So, after a full year of backpacking travel, it comes to an end


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December 8th 1974
Published: October 10th 2021
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It was a late rise the morning after the rush trip back from Africa but the sleep was really needed. Back at the flat at Hammersmith again, we had a really civilised breakfast of porridge, followed by bacon and eggs. I rang Ruth and made arrangements for Joan and I to drop up to Hatfield in the afternoon to catch up with them again before I flew home. We reached Hatfield by mid-afternoon and just relaxed and chatted with Peter and Ruth for most of the afternoon as it was getting pretty cold by then. We went up to check out their new house, which was set in a fabulous rural setting (even with cows outside the kitchen window!) but it looked very expensive. We returned to London by 8pm and picked up a frozen pizza and lasagne to eat back at the flat. It was a relaxing evening back at 5A Batoum Gardens with a couple of visitors.

The following day was another late rise and general bumming around the flat most of the day. I spent most of the day sorting out my clothing and the various souvenirs of my long travels. I decided to toss out my sleeping bag, air bed and shoes in order to get my bag weight down. Joan and I then spent a couple of hours at the laundromat washing almost every item of clothing from our travels. After a later afternoon nap, we went out to dinner at the local Italian restaurant (it was too cold to go further afield!) of lasagne, steak and escalope of veal with white wine. We returned to the flat just in time for the four boys to show us slides of their travels and their ‘zol’ (a South African word for a marijuana cigarette), the latter of which seemed to dominate their photos, their conversation and their every thought. Oh well, each to his own!

I awoke next morning to a call from Janie to advise that she had our plane tickets and that the flight had been changed and was now with Air India, with travel from London to Beirut to Bombay to Madras to Singapore to Perth to Sydney, on more or less the same time schedule. We had another big breakfast after which I packed all my bags and took them down to the local Post Office for a trial weigh-in. After that, I shot into Earls Court with Joan to confirm all my flight details with Sundowners. I got caught up there with the annual Oxford-Cambridge rugby match on TV (I was easily distracted!), which was a fabulous running game, won by the latter 16-15. We returned to the flat to listen to music then chat to the other girls as they returned from work. We had a great omelette for dinner before I phoned first Jenny, then Mum at home to advise each of my forward travel plans.

We were up early next morning and on our way to Hammersmith Hospital by 9am for Joan’s medical appointment. It was absolutely freezing cold – the sort of wind that blew straight through you and no amount of clothing seemed to protect you. We got away about an hour later and made it into the city to finish my banking business and transfer my account back home. Lunch killed an hour before we took in a 2pm session of ‘The Night Porter’, which was a great movie. It was too cold to do anything else after we came out, so we made it straight back to the flat, where I finished my packing. Dinner that evening was steak and eggs, with apple pie and cream for dessert – a fitting farewell dinner. Joan and I had a long talk after dinner about our relationship and where it was going, and mutually decided it wouldn’t finish there but we would let time sort out things.

(Editor’s Note: Unfortunately, since I had forecast to run out of money, I had booked my flight back home before I met Joan. Had I known that would happen, I would likely have stayed on in the UK instead and looked for work there. As it turns out, Joan soon after changed her future travel plans and flew back to Australia early in 1975 and we were married 6 months later.)

This day marked the end of almost a year’s travels! I was up at 6am and down to the tube at Hammersmith an hour later, with Joan and Dale for company. There was a long delay reaching Hounslow, but we finally made it to the airport by 8am on a cold and wet morning. We met up with Janie and her two friends (a bit 'posh' for us!) and booked in on the previous days Air India flight, ours having been delayed 5 hours. This was also delayed, so we all boozed in the bar till about 2pm. We finally boarded around 3pm after a tearful farewell with Joan and the purchase of duty free Scotch and perfume. A spare seat next to us gave us a bit of extra room for sleeping. It was a smooth flight with a brief glimpse of the Italian coast on the way. There was a film on later but with the sound distorted I stuck with the piped music.

We reached Beirut at 9pm local time after a 4.5-hour flight for a 1 hour stopover. The city looked great in the distance at night, but I guess that didn’t reflect the impact of the hostilities that had been going on there. The airport was full of pretty mean looking guards armed with rifles, and we were even frisked on departure. A new crew was brought on for our next leg, with our Indian hostie being something pretty special. Dinner was a very appealing turkey in white wine which preceded attempts to sleep for the rest of the trip. Another 4.5-hour trip, combined with a 3.5-hour time change, meant we arrived in Bombay at around 6.30am local time. We left the jumbo on a near perfect morning, with the sun rising in a red sky and the outside temperature initially around 80 degF, although it rose to 115 degF before we departed.

It was a long drawn out 4-hour stopover spent in the ever increasing heat of the Bombay transit lounge. Any attempts to catch up on sleep were unsuccessful, with the only interest being that I caught up again briefly with Julie and Linda who were also on their way home with British Airways. Our second aircraft was a much less impressive 707 – no music, less leg room and not so impressive meals. First, there was a 1-hour flight to Madras for a 1-hour stopover, then a 4-hour flight to Singapore. With the 2-hour time change, we reached there around 7pm local time. It was very warm right throughout this region and fortunately a very clear sky allowed us a good view of the Indian countryside as we flew over it as well as a magnificent view of Singapore harbour, with its thousands of ships at anchor in the bay, just before sunset. There was just over an hour’s transit in Singapore, and by that stage we didn’t even bother to get off the plane.

Yet another 4.5-hour flight to Perth got us there around 2am local time. We had a short stopover in Perth for quarantine and were fortunate that it was a clear night and around 60 degF. We left for Sydney just after 3am and were joined on the flight by 10 little Vietnamese babies, on their way to Sydney for adoption. There were really sweet, each of them in their own seat, firmly attached with seat belts right around them. We had a good view of sunset over South Australia as we passed over there. We arrived in Sydney right on time at 9.30am, after a further 2-hour time change, on a clear sunny day. There was a hassle with customs, which we needed like a hole in the head after that long flight (33 hours total duration with 5 'pit stops'), which meant it was 11am before I was finally out and on my way back home at long last.

(Editor’s Note: Today ends a period of 39 days of lockdown for residents of regional New South Wales (starting 4 September), due to the covid pandemic, during which time I have posted 39 blogs on my 1974 travels religiously at the rate of one blog per day. By sheer coincidence, this now actually completes my 1974 year of backpacking travels. I shall from time to time add some further blogs from my other travels (often associated with business trips and generally without the backpack!) between 1974 and when I started posting blogs with Travelblog after my retirement in 2007, but these will be very spasmodic.)

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11th October 2021

I has been a joy following your travels...
something we could only do in our youth!

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