, amidst hoots of laughter, he in turn was installed behind the desk to continue the entertainment. Clearly life must be dull in such a place for diversions like this to produce such merriment, and Geoff realised, of course, that if he could amuse these fellows sufficiently with his antics they would not be likely to kick us out into the snow. So he hammed up the ‘dying scene’ from some hoary old Western film that had taken his fancy. Clutching his chest, his face twisted agonisingly, he reeled about the room, stumbling and staggering until at length he fell and sprawled motionless on the floor. The Turkish constabulary roared its appreciation. Bravo! Great stuff! Encore! One of them pulled out his pistol and pointed it at Geoff. ‘Bang! Bang!" he went, happy as a two-year-old. Geoff reeled about again, enacting another lengthy and agonising death. In the middle of these capers a side door opened and the Commandant of the border post strode into the room, a stern-eyed, humourless individual who quickly dispelled the frivolous atmosphere, dressing down his officers angrily and restoring the correct air of solemnity. Demanding to see our passports, he inspected Geoff and myself, his lip curling at such degenerates. Then with a complete change in his demeanour, he turned to the young German with an affable smile and invited him to dine with him in his quarters. Somewhat subdued, the Turkish officials took us into a room warmed by a small peat-burning furnace and indicated that we could sleep there if we wished. Later, the German returned and explained the Commandant’s curious behaviour by saying that many Turks have an affection for Germans, but hate the British. Apparently Anzacs are not forgotten either.

There was much activity in the morning when two Iranian tourist buses appeared in the courtyard, headed for Turkey. They were filled largely with young Iranian students off to study in Europe, and among them was a tall, pink-cheeked Englishman in a green tweed hat, who singled us out for a chat. He too was a traveller, albeit a good deal more affluent and elegant than ourselves, and talk was of life and encounters on the road. Kashmir came up.

"You know they have a splendid sense of humour up there," he said.

"You mean like the British?" asked Geoff.

"Well, yes," he said. "For example, I went into a little shop to buy some straps for my case. Actually I felt as if I were back in England and should have recognised people. Anyway, the man showed me leather ones. ‘Oh, no,’ I said. ‘What I want is webbing straps.’ ‘Webbing straps?’ said the shopkeeper. ‘But we only sell those to vegetarians.’"

We persuaded one of the drivers to take us in his bus. There was plenty of room, it was heated and the students were a lively, humorous bunch.

The police were on hand to greet us in Erzerum, and since it was a military zone, all our passports were taken away to be examined. A grim town, grey and cold in a featureless landscape, it was strewn with piles of brown snow and slush in every street. The inhabitants were equally depressing, having a hopeless, beaten look about them. The men walked about hunched against the cold, dressed in drab patched suits and wide cloth caps which rather gave them the appearance of Russian workers at the time of the revolution.

We had arrived at the OTEL TEHRAN PALAS where our companions were to stay. The proprietor was so enraptured at having a house full of paying guests that he made no objection when Geoff and I unrolled our sleeping-bags in the foyer beside a little oil burner.

Morning came, and we determined to press on with all speed to Istanbul, Greece and the warmth of the Mediterranean. There was nothing to hold us in these cold, inhospitable regions, so we would take the first train to Ankara and hitch down to Istanbul. But first it was necessary to retrieve our passports from the police. Where had they taken them? We marched around the streets until we came to a police station. They knew nothing. Patiently, in a mixture of English, French and German, we explained how our passports had been taken the previous evening. Not a flicker of concern. Geoff reasoned that a direct approach would stimulate some interest, so he picked up an important-looking tray of papers from the desk and made off into the snow, assuring the police captain that they would be returned when our passports were produced. It was a moment or two before the stunned men were able to move, by which time Geoff had disappeared around the nearest corner. The captain let out a howl of anguish. His valuable, important papers. Stolen from under his nose. How ever could he explain such a thing. Anxiously he clutched at me, while two stalwarts belatedly stumbled out after Geoff. He would personally guarantee that our passports would be located without delay if only his precious papers were not lost or destroyed. I must assure him that Geoff would not lose them or harm them. Geoff soon reappeared with the papers and the two policemen, one of whom was then detailed to take us to Police Headquarters where, after much confusion, we were able to retrieve our passports. However, we were not yet free to go. An officer kept repeating, "Militaire! Militaire!" and eventually an army jeep appeared, we were bundled in and driven off through the snow. Ten miles out of town, in the midst of a howling blizzard, the soldiers motioned for us to get out. We refused. They threatened. We sat tight. Finally when we would not move, they threw up their hands in despair and took us back into the town, not quite knowing what else to do. First we were taken to the Army barracks then back to Police Headquarters, where we told anyone who would listen that all we wanted was to catch the train to Ankara.

"But you have no money," stated the police chief, disbelieving. We produced our money. "Ah.....Yes....I see.....There has been some misunderstanding," he murmured, signalling a policeman to summon a jeep for us. "Please excuse these young officers. They are sometimes a little....ah....enthusiastic. But it is a pleasure for me to meet two such cultivated gentlemen." He oiled us out into the jeep, and we were driven to the Station where, in the steam-heated warmth of the waiting-room, we brewed endless cups of tea for ourselves and our bus companions of the previous day, before taking the Ankara train late that night.

We shared a compartment with the tweeded Englishman, the young German from the Turkish border, an Indian called Garth from Singapore, a Persian legal gentleman en route to Paris to deliver a lecture on Criminology, and a confused young American whom we dubbed ‘Bewildered Frank.’ Frank related the story of how he had taken the train to Erzerum from Istanbul and had been on his way out to India. His money had been in the back pocket of his jeans, and since the train was very crowded he had crawled out through the window to but a cup of tea, only to find his pocket torn and his money gone. We thought at first his rather confused and lost appearance was a result of the loss of his money, but it became apparent that he was like that all the time. In fact, he did not really want to have to go to India at all but considered it something of a duty, and was rather pleased now to be able to go back to his girlfriend in Copenhagen with a clear conscience.

From Ankara we struck out on the main central road to Istanbul, leaving the snow for the first time since arriving in Turkey. On the outskirts of the city we came across a bunch of mustachioed Turks crouching in line beneath a notice which read RESTORAN JOKEY KLUPP. Geoff placed me in their midst and photographed the whole assembly. Much later he sent me this photograph under which he had written ‘Jokey Klupp Restoran Team. Ankara. Jules Virtue (coach).’

We soon picker up a lift with the driver of a red truck travelling fast. He was a genial fellow, and we were congratulating ourselves on our good fortune when, a few miles on, two soldiers with rifles barred our way. An officer came up in a jeep and spoke to the driver, who then turned to us.

"Kaput!" he said, making a chopping sign with his hands. "Finis!" He switched off his engine. Perhaps he had committed some offence and was under arrest. Whatever the reason, it was evident that he was going no further. We climbed down, thanked him and took our leave. The officer and the soldiers watched us pass without comment as we marched off along the road and made no attempt to stop us. The air was cool, but since the sun was shining and we had left the snow behind, we strode out at a good pace, exhilarated to be moving under our own steam again.

Suddenly we heard a loud explosion away to our left. We stopped and looked around, having come perhaps two miles since leaving the truck. There was a long whistling sound, followed by another explosion, much louder now, and a great shower of earth and stones sprayed up from the ground a few hundred yards away. Hurling ourselves into a ditch by the side of the road, we huddled there and shook. We were being shelled. That idiotic Army officer had let us walk into an artillery firing range.

Shell after shell whistled over our heads and exploded nearby. When our initial quaking fear subsided, we lay there cursing him, his soldiers and the whole Turkish Army. Why had the rotten bastard allowed us to walk into an artillery range? Why had he not stopped us in the same way as he had stopped the truck? Did he still remember the Anzacs too? For some twenty minutes the shelling continued, and we swore to exact our revenge on him. We were now quite certain he had diabolically contrived this evil scheme to murder us both.

Then it stopped. Sudden silence. Cautiously we raised our heads and looked about. Nothing. We had not been killed. No thanks to the Turkish Artillery; we felt they had tried. Carefully we climbed out of the ditch and set off running back along the road. Breasting the top of a low hill we were in time to meet the officer and his soldiers coming toward us in a jeep, leading a convoy of vehicles which had been held up behind the red truck. The soldiers gave a derisive wave, the truck gave a toot of the horn, and they all passed without a pause.

Geoff danced up and down and shook his fist. "Rotten bastards!" he cried. Oh well. Revenge would have to wait. We trudged on in silence. Then a Mercedes pulled up and we rode in style with a Turkish engineer across the plains and up into the snow-covered hills. He dropped us in a little mountain village where we bought bread and ate. The hills were forested here and the trees hung heavy with snow. It was as we imagined a European winter should be, and we felt thankful to be alive to see it.

Geoff and I had been together more than three months now, and although we still got along well together, there were times when we irritated each other and got on each others’ nerves. Sometimes we would quarrel endlessly over some triviality. It was not so much that we were fed up with each other as that we both needed to give vent to frustrations and irritations that were part of this business of travelling. We had met others travelling alone who had become quite morose and introspective, tending to mistrust everybody they met. We walked on together and began to argue over whether or not it was possible that the arid deserts of Central Australia could be irrigated; an inoffensive topic, one would imagine, but we became very heated about it.

"Look, Jules, it’s just not a possibility," said Geoff, who had travelled several times through the Centre.

"I don’t see why not," said I, who had never been there.

"You don't see it, because you just don't know anything about it," said Geoff. "You’re like a lot of other peanuts that just think with their backsides. Get some brainless idea in their nuts and they reckon they know it all!"

"Hang on now. What’s so brainless about that?"

"Well, any idiot can see that the cost involved in billions of tons of water from distilling plants on the coast into the centre is beyond any country in the world, not just Australia."

"Yeah. Well, it might be now, but what about in the future?"

"Gawd! Why does a man have to get stuck with an idiot?" He fixed me with a beady eye. "If you used your bloody brains you’d be able to see it for yourself."

"Wait a minute!" I cried. "There’s nothing wrong with my brains!"

"Look. The energy that you’d use up getting the water there would be a bloody sight more than the energy potential of any crop you could grow."

"What do you know about it?"

"A bloody sight more than you, that’s for sure."

We subsided, muttering, and trudged along for hours, occasionally reviving the argument and wrangling over it. Late in the afternoon we were picked up by another truck and sat rather sullenly while we were taken through to Istanbul. There was an unpleasant altercation when the driver demanded money from us, but it provided an excellent opportunity to take out our frustrations on a third person. We rounded on him vehemently and he retreated quickly, abashed at the angry outburst. Cheered by this little exchange, we made our way down to the waterside township of Haydarpasa, and from this last outpost of Asia the Bosphorus to the old Byzantine city, which was to be our first encounter with Europe.