Archive for category Patagonia Rally 2010

Atlas 2024

Wednesday Now in Rabat having crossed to Tangier this morning and planning an evening meander around the city whilst trying to find a working ATM, a local SIM card and supper. Uneventful day with a lot of motorway just to get the miles out of the way. A number of long standing rally friends on this trip. In theory 8 cars but one, having come all the way from the Hebrides has had to wait in Spain whist the navigator recovers from suspected pneumonia; we wish them a speedy recovery and hope we may see them later on.

We walked from Gibraltar airport across the border but were only permitted entry to Spain on production of our return air tickets – something the Chinese have required for a long time but not a requirement one would expect from European “neighbours”. Maybe its part of their “harass Gibraltar” policy? We shared Charlie’s taxi to the hotel where a very clean Elan awaited us, with smartly blacked tyres – and a boot full of water! Seemingly there had been a lot of weather on the way down; ferries to Spain had been diverted to France – and the rain had found its way into our boot. The hotel were not impressed when I emptied the boot out into the sunshine in the parking outside the front door – suggesting the underground parking instead!

Hotel car park

View from the hotel

Paul Kane already had his head under the bonnet of his AMX – saying his alternator was faulty despite being repaired – but he did have a spare. More work outside the front door! We later learned that Mark’s MGA also had a spare alternator – in Charlie’s truck and that Paul Merryweather was delayed by the need to change his alternator – definitely the “Alternator Rally” and we’ve not even left the first hotel.
Our only day in Spain took us to Fronterra de la Castello and then to Tarifa, passing stork nests on the electricity pylons en route.

Stork nests on pylons

Road sign

The crossing to Tangiers took 45 minutes – about the same time as it took the incoming ferry to offload its cargo of women in chadors each lugging multiple suitcases – there must be a story to this traffic but not sure yet what it is.
Tangier port has changed since our last visit and the patch of rough ground and odd shacks replaced by a paved area and a new terminal building. We had to buy local insurance and attempt to get some Dirhams for the toll road ahead. Then to lunch at the very smart Villa Josephine before the 200 odd km motorway slog to Rabat.
Our hotel was in the Sale district, just across the river from the Souk and Medina. “Blue boats” provided a rowed ferry service across the narrow strip of water – but the price was, shall we say, inconsistent and if you didn’t have the correct change then surprisingly neither did the ferryman!

On a Blue Boat

We were in Ramadan, a period of daytime fasting. This means that dusk is party time when families can eat and drink together and restaurant hours and their willingness to serve alcohol were variable. We found the Dhow restaurant (on a dhow) and were asked to wait for half an hour until the kitchen opened (and staff had eaten) but meanwhile we could have a beer – so that was ok! The restaurant was full of tourists and “Tagine of the day” turned out to be chicken and chips. Back to our hotel via the blue boats (now having the correct change!) and we saw groups of families on the beach happily eating whilst on the other bank, children were in the bright dodgems with multi-coloured flashing lights.


We had been warned about traffic police in Rabat and the first to be fined was Charlie, the mechanic, for turning left across 4 lanes of traffic on leaving a petrol station instead of going up to the roundabout and back again. Next day the Bentley did the same and that cost Dh 400 (about £35).
The organiser felt that motorway was not in the spirit of a rally so from the civilisation of the capital city we soon found ourselves driving on rutted tracks where compact mud battered the sumpguard – and the MG had his exhaust pulled off. Then back to motorway for a run down towards Safi and our overnight stop in an isolated guest house on the Atlantic shore and the sounds of waves and wind. No alcohol, no Wifi and plenty of sea mist so not even a sunset. The Bentley crew rolled up very late but without their car which had been left 30km away near some workshops with a hole in the radiator. They had a very imposing radiator protective grille but the damage was on the engine side and seems it was caused by a build up of pressure inside the system. Repairs continue.

Saturday, Allison wanted to visit the Ceramics Museum in Safi

so we deviated from the route before rejoining for lunch and a visit to the fishing port/tourist trap of Essouria and then the hotel a couple of km away.

Essouria Port

Sunday and our last day on the coast. Our route was inland through trees and scrubs with plenty of grazing sheep and goats. Then to a hippy surfing village which is threatened with demolition for coffee followed by a run down the coast road to a very large lunch at a restaurant we had visited on the last trip in 2018. After lunch the plan was to continue inland along an attractive valley with hairpins and views before returning to the coast at Taghazout. It didn’t quite work out like that as we had to stop when the throttle return spring came off its retaining plate – and a revving engine is not what is wanted for downhill engine braking! Charlie, the sweep, happened to be right behind us just after we stopped so a cable tie was employed to hold the spring in place.

Road side repair

The car had been spluttering and smelling of petrol – can’t do much about the spluttering as it probably wants smaller main jets but the smell was down to loose carburettor banjo bolts so fuel was leaking out. Once repaired we couldn’t carry on as the road ahead was blocked by a landslide – so about turn! In the hotel car park we were pleased to see the Bentley arrive with a repaired – and flushed out radiator, which had become blocked with accumulated sludge but now ok.

Monday 8th After being pursued round the hotel by one of the waiters last night we expected problems when it came to check out and that bill – but no, there was “nothing to pay”. Today would be a day of contrasts, leaving our modern chain hotel, we quickly encountered heavy traffic and road works round Agadir. Our day would end in an old, family run hotel with wifi that stopped at reception and located pretty much in the middle of no-where. It was overcast in the morning so many of the views were lost in the haze. On our last visit to Morocco we had come across a convoy of Italian camper vans, travelling nose to nail – and today we found them again.

A string of Campervans

They really didn’t want to vacate the middle of the road so Allison and other navigators gave them a piece of her mind as we tried to exercise our right to be on the tarmac.

Kasbah doorway

En route we found Kasbah Tizorgane on a hillock, 800 years old and now a restaurant where we admired the rebuilt stonework and had some very sweet freshly stewed mint tea. Looking down there was scarcely a tree to be seen – just arid sand. Nearing the end we visited Oumsnat a tiny old village just off our route where modern houses jostled with the tumbledown ruins of older generations, all colour matching the steep brown hillside behind. A Maison Traditionelle with its local Berber guide occupied us for a while whilst he explained the layout and customs of the house, its animals and its occupants. Our hotel was along a single track road with raised manholes, camouflaged by drifting sand. The draw here was the Painted Boulders, where a local Frenchman had used 18 tonnes of paint on a group of boulders in memory of his wife.

Painted Boulders

Plans for drinks and nibbles sitting in admiration were shortened by the lack of sun (hazy) and the chill wind – so we had to return in the morning.

Tuesday 9th we regrouped round the boulders in bright sunshine – and were soon on our way. The sunshine faded during the day and by late afternoon the sky was the same brown hue as the land around. This was a good driving day on empty good quality roads with just the occasional sharp dip or bump to remind us to take care. Quite why there are so many excellent roads with no traffic – I cannot say but not complaining! Our route passed through the Ait Mansour gorge, a narrow road overhung with lush greenery; difficult driving as the sun and shade came in rapid succession.

Ait Mansour

Our objective was the Grand Canyon near the end-of-the-road village of Aoukerda.

Grand Canyon

Fuel was a concern – in general as there were few petrol stations in the area and we were concerned about early closing – but we were ok and fuel was available just a few miles beyond the hotel – always fill up the night before! Jobs today were tweaking the horn cables and tightening up the hand brake in addition to checking the oil.

Wednesday, a driving day. We started with the wind which had blown all night, sand drifted across the road and with open windows we were blasted as we clutched the steering wheel and then corrected when we went between rocks on each side and the side wind was cancelled. After a while the wind abated and the sun took over – 38C Adrian, our organiser arranged a midday coffee stop amongst palm trees and a trickling brook, then back to the road and a fast run on good, empty roads to the hotel.

Morning wind and sand

Midday sun and hot

This evening is the end of Ramadan, today we drove through largely silent towns, shops closed and a few pedestrians walking about – and groups of children trying to touch the cars as they drove by.
Thursday we were re-routed away from a gentle drive and placid motorway back to the Tizi ‘n Test – probably the country’s most (in)famous pass. Last time we were here the southern approach was gravel track; this time it was all tarmac and with a number of temporary accommodation units and tented camps where survivors of last September’s earthquakes were housed. Then the road deteriorated as we passed sections seemingly destroyed more by landslide than earthquake. Plenty of the roadside villages still bore the scars of the ‘quake with debris, collapsed buildings, tents and emergency services. The road was slow and hot and once past that we encountered queues of traffic at police check points. Fortunately these were on the out-of-Marrakesh side of the road but we were still delayed by the resulting congestion. (the in-car camera also malfunctioned – so no photos). Allison then saw a carpet vendor and, deciding that a local purchase was preferable to haggling in Marrakesh decided to buy 2 carpets as a packing challenge. Foolishly we decide to eat in the hotel rather than take a taxi to the centre of town – the hotel is in the middle of no-where. That was expensive with beer at £12 per bottle, service slow and meal expensive – we’ll take a taxi tomorrow come what may! The car seems ok, some play in a wheel bearing and the sump-guard doing its job; very fuel-sensitive to road conditions with great mpg on long runs but much less on the many ascents our organiser so likes. But oil and water doing well and engine temperatures well in control despite the hard work. Thanks Scholar Engines!
Friday a rest day and very hot. Decided against Marrakesh in the morning and will try to do an afternoon and evening visit.


Visited Cactus Thieman in the morning – founded by a German water engineer and now hosting many varieties of cactus – different coloured flowers but mostly prickly! Also a much easier route to the hotel than yesterday’s which wrongly tried to send us via the Royal Palace before men with guns persuaded us to try a different approach. A lazy midday in the cool of our hotel before venturing out to Marrakesh in the afternoon for some sightseeing and evening meal at a Riad, hidden away off a small street in a unvisited part of town – and where beer was halfthe price of our posh hotel!

high ceilings, marble floors, A/C

Jemaa el Fna

Hidden splendour

Saturday 13th The first day when fuel availability became a possible issue as we left Marrakesh for Skoura on little used roads.

Lonely Road

Lunch was in an unlikely little cafe virtually un-signposted and traditional Moroccan with multiple salads and tajine. Sadly the local children decided that the parked cars were toys and climbed all over them as well as pulling off some of our flags.

Mountain stream at lunch stop

Goat in tree

It had been suggested that we visit a small Berber village en route to the hotel but after a couple of kms we decided to turn round. One Mercedes did make the trip but on the way back down his clutch slave cylinder failed – not a real problem there as first gear was quite adequate for the track.

Berber village landscape

Track to Berber village

Once on the main road he was towed in by the sweep. He didn’t carry a spare (we have two as we know their propensity to fail!). At the hotel, a phone call and 10 minutes later someone arrived with two versions! That wouldn’t happen to a Lotus.
Sunday 14th we started off using the dreaded Ipad to follow a route through the Palmiers but that didn’t work out too well as we ended up following a motor bike and missed the Kasbah we were aiming for.


We found working ATM’s in Quazerzate and from then to the Tizgui waterfalls where the only source of water seemed to be a hosepipe. After a coffee we met a father & daughter in the car part who were admiring the flags on the bonnet and specifically Kyrgyzstan as she had spent 6 months in Karakol teaching English. Our route was along the east side of the Draa valley along the old road (the only string of tarmac). What should have been lush green palm trees looked brown and dried up.

Not so lush and green

A sighting of an old Kasbah at the roadside turned into a longer visit than we had expected. We left the road on a track up to a group of houses and parked. Women were peering at us from one window whilst a group of men at a door invited us inside. We declined food but accepted tea and were ushered to the visitors reception room, an area separated from a large room, carpeted, with a couple of low tables and cushions along the wall. The room had been finished though to Western eyes, the bare concrete walls and floors of the remainder might suggest otherwise. Our conversation, in French, was limited as only one of our hosts spoke French – it turned out that he too was a visitor and had to catch the overnight bus back home to Rabat. We were given a tour of the downstairs, including the family sitting room – similar to the visitors reception room but smaller and that was where the women of the house were gathered. We visited the Kasbah

Restoration not yet in sight

– 200 years old and occupied by the French army until 1938, now a cow shed but about to be restored – possibly by the local council, although that part of the translation was a bit unclear!
Monday 15th – a rest day – but a small party set out south to M’Hamd to see how far we could get across the dunes – not very!

Inflating the airjack

Only two of our cars, a Mercedes and the organiser’s hire car got as far as the “Big Dune” but had to be towed out a couple of times before even getting that far.

Under tow and being pushed

Back at the hotel we raised the rear ride height and tightened a front wheel bearing as tomorrow is a long day with a lot of broken tarmac. I had tested the air jack before leaving but the weight of the Mercedes was obviously too much for it and it exploded – right next to me as I was holding the pipe onto the exhaust and I was covered in sand and dust. My eyes recovered in a while thanks to Keiron’s quick thinking and provision of water and eye bath. The camera in my pocket was not so lucky and is now jammed – hence a shortage of photos.

Cathedral Rock

Back on the road and now headed north towards the ferry – by the scenic route. An 8 hour day and an unexpectedly bad/steep track did give some trouble. The steep part was after a hairpin so no chance of a run at it and the car laboured up, hampered by the rich fuel mix and the 3,000 metre altitude. The organisers car also struggled and needed a couple of attempts to get up; as we were right behind him and the air horn was clogged with dust I was worried that he might bump into us; but he assured me that driving into client’s cars was not part of his business proposition. Lunch was up and down a long dirt track and across a stream, the latter following two pack donkeys carrying the load for a trekking party

Two donkeys and a stream

Saturday 20th and a short distance from Chefchauen to Tangier. Overnight had been in the same Auberge we had used in 2018 and Allison again had a log fire in our room. The weather changed and today started dull and got worse. Our route at up to around 1300 metres was in pea soup and we travelled very slowly on narrow roads of poor quality with no visibility. The situation was not helped by an erratic fuel gauge which varied between empty and 3/4. Somewhere over half should have been correct as we had last fuelled 120 miles away yesterday and had emptied our 10 litre can into the tank expecting to get to Sunday’s Transporter collection point with about 1/4 tank – hopefully that maths still holds good! In Tangiers it was on/off rain – more on than off as we took the Corniche walking route from our hotel to the Kasbah. Coming back it was unrelenting so we found a taxi and returned like drowned rats. After adjusting the handbrake so it works on tomorrow’s ferry to Spain it was off for the farewell dinner (taxis both ways!).

No Comments

Sri Lanka 2023

We start at Waikkal and go clockwise round the island. Allison’s father served with the RAF at Batticaloa during WW2 and she has been in touch with a very friendly tourist office there and exchanged emails and photos – a deviation from the route so we’ll see if we can trace any connections there.
Now Wednesday 18th and everything looks good! We spent the first night on the west coast then a night inland near Anuradhapura, a one time capital and now north of Trincomalee on the east coast. The first thing to report is that from what we’ve seen so far there are no shortages, no demonstrations and fuel is available but rationed. The concerns we picked up from TV reports and FCO advice are allayed. Its difficult to tell if there are fewer cars on the road than normal but there are certainly very few tourists. We have been to many sites with large car parks, lots of vendors but few visitors. At our hotels, our 11 cars and support team make up the majority of the guests.
Our departure from Waikkal required a good luck dance routine and the presence of a senior official from the Ministry of Tourism

Dance troupe

Allison was determined to start her sight-seeing asap so we had no sooner arrived at our hotel early afternoon when she wanted to be off. It was actually quite a challenge to navigate a journey on our own when we started in the middle of nowhere, had conflicting directions and couldn’t read most local road signs so it was an achievement to get to one of the outlying temples in Anuradhapura – and back to the hotel and with a full tank of fuel!

a deserted Isurumuniya temple, one of the most venerable temples

Wednesday we followed the group route up till lunch,

Paddy fields at the hotel

the feature was a tour of the main ruins at Anuradhapura (the island’s capital up to the 10th century), starting with the Jethawanaramaya Stupa – said to be the larges stupa in the world, solid and made from 93 million bricks. Originally plastered using crushed sea shells but now suffering from an incursion of scaffolding – and no plaster, or tourists!

Twin bathing ponds for the 500 monks at the complex

The Guardstone

After lunch we headed for the next day’s tour of Trincomalee as we had other plans for that day. We started at the Naval museum where Allison was hoping she might find something about the RAF but not to be; then to Fort Frederick

Temple at Fort Frederick

We particularly liked the accurate timing of the discovery of this sculpture (3pm).

Nanthi Thevar

At 3pm

There were plenty of vendors at Fort Frederick – just a lack of tourists We started early on Thursday so as to get through Trincomalee and on to Batticaloa, avoiding the majority of the day’s rally route. There we met Sandrine who runs a tour company and who recognised the one photo out of her father’s collection of 20 or so which Allison had happened to email to her. It was of the old Mosque but the fountain in the foreground, the railings and the tree (now cut back) were unchanged. It turned out that the Mosque did not have a photo of the previous building so the photo was of interest and would also show the location of the old building.

Batticaloa with the new Mosque behind from the same angle as the 1942 original

The Imam and Mosque Trustee viewing the car

Then a blast to catch up with the Rally which was now 100 km or so in front of us. The roads were good and traffic much lighter than in the morning and we had time for a very quick tour of the ruins at Polonnaruwa (after much navigational challenge as there are no street signs in English).

Polonnaruwa Council Chamber

Polonnaruwa Sacred Devalaya

Polonnaruwa Shiva Devalaya

Polonnaruwa Stupa Rankoth Vehera

and …..the Lotus pond

Friday, a rest day, required an early start to get up the Sigiriya Rock – visible from the hotel when the haze clears but a tuk-tuk ride away. The summit contained a Palace complex from 490AD built by a king who was in constant fear after killing his father before his brother killed him some 20 years later. The rock is 300m high and modern stairs make access much easier than all those years ago!

Sigiriya Rock

From above (in the road book)

At the summit – bathing pond

In the afternoon we went to Dambula Caves – though actually it is an enclosed rock overhang and not a cave. The Tuk-tuk ride to get there was interesting because of (wild) elephants on the road. This was significant because the day before, one of the Bentleys had stpped near an elephant to take photos. Then a tuk-tuk started up, the elephant charged the tuk-tuk, whose driver jumped onto the Bentley’s running board as they pulled away asking to be saved. The elephant trashed the tuk-tuk. So both we and our drivers were at bit concerned at having to drive past two elephants. The elephants were more interesting than the caves.

Elephant at roadside

Dambula Caves showing the rock overhang

On our way back, one elephant was still there and seemingly trapped, unwilling to fully cross the road but with a fence behind him.

Inside one cave

Elephant in the road at dusk

Saturday turned out to be wet and cloudy – and damaging. Our route took us to Kandy and a climb our the hills and into the cloud – sadly the organiser’s offering of a “drive on one of the most scenic drives” did not materialise. The police had been evident at various junctions but sadly mis-directed us way off route so from being the lead car we were last at the coffee stop. After coffee we ascended, only to 1300metres but on a rough lumpy road and the suspension got hammered and passing busses on the narrow wet road was fraught. Others got more lost on the way to lunch so we got there “mid-pack”. More tuk-tuks took us to the Temple of the Sacred Tooth relic. Apparently, a monk pulled just one tooth from the Buddha’s mouth as he burned on his funeral pyre and first Indian then Ceylonese Kings, then the British Raj and now Sri Lanka had the duty to safeguard this relic. It is paraded round Kandy in its casket in a 100 elephant convoy in August but normally resides in this temple

Flower offerings at the Temple

An examination of the car at the hotel (in the rain) showed that one side rollbar fixing had snapped and the exhaust pipe was tight against the sump guard. We jacked up the suspension with help of the rally mechanics and drove very carefully next day! A mention of the Jetwings hotel in Kandy – the meat at supper was tougher than any other meat I eaten anywhere but they did put on a dramatic display of traditional and fire dancing.
Sunday was a short drive to The Heritance Tea Factory (hotel) in Nuwara Eliya – the Little England of Sri Lanka.

Some of 18 hairpins

The drive included an 18 hairpin descent and lunch at a very welcoming and contrasting restaurant with the hustle of the street one side of the building and the peace of a lake and hills behind.

lunch stop

We finished early to get to the hotel and were more than happy to find a workshop next to the car park, complete with a vice where I could shape the sump guard supports! Job done, car happy, well nearly as the roll bar is still strapped up and hopefully out of harm’s way.

tea plant

A view of the tea plantation area

Not the Heritance Tea Factory but similar

The Factory/Hotel hade been refurbished in 1932 and abandoned in 1973. It was founded by Edward Flowerdue of Hethersett (Norfolk in the 1860’s. The conversion into a hotel some 25 years later had retained a number of pieces of machinery which generated a great atmosphere.

Tea Trolley

Hotel Stairwell

The evening was coolish and we wore pullovers all of the next day. This started wet and cloudy and our first activity was a visit to a tea museum with participatory tea leaf picking. Clearly if this was my job, I’d starve! Slow to identify the leaves to be picked and incapable of dropping the leaves in the basket – my arms aren’t flexible enough.

Amateur tea picker in costume

The drive today was choice of scenic (cloudy and wet) or direct to Nuara Eliya. There we had more history hunting to do so we selected “direct” and were later told it was bright and sunny on the scenic…. Our clues were photographs – a town entry sign, a hotel, a building, a roundabout with monument and a pagoda in a park. We found a similar town entry sign as the design hasn’t changed much in 80 years

Today’s town sign – the original showed 6191 ft

Grosvenor Hotel today – abandoned

The hotel lead us a merry dance as what was the Grosvenor in 1942 is now the abandoned
Seabank Hotel and the current Grosvenor was the Grosvenor Hotel Bungalow – which is where we started. The building was the Golf Clubhouse which we found, it still exists and we had tea and a tour round

Clubhouse – unchanged but many more trees.

. We thought we had two more successes – A Church shrine and a Buddhist stupa – but both were close but not what we were looking for.
Tuesday – a short day which started with concern over the headlight vacuum system but that eased during the day. We drove in the drizzle and cloud to Horton Plains National Park, passing Pattipola Railway Station – possibly Sri Lanka’s highest altitude station at about 1900metres – and we saw a train!!

The train just going

The ticket office clerk at the Park was still having breakfast when we arrived – in the mist which remained on/off or most of the day. We saw some deer and a stuffed leopard (in the museum) and I’ve not met anyone who did better, then a peaceful drive through the hills to coffee stop, which we left before anyone else arrived, and on to a leisurely lunch with the usual vast quantities of food – I feel quite embarrassed at the amounts we don’t eat. The afternoon’s excitement was a waterfall, Sri Lanka’s second highest, but not much volume. Despite the rain we’ve met in the hills we were assured that now is the dry season.

Diyaluma Falls

. At the hotel, the inspired chef created our rally logo – entirely from rice
Wednesday turned into wildlife day after a radiator repair. I had added a lot of water the evening before and overnight realised that maybe there was a leak somewhere! Quick check revealed that the frame holding te electric fans had chaffed against the radiator and created a small hole. Our Rally mechanics had the rad out in no time and with a combination of liquid metal, araldite and radweld – problem solved. We drove broadly south to a “tented” camp on the coast and on the way we encountered two elephants, one was peaceful at the roadside whilst the other came marching towards us swinging his trunk as we sped off – see video below. The tented camp did not contain, as I had imagined, a set of luxury tents but some very solid fabric covered structures with extraordinary plumbing constructions

Tent with plumbing

Our afternoon excitement was a 3 hour jeep safari into the neighbouring wildlife park; there were no barriers between our “tents” and the park so we were under instruction (ignored) not to walk around without a hotel guide after 6pm. The safari objective was Elephant, Leopard and Bear – we broadly managed two!

Camera shy leopard


done it all

Land Monitor Lizard

no ordinary pig

no ordinary log


too busy to talk

two bee eaters

Egret eating frog, with buffalo friend

The day was rounded of with cocktails by candlelight on the beach and (another) large meal (and an escort back to our tent).
Thursday we moved to an even grander hotel in the same chain further west at Weligama Cape. We travelled via a school which the rally was supporting with a gift of a couple of computers and a printer – and T-shirts for pupils. We were first to arrive and were greeted by assembled parents and children along with the flower bouquet – also obligatory at each hotel.

welcome party

Irving with Head Teacher and bouquet party

Assembly Hall

Classroom; these kids had a day off

After another large lunch we passed on the opportunity for a two hour wait to see orphaned elephants being fed and headed for the hotel, passing a beach with fishing boats, back home after a morning at sea. These boats have a single main hull and a separate additional float, all held together with tree trunks; the fishermen checking their nets under a canopy

Fishing boat with attached float

net check

At the hotel, we reported a problem with the shower and three guys came to look at it (a valve was broken and it produced only (very) hot water. We left them to it when we went for supper and a minute after we returned at about 10.00,the manager came to tell us it needed a part and would we mind being upgraded…. So at 10.30 we relocated to an even grander room. It is linear, a bathroom, entry hall and bedroom/sitting room and measures some 9*21 metres.

bathroom with shower, loo and dressing room off



Private pool with the Indian Ocean beyond

ok, shared with peahen and chick

Friday was a rest day so we passed on the option of a 5.30 departure to go whale watching, opting for a morning swim in the pool (shared between 3 rooms and a peahen), a late breakfast and another unpack of the boot to dry it out after a downpour last night. We later found out that it was a nice boat – but no whales. In the afternoon we visited a boat building/sail making business, run by a friend of a rally participant, which started as a training enterprise but then expanded to employ the people who had been trained; then to cocktails at the owner’s house – an austere all-concrete block construction on a promontory designed by the Japanese architect Tadao Ando.

Sail making

Rope making

austere concrete

Saturday we had all of 40kms to drive to Galle via a White Tea plantation, White tea is high in anti-oxidants and the story runs that in ancient China the leaves picked by virgins wearing gloves and using gold scissors to avoid contamination; even now it commands much higher per kg prices than other teas.

White tea – but no virgins

Tea Talk

Tea Picking

Then on to Galle and a tour round the Portuguese/Dutch/British bastions

Galle Cricket Ground

Old Town Rooftops

A view along the walls

Looking towards the Lighthouse

From Galle we had a twisting route to our lunch stop with the Classic Car Club of Sri Lanka at the home of Mr Akbar – and he has a Lotus Esprit Turbo in his collection (but tucked away in a gallery of red cars at the end against a wall) – I didn’t count the number of cars in his collection but there were lots of them and all are on-the-road. The setting was fantastic with a wide spread of lawn flanked by collectible cars and the ocean behind. Te meal was excellent and far exceeding our ability to consume it!

Amongst the palm trees

Popular beach?

Car Club Members cars

Lunch Stop

After lunch a police escorted convoy took us to our Colombo hotel, where we parked up and the car’s journey was at an end. For us there was a little bit of war-time research to follow up. Our route had lead us to an area on a wartime map and Information for Visiting Troops, issued by the Troops Entertainment Committee. It marked hotels, shops, information centres and the Canteen. Some street names have changed but Lotus Road is still there

No other roads required

. We wandered the near deserted roads by the old port area, dereliction being the main feature, even though it was quite close to the Presidential Palace – the scene of mass protests just a few months earlier.

Magnificent Cargills Store

GOH – Grand Oriental Hotel

. Ending at the GOH, we found the Tap Room in the basement and drank a toast to Allison’s father – did he drink here 80 years ago? In all probability yes. Then a tuk-tuk back to our hotel on the Promenade where next week will host Independence Day celebrations and even now people were congregating. All that remained was to remember that the car radiator was full of water only after its repair and to add some anti-freeze just in case it got cold on the journey home.

No Comments

South by Southwest

South by Southwest

2020 was not a good year for Rallies. We had planned to go to China, Tibet and Nepal in April but that got cancelled in late January so we booked a trip to Italy which was also cancelled. Then the Tibet organisers cancelled a 2021 rally to Mongolia and announced they were giving up rallies to spend more time with their spouses and gardens!

So when John O’Groats to Lands End came along as the post-lockdown rally (or should that be inter-lockdowns?) we were up for it. Events were still conspiring as our 4 year old collie, Quinn, needed an operation to remove a grass seed from his thigh. We couldn’t leave him and his new wound in kennels as he would soon lick it raw – so he had to come too along with collar (renamed airbag) and “lampshade” to stop licking.

Quinn with “airbag” in Skoda

Two adults and a collie in an Elan is not comfortable so the Skoda had to substitute. There was a rest day part way through so the plan was to take dog to kennels, retire the Skoda and finish the rally in the Elan – at least that bit worked!

Our route up north started with the long, slow grind on the A47 west from Great Yarmouth, via Kings Lynn to Newark and the A1 north. Then to a random field to give Quinn a brief walk and on to Alnmouth, where Allison remembered her childhood holidays and on again to our overnight stop in Dunbar.

At John O’Groats

The rally start was just outside Inverness with a run to John O’Groats and overnight in Thurso. Flagging off was from the signpost at John O’Groats but the organiser wasn’t having any photos of Skodas in his gallery so our low key start sees just man and dog.

With Conrad and Alexander at Dornoch Firth

Before that we visited the deserted village of Badbea – a memorial to the Highland Clearances when tenants were forced off the land in favour of sheep,

Bleak Badbea

and dumped on the windswept cliff to learn to fish.

Castle Sinclair

Castle Sinclair

Castle Sinclair Girnigoe has been a ruin since 1680 but is worth a visit; unlike the ruins further south it was free to enter and there was no need to book ahead.
A new feature of this rally was the need to plan everything ahead – meals, evening and lunch, dog walks and the “dog friendly” status of each hotel/restaurant. No more rolling up and assuming you’d get a seat; even breakfasts were timetabled. Most of the Scottish rally hotels were dog friendly – though one said they loved dogs but not in rooms but they could go to the bar. Helpfully adding the bar was closed because of the virus – we didn’t stay in that hotel! Another refused dogs but because we arrived late we were in the annex and after the late night dog walk, there was a navigational error……..which didn’t end in the car. Every morning we were treated to the spectacle of dogs exiting the hotel with their muzzled owners firmly attached to the lead.

Kyle of Tongue

From Thurso we went West via Castle Varrich and Smoo Cave, cursing the RVs which struggled to maintain any sort of speed as they inched past other RVs – and this was the main road! Later it got much worse as we drove on single track roads from passing place to passing place. The rally organiser likes narrow roads and we miscalculated how long the loop to Old Man of Stoer Lighthouse would take; so we got to the lighthouse but not the Old Man.

Castle Ardwreck with Quinn

Heading south and west again via Ardwreck Castle, our stop was in Gairloch and here we found the most dog friendly pub of the whole trip – the dog’s water arrived with our beer.

The Old Inn, Gairloch – with dog’s water bowl

Day 3 took us to Applecross and Fort William, Glencoe and, seeking 007 and Skyfall, to Glen Etive

From Applecross towards Skye

Castle Strome

before an overnight stop at Port Appin on Loch Linnhe. There were 8 cars in the rally and only the TR6 (fuel injection) had real problems.

Glen Etive

They had already ordered a spare manifold to be sent to Ullswater for assembly on the rest day but that didn’t solve the problem and they would retire in Bath. Whilst we knew most of the participants, only one car had been on previous rallies with us – the DB6, last seen in Kazakhstan. One mechanic we knew and the other had heard of us – via his father, a Lotus owner and avid reader of Club Lotus News!

Locks on Crinan Canal

Castle Lachlan

On day 4 we deviated from the route to avoid the “Forest Drive” and Inveraray Castle (no dogs) to visit Kilmartin and on to the Crinan Canal and Castle Lachlan. That evening we were in another hotel outside Tighnabruaich (Bute), though we had to visit the main rally hotel for our ferry tickets to get across the Firth of Clyde.
Day 5 was the last in Scotland and took us down the coast to Galloway, pausing for coffee at Dundonald Castle (castle entry strictly with pre-booked tickets, we hadn’t), where Allison gave the visitor centre some postcards from her childhood holidays in this part of Scotland. Despite this generosity, Qunn’s presence meant we had to drink outside in the chill!

At the Electric Brae

We stopped at the “Electric Brae” – a stretch of road where the topography makes you believe your car is rolling uphill. It was called electric as it was believed to be caused by electrical or magnetic forces – but is only an illusion. Through the Galloway Forest Park we reached Loch Doon Castle (before it rained).

Quinn at Loch Doon Castle

The castle was built by Robert the Bruce (or his father) but on an island in the Loch and the remains relocated in 1935 before the area was flooded in a hydroelectric scheme. Our overnight stop was in a cabin in a deserted wedding venue overlooking Wigtown Bay.
Next day we crossed Hadrian’s Wall and into a damp and drizzly England, we tried to visit Hermitage Castle,

Hermitage Castle

where Mary Queen of Scots visited her lover Bothwell – but it was closed (virus). Instead we went off route to Hexham Abbey, where my great grandfather was instrumental in rebuilding the Nave in 1908. We got wet again visiting the old lead smelting furnaces near Nenthead before arriving in Ullswater and the end of the rally for Skoda and Quinn.

Lead smelting furnace

The Elan engine had been noisy so I had replaced most valve shims and re-set the timing chain tension to ½ inch but it was still noisy so I tightened the tensioner by a turn and hoped it wouldn’t be too tight – its still running! The east coast of Norfolk to the west coast of Wales is 290miles and we were late leaving as we couldn’t drop the dog off before 10.00 but reached Portmeirion in time to wander round the Italianate folly in the dull evening drizzle.



The rally, now complete with the arrival of the Elan, was staying in the Castell and newly dog-free we were able to eat in the Hotel Portmeirion estuary side restaurant – in our carefully plastic-screened isolation from other tables.
We left the coast for the Hellfire Pass (Bwlch y Groes), a 1930’s testing ground for Austin and Standard Triumph before more single track roads took us on to the bleak moorland east of Aberystwyth. We failed to get to the Elan Valley – shame! The closest we got was Strata Florida Abbey, resting place of various Welsh princes of the 13th century.

Strata Florida Abbey

Another hill pass took us to the overnight stop at Llyswen. The hotel restaurant was vastly expensive so we ate out – joined by pure coincidence by another pair of exiles. There had been concern about more Welsh lockdowns so there was relief all round when we were able to leave without being pushed.
Next stop Bath, via Gospel Pass and Tintern Abbey; entry to the Abbey was ticket only, so we booked online the previous evening.

Tintern Abbey

Tintern Abbey

When we arrived the car park was full but the Abbey reasonable – no idea where all the visitors got to between car park and the gate! We arrived in Bath in time for a wander round the city and a last minute entry to a museum. Back at the hotel the TR6 was being worked on but the problem was terminal.

The Crescent, Bath

Our last rally night was Rock;

Lynmouth Bay

before then we stopped in Lynton to see the 1888 water powered cliff railway, built on the simple concept of two carriages attached by cables on a steep slope.

Lynton Railway

One has 700 gallons of water in its tank and the other does not. The water comes off the moors so no need to pump it back up; it’s the braking system that’s complicated! And on to Tintagel. By now it was wet and cloudy, my jacket kept my top dry and as we clambered over the ruins my trousers and shoes got wetter and wetter, the cloud thickened and visibility diminished – who would really want to build a palace in this place? Seemingly the Earl of Cornwall in 1230, maybe he hoped to acquire a slice of Arthur and his magic?



Tintagel, new bridge to old site

Next day we drove the organiser’s narrow roads with high banks and incompetent RVs towards Lands End. It was busier than our other locations, the traffic stop/start, the electric cooling fan had died (along with the horn and handbrake but they were less important just now) and we had had enough when we reached the massive car park and declined its £7 fee for a brief photo op before the final rally lunch back at St Michaels Mount. Then we headed home; a brief rally for the Elan and a new experience requiring organisation and planning as we all try to escape the virus – but as Canute could not stop the tide can we stop the virus?

Lands End – the carpark

What about 2021? As Mongolia has been cancelled we have booked with Scenic Car Tours for Chernobyl – what could possibly go wrong?

The Rally photo album with loads more photos – click here

No Comments

Moscow/St Petersberg 2019

Moscow/St Petersberg 2019

The yellow Elan should have been good to go to Moscow after its abortive trip to New Zealand – but maybe being stuck in a container for so long was not good for it.

Ready to go

Everything about the rear nearside corner needed attention – there was movement in the drive shaft so I thought – Aah wheel bearings! But it wasn’t, the drive shaft had been worn away by the bearing so was discarded, then the donuts collapsed and the handbrake would not work and it seems all the moving parts are suffering from age so I’ll replace the rear calipers when we get back – and the engine leaks oil. Aside from that…. The clutch fluid was dirty so that along with both master and slave cylinders was replaced and the noise from the exhaust was old age so the downpipes were also out for scrap.

Sept 1st -our first night was in Kent, where we met James from Scenic for supper and collected shirts for us and for John and Helen in their TR5;they were starting from France so we met them in Brussels. I wasn’t happy with the way the ammeter was behaving in jams on the M11 on the way down so prior to taking our trip under the Channel Tunnel, we acquired a new Regulator box – after which, of course the old regulator behaved perfectly (so far)!

Sept 2nd – an uneventful run to Folkestone via Ghent and on to Brussels; enroute to Brussels we were overtaken by a red +2 with sunroof from which two waving arms emerged


By the rive in Ghent

Ghent town hall

Sept 3rd we started our run to Bielefeld by visiting Leuven – a hurried visit as this cycle friendly town hides its car parks away – but the Cloth Hall is remarkable on any length of visit

Cloth Hall Towers

. The tour operator (Scenic car Tours) suggest “direct” and “scenic” routes where possible. the direct uses main roads whilst the scenic should be just that but in this area it was just a slow and boring drive through small towns, taking a long time and seeing little – so we headed to Munster and TomTom took us the long route via Eindhoven! Anyway Munster is an attractive town

Munster Rathaus


Sept 4th to Berlin. We didn’t fancy visiting Hannover so took the “scenic” route to Hamelin – famous for the fairy story of the Pied Piper who is now the source of much tourist income for the town judging from the multitude of tourists and tour groups thronging the main street

Rat plaque set in the cobbles

Rat Catcher House pub

The main site today was Autostadt, the VW headquarters at Wolfsburg.


This is on the riverbank next to their factory and includes a museum and wo storage towers where customer cars are stored waiting collection and are whisked into storage bays by GPS guided rotary lifts

Wolfsburg storage towers

One of the few non VW cars in the museum!

The museum was themed on design, profiling designers who influenced change over the years – and there was one Lotus, a 1960 Elite. We were late into Berlin and encountered our first mechanical problem as we drove into the open-air, unsecured car park, catching the exhaust on a steep change of levels and pulling the exhaust pipe off the downpipes – the result was rather noisy! John helped as we did a lot of hammering late at night to reassemble the components -luckily undamaged; and no-one in the supposedly supervised carpark even came to see what was happening.

Sept 5th – rest day in Berlin; we had tickets for the Sightseeing bus and did that as well as visiting various sites, mostly Wall related.

Checkpoint Charlie leaving the east

Checkpoint Charlie heading east

East side Art on the Wall

East Side Art

Then the camera died!

Sept 6th to Warsaw. We reckoned we had time for one serious piece of sightseeing to go with our 350 miles of motorway and Poznan got the vote. Poznan has a lovely central square with old craftsmen’s houses next to the town hall, plenty of arches, old churches, a river, cathedral and a croissant museum with demonstrations of how to do it and how to eat it.

Town Hall

Craftmens houses

Baroque interior

So after a pleasant afternoon, it all went pear shaped! I had left the side lights on so the battery was flat, never mind I had jump leads but the attendant had no access to any cars and the only car moving had a lady driver who was not interested. Allison and attendant and a random stranger pushed and it started!! Good, problem solved? No, in my relief I forgot that the entrance had a raised kerb and pulled the exhaust part way off. It was not too noisy just rattling against the bodywork. We hurried along, checking the engine speed to avoid overcharging the battery and killing the dynamo (main concern as I can always get a battery which will do). The TomTom started giving odd route plans, increasing the distance and time and took us off the motorway. We took an executive decision (ie it was wrong!) continued along the motorway and stopped for the next three hours as there had been an accident ahead Driving at night was not part of the plan and driving at night with a dicey battery was a definite no-no. So we drove 80 miles at night, arriving at the hotel after 9.30. They still served supper, after which we went to the carpark and hammered the exhaust back into place. Bed time around 1.15 am!

Sept 7th – rest day in Warsaw? After our late arrival we had an early start as we needed to get a battery booster/jump start pack. Whilst we were stuck in yesterday’s motorway jam, the guy behind us came to chat and showed us his pack which we could use if the car would not start but it did. The hotel, uncertainly, directed us to a spares shop, which did not have one but in turn directed us to a larger firm who might. We took a taxi but no luck. The taxi driver now expressed interest and offered to jump start us with his pack. Only then did he realise what we wanted to buy – so back most of the way we had just been to a supermarket, where the shelf was empty! Our driver was not to be deterred and marched off, proudly returning with one. Then we could start our sightseeing if we could stay awake.

Warsaw Old Town

Allison, in picture, in deep conversation with a protester calling for the Norwegian Government to stop kidnapping children.

Warsaw Old Town with mermaid

Warsaw Old Town all rebuilt after the war

We managed the bus tour and the (1944) uprising museum.

Sept 8th to Vilnius, 310 miles along generally good roads. We unintentionally took the “scenic” route which had a better surface than the “direct” route and arrived in Vilnius around 2.30. The hotel carpark could not read our number plate (there’s a surprise!) so we had to reverse up the slope to the underground parking back onto the main road. The old town was packed with runners and crowds for their half marathon and the main square full of tents and marshals.

Marathon crowds

Vilnius Pilies Street

Old Vilnius display

Literature Street

Vilnius Upper Castle

Sept 9th – into Russia! We left early for a 300 mile drive and the border. Lithuania does not have a border with Russia so we went through Latvia – easy, an EU member? The roads were good and we were at the border by 12.15 then it all went wrong. Latvia takes its EU border responsibilities extra enthusiastically so they are a real pain. They asked for EU insurance (to check we had been legal whilst in EU) and our driving licences which they check against an EU database. Mine failed! I had reported my previous licence as lost/stolen 18 months ago and DVLA had issued a replacement. The Latvians claimed that my driver number, which never changes, showed as a lost/stolen licence – ignoring the fact that DVLA had cancelled the old and issued a new one. So for 1 1/2 hours we were held whilst they half heartedly phoned the police for instructions on what to do – was I a thief or a suspect? I had already found the lost licence and had both with me. So I showed them the old one and eventually they confiscated the old licence and gave me an official Schengen Information System form informing me of……. Compared to them the Russians were slow but peaceful – we had no expectation of a speedy crossing but the Russians were quicker than the Latvians. After the border we bought our compulsory Russian car insurance – probably not worth much but it looks good and is stamped and signed (no idea what it says!). Good roads took us to the overnight stop in Veliky Luki in the middle of a housing estate.

Veliky Luki car park

Sept 10th – Moscow here we come! Six hours through trees and more trees took us to the capital then we hit traffic. It was hot and we crawled for about 3/4 hour in heavy traffic and the car coped amazingly, didn’t overheat or stall just kept going. We were passed and photographed (constantly) by a girl in a RHD Mazda MX with pop-up headlights – I thought she would hit the side of the tunnel as she concentrated more on her photos than the traffic!

Moscow Mazda

On reaching the hotel, the car had had enough. Having stopped it would not restart – but with our jump start pack we managed – the battery had died through slow traffic with the lights and electric fan at low revs giving a continuous discharge. We were not alone, the TR5, arriving after us, had a completely failed battery and had to get a new one.

Sept 11th – the Lotus with Red Square and St Basil’s!

St Basil’s and the Kremlin

Tour cars at Metropol Hotel with the Bolshoi

Lotus and the Kremlin

Red Square and St Basil’s at 6.30 am

The Metropol Hotel is a huge rambling building a few minutes walk from Red Square and opposite the Bolshoi. First thing this morning, ours were the only cars parked outside – hopefully parking is included in our package! Breakfast was accompanied by a harpist which we’ve not had before. Today was to be a hop-on bus trip day but we spent about an hour waiting for the first to arrive, they crawled through the static traffic – no wonder smog hangs over the city! There are three routes but we had driven most of the city tour on our photo trip this morning – in about 15 minutes compared to their one hour.

St Basil’s at night

GUM store Red Square at night

Sept 12th – rest day in Moscow a late start today as there were lots of police and barricades round the Kremlin entrance and our plan to visit the museum there was thwarted as unusually it is closed on Thursdays. So we went on the underground instead. Catherine the Great’s Palace at Tsarytsino was never completed in her time but has now been finished and restored. Bunker 42 is a Cold War relic and as well signposted as you might expect of a secret bunker.

Catherine the Great’s Summer Palace at Tsarytsino

State Room at Tsarytsino Palace

Bar / Restaurant 65 metres underground at Bunker 42

Conference Room at Cold War Museum Bunker 42

Sept 13th and a 360 mile drive to Veliky Novgorod, one of Russia’s historic towns and one time capital of the Novgorod Republic. Now its a stepping stone between Moscow and St Petersburg with a pretty old Kremlin, an old Cathedral and a huge collection of Church artefacts. The drive was mainly on the new M11 toll motorway (I got bored driving through small towns on the old M10!). We drove in convoy with the TR out of Moscow then split as they wanted to follow the M11 and we the M10 (and then both changed over). We had to use our jump start pack first thing but for the rest of the day the battery was fine; John was unsure about his alternator but gained confidence as time passed. We reached Veliky Novgorod in time to see the Kremlin and St Sofia Cathedral. Then it started to rain – hope the car’s dry tomorrow.

Novgorod Kremlin Walls and moat

Novgorod St Sofia

Millenium of Russia Monument 1862

Gospel Cover – Archbishops Palace

Sept 14 there had been a lot of rain overnight but the yellow Elan does not leak too much! Our first stop on a short day’s drive was to a museum of wooden buildings a couple of miles out of Novgorod. Some buildings were 250 years old but many of the houses were only about 100. Then on to St Petersburg, a short, uneventful run. Our hotel is on Nevski Prospekt and we had a chilly walk down to the river before supper. Rain is forecast for the next few days so quite a contrast to the weather we’ve had up to now.

Inside the huge Kazan Cathedral

The Winter Palace under threatening skies

On Nevski Prospekt

Sept 15th – a cold wet day in St Petersburg. We started on the city centre Hop-on, hop-off bus but that was stopped as roads were closed for a marathon. We tried the other route and found the Peter & Paul Fortress as the wind and drizzle increased. Leaving that we were soaked by a passing bus and my feet didn’t recover until we got back to the hotel. The Faberge museum was another stop where we saw a couple of eggs…

Lenin’s cell at Trubetskoy Bastion Prison

Damp central courtyard at the Fortress

Coronation Egg and contents 1897

Anniversary Egg 1911

Sept 16th

Lotus at The Winter Palace (Hermitage) St Petersburg

Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood

After my early morning photo drive it was back for breakfast. Our 24 hour hop-on bus tickets had a little life left so we went to the Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood (site of the assassination of Tsar Alexander in 1881). Then to Engineers Castle, a palace built for Prince Michael as a safe place and where he was assassinated 40 days after moving in – some plans just don’t work! Its now home to various art exhibitions, including one on the Romanovs (family of the last Tsar) I got lost trying to work out who married who and how many wives/husbands each one had. The underground took us to Yelagin Palace (closed)

Engineers Castle

Inside the Engineers Castle

Yelagin Palace

Churchyard Alexander Nevsky

. and then to the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. Supper was on one of the many restaurants in this part of town; Russia seemed overrun with tourists and there is infrastructure to cater for them.

Sept 17th Now we head west to Helsinki and a border crossing – will the Finns make such a meal of it as the Latvians? No! We sailed through both halves of the border and arrived in time for some sight seeing before supper with Finnish rally friends.

Helsinki Harbour

Uspenski Orthodox Cathedral

Uspenski Cathedral

Central Library

…..and the modern toilets

Land of water and trees


Sept 18/19th sightseeing followed by a 29 hour ferry to Travemunde near Lubeck, Germany, landing around 9.30pm so straight to bed!

Sept 20th coffee with friends in Lubeck followed by 6 hours drive to Hook of Holland and the ferry to Harwich. Leaving Lubeck, the smell of petrol told me that the carburettor fuel line bolts had come loose – a normal event and I carry a spanner in the glove box. South of Bremen it was road works followed by more road works. Finally the open road beckoned and we were deafened as the exhaust pipe sheered off, the exhaust dragged underneath the car and it was very noisy! As luck would have it we were approaching a slip road and as we got to the end of that, an old VW Beetle appeared and guided us to a workshop nearby. We were told to be patient and soon we were welded and on our way. We reached the ferry in time for a meal on board and an uneventful return home.

No Comments

Kazakhstan/ Tajikistan/ Uzbekistan/ Kyrgyzstan 2019

Another week and we will arrive in Almaty and hopefully find the red Elan waiting at our hotel. After a long period of idleness, the first day is some 600 kms so hope its feeling good! Start day -4 Just heard from the rally organiser that the Elan has got stuck in reverse gear – what have they been doing out there? Off to see Graham Bolton tomorrow and hope he can give me some ideas; there’s not much he doesn’t know about these gearboxes.
Start day -2 and the rally organiser sends a what’sapp video of him driving the elan round the container park – forwards! Never a problem, just the guys unloading the container didn’t know how to change gear!!

Sunday 7th and we have arrived in Tashkent, capital of Uzbekistan.

the evening sun softens the stark communist era concreterie in the main square

We landed in Almaty (ex capital of Kazakhstan) in the early hours of Friday 5th when our first task was to visit Customs to register our arrival as part of the process to clear the cars. That was achieved later in the day and we got back to the hotel in the late afternoon. Even then it was apparent that it was seriously hot – in the thirties. On Saturday we set off for Shymkent in the west of the country – a long hard drive on variable roads of 8 hours without the stops. We had sun, rain accidents, crooked police but fortunately no breakdowns. I was stopped for so-say doing 64 in a 20 limit at some road works and my USD40 went straight into his glove box! What did happen was that the oil degraded and oil pressure dropped alarmingly. For my peace of mind we changed it once we got to Taskkent. On Sunday it was the Uzbek border crossing. Our organiser was adamant that we get to the border by 11.00 am and prepare ourselves for a 4 hour wait in the sun as the Uzbeks plodded through their procedures to ensure there was a queue. In the event the process was quite smooth and two hours was enough to get out of Kazakhstan and into Uzbekistan. We had also been told to get the cars full of fuel as Uzbek quality is awful. We didn’t quite manage that and hope that a couple of gallons of Uzbek 91 Ron will mix with the Kazakh 96 to enable the car to run.

Statue of Tamerlane

Tomorrow is a rest day as we’ve done about 15% of the distance (but not the hours already). The car needs a rest as its been so hot and the guage is hovering between 90 and 100.

Tashkent Imam Hazrati Complex

Tashkent Sheikhantur

Over-the-hill route to Samarkand

Gur Amir – Mausoleum of Tamurlane

Bibi Khanum

The Registan

July 11 we drive to Dushanbe in Tajikistan after a day looking at the sights of Samarkand. Another border crossing which the organiser thought would take about an hour but was probably twice as long. The first car through was unloaded but they gave up on that by the time it was our turn. lunch stop at a small museum in Panjakent beside a muddy pool with over-ripe apricots falling around us. Then a long climb to about 2700 metres and the Iranian built Tunnel of Death- a 5km barely lit and unventillated tunnel; we followed the mechanics as they had lights that showed them where to go! We stopped on the way up before we overheated.

To avoid overheating

View on the descent

July 12 a rest day in Dushanbe. The heat is the killer! When we got out of the car last night, the ignition key was almost too hot to hold. At breakfast we listened to the rally organiser outline the route ahead for the next few days as we head into the wilderness of the Pamirs. Everything will be in short supply except for heat and dust! Should we take the by-pass route to the campsite in 3 days time, with the offer of easy tarmac, a shorter day but without the most scenic part of the drive along the Afghan border? Its posted as a 7 3/4+ hour day but bound to be longer for us. Bad news for the sweep as we will be the slowest car and he will have to stay with us. We’ll go for it but first we have to get to Khulaikhum and Khorog!

July 13 another long day as we head away from the capital and into the provinces. Dushanbe has wide tarmac roads and magnificent buildings – not so in the rest of the country! The first hurdle was another 5 km tunnel and we managed to find a passing local to lead us through.

Cyclists memorial

We passed a memorial to 4 cyclists killed in a terror attack a year earlier and then the halfway point of Kulob. Here we visited the mausoleum of the Iranian writer Hamadani where we were greeted like royalty – though as ever the car stole everyone’s attention. Our next stop was unintentional as the ascent to the pass proved too much for our cooling system so we stopped before we boiled over. That happened twice so that evening we removed the thermostat which we hope will let more water through the radiator. Police checkpoints were forecast to be a feature of this section of the rally as we are now in the semi autonomous area of Badakhshan. Visas and lifting the car headlights are what they want -every time!

First view of Afghanistan

Bridge to Afghanistan but not for us!

From here we are travelling the Afghan border – just across the river – and you know it looks just the same as where we are! We followed on and off tarmac to the overnight stop at khuilaikhum where the hotel was on the main road and the sight of 6 oddball classic cars was a magnet for every (annoying) kid for the whole town! We have a couple of niggly faults- the gear stick gaiter comes off which allows quantities of heat, noise and dust into the car, the passenger door jams and cannot be opened from inside and the headlight vacuum system (which lifts the lights) has a broken junction piece (and the new one broke as well!) so we’ve had to bodge an old damaged one.

July 14th an 8 hour drive at an average of 30 kph along off-road roads. This was the Pamir highway, the main trucking route from China with huge lorries plus trailers.

Give way – he’s bigger!

no kidding – that’s the way to go

The start of the day was unusually cool – thankfully – as we followed the river and the Afghan border all the way to Khorog.

Afghanistan over the river

July 15 a rest day in Khorog when not much got done! Our hotel was on the bank of the river separating us from Afghanistan and breakfast in the gardens gave us views to the other side.

Breakfast was as close as we got


July 16 a potentially long and rough day along the “Wakhan corridor” beside the river to a wilderness campsite. We opted for a more gentle route with more recognised roads. Our local guide accompanied us in his 4×4 and it was ironic that it was his 4×4 which broke down! we helped him repair his cv joint and shared a very sweet melon with a passing truck driver who stopped to look. After the lake the track was very rough and corrugated which meant that we were in first gear for much of the next 30 miles. At one incline, the track was so steep and rough that the car could not get up. We had to clear rocks, roll back,charge up and hope to limit the damage to the underside. On this section we sustained a lot of damage both to the sump guard which was smashed and dented and to the rear exhaust where the fixing under the boot was ripped out; the exhaust is now held in place by its safety chains. We got to the campsite and decided to leave the damage where it was but to raise the suspension to give us more ground clearance.

July 17 – the Sweep did most of the work to raise the suspension – the fine threads on the adjustable spring platforms had been filled with dust, which combined with a bit of damp meant the result was near concrete and needed a lot of extra leverage from his tools to turn the adjusters. We retraced our route along those 30 miles but more easily. Twice we stopped to remove stones which were rubbing between the dirt shield and the brake disc and once the car just stopped – and restarted a few moments rest. A couple of cars were suffering with variable fuel – cutting out or frothing out of the tanks.
After this work we were at the end of the rally with the sweep behind us. The plan had been to go to another wildcamp – we got there to find lots of mosquitoes but nothing else – change of plan but the organiser failed to tell us – he misjudged how far we had got but fortunately Phil and Kieron came to see the campsite and told us of the revised plans.

July 18 – another border crossing, now from Tajikistan to Kyrgyzstan. There had been a border dispute so the two posts are 20 km apart on the top of a mountain and that 20 km of no mans land has no-one to maintain the rocky, baked soil track which passes for a “road”. Fortunately we were going down hill but going up after rain would have required a 4WD. On the way we met various groups of cyclists. Question – who is more deranged, someone cycling in these conditions or someone in a Lotus Elan?

Golden marmot

with one of many cyclists

and they are cycling to over 4600 metres!

by Lake Karakol

Between the border posts

July 19 a rest day in Osh, Kyrgyzstan’s second city. Both we and the car were dustbowls – it was everywhere! We tinkered with the car before taking it to a very thorough (and long winded) carwash at the garage next door Then a stroll up to Solomon Mountain and down to the river walks where an old aircraft sits in a clearing, its wings providing shade for a cafe.

July 20th from Osh we set out on our longest scheduled day to a yurt camp in a old caravanserai 500 kms and 9+ hours away.

Mountain pass-the camera suffered from the dust as well!

We together with Paul and Mary in the Jag XK decided that would be too long a day as most was on gravel and there was another yurt camp the following night. So we took most of the route before taking the tarmac to a hotel in Naryn. Even our route took 10 hours, not helped by having to return to the hotel to tighten up the fan belt which had been ok yesterday! And three halts on the inclines as we stopped to cool down before boiling over

July 21 no rush today as we had only a couple of hours drive to an upmarket yurt camp on the shores of Song Kul lake.

Beside a babbling brook….

To get there we had to climb the 33 Parrots Pass; we haven’t found out how it got that name though 33 seems to refer to the number of hairpins. These had to be taken at speed as we didn’t have enough spare engine power to pick our way gently round the rocks and gulleys – a bit of a wing and a prayer perhaps?

Count them if you can

Our Yurt, wood fire and 4 beds

Group breakfast

Action outside

Everywhere we looked here there were scattered yurt camps and herds of sheep, goats and horses – all looking very fit and well fed on the plentiful grass.

grazing herds/flocks

July 22 we left the lakeside wilderness for Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan, sooner overtaken by the organiser in his 4WD who enveloped us in clouds of dust. Then it rained, the temperature dropped and we stopped to put on some warm clothes! The windscreen wiper rubber became detached from the holder so we stopped again to re-attach it – wearing waterproofs – but the rain did keep the dust down! Approaching Kochkor, we fortunately took the wrong road. This meant that we were going much slower as we came upon a police control! They stopped us but as we were not speeding and had our lights on, there was not much they could do apart from ask for documents and let us go on our way! Others were not so lucky and were done for “no headlights”. Allison decided the car was too empty so we had to stop (a number of times) until we found a women’s co-operative who made the felt rugs. Leaving town we picked up our “Sweep escort” – they had been making coffee waiting for us – all cars have trackers and the sweep is meant to follow the last car on the rally route; chose a different route and you lose the comfort of the Sweep. We stopped at Burana Tower where we found the Aston Martin

Burana Tower – dust affecting the camera shutter

View from the top on a hazy day

Then off to Bishkek mainly on tarmac side roads, following the Aston until his superior power on the hills left us behind.

July 23/24 two rest days in Bishkek, doing the sights, checking on the car (the sweep, Pablo had planned to attack the sump guard with a large hammer but problems with the Mercedes wheel bearings distracted him so we remain with a mis-shaped guard!). I made an attempt to hold the rear of the exhaust on a mounting bracket as opposed to the safety chains so time will tell how long that lasts!

Bishkek Ala Too Square

More Ala Too Square

In the bazaar

Swimming in Ala Too Square

Tree lined boulevard near the hotel

Austere WW2 Memorial

Tomorrow – we leave Bishkek (and the heat?) for Issy Kul lake and Karakol, will the Lotus exhaust and the Merceds rear wheel bearing hold up?

July 25 a drive along tarmac roads from Bishkek to Karakol, much of it alongside the 100+ mile long Issy Kul Lake. We were stopped twice by the police; the first was purely a “what is this?”, all very pleasant and we carried on. The second was on a dual carriageway when we were singled out in a line a free flowing traffic and asked for a USD 100 fine, this went gradually down to USD 40, then USD 25 then they gave up and I walked away clearly being a time waster! We tried to find a “salt lake” but that was a small fenced off pool so we tried the Skazka Valley Fairytale Canyon.

Skazka Valley

Skazka Valley

/ Then down to the lake for a sandwich lunch and very brief paddle;there was zero activity on the water and we were told there was plenty on the more developed northern shore but none here on the southern. We were now at 1600 metres compared to 700 at Bishkek but the effect on temperature was enormous. It was hot in the sun but otherwise cool – bearable!

By Issy Kul Lake

. After this, things got a bit confusing but not for us. The Sweep was tracking us as we took a wrong turn towards Barskoon Waterfall. As he lost network coverage, he assumed we had gone on to the waterfall so he followed along and found us not there! In fact we had taken the wrong turn into the village as Allison wanted to revisit a felt factory she had visited 12 years ago. She found it eventually by asking at a shop where someone recognised a person in the photos she had. So we found the factory, had koumiss with owner, talked about changes to the factory and were given some hand made mats for car seats representing a traditional pattern. When the sweep regained coverage he saw a spiders web of tracks as we wandered round the village. We were last into the hotel and spent a happy hour repairing the door lock which was threatening to fall off and did just that as soon as we showed it the toolbox. We had bypassed a fine art museum but in doing so missed an abandoned Soviet era uranium mining village, which was much more interesting!

July 26 a rest day in Karakol, Allison went to the market with our Kyrgy guide whilst I attempted the never ending tasks of dusting the inside of the car with a damp cloth and adjusting the handbrake. En route to tge picnic arranged by the organiser (60 kms away) we visited the Russian Orthodox Church (rebuilt 1860 following an earthquake) and the Chinese Mosque, built without nails

Karakol Orthodox Church

Dungan Mosque

We were late to the picnic site after being stopped by some would-be police who had a barrier across the road and demanded documents so I asked them for proof they were police; they showed something but it could have been swimming club membership for all I knew! We got through but decided that Allison could drive back in the afternoon.

Picnic Valley

Tomorrow we are camping and then its our last driving day arriving in Almaty on Sunday afternoon.

July 27 – our drive to the Kazakh border was obstructed by the closure of the highway (which we took to avoid 25 kms of rough road) but as it happens we got rough roads when the highway ended!

Last road in Kyrgyzstan

The road was mainly tarmac in Kazakhstan but undulating and we had to slow to avoid smashing the exhaust as rear bounced up and down. The exhaust survived but we broke the catch chain, which I heard dragging on the road. The sight of the day was Charyn Canyon, it must have been formed by a river but the floor now is a dry and dusty trail leading to a holiday village

The smooth, bleak road to the Canyon

Above the canyon

The Canyon Floor

A walk along the valley flopr

Heading for the Campsite we were stopped by the organiser to be told that the site was very windy with sand blowing everywhere in the gusts; did we want to camp or continue to Almaty, as the first three cars had done? We chose Almaty. At a cafe in the next village we met up with the crew and, later, the last three cars – all of whom chose to camp! We took the Highway and an uneventful 2 hour run to the hotel. The alternative was the “rally route” which the organiser later told us was rougher than expected.

July 28 – our first call was Violet’s car wash, where we sat with Richard and Heather and a civilised tea whilst an almost all-female team cleaned the cars. Then sightseeing, the Orthodox Cathedral,

Cathedral of the holy Ascension

the Arasan Baths “exuberant 1980’s Soviet architecture” and the pedestrianised Zhibek Zholy Street after which we took a tube and walking route back to the hotel and the end of the rally. The car had not done the entire rally route but had survived some very rough tracks with no major problems and not even a puncture;plenty of minor niggles, mainly caused by things rattling loose. Next trip – Moscow in the yellow Elan,lets hope its more successful than its abortive trip to New Zealand!

Leaving the Almaty hotel for the container port

No Comments

New Zealand January 2019

Our first trip in 2019 has started badly – the yellow Elan, making its first trip abroad since Tunisia in 2003 has been delayed in transit and will not arrive until a week after the trip starts.
Great! And of course its no-one’s fault, everyone in shipping denies any wrong doing but they gave a shipping date, they controlled when it was loaded and unloaded but no, they’re blameless and not responsible! So we start in a hire car – I hope but if they are as good as organising that as they were the shipping then I guess we might be walking!

Auckland , Sky Tower from One Tree Hill

Auckland Harbour and Sky Tower[/caption]

So we now have a hire car – but we can only use it in North Island. And as the local shipping agent says there’s no chance of the Elan being available by then, we have to drop the car off at the port in Wellington, go to South Island as foot passengers and hire another car the other side. Why make life easy?

Our first day’s drive has taken us to the west coast and overnight in Tairua on the Coromandel Peninsular. We chose the cross country route from west to east over the peninsular so our car is now the dirtiest around as it was gravel track and the dust gets everywhere. After the buildings of Auckland, we visited the natural sights of Cathedral Cove

Cathedral Cove

– a beach accessible only by cliff footpath or boat (a much easier option in the heat), with a huge rock arch. Then to Hot Water Beach

Digging for Hot Water

where superheated subterranean water lies just below the sand and half the world is digging little sand pools to soak in.

10th Jan – South to Taupo and its hot. First stop the Karangahake Gorge, now a peaceful river gorge with trees and ferns and clear running stream with deep dark pools. 100 years ago it was very different when it was the centre of the gold mining industry and miners dug tunnels into the mountains to extract ore which was then crushed by huge rollers and stamping (crushing) machines before the gold was drawn out using cyanide and mercury.

Remains of a stamping “battery”

. Then further on to the Wairere Falls, advertised as a 45 minute walk but nearer to 75 and pretty but …….

Wairere Falls

11th Jan – the first of two rest days based in Taupo. Today was a geothermal day so we started at Orakei Korako; we arrived at 9.00 and were amazed at the lack of traffic on the road and absence of visitors. There are 23 geysers – but not big water spouts, these are small holes in the ground which might send water about a foot into the air.

Orakei Korado

They produce pools of boiling water or mud, a stench of sulphur and clouds of steam in a barren silica landscape.

Orakei Korako

Orakei Korako

yet surrounded by lush bush. Asif that was not enough we then went to the Rotorua area and the Hells Gate complex, which also displayed a range of mud pools with temperatures of up to 120C on the surface, 145C one meter down and signs warning that people dropping litter would have to retrieve it themselves.

Hells Gate with mud volcano

12 Jan

Hobbiton – The Green Dragon


13 Jan We left Taupo in the centre for Napier on the east coast; the morning was miserable and itrained as we drove through the desert to Wairou. The cloud lifted a little and we detoured to a ski resort for fancy pictures of grassy slopes and grazing cattle in vain, it was bleak and stony, all the shops were shut and it was completely deserted!

Not an Elan (sadly); ski resort in the distance

Mt Ruapehu, ski slope/volcano

Then to the National Army Museum which had a lot about the “New Zealand” wars of the 1860s, when Maoris and British clashed over land and authority, and the Gallipoli campaign of WW1. It was briefly sunny as we hit the Wine Trail then cloud and drizzle took over as we walked the streets of Napier viewing their collection of Art Deco buildings erected after the earthquake of 1931

The Dome, Napier

Jan 14th – Our import agent had no good news for the Elan and remains convinced we will not see it during our trip. Frustratingly we were only 30 odd miles away from the port on Saturday when the container was sitting n the quayside waiting for administration to begin work on Monday (as we drove ever further away). Our destination was Wellington at the south of North Island. We took the long route via the west coast, stopping briefly at the largest vehicle museum in the southern hemisphere at Paraparaumu with over 250 vehicles, including an Esprit

At least this Lotus arrived!

Southward Car Musuem

Supper this evening was at a Persian fast food eatery – cheap as there was no booze!

Jan 15th – our hire car was not allowed to travel to South Island although the rest of our party with pre-booked cars could take theirs – thanks Mr Hertz! So after a drive around the scenic Marine Drive we said farewell to the Corolla and went to visit The Behive (NZ Parliament) and cable car.

Still not a Lotus on an overcast Marine Drive

Beehive and Parliament Buildings

Old Wellington Cable Car

And today’s version

We assuaged our cultural conscience with a visit to the Museum of New Zealand with replica Maori meeting house and a Gallipoli exhibition.

Jan 16th – Malcolm and Linda kindly took us to the ferry for the 3 1/2 hours to South Island; then to Mr Hertz to collect car number 2, a RAV4, complete with scratches and dents. Picton Port has the Edwin Fox – an 1850’s merchant sailing ship (the world’s second oldest) which served as convict transport, troop ship, coal hulk and cold storage depot. Now missing masts and deck, it sits in dry dock and under cover.

Inside the Edwin Fox

Marlborough Sounds from Picton Port

We took the scenic route to Nelson along Queen Charlotte’s Drive with a deviation to see some of the bays of the Sound

Marlborough Sounds

then on to our overnight at Nelson

Jan 17th – it was now or never for the Lotus – if we flew from Nelson to Auckland (and flights were available) and if the car had arrived and passed all its clearance requirements and there were spaces on the ferry from North Island to the South then this was about our last chance. The Auckland agent said “its not here yet but might arrive tomorrow midday (or not….). He strongly advised against; so the car after travelling half way round the world will now be shipped straight back home! We spent the morning on a sea kayak trip round Cable Bay and Pepin Island – for sale at NZ$16 million if you are interested. There are no known photos of this experience! In the afternoon we pottered round Nelson, recovering


Botanical Hill – the centre of New Zealand

Jan 18th – the die was cast, returning to Auckland was ruled out so Allison drowned her sorrows with a wine tasting at Cloudy Bay vineyard and an expensive bottle of Pinot Noir but not before we had explored more remains of gold mining at Canvastown – amazing to think of the employment and industry at what is now a peaceful stream.

and today

Wine tasting at Cloudy Bay

Vines at Cloudy Bay

We also visited the Omaka Aviation Heritage Museum (sponsor Peter Jackson, Director of The Hobbit) for a selection of mainly replica WW1 fighter planes

The Red Baron’s plane

Jan 19th – after an overnight at Kaikoura we deviated from our route to Arthurs Pass to visit Hertz at Christchurch airport to return the hire car which now had stone chip damage on both driver’s and passenger’s sides of the windscreen. Now we had car number 3 – how far can we get? We reached our night’s stop in the rain and huddled in our rabbit hutch (cabin) as the rain clattered off the roof and flowed over the gutters

Car #3 near Arthurs Pass in the sunshine

Jan 20th – breakfast was late and slow and we left at 9.30. Transport and engineering were the first themes, getting road and rail over or through The New Zealand Alps. The tourist office recommended staying to watch the coal trains labouring up the incline and emerging from the Otira tunnel under load with sparks flying from their exhausts

Otira rail bridge and tunnel at Arthurs Pass

Turntable and boilers at Arthur’s Pass

Viaduct at Arthur’s Pass

The road back east

…and to the west

We continued to the west coast and Hokitika, where Jade (Greenstone) is worked into jewellery and artifacts

Hokitika beach

We continued down the coast to Ross and yet more goldmining relics

Water pipe at Jones Creek, Ross

Jones Creek in 1870

Our last visit of the day was to Okarito wildlife reserve where we came across this bird resting on a tree – a Bush Falcon.

Bush Falcon

Jan 21st – When we arrived at the hotel we were told we had been given a complimentary upgrade to the 5 star Te Wanoui – but we did not fancy their NZ$135 meals so we didn’t spend much time in our new found luxury as we wanted an early start to get to the Franz Josef Glacier. Have to say it was disappointing. Over the years the glacier has retreated and the “face” is now a mess of dirt and the contrast to the view from the 1906 face was frightening.

in 1906 the Face was here and the whole area was ice

and 10 years ago it was here

It was raining yesterday when we arrived and through the night and drizzled the whole time we were at the glacier but they have an annual rainfall of 16 metres of rain on the glacier and 6 metres in the village so hardly surprising. At Knights Point down the coast the NZ Conservation Department information boards encouraged us to go down to Jackson’s Bay, the most southerly coastal settlement on the west so we carried on for a cup of tea in the café.

Jacksons Bay cafe

The information boards there spoke of the Alpine fault line which runs along Jacksons River and is pushing the Southern Alps ever higher at the rate of 20 kilometres in 12 million years.

Jacksons River today

Our route to Queenstown took us past two huge lakes – Wanaka and Hawea before climbing the twisting Cardrona river road to our hotel.

Lake Wanaka

Lake Hawea

Jan 22nd – a rest day in Queenstown so we set off for Glenorchy , west and north along Lake Wakatipu along an excellent but at times narrow and winding road. The tarmac descended into gravel and mindful of my recent windscreen experiences we returned to the old gold mining town of Arrowtown; extreme contrast! The Glenorchy road is mountains and lakes whilst Arrowtown is tourism and spending.

Windy Lake Wakatipu

Forbes Mountains north of Glenorchy

Chinese Settlement Arrowtown 1860’s

Buckingham Street Arrowtown

Our evening meal was the first full group get-together since the start in Auckland at the Skyline Restaurant at the top of the gondola looking out over the town, its lake and ring of mountains. We also had an email – the Lotus should be back in UK on March 13th – sorry but this topic is still raw!

Jan 23rd – a short day’s drive to Te Anau, our jumping off point for a trip to Milford Sound tomorrow. Our first stop was Kingston and the sad story of the Kingston Flyer, a steam railway founded in 1878 and now defunct with locos and carriages gradually rotting in their sidings. In days of old it would link up with the SS Earnshaw, a steamship based in Queenstown and there is a poignant plaque commemorating the centenary of the Earnshaw and her “oldest friend” the train in 2012, just before the railway folded for the last time.

Artist’s impression


The End of the Line

Its wet and cold in Te Anau – and we have swopped the Queenstown Crown Plaza for a motel with a room half the size!

Jan 24th – Today is our trip to Milford Sound and a two hour boat trip – and its two hours each way to get to the boat! But first we booked ourselves a sightseeing flight for tomorrow. We tried the helicopter but they wanted 4 people; the sea-plane however gave us a two way option. If there were just two it would be a “Mystery Flight” but if two more came in off the street it would be a “Doubtful Flight” – where Doubtful is Doubtful Sound, so named because Captain Cook was doubtful that it was navigable under sail in 1770. Then we found our Kea – in a car park and again on the double yellow lines of the road – hardly surprising they are endangered.

Milford Sound

Milford Sound

Tagged Kea in a carpark

Kea in the middle of the road

Jan 25th – big expense day! We wandered down to the seaplane and it was moored up when it should have been out at Doubtful Sound. The pilot explained that the sea fog had come down and covered the Sound but had been held by the Southern Alps so the inland lakes were clear (if overcast) and we could go on our Mystery Trip along with a Portuguese couple. First time on a seaplane, this was a 1968 Cessna 6 seater with a 9 litre engine. The water was calm and take off easy; our flight lasted an hour including a 10 minute stroll along the Mystery Destination of Calm Bay. Apart from the sand flies, the Bay and the forest were deserted; I asked about the lack of birds and was told that the Department of Conservation put down some poison about 18 months ago to kill off rats and other vermin -totally safe for birds etc – just they all vanished and now the woods were silent. Strange that!

Up in the clouds

Silent Forest

Private Flight, private beach

    Returning to Te Anau

    Our destination was Dunedin – 180 miles of generally easy roads and all at 100 kph; fortunately I found the cruise control so all I had to do then was steer and brake. We stopped for lunch near an old friend – another of the Kingston Flyer engines at Gore

    at Gore

    We were not yet done with railways because one of Dunedin’s main sites is the old railway station, where we had supper.

    Dunedin Station 1906

Jan 26th – drive to Christchurch and the end of the tour. Our first stop was the Moeraki Boulders – a collection of round boulders on the seashore, from what I understand of the geology they are formed from compressed mud “concretions created by the cementation of the Paleocene mudstone….” I think compressed mud is easier to understand!

A Concretation

Our next stop was Oamaru and was surprisingly interesting. First up was Steampunk HQ – oddments created from scrap metal

Steampunk creation

We wandered towards the engine shed and chatted to a volunteer who had just rolled up in his 1970 Mini; he told us the town had grown rapidly with the gold rush and the wool trade. Then it went bust along with the gold rush and was left with a number of imposing buildings, too costly to demolish in the post war years and now having a new life on the tourist trade – galleries, craft centres and tourist shops.

Harbour Street, Oamaru

Work in Progress, Oamaru engine sheds

Last stop was Timaru and the South Canterbury museum and its scale model of what might have been the world’s first flying machine designed by local farmer Richard Pearse and flown into his hedge in 1902

Flying machine?

There is no proof of its flight; the Museum curator told us that an attempt to reconstruct that fight ended when the main backer died of a heart attack – so maybe it was destined never to fly! We saw a lot of classic cars today – are there more in South Island or was it the equivalent of our Drive It Day?

Jan 27th – a day in Christchurch and we didn’t use the car at all! We tried to get the hop-on, hop-off bus but the bus that came past wouldn’t stop so we walked instead. 8 years on from the 2011 earthquake, most condemned buildings have been cleared – not sure if that’s the right phraseology as the Cathedral is still a sore sight!

Cathedral minus tower

They reckon 7 – 10 years to repair it but without saying when the clock started. The Earthquake Memorial by the river had names from around the world – European, American, Iraqi, Japanese and Chinese and the list at the Empty Chair display showed just two children and a lot in their 20’s/30’s

185 Empty White Chairs

There are an unusual number of empty plots around the centre and construction projects all over but the City is alive and dynamic (helped by sunshine!)

Cardboard Cathedral -temporary?

Bustling Regent Street

Tomorrow is our last day in NZ and the start of the long journey home. Its 30 degrees here, hope UK isn’t too cold!

No Comments

The Atlas Rally 2018

8 April to Seville and the end. We left the hotel after a late breakfast for a wander round the town of Ronda


(last visited in 2009) before a long Final Rally lunch at a small but noisy cafe just outside the town. I found that I had lost my driving licence to the last Moroccan policeman to stop me leaving Ifrane so Allison drove and I was one of the few who could drink! A gentle run into Seville completed the rally and we expect the car to be home in about a week for work on the sump guard, new front springs/shocks and a full regrease/replace wheel bearings as the next rally has multiple river crossings.

7 April back to Europe. We caught the 10.00 ferry back to Tarifa and our farewell to Morocco was doused in rain.

Cars being x-rayed for drugs

The rally had arranged a competition to find the Golden Tajine, a Tajine being traditional Moroccan cooking-ware effectively producing individual stews. One crew had identified the location in Spain) about a week into the rally using the clues provided on the route. The rest of us were largely clueless but we combined with another crew on the ferry to pool our limited knowledge and with a lot of help from the organiser we identified the location just as the ferry docked. As luck would have it we were first off the boat and set off to the secret location. Very soon we were overtaken by a Mercedes on a Mission – having made the early identification, they didn’t want ANO stealing the prize! We reached the hiding place to find them there and plucked the wrapping paper from the hole.

The wrapping paper – not even a wooden spoon

Our hotel was mega expensive but did have a well lit underground garage(once the lights were turned on). The brakes were squealing so the mechanics and I checked all pads – and found that one front spring was broken. Not altogether surprising given the terrain but may well have happened on a very bumpy tarmac road this afternoon.

6 April to Tangier, tomorrow we take the ferry back to Spain. This morning we left our ultra plush hotel for the Roman City of Volubilis

House of Orpheus, mosaic

, a remarkably well preserved Roman City and one of the wealthiest outside Italy. From there we returned to Moulay Idriss for lunch at Scorpion House, perched high over the hillside town. Then to Tangiers, with a detour to avoid a broken bridge

no road!

which the rally organiser assured us everyone could do.

5 April rest day in a most in-Moroccan setting

Waterfalls at Ain Vettel near Ifrane

Meanwhile back in the hotel car park…

4 April we chose the main road option to Ifrane, a French constructed town of the 1920s,buolt for the French administrators to escape the heat of the summer into an alpine scenery. Now a ski resort – with all of one lift!

3 April – the curse of Midelt. Today we journeyed to Midelt, scene of major mechanical failures in our previous two visits would the third be more successful? Answer – no!

Todhra Gorge

Lunch was at a café just past the Todhra Gorge where Allison succumbed to a carpet buying urge.

And there was space in the car

It was after that that things went belly-up!

Don’t drive fast through water

The water splashed the electrics so after chatting to other rally drivers we restarted on one cylinder. Whilst drying out we noticed fuel leaking from the Carb fuel joints so we solved that and carried on. Then the throttle return spring jumped out and the engine revved at 2500 which is very bad news in town. We were surrounded by most annoying kids whilst we found and relocated the spring. And lastly that gentle grumbling from the rear turned to a full bodied set of squeals – a rear wheel bearing had failed! We carry a hub extractor and spare bearings so the evening was spent with rally mechanics replacing said bearing and after a 12.00 bedtime we were good to go for tomorrow.

Bearings on a plate

We have no plans to revisit Midelt!

2 April in contrast to yesterday we started today in the rain and it was still raining as we did today’s first river crossing

Allison had to paddle over after taking the photo

dry and dusty now

but it dried out

Ait Benhaddau featured in Lawrence of Arabia and Game of Thrones

as we continued east to Skoura and our hotel whose access road tried to copy that of the last hotel with added dried river bed

1 April was a rest day so we wandered first back the way we had driven in, looking at the local salt production. As we were on a hillside I did not see how mountain streams would produce salt.

Salt harvesting

They pump water from wells into settling pans and collect the salt as it evaporates. The area is also rich in amethyst, which looks like a dirty overgrown egg but when broken on its fault line displays a bright pink, purple or white interior. It must be this rock formation which also generates the salt.

Local Mosque

After lunch we wandered the other way to a rickety pedestrian bridge over the river.

The Street

31 March to Ourika Valley. The first section was over the famous Tizi n Test pass, which we had travelled in the opposite direction in 2005. In parts the road has been rebuilt but some is still the old road.

There’s a rally car in there

We zigzagged our way up, passing and being passed by other rally cars as we stopped for photo opportunities.

My friend’s driving that strange car

At one coffee halt, one driver was hit by a car as he walked around some parked cars. Although knocked over, it seems he fortunately escaped with bruising and shock. The last 3 kms to the mist expensive hotel in the area was along a narrow, rutted village dirt road and we grounded on several dips and lumps; the rally organiser driving directly behind us reckoned he heard each one!

30 March to Taroudant. Taradount is about 100 miles inland from Agadir so the day had a coastal drive

near Agadir

south to an excessive lunch stop before heading inland (slowly)

The rally goes slowly!

to the old walled town and our overnight stop. Taroudant has a great set of walls

Walls of Taroudant

and a Kasbah (fort) where we hoped to find supper at the Kasbah Palace Hotel. Disappointment reigned as the hotel was more dead than alive but had all the signs of faded grandeur. The town square was hosting a festival – but only men attended – women’s place is elsewhere in this culture.

Town square

29 March rest day at Essaouira.

28 March to Essaouira. One section was described as very rough and best for us to avoid, so we took a shorter more gentle route before re-joining the main track in time for a river fording. We failed to get a photos of ourselves so this is one of the Mercedes.

River crossing

Then an easy run to a Sofitel just outside the town and now looking forward to a wine tasting visit

27 March rest day in Marrakech. Our hotel was well out of town and little known by local taxi drivers as we found out when trying to get back. We spent the day as tourists and rather naïve ones at that!

Courtyard Dar Mnebhi Palace

Our first stop was some gardens some way off the beaten track; we walked there but our return taxi tried the old trick of asking us to pay “what we felt was right” – should have asked first! He expressed great disgust at our miserly payment but it was probably too much anyway!

Shoe clean Fna Square

Next up was the shoe cleaning scam. The shoe cleaner quoted “5” so, thinking it was 5 dirham I agreed, then he offered Allison’s shoes for free – then it transpired it was 5 Euros, not Dirham, a tenfold difference and he wanted payment for Allison’s “free” clean. We escaped that and got the “guide scam”. A man with child in pushchair offered to show us the way to a museum – and got lost despite asking every shopkeeper he passed! We got to the museum after a few backtracks – closed Tuesday – and today was Tuesday! Our guide then demanded payment – to feed child in pushchair of course, must have the emotional appeal. Again disgust at our miserly offering!

26 March to Marrakech.

Ouzoud Cascades

Our first destination was the Ouzoud Waterfall. We spent longer here than we should and were the last to leave – and promptly set off in the wrong direction. Navigation was primarily by waypoints pre-loaded onto an Ipad but Allison tried to ignore that and preferred the tried and tested tulips and road book. We also had the same waypoints loaded onto the TomTom but every now and then it disliked an offroad section and said no route was possible. The sweeps could see us on the tracker so waited till we caught up and could not work out how we had got behind them despite setting off in front.

25 March to El Oudine. We were the first away from the hotel but progress was soon halted by a police radar trap and I had to pay about £12.50 as a roadside fine. We climbed up into the clouds, fog and rain. That cleared as we reached the Middle Atlas and the afternoon was warm and sunny.

In the Atlas Mountains

Our track left the main road and we climbed over mountain ranges; roadside lunch was at 1540m then we dropped down to a narrow road with broken tarmac but all easily navigable, ending at an isolated hotel near the El Ouidane reservoir. One of the Mercedes had a very close encounter with a local truck, damaging the offside door and rear wing and removing part of the rear bumper; no-one was hurt. The Lotus continues to run well.

24 March to Fes – another day offering an easy alternative but our concern was more the state of the mud roads after all the rain. The organisers offered a second alternative, try the rough section and take a shortcut if the mud looks too bad. We set off with that in mind. Shortly after leaving we came across a stranded Volvo with a broken suspension mount – welding required! On the dirt road the car soon got covered in mud and I got more than I thought my fair share through the window. One section was deep mud where a lorry had gouged deep ruts. The Mustang again got stuck further ahead along with one of the Mercedes – our choice of the short cut was well founded!

Fes Place Nejjarine

We reached the hotel in time to be tourists in Fes.

Fes – tanning vats

23 March – a short day as we took an alternative section to avoid the worst rough parts. Any time saved we lost in trying to visit Tetouan. Tetouan is on a hill and Allison was struggling with the clutch, she could not reach the handbrake and the car was stalling! Altogether not a happy experience. Odd that the tickover, which had been happy on European fuel, now faded away with Moroccan. Fortunately solving the tickover and handbrake were easily resolved in the hotel car park.

Auberge Dardara

The hotel, an auberge outside town, was very romantic in the midday sunshine but we were glad later that we had chosen a room with a log fire. The afternoon was overcast with a cold wind and it rained all evening and all night – it was cold!


We spent the afternoon in the all-blue town of Chefchaouen, now a tourist destination but the traders did little business with the tourists more concerned with keeping warm than buying souvenirs.

A rally into Morocco, starting and ending in Seville. The Elan was transported to the start – so Allison could spend more time with the dogs. Prior to the rally, I had changed all the clutch hydraulic parts as I got bored with changing the slave cylinder in hotel car parks! Also changed was the brake master cylinder and our well used Brazilian tyres. After the steering’s jumpiness in USA I spoke with Spyder and fitted their adjustable upper front wishbones so the front wheels are now as close to vertical as possible.

Seville Cathedral at night

Tomb of Christopher Columbus

We arrived in Seville a day early for some sightseeing in Seville – it looks a fascinating City. The first rally day started badly as we left our overnight bag in the car park at the Alphonso XIII hotel. The upside was that we were no longer the first car away when the rally encountered seriously sticky mud on a “gravel” section. That honour fell to the Mustang, which had to be hauled out by a tractor. That evening we crossed to Tangiers and the start of the Morocco section
The idea of our rallies is that we don’t normally revisit a country. But Morocco has a history of two visits and two broken drive shafts. This is meant to be third time lucky……

No Comments

Route 66

2 November, the day started chilly then it rained – not a good day to visit Newport CA and Balboa!

Lucy on a wet and deserted Balboa Beach

Balboa may look pretty in the summer sun

We walked on Balboa Peninsula beach and it gradually stopped raining and got passably warm.

Bird of Paradise plant – Lucy does horticulture

Warmer now at Huntingdon Marina Beach

Then up Highway 1 to Huntingdon Marina for lunch, a stroll on the beach and then to Los Angeles Airport where Lucy packed and was last seen heading off to airport security. Tomorrow I take the car to the shippers and fly back. Not sure when the Elan will arrive as its currently booked as “awaiting a share” for its container. We have done over 8,000 miles without losing any time on the road apart from one fuse. All the other mishaps have been identified in the car park/garage. Its running rough, though tick-over and starting are fine. Various things need attention – guess where I’ll be over Christmas!

1 November – a short day only about 80 miles. First stop was the Getty Center

Getty Center

Getty Gardens

(actually the slow freeway but we’ll gloss over that – traffic in the LA region is awful). I was geared up for sun but it was chilly and overcast. we visited the Central Garden where Lucy carelessly assumed that the Garden Guide would know about plants – but as the original garden designer knew nothing about plants why should the Guide who was more interested in the artistic combination of colour, shape, texture, size than what the plants might be?

Lotus meets Queen Mary

Queen Mary – the deck

Our next stop was the Queen Mary – we had crossed the Atlantic on this ship in 1956 or so – a visit was mandatory; Lucy was thrilled that her memory of the childrens’ play area was correct.

Engine Room

Engine Controls

As a sign of changing times we had coffee and muffins at Starbucks on the main deck! That was it for the day so on to our motel (very down market for Lucy’s taste). On the freeway (at dusk), a fuse blew and we lost the camera, fuel gauge and more importantly the TomTom – as we had little idea where we were or where we were going this was bad news. Fortunately it was just a fuse and once replaced, normal service was resumed – phew!

31 October – where did the day go? We didn’t leave our hotel just west of Yosemite that late; our route was to the southern exit with a detour to Glacier Point – it required a lot of climbing as Glacier is 3000 ft above the valley floor – which is why the views are worth the 32 mile detour

Misty morning above Yosemite

Above Yosemite

Looking down on yetserday’s waterfalls

Half Dome, dead tree and Dutch Admirers!

Then a slow descent through roadworks and a long run into Fresno. We grabbed lunch in the ten minutes before the café closed at 2pm; Fresno seemed dead and its only claim to fame was a memorial to the Lao people who fled the incoming Communist regime after the Vietnam war. A long fast run (interrupted by traffic jams) to just outside Los Angeles where our cheap motel is extra security conscious – its the only place where we have both been required to show ID and our passports scanned to the LA Police. The local fast food restaurant also needed ID before serving beer – Lucy didn’t have hers but mine seemed ok for both!

30 October – a day in Yosemite;

Its a big place

Vernal Falls on the way up

we climbed to the Nevada Falls, passing the Vernal Falls on the way.

Nevada Falls

The top of the Nevada Falls

Our descent was confusing as we followed the “easy route down” – the John Muir Trail, which went uphill in a series of hairpins before eventually turning into a gentle in contrast to the steps on the way up. Someone had invested heavily in the footpaths, building them rock by rock up the hillside.

Nevada Falls from Clark Point, John Muir Trail

The walk took us nearly 7 hours in moderate temperatures.

29 October – Yosemite! We set off from a dull Petaluma onto Highway 101 and over the Richmond Bridge – a two tier structure with eastbound (us) underneath and westbound on top – looks good though!

Loco #6 of the Hetch Hetchy line

We had to climb to about 3000 ft over a ridge to get to Yosemite and the car got hot but not too hot; I had already swopped my shoes for sandals – we had found the sun we had come south for! First stop was a post office to post some cards – and conveniently there was a 1920’s stem loco waiting to be photographed! I was aware that on this trip to USA I had failed to take a photo of that workhorse of the westward migration.

At the gates of Yosemite

Then to our hotel, just outside the National Park (inside costs a fortune whilst outside is merely expensive). We had coffee and cake on the balcony before visiting the park to take advice and plan tomorrow’s trip- now that I have a steam loco photo, I am missing a waterfall; we visited one

Great waterfall but its bone dry!

(the Yosemite) but it had dried up – no rain! The valley is formed of a flat floor with tall pines vying with each other tto reach the sky and high steep cliff sides, some with waterfalls and others with groups of shrubs and trees clinging on in desperate search of life. The autumn colours (late this year) add another dimension.
Our early evening stroll gave some great sunset photo ops – how about this one of

Sunset on Half Dome

Half Dome or the clouds over the western entrance?

Skies over the western entrance

28 October – another slow start with a drawn out breakfast at 9.00 and a walk round a very cloudy Westport so we didn’t leave until about 11.30.

Westport Hotel

Westport had been a logging port in the 1890’s with timber jetties extending far beyond the shoreline to enable the logs to be loaded onto coastal schooners for onward shipment. All that construction is long gone – a pattern repeated along this section of the California coast.

Laguna Point – 100 years ago this was a timber jetty with tramways

At Fort Bragg (our intended overnight stop from yesterday) Lucy dragged me round the botanical gardens. Then on south chasing the elusive sun which showed briefly at around 2.30 for half an hour. At a fuel stop we came across two people who had owned Lotus in the past and gave a reminder of how little interest the car has generated; (in a village 14 miles earlier a motor cycle loving garage owner had suggested we didn’t buy his “regular” gas as the next stop had “premium”) we also saw a frog eye sprite (“bug eye” in American) who waved enthusiastically.

Nearly sunny!

California coast

Our last stop was Fort Ross – once a Russian trading post supplying furs and

Fort Ross

provisions to the Russian Alaskan settlements, bought by the Americans in 1841. The fort had 40+ cannon not for use against the Indian tribes who were their trading partners but the Spanish further south. This largely reconstructed fort still flies the Russian flag,

Information panel in Russian

has information panels in Russian and sees itself as a link between Russia and USA.

Sea mist

The last couple of days on the coast road the Lotus has showed what it was designed for – the electrical problems seem behind us, the car starts happily even though we have the lights and wipers on fairly continuously in the cloudy gloom and the too frequent late night travel (not today as we set 6pm as a deadline); the handling is much better with higher tyre pressures – currently 34 psi but I want to try 36. We are one of the faster cars on the twisty hilly roads – tomorrow our drive to Yosemite will show how it copes with high speed motorway travel. Carry on car – you’re doing fine! But the lasting impression we will take away is the universal friendliness of everyone we have come across – even the most stupid and basic questions receive a friendly response. Another impression is the early closure of everything – we have been the last to leave almost every eatery in the last few days – today was 8.30 which we were told was local licencing laws but 9.00 or 9.30 are common place even in large towns.

27 October – a mixed day.

A sense of proportion

The motel didn’t do breakfast so sister was dragged to the only open breakfast vendor – a well known brand – and is not keen to repeat the experience. I checked the tyre pressures to see if the handling issues might lie there. 3 tyres had lost about 20% of their pressure and the 4th was nearly flat – the inner tube valve stem was leaking. So off to possibly the largest tyre shop chain in USA – not an experience I want to repeat! There was zero interest in getting me on my way – each customer was taken strictly in turn, even those who had left the car for the day.

Clustered stems

I had to be registered on their system – my phone number and post code didn’t fit into the system so that was a bit pointless. It took the best part of 2 hours before we left – and I had to supply a new inner tube as they had none in stock. The handling was definitely improved.
Today was to be Redwood day so we moved between Redwood forests, pausing only in Eureka for a very late lunch.


We saw Elk and Deer – and Redwoods. Our last visit was nearly an all night affair as we

A Giant – 16 ft in diameter

lost our trail returning from the Giant Redwood on the Avenue of the Giants – it was after sunset and dark in the shadows of these great trees. all of which look the same after dark! But we found our way back, using a fallen tree as a bridge over the stream. Then it was night driving to our hotel. We had not booked and had more or less resigned ourselves to either supper or a bed (unlikely to get both as everything closes so early) when in a tiny village on the scenic route south (not very scenic two hours after dark), we found a very smart Victorian era hotel who had both bed and supper! A real stroke of luck.

26 October – today started well, I retarded the ignition and the car started without the “grinding” of the past – and the exhaust was less smelly – happy car = happy me!

Misty morning on the Oregon coast

Never mind all this checking exact timing- does the car start? That’s the best timing position! Ok it meant that the engine was likely to stall at any junction but nothing’s perfect! We had a late start and it was misty and overcast. We went to see the Giant Spruce – 550years old, 185 ft high and 40 ft girth – yes the Redwoods are older and taller but they are in the future.

the Giant Spruce

The Oregon Dunes

Chill wind at Bandon

Rocks and reflections at Bandon

We continued down the Oregon coast to our overnight stop at Brookings; the car was fine except for the steering but there were serious cross winds and the steering is fine just the suspension isn’t and at the 55mph speed limit what’s the problem? Generous curves, straight stretches…excellent Lotus territory.

Sunset on the Oregon coast

This picture was taken just before the sun went down below the horizon, we got into the car and a minute later the TomTom switched to night-time mode – spot on timing!

25 October – another wet day!

Astoria County Jail

Pacific Lotus

The car didn’t want to start, which was not good. We planned to go to a house museum but being “winter” it didn’t open till 10am so we went to the Maritime Museum. We then planned on Fort Stevens – a military base with a long history – but it looked desolate so I decided I should have someone look at the insufficient charging of the battery. After several “no thanks” phone calls we found a garage who were available at 1pm. Result – inconclusive! The system was charging and the battery just passed one test and happily passed another. They suggested we leave the car overnight so they could try it cold; this was not in my plan so I bought some jumpleads instead.

Damp Beach

We ventured into the rain missing all those golden, sandy beaches and Lucy had to made do with the motel swimming pool. Maybe the car will start tomorrow and maybe the rain will stop……..

24 October – the good news is that the speedo now works! I am concerned about the electrics as the starter grinds and its not charging as it was before; it seems that the battery charges when going uphill more often than otherwise – sister is convinced there is a correlation – so maybe electricity flows down from the front to the back?

Fort Clatsop

A short day as we only drove for about three hours to Fort Clatsop, The spot where Lewis & Clark over-wintered in 1805/6 when they arrived at the Pacific. There’s nothing left of the old fort, just a replica. Up to 1985 the area was a bustling logging station where logs were assembled into “rafts” before being loaded onto ships for export to Japan and Korea. Now its a state park and all peace and quiet, particularly out of season (winter here started on 1st October).
We then got as far as Astoria where we had a late lunch and decided to spend the night. Its another town with steep hills on its grid system – one is 47 degrees! (we were going down it)

Looking South from Astoria Column

The Columbia river

Lunch was at a craft brewery and the strangled screeching we heard was the Sea Lions who use these shores to rest on the rocks and sea level pontoons which humans have so thoughtfully provided.

Sea Lions in Astoria

The Astoria Column (erected by a railway baron in 1926) gave fantastic views in all directions (once you’ve climbed the 163 steps).

Boats and the Columbia River Bridge

21-23 October – with friends south of Portland where we saw another USA – farmers markets with an extraordinary range of choice in vegetables,

Self service choice

a supermarket with aisles of self service in different varieties of flours, grains nuts and more,

Japn in Portland

Covered Bridge – some have sides

a Japanese garden in Portland where each turn brings a different shade of shape and colour; then out to the Cascade Mountains where we saw a covered bridge (an effort to keep ice off the roadway),

Mount Washington

Peregrine Falcon at High Desert Museum

a lava field at Newberry (last eruption 1300 years ago) ending in a craft brewery.

Lava Field at Newberry

I was abe to instal the speedo cable which my sister brought with her – today will tell if that makes the dial come to life!

20 October – before leaving Ellensburg I restored the connections to the rev counter so there was now only one dead dial on the dash. I also checked the website for the Boyer Bransden connections – both had been disconnected in our attempts to solve the points problem.

Umtanum Valley

I was much relieved when the Boyer Bransden unit resumed as my stock of 3 new points was now exhausted – one causing trouble, one not fitting and the third in use.
We followed the route given by the motel to a waterfall – just it wasn’t there! So we had a short walk along a valley coloured by the yellows of autumn. From here we dropped down to the Columbia river and the Lewis & Clark Trail (theirs was the first expedition to cross the western USA from St Louis to the Pacific in Oregon in 1804/6).

We stopped at the Maryhill museum, once a railway baron’s mansion and now an art museum in the middle of nowhere. Garage spaces designed to hold 24 cars now showcase Rodin sculptures but it was the variety of chess pieces and sets that really caught the eye.

Columbia River – once Rapids now a Dam

On to Cascade Locks, once fearsome rapids but now under the waters of the dam. After that the rains came and the road to Portland became a river and very difficult driving with road markings invisible under standing water. In Portland we met up with friends for a beer and a Courtney Barnett concert. The Elan was left in a weekend garage as we were whisked away in a 4WD for a night’s sleep.

16/19 October We continued our journey up to Vancouver Island where Bill and Janet had very kindly offered us a bed, We spent two nights there and after a leisurely breakfast decided to “attend” to the car. I have never spent such a frustrating time changing a set of points! Something somewhere was wrong and it took me all day to get the ignition to function again. Bill was very patient but we lost the chance to explore the beauty of the Island. Then, having spent a day of glorious sunshine on the car we set off in the wind and rain to return

Seattle from the Space Needle

Pike Place Fish Market Seattle

to Seattle where my sister was waiting to join the tour

Chihuly Glass Exhibition

and Allison returned home to see the dogs.

Elevating Seattle’s streets

We had time to visit the hilarious Underground Seattle tour showing how Seattle’s streets were lifted by a storey after the great fire of 1889. I decided I had had enough of the rain and cold, with the car being blown off course in the dingy spray of the Interstate – I was heading south for the sunshine! We endured more Seattle traffic and crossed the Snoqualmie Pass and what was surely beautiful scenery had I been able to see it! Sister said it was spectacular!

14/15 October – two days long on driving and low on photos! On 14th we went to a meeting of the

GGLC cars and members

Showing how we treat Elans!

Golden Gate Lotus Club hosted by Status Autos of Redwood City ( Our Elan was clearly the scruffiest car there, no great surprise! I guess that after I had shown some slides of what we do to Elans, they probably thought the car was in remarkably good shape! We left our friendly hosts and took the scenic route over the Golden Gate Bridge in the general direction of Seattle. First choice would have been the Pacific Coast highway but its about 5 hours longer and we didn’t have that in our timetable. Second choice was Highway 101 but that runs through Santa Rosa, which has just been decimated by the California Wildfires. We decided on the boring but practical Interstate 5. It wasn’t all bad and the scenery round Mount Shasta where we stopped was spectacular but very cold – seriously cold! We put the heating in on our hotel room.

Church at Golden

Day 2 we had 400 miles ahead of us, stopping only at two sites from the “50 Great Drives Book”. One was a wash out – the “Oregon Vortex”, the second was the goldmining ghost town of Golden where just a couple of buildings remain and the creek, carefully cleared up by teams of volunteers – it was hard to see this peaceful valley as a goldmining location with powerful water jets pulverising the rocks and polluting the entire downstream.

Peaceful Creek

13 October – a day in San Francisco. In the evening we checked the car and put some spacers to stop the sump guard hitting the exhaust – maybe it will now be quiet

Start with a Cable Car on a turntable

Looking back

An interesting bank exhibit

The Powerhouse of the cable car system

Up and Down

The “Painted Ladies”

11/12 October – First stop was the Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara Mission

Mission, the pearl of Missions. An imposing set of buildings with a clear view to the sea, this must have been impressive in the late 18th Century when the Spaniards started converting the indigenous peoples.

Morro Rock

Then on along the Highway to Morro Rock and Hearst Castle,

Neptune Pool Hearst Castle

where we had the Grand Rooms Tour of the newspaper magnate’s Hilltop

Hearst Castle

Mansion full of antiques bought largely from Italy. Our overnight stop was in Salinas. I drove the car over a kerb in the dark – yet another thump on the unfortunate sump guard. The car is now making some very nasty noses which I hope is only the exhaust banging against the sump guard – if its not that then it may be more serious!

The Big Sur coast

The second day we set off for The Big Sur – on the northern section of the Highway – sadly a mudslide earlier in the year has cut the Highway into two sections and the missing link will not be repaired until early in 2018 – so we had to approach Hearst Castle from the South and the Pfeiffer Canyon from the north. The bridge at Pfeiffer is also down – due to be re-opened tomorrow – so we went to the nearby Andrew Molera State Park for a lengthy walk before returning to the eccentric Carmel and its famous 17 Mile Drive. We were slightly later than planned into San Francisco – and the evening traffic was something else! We had over an hour of stop start darkness driving on the Freeway with an unhappy Lotus but somehow the TomTom kept us on track and we reached our overnight stop – exhausted!

10 October – where did today go to?

That’s why you come to Malibu

The Coastline

It is 90 miles from Santa Monica to Santa Barbara – we took a long route but it still took all day! We started thinking that our hotel booking for Santa Barbara was just too close then realised that we needed time on the car so spent some time driving round various “shops” until we found a friendly wash/lube who let us use their pit to check the underside of the car and all those nuts that want to come loose in the course of a long journey; then there’s gearbox oil level and oil filter. I reckon the diff oil level was ok as the whole area is completely dry whereas the gearbox is like an oil well!
That done it was the Pacific Coast Highway to Malibu for breakfast which became brunch – a roadside burrito for me followed by a chocolate cake in a swish restaurant for Allison.


Mission Church – bless those Halloween pumpkins

We continued to Ventura and then Stearns Wharf in Santa Barbara – not even time for the famous Mission but we did visit the Mission in Ventura.

Santa Barbara frrom Stearns Wharf

9 October – The Pacific. A short day of just over 100 miles – well perhaps! We left at around 8.30 and arrived shortly after 5pm.

Wigwam Motel

There were plenty of detours and Route 66 things to see and cafes to stop at. We followed some (now) dead end alignments, including one that has a Mormon Trail Marker indicating the route they took from Salt Lake City to the west. Over a summit and alongside a creek we found our way to San Bernadino – definitely the back end of this town with the strong wind throwing dust at our open window (the other one remains broken).

Roadside Orange

We visited a Wigwam Motel – that would be interesting if our tour company had not already booked us into the “safety” of well-known chains, a Giant road-side orange, a restored petrol/gas station,

Stagecoach Inn – not very busy

Monravia – fuel station

a couple of closed Inns, cafes and a 1915 pharmacy, now a café/gift shop. We drove round various parts of LA – both planned and unplanned – as well as various side trips to try to get a photo of that “Hollywood” hillside sign and the Lotus.

Lotus goes to Hollywood

Then on to Santa Monica where we visited the “official” end of route 66 – at some traffic lights – and the unofficial end on the pier where haze again dampened the photos. The Route ended with a paddle in the Pacific.

Officially – the End

The Pier Santa Monica – the End

Without a speedo I cannot be sure of our mileage from Newark but I think it was just over 3,800. Now on to the North and Vancouver………..looking forward to meeting some of the San Francisco area Lotus owners next weekend.

8 October – to California.

In Sloan Canyon

What should have been a short day got longer! We started a little later than planned and then headed north rather than south; having sorted that out our route to the Petroglyphs at Sloan Canyon was interrupted by the construction of a new gated community there’s an awful lot of new building just south of Las Vegas.

Heading south once more we left the Interstate for the 5 miles of the Zzyzx road which goes to a dried up salt lake and the Desert Studies Centre – cars aren’t allowed on the lake bed but we are and Allison found a tennis ball stuck in the dry mud – house joke as we always find tennis balls when walking the dogs at home in the lush greenery of the Norfolk Broads.

The Street, Calico

Further south we came to Calico Ghost town – a silver mining village abandoned in the 1890’s when the price of silver plummeted – now a theme park.

Calico – the mines


Fuel costs a little more nowadays!

temperatures moderated from the day time 35C we regained Route 66 near Barstow.

Sagebrush Inn, a Roadhouse – what you saw was what you got!

Elmer’s Bottle Tree Ranch

We reached our hotel in Victorville at around 7pm – a long hot day.

7 October – in Las Vegas. By way of contrast to the extravagance of Las Vegas we visited the Las Vegas Springs Preserve. This was the origin of Las Vegas – the Springs which provided the water which made life possible when Las Vegas was an oasis in the South Nevada desert. It was only recently when excess ground water pumping reduced the water levels that the Springs dried up. Now water comes from the Colorado river – and tourism is only 5% of the usage – a figure I cannot understand seeing all the massive hotels in the town!

On The Strip

In the evening we toured The Strip.

6 October


More Seligman

Checked that fan belt again and decided that it did have ½ inch play and didn’t need attention (too tight and the water pump is damaged which is a major engine repair job). Leaving at 7.30 ish it was chilly – and the car felt it (doesn’t like the cold!). Spotted 9 or 10 of the Borgwards we had last seen in St Louis; they were heading towards Grand Canyon, their trip had taken them to Phoenix, which was not on our route.

At Williams we rejoined Route 66 and a few miles later followed what the book describes as the start of 159 almost uninterrupted miles of pristine route 66> The road was empty until Seligman which was full of tourist busses, whose occupants were more interested in the kitsch than a live Lotus Elan – shame!

Hackberry General Sore

Then to Hackberry and a general stores full of things only tourists would need. One feature here were sets of five “Burma Shave” (a brushless shaving cream from the 1920’s) roadside adverts. At Kingman we chose to detour off the direct route to Las Vegas by tackling the Sitgreaves Pass, a narrow but now well maintained road which used to terrify previous generations who paid the locals to drive their cars up and down the 3550 ft mountain pass.

Sitgreaves Pass

Oatman Hotel

This took us to Oatman – it looks like a wild west town


but is lined with modern tourist cars. An actor plays the sheriff and discussed with us whether we should be fined for having our steering wheel in the wrong place!. Then across the desert to Las Vegas, experiencing the extremes between the empty expanse and the clogged urban motorway system. Somehow the car coped with both. Our hotel, the Luxor, is huge; checking in was as if we were at an airport with snaking lines of guests shuffling forwards and took over half an hour.

5 October – rest day at Grand Canyon.

The Descent

An early morning descent about half way down the Canyon and twice as long to get back up! Its very chilly before the sun’s rays warm you up, then its too hot.

The Mule Train – balast to repair the paths

4 October . It was an early start to meet at ten past six for a sunrise tour of Monument Valley (the bus arrived at 6.30!).

Early morning Monument Valley

We meandered around a trail in the valley, spending quite a lot of time at a “hogan” (anglicised spelling) – a native Indian woman’s house – of a lady who sold horse riding tours and various crafts – am I cynical?
Breakfast was late and slow so we didn’t hit the road till 10.30. Again there was a direct route to Grand Canyon and the scenic route via Page and the Horseshoe bend where the Colorado river tries to do a 360 – or at least 270 – on its way to Grand Canyon.

Horseshoe bend

Research had shown that none of the walking trails that we could do in the time available in Grand Canyon would give us a view of the river – so we joined lots of Chinese tourists at Horseshoe bend.

We then traversed plenty of hot desert with a few

Little Colorado River in a baby canyon

baby canyons reaching Grand Canyon to find that the day had just got longer – we had crossed another time zone and our early start now seemed even earlier.

View fromThe Watchtower

The eastern entrance to the Canyon National Park brought us in near the Watchtower – which gave good but hazy views over the Canyon.

Car at the Canyon

I almost managed a photo of the car and the canyon! Tomorrow is a rest day before we head off to Gambling World – otherwise known as Las Vegas – and no its not on Route 66.

2/3 October

Recognise this scene? Its the way we are going – Monument Valley

We went off-route to visit some friends in Colorado, rejoining the tour at Monument Valley. Our route was north west from Albuquerque to Durango and on to Lake Vallecito (7200 ft). The speedo failed as we left and despite my efforts to revive it there’s no sign of life – so if anyone asks how far we went – I don’t really know! I tried fixing it the next morning- but failed – the TomTom shows my speed so I should be ok with speed limits. I also tightened the alternator belt which had screamed at me yesterday – it was about right at 8am when the sun was down and it was 3 degrees but by late afternoon when it was somewhere over 30 degrees it felt rather tight – have the pulleys expanded?

In 4 places at one time

We left late for 4 Corners – the meeting points of Utah, Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado.

Valley of the Gods

A great disappointment – sales opportunity for Navajo Indian tourist ware and apart from that a disc in the concrete. Then to the Valley of the Gods and on to Monument Valley. The latter probably the most recognisable image of the Wild West – sadly for my photos we were there at the wrong time of day and it was hazy.

1 October Rest day in Albuquerque – the best laid plans…….. I had planned to spend some time on the car this morning to check the brake squeal. I had not planned on replacing the clutch slave cylinder in the hotel car park – but that’s what I had to do as the clutch pedal went straight to the floor when I tried to move the car to a less busy area. Not my favourite task but I do carry 2 spare cylinders and looking on the bright side – we had the time, it was not raining, it was warm and I had a secure place – so all in all it was a “good” thing! The last time I replaced it was in Peru in the Urubamba valley after visiting Macchu Pichu – maybe hotel car parks and clutch cylinders have something in common?

We then visited a museum (coffee and cakes by way of contrast to the tarmac car park!).

NewMexico landscape looking west

Then eastwards along the newer (1950/60) track of route 66 through Albuquerque and the “music road”. There is a small eastbound section where if you drive at 45mph with the wheels on a particular strip you get “America the beautiful”. Its true!! Though Allison says it was flat – maybe I drove at 44 and not 45?

Albuquerque Old Town

We returned on the Interstate and were tourists in the Old Town – and the clutch reservoir is still full!! Tomorrow we leave the route to visit friends in Colorado and after that its Monument Valley and then two nights in Grand Canyon – photo ops to be sure!

30 September to Albuquerque. There are two “alignments” of Route 66 between Tucumcari and Albuquerque. One is the direct (later) route which is largely the current Interstate and is a direct east/west line; the other has east/west, north and south elements – we chose the latter via Santa Fe.

Blue Hole

The rain cleared before our first stop at the Blue Hole of Santa Rosa – one of a series of linked lakes, connected by a natural underground system with a constant supply of clear water, very popular with divers. Then we crossed the flat lands of New Mexico to Las Vegas (not the Nevada version!).

The Other Las Vegas

This was not on route 66 but was used as a source of provisions by travellers – so we had morning coffee in the genteel surroundings of the Plaza Hotel.

Post cards at US Post office near Starvation Peak

From modern comfort, the route took us past Starvation Peak – a place of fear for the settlers heading west.

Not that way to San Jose

We visited a couple of Route 66 dead ends and dirt tracks – and were surprised to find so many US Post Offices tucked away in remote corners – you have to try pretty hard to find any back home! We followed a dirt track of old route 66 (4 WD only the book says) but did decide against the all-mud options after our previous efforts. The area was full of history – the Santa Fe trail, the Old Pecos Trail, Civil War battlefields and Indian Reservations.

Santa Fe Cathedral

We stopped in Santa Fe, the oldest (State) capital city in USA with its Spanish Churches, arched walkways round the Square and its Adobe style architecture.

Santa Fe Loretto Chapel

Then with the skies darkening and “precipitation in sight” we headed for our overnight stop in Albuquerque, deviating only for an Indian Trading Post – which was closed when we got there! Dinner was accompanied by the rumble of thunder, pity the car leaks.

29 September to Tucumcari – a short day of only 115 miles – but we took a longer route! Today was also the day that we reached the halfway mark when we passed through Adrian, Texas

On the Mid Point

1139 miles to go (precisely inaccurate!).
We started with Palo Duro Canyon, the second biggest in USA.

Palo Duro

After the rain, the trails were closed but we were able to drive to the bottom and tried to find some stunning photo ops – limited success. Then to the (in)famous Cadillac ranch 10 Cadillacs standing nose first in a soggy, muddy field where people are invited to add more spray paint to what is already there. I’m not a fan of getting needlessly muddy in a small, car!

Mud and Spray can

Texas has a couple of ghost towns which were more interesting than the Cadillacs. One at Gruhlkey Road has a beautiful tarmac road with central yellow lines leading up to a dead end. The other

First/Last Motel in Texas

at Glenrio, which straddles the Texas/New Mexico border has a dual carriageway in one State and in the other a derelict motel which was once the first (or last) motel in Texas.

Please rescue me!

Before Tucumcari, we found yet more fields of rusting cars crying out for restoration – and this time they are for sale! We arrived around 3pm (after another one hour time shift) to find that most of the museums had just closed. So spent a little time on the car, neglected up to now apart from fluid checks. We are losing water somewhere, the brakes are squealing, the handbrake needed adjusting and the passenger’s window is best left were it is. Otherwise all seems ok – mileage since leaving home 2600.

28 September to Amarillo. One of our first tasks was to find a car wash and clean off at least some of yesterday’s mud. Next stop was Fort Reno, part of the Red Indian resettlement program in 1860/70 but we were too early and it was closed. Then to more scenes of abandonment – a restored gas station and the aptly named Canute which the guide book says “is worth the detour for all the remains of old businesses”. Just before that we visited the Oklahoma Route 66 Museum – described as mandatory by the book and there we met the other half of our tour – its only taken a week!

One feature of the road is the quantity of old, abandoned cars which in UK I am sure would have been snapped up for restoration.

Rotting peacefully

I parked in a driveway to take photos of a field; the owner drove up and, having asked how I get a gas can in a car so small, said that he put the cars there for people to take photos – but they were not for sale.

Murals in Shamrock Texas

Continuing west we entered Texas and it started to rain just about the time we got caught in the “Jericho gap” – an 18 mile section of the route now in private ownership – we returned to the Interstate – not fun in the spray and standing water. We had to visit the “bug ranch”

Bug ranch

– a satire on “Cadillac ranch” which comes later – 5 VW’s dug into the ground. Our evening meal was at the Big Texan – a cross between showbiz and a restaurant. Limos whisk you from your hotel (ours was about an hour late) to a two storey hall where all staff wear Texan hats, there are 500 covers and they consume the equivalent of 14 cattle per day.

27 September to Oklahoma City – we knew today would be a long one – 295 miles if travelling direct and Route 66 is not direct and is stop/start, seeing things and using byways, towns and villages (and “unplanned detours”) – anything but the Interstate. We left at about 7 am and arrived 12 hours later.

Paris Springs – early and damp

Kansas and still damp

Most of the day it rained and was fairly chilly but we set out with shorts and T-shirts for yesterday’s weather!

Kansas may have only 13 miles of the route but we spent some time there in Galena, where the Gift Shop was about to close for the winter and at the coal mining museum –

Galena Mining Museum

once a railway ticket office but picked up and moved to its new location on the main road.

Oklahoma provided plenty of interest – the Sidewalk Highway,

9 ft highway

a 9ft wide stretch of tarmac road, the Blue Whale, a brick paved bridge,

At Shoe Tree Trading Post

the Shoe Tree Loop where folk have hung shoes on the tree at the entrance and a stretch of the Ozark Trail – not to be attempted in the wet (it had rained all day so not the best of our ideas!).

Must wash this tomorrow

The attractions we missed were many times more numerous than those we visited – but with such a long day. Museum visits sadly are not an option.

They started with 5

26 September – the 5 Borgwards from yesterday have now become 13; seems that one as already had an engine transplant shortly after arriving.

Meramec Caveens

Our first site today was to a Jesse James museum – but as it was now winter, it was closed.

Meramec Caverns (with coloured lights)

Then to the Meramec Caverns – a 24 mile complex of underground caverns, stalactites, rivers, outlaws (Jesse James again) and Civil War battles. This took a good chunk out of the day.

Cuba, mural, Borgward

Then on to Cuba – town of murals – before some Route 66 dereliction

Bridge at Gasconade River

and on to Lebanon before ending in the rain in Springfield. Our route book was written by a route 66 expert who encourages tourists to visit the “mom and pop” businesses along its length. One such was a motel in Lebanon where we stopped to buy some souvenirs but I was struck by the anger of the proprietor towards us because our tour hotel was in the big city of Springfield rather than using her motel – understandable but unwanted.

25 September St Louis, hot.

St Louis in the Shadow of the Arch

St Louis River of Bridges

St Louis Gateway Arch

A group of 5 Borgward cars travelling from New York to Los Angeles had arrived at the hotel when we returned from sightseeing – how often do you see one let alone five?

24 September – Today was one of the lowest mileage days of the tour – but when we followed the meanderings of the Route – it got extended! We tracked back into Springfield to find one of the “Giants” at Lauterbach Tire. Then we had to decide which “alignment” to follow as today the 1920’s route was about 12 miles away from the 1940’s.

The Old Brick Road

We chose the 20’s and drove the “old brick road” – a section of just over a mile of brick surface. In Virden we found a memorial to the 1898 battle between coal miners and the mine owners. Our

The concrete road

guide book described the next section as “an evocative concrete road like the snaking course of a river” as the road followed a series of right angles through the cornfields. After the brick square in Carlinville we changed allegiance to the 40’s, visiting the Route 66 shrine to “Our Lady of the Highways”.

Our Lady of the Highways

Soulsby’s Shell Station at Mt Olive

Further on we had to visit the “Pink Elephant” Antiques, complete with more Giants – this was top class kitsch!

Pink Elephant Antiques

Our last visit was to Chain of Rocks bridge. This steel and concrete bridge carried Route 66 over the mighty Mississippi for 30 years till 1965. Its famous for its bend – it’s a mile long with a 22 degree bend in the middle – and the scene of many deaths over the years. Now the bridge is deserted and all the roadside stalls, cafes and businesses have disappeared and its a wildlife park. There were just 8 pedestrians and a cyclist when we were there.

Bridge with a bend

One of them gave us a good tip for our evening meal – and we still haven’t met the other members of our party! Tomorrow is another rest day in St Louis.

23 September – This weekend saw the annual Springfield car show with 1,000+ cars on display in the centre of the City.

The interior Capitol, Springfield

We had booked to be on display but turned up without any driving licences – you have to show a driving licence to be able to put the car on display – hmm! We were in two minds about the display as we don’t “do” static displays but it was close to the main historic sites – based round Abraham Lincoln, President of USA during the Civil War and whose family came from Norfolk. So we displayed; much of the time we were off visiting but when we were there,

Springfield Show

we had groups of people wanting to talk about the car and its travels. It was another hot day – temperature records were being broken as we sweltered at 94F.

22 September Our objective was to follow Route 66 – but there are challenges;

The Story of Route 66 – Road Ends!

Route 66 now longer exists and has been superseded by the Interstate network, Route 66 had various adjustments over the years so its course moved and finally much of it has been removed.

Gemini Giant, Wilmington

Various people have documented the Route’s history and each State has its Route 66 Preservation Society who have put up road signs – and helped the huge tourist industry riding on the Route 66 name.

So we were provided with a comprehensive set of route notes, noting

Two Cell Jail, Gardner

the major attractions, and the definitive Route 66 Guide. I had also downloaded a complete set of tracks for the Route for the SatNav – it was when the directions diverged that the fun began……..!

Our hotel was not on Route 66 so the SatNav took us to the nearest point on the route – and may have landed us in hot water as this included two roads with auto toll booths and we didn’t have the correct card or change – so we paid more but the Stop sign still lit up – hmm!

Much of the world was on Route 66 today – Canadians, Portuguese, Americans and Brits – including a party from Caister which is about 6 miles from home in Norfolk. The people we didn’t see were the others in our tour group.

Amongst the features of the

Ambler’s Texaco Station, Dwight

road are preserved petrol stations from years gone by, many painstakingly restored and now museums/souvenir shops.

Sprague Super Service Station, Normal

Others have been demolished and others turned into homes.

21 September – the tour starts today – so the organiser says! I arrived in New York late in the evening 4 days ago to allow two days to get to Chicago – about 800 miles – and one day in case there were Customs things to resolve. In fact there were none and I left the warehouse about 30 minutes after I got there. They thoughtfully brought a battery pack but the Elan started on its own. Everything seemed to be where it should be, the car was undamaged and off we went. I did nearly 450 miles, mainly on Interstates and around the same speeds as everyone else but faster than most of the “semis” (artics). Overnight near Erie. Then on towards Chicago but using highways today. Decided that Chicago hotels would be pricey so stopped in Valparaiso – having been to the Chilean original at the end of the Patagonia trip some years back. The similarities stop with the name! It was seriously humid and sticky – the temperature was about 90F and I was dripping. The local attraction is the Indiana Dunes, a National Park based on the dunes and coastal vegetation.
Then to Chicago – parking was the problem – measured in $$$$. But I did find the end of Historic Route 66 and the Start. Seems that the original westbound Route 66 is now one way eastbound hence it is the end if you are travelling east! The current start is now on a parallel road one way west bound so I drove the first 15 miles or so before leaving to find the first night hotel. As on our last Tour with Scenic there is just one other car – why is the take up so low? Haven’t yet met Ronald and Angela – but have seen what I guess is their Ontario registered Mustang in the parking – we have about 20 days to find them!

If you look at the map at the foot of our home page, there’s a large area without a little red car! The USA. So in 2017 we aim to rectify that. Getting to the “Land of the Free” has certain hurdles to overcome – first a full visa (having Iran in our passports is not a good start) but a trip to the Embassy solved that. Then car insurance – UK insurers won’t touch USA and the Americans aren’t too keen as we don’t have a USA postcode – and if we did the car won’t be registered there. However there is an insurer who will cover us for a “Collectors Car Event” – the Route 66 Tour – and after that we have 40 odd days to do as we please (60 days maximum all in). Now we know the rules, we can play the game!
The Classic Persia rally was very gentle on the car, the sump guard was the main casualty having had too many close encounters with the frequent road humps (into, out of and through most towns). That has been fixed (reshaped with a large press) so we are good to go! Route 66 here we come!

No Comments

Classic Persia

October 21st – tourist day! We took the bus again and really the only times we got off were to change busses or to go on boat trips – and both boats we only made by the skin of our teeth, one had already cast off but as there were only 8 other passengers it was no problem. Today’s photos try to show the old (dhows) and the new (the infrastructure and skyline).
dsc03370 dsc03357 dsc03351 dsc03377 dsc03388-copy dsc03409

October 20th – Its a different world in Dubai! We got to our hotel after the flight from

View from the hotel room

View from the hotel room

Dubai scene

Dubai scene

Bandar Abbas at around 11.15 and by the time we got to bed it was past midnight. Our hotel is unashamed luxury, the staff are embarrassingly deferential, everything is available (at a price), ladies wear what they want from full burkas with just the eyes – showing at one extreme to (nearly) everything showing! The building work and skyline is amazing, there are excellent roads everywhere, driving is disciplined, all the cars are modern and clean – and the flight time was just 35 minutes. We bought a bus ticket and spent the day hopping off the bus and into tourist sites. This evening is our rally dinner – but the organisers have not yet got the cars to the containers; they had planned to do this without us being involved. The cars are in the UAE but the next part is
Compare this with....

Compare this with….

....this - at the same site

….this – at the same site

unfinished and this evening we might find out what is happening and whether we may need to be involved tomorrow.

October 19th – up early (5.30) as I could not sleep – so checked the car’s points instead! The

Portside in Bandar Abbas

Portside in Bandar Abbas

gap had closed up. reset it and the car started ok so maybe that was it. We then convoyed to the port and spent about 3 hours being processed, getting back to the hotel at around 12.30. We are not expecting to see the car until Southampton.
Allison (not) shopping in Bandar Abbas

Allison (not) shopping in Bandar Abbas

October 18th – this was to have been a 9 hour day but after questions were asked, the route was shifted to become 7 hours. We had a navigational “moment” on leaving the hotel so had an unguided tour of Shiraz. The Garmin didn’t help as it repeatedly took us back to the same square and gave impossible directions. Eventually we got out and drove south into the heat of the desert – 39 according to Kieran. The car was not entirely happy and the water temperature was around 90 for most of the day. We had several spluttering sessions but outside of these the car ran well. Paul’s Mercedes suffered similarly; he changed points, condenser and plugs and the problem continued. Our problem may be points but the car starts ok which it doesn’t normally when points are dying. Anyway we now have just 10 km to go to the port and the next journey will be in England. Bandar Abbas is hotter and more humid than anywhere we have been before and we were dripping when we reached the hotel and its welcome air conditioning. Tomorrow is scheduled to be a day at the port, getting the car exported from Iran (then we can redeem our Carnet de Passage). First stop is the ferry to UAE then a transporter to the container port in Dubai.

October 17th – a day in Shiraz – somehow much more tiring than a day of driving and certainly

Arg-e-Karim Khan Zand

Arg-e-Karim Khan Zand

Vakil Mosque

Vakil Mosque

more expensive! A taxi into town brought us to the citadel, built 250 years ago, more like a palace but it has been a prison. Inside the gardens contained orange trees (every garden has orange trees, green skinned) but we didn’t try picking them! Then a bit of a ramble through various bazars to the Vakil Mosque, where we came upon our tour guide who was most concerned as he had lost one couple and was trying to find them. Then to the money changers and a teahouse before visiting the Shah Cheragh Mausoleum. This was a huge complex
Shah Cheragh

Shah Cheragh

Shah Cheragh

Shah Cheragh

and seems to have absorbed what is marked o the map as a large intersection. It contains the graves of two brothers of the eighth Imam. Allison had to wear a Chador and we were accompanied by an official guide. Here we met two more sets of participants -there must be a statistic to calculate the odds but I guess they are low. Lunch was at a local restaurant up a side street – all Iranians apart from us. Another Mosque and a
Nasir al-Molk Mosque

Nasir al-Molk Mosque

150 year old house


more gardens – and we were finished!

October 16th – the rally were organising a tour of Shiraz today and a trip (by car) to the ancient sites tomorrow. We preferred to reverse the programme so that if anything happened carwise en route, there would be a day in hand to sort it out. So we went to Persepolis and then to Pasegard.



dsc02610 Persepolis had changed since our last visit nearly 40 years ago. There was a visitor centre, stalls and car parking. The site had been protected against excess human traffic by way of screens and fenced off areas. None of which takes away from the spectacle. Then on to Pasegard, a disappointment but maybe I was thinking of another site at Naqsh-e-Rostam when I remembered what we saw before.
Wherever we went the Elan was the most photographed object in town. dsc03192

October 15th – we took advantage of the 6am breakfast and were on the road by 7.00,heading for Shiraz.

On a quiet mountain road

On a quiet mountain road

The direct route was 4 1/2 hours, ours was slightly longer but we avoided the roughest section and were in Shiraz shortly after 3pm. En route we had our first motoring incident, peacefully bumbling along the motorway, a local drove into the passengers door – a glancing blow, I guess he was so busy looking that he didn’t see where he was.
No real damage

No real damage

I jumped out and shouted at him – after hooting furiously at him. He didn’t try to protest any innocence and indicated that the marks could be polished off. There was no physical damage, just we ended up with some of his rubber strip and white paint and he had some of our red! He was a bit alarmed that I was dripping blood – caught my thumb on something whilst jumping out. However he kissed me on both cheeks, we shook hands and that was it. Allison says the door closed better afterwards.
Palace at Barg-e-Eram

Palace at Barg-e-Eram

We went on past the hotel to the Barg-e-Eram, the most important of the numerous gardens in Shiraz, a peaceful and quiet contrast to the noise and bustle of city driving in Iran! Our room is on the corner of the 16th floor with views onto the mountains ringing the city one way and the car park the other – to see a little red car way down below!

October 14th – second rest day. I tightened the fan belt before breakfast and found we had lost one of the bolts securing the alternator. Timothy had spent yesterday in the car park working on the Lagonda and reported a steady stream of visitors – the Lotus bonnet would be full of fingerprints! Everybody was asking him what was happening so he really needed an assistant just to speak with people! Half the rally went on a

Courtyard Friday Mosque

Courtyard Friday Mosque

Inside Friday Mosque

Inside Friday Mosque

tour of contrasts in the morning, first to the exceptionally plain Friday Mosque, tiled in the courtyard but inside just bricks and a little mud coloured plaster, different styles of brickwork – a huge complex constructed over seven centuries. Part was rebuilt following an airstrike in the Iran-Iraq war. Then to the Armenian St Saviours Cathedral – the interior covered in
Inside St Saviours

Inside St Saviours

paintings, some depicting the gruesome tortures of saints. An unusual Cathedral in that it had a Mosque-like dome to stay in keeping with the surrounding architecture.
We then went to the Khaju Bridge – now an irrelevance as the Zayanden River has been redirected to provide water for Yazd. The riverbed is dry as a bone and surprisingly free of debris. A fleet of
Dried out pedalos

Dried out pedalos

pedalos stand forlornly by the bank. Then to the Palace of Hasht Behesht and the inevitable ice cream at the Abbasi Hotel for Allison.

October 13th – the first of 2 rest days in Isfahan. Brief check of car before breakfast – need to tighten up fan belt otherwise all seems ok. A tour was arranged to the four main sites in Isfahan

Shah Mosque

Shah Mosque

Ali Qapu Palace

Ali Qapu Palace

– the two Mosques on the main square, Maidan-e-Imam (it had different names in the past), Ali Qapu Palace and Chehel Sotun. This was followed by a trip to a carpet shop and lunch. Allison thought but not for long about a carpet. The others were more serious and were going to go back later. Then a meander round the bazar, after which Allison realised she had lost her camera. We retraced our steps – souvenir shop, pistaccio shop, exchange booth and found it on top of a pile of nougat in the sweet shop – untouched. We ended at the Abbassi Hotel for afternoon tea; Allison had come here with her mother 40 years ago and it was the highlight of mother’s trip to Iran. Returning to our hotel after supper, I was crossing a 4 lane dual carriageway when a policeman came out, shook m
Se-o-se Pol bridge at night

Se-o-se Pol bridge at night

y hand and stopped the traffic for me!

October 12th – a long drive to Isfahan so the interest had to come from the road. Today was part



of Ashura and the roads were empty – of cars. In the towns there were processions – drums. flags, people with “mud” on their hair, face and clothes and the rituals of self-flagellation.
On the road we came across the stationary Mercedes of Paul & Sandra – this time a broken fan belt. After problems with the gears and ongoing unhappiness with the ignition timing, Paul’s comment was – I should have brought a Lotus!
Altogether three rally cars came to Paul’s aid as well as numerous Iranians, some to take photos –
Four of the remaining five rally cars

Four of the remaining five rally cars

mainly of the Lotus, but there was also the Mercedes and the Porsche to choose from. One kind man
lunch boxes for Bernard

lunch boxes for Bernard

went back to the nearest town and returned with lunch boxes for each rally car. The friendliness of the Iranians cannot be overstated, they ask where we are from and say “welcome to our country” – the only exception being when you are lost at a road junction, unable to read the Farsi signs and not knowing where the places are anyway – then impatience and hooting are the order of the day.

October 11th – the direct route to Kermanshah is 130km and takes just over 2 hours.

The scenery - Lotus

The scenery – Lotus

dsc03033 Our route was up into the hills of Kurdistan, overlooking Iraq and was nearer 350km and 7 hours. We came across a broken down Mercedes early on –they were stuck in 5th gear, fortunately they were able to hammer the external gear linkage which was jammed and were able to continue. Then we had a lengthy stop at a military control point, together with the Mercedes of Phil & Kieron – but not the Landrover of Dina & Bernard which sailed on through as the soldiers were looking the other way; frantic military hand-waving went unnoticed! We spent a good 20 minutes whilst our passports were checked and phone calls made. We were told not to take photos but of course every passing car had mobile phones out taking photos of the Elan! One can understand their suspicion, after all why would any sensible person take a 350 km trip to another town when 130 was on offer?
The route split after a while; we opted for the shorter and quicker route – probably just as well because the other route was extremely rough. We stopped at an empty layby to look out over Iraq. The layby soon filled up and the cameras were out in force; people were in the car, on the car and around the car. Two teenage girls came up from another layby and had a long conversation with Allison, also translating questions from the others and our answers about the car. The upshot was that we were invited to lunch at Grandma’s but first we had tea with them in their layby – cue more Lotus viewing and photos! After lunch we set off on a route which crossed between the road we wanted to be on and the main route of the day, joining just after the end of their rough section. Concerned over the gearbox – a new noise and very hot. The gear lever rubber sleeve had come off – so that may explain some of the noise – and checked the oil so we’ll see how tomorrow fares.
At the hotel, Phil and Kieron told how they were nearly blown up – rock blasting was taking place on the main rally route (the rough part) but the only warning was a man in dusty clothes, running around and waving his arms. They took him for a village idiot but stopped when the car behind them stopped and flashed – the road ahead was soon covered in rockfall……

October 10th – today we planned to go completely off route by visiting the remains at Tahkt-e-Soleyman

The Lake in the crater

The Lake in the crater

The Lake

The Lake

en-route to Sanandaj. The rally had encouraged us to use a navigational app called Gallileo – we had the app but not got round to loading the tracks or using it. Today we wanted it to make sure that we knew where we were as I was not sure if I could program the Garmin sat nav. In the event we used both though relying mainly on the Garmin. I missed the first turning and then we were confused when the Garmin tried to make us drive across a dual carriageway and through the Armco in the central barrier! Eventually we got on the right road and navigation was ok thereafter; we rejoined the rally route about 80 km before Sanandaj.
The site was built around a crater and enclosed in 200AD. It contained a Zoroastrian Fire Temple where the Kings used to come to complete their accession. We had the site virtually to ourselves, most of the other visitors being Iranian.
Leaving Tahkt-e-Soleyman we had our first puncture of the trip and 10km later found a town where it was repaired. The sight of the Elan drew the crowds and as usual I found it very difficult to answer one of the most common questions – how much does it cost? How would you value a collector’s car in a country where there are no spares and often unsuitable roads? The mobile phone cameras are out in force everywhere the Elan appears and its difficult to tell if men or women are the greatest fans! Two cars are now “out” of the rally -the Lagonda, being trucked to Isfahan when new parts from UK should be fitted, and the Bentley, now on a truck to Bandar Abbas with steering failure.
Our evening meal was in town and, as we left, the streets in the centre were eerily quiet as the police had closed the roads – probably anticipating tomorrow’s Ashura processions and marches.

October 9th – we could have done the scenic route to Zanjan which involves gravel and slow roads and an average speed of 42kph over 2 hours – but we didn’t! So it was a gentle day’s travel and we arrived in our hotel at 2pm.

Zanjan Friday Mosque

Zanjan Friday Mosque

The road ahead near Khalkhal

The road ahead near Khalkhal

We spoke with Timothy, the rally mechanic, who diagnosed the dripping oil as a failed seal on the cable drive – which is what I thought but still not sure just where it is. 40km out from the hotel we came upon a broken down Bentley, spewing steering fluid onto the road. They had set out early to do the full route in daylight (for the first time) so not the best start to their day. We could not help apart from moral support and they contacted Timothy who should be along in about an hour. That was the only rally car we saw all day.
Our route was along the Caspian – but not close enough to see – and then climbed to 2300m and a completely different landscape. This was back to dusty desert and hillside dwellings, far away from the bustle of the coast. We took a taxi into town and wandered through the bazaar and past the outside of some mosques.
Every town has black flags fluttering as it is early in the month of Moharram; women should wear more sombre clothes in the days leading up to the religious festival of Ashura which is next Tuesday. Certainly in the streets, the vast majority of women wore black chadors.

October 8th – surprisingly all the rally cleared the border and got to Tabriz though some of them did not arrive till past midnight. The Lagonda needs garage repairs and plans to join later when we have rest days. We fixed the horn but failed with the window – one pulley has come adrift and needs refixing so the window is held up with the universal repair tool – cable ties.

car park repairs

car park repairs

We motored gently to Astara via Ardebil, hoping to visit a Sufi World Heritage site on the way – but lost the signposts so failed on that as well! Astara is on the Azerbijan border and it is odd to see the border fence, topped with razor wire alongside the road as it drops down from the dry desert plateau to the damp greenery of the Caspian. In the evening we took a taxi into town and after a tour round the sites had a meal, whilst the taxi driver went to change some money for us. Where else would you give a taxi driver USD 200 and expect to get it back again? The driver didn’t speak much English so the communication was via his sister on his mobile phone!
October 7th – this was always going to be a long day – and it was. In theory we could do just 500km and a border crossing (which was known to be a long slow and inefficient process). We set out at 7am and made good progress until we were stopped by Paul & Sandra’s Mercedes – the road ahead had been closed by the military. We turned round and soon came across the Bentley who followed behind. In the first village we found Paul & Sandra who were getting instruction from a local on a rough track which bypassed the closure. He said we would never make it over the rough terrain and as we did not have the mapping equipment which the others had we continued to retrace our route. The Bentley stopped to have a puncture fixed and we soon came upon the other Mercedes (Phil & Keron). Together we decided not to risk the rough track but to complete 3 sides of the square and add over 300km to our day by travelling north to join the main truck route.
At the border there was a 13km queue of lorries, two abreast waiting to cross – what an extraordinary waste of time, money and people’s lives!
Border Crossing with Mt Ararat

Border Crossing with Mt Ararat

It took us about 3 hours to complete all the formalities – including all our fingerprints, twice, on a sheet of A4. Then on to Tabriz, only stopped once by the police, which we reached just after 8pm, well into darkness. Not my idea of fun as night driving was definitely on my “don’t want” list. The Elan is attracting interest from everyone all the time; every second car overtakes us, lets us overtake, hoots, waves, flashes or calls out to us. If we charged per photo we’d be rich! A very tiring day but there are no more border crossings so hopefully it will be the worst day. The car is doing amazingly well, the only things I know I have to look at are the horn, passenger’s window and the recurrence of the gearbox oil being pushed up the speedo cable and dripping onto my legs.

October 6th – we got covered in “stuff”! Overnight



Still tar

Still tar

we were parked under a tree and the red elan was unmissable target practice. My first task was therefore to clean the car so our early start was a little delayed. We sorted out a route thanks to TomTom which took us as we thought onto a ferry (TomTom picture of a boat was a hint) but the ferry had turned a splendid and empty bridge. After the bridge the road looked and smelt like liquid tarmac – and if something smells like a pig and looks like a pig it probably is a pig! It seems they had spread the liquid tar but not got round to the chippings. I figured that if I went slowly I would get stuck – so I carried on at normal speed for a good surface. When we got to the next town the brakes made a horrible noise so we stopped at a friendly fuel station to check them out. The tyres, which I had worried about, were clean but the sides of the car were covered with black tar and puddles of tar were forming on the ground, where it was dripping off the underside and suspension …… What a mess! The garage brought us glasses of tea and the men sat round as we emptied the boot to find the jack handle to check the brake pads – which were fine. I made gestures of cleaning and after a reply in Turkish I was handed a smart phone with the translated message – “purge with diesel”. Penny dropped – after a road incident involving diesel, the road is resurfaced – diesel kills tar.
We continued our 8½ hour drive to Van, where the black car had become brown as dirt and dust adhered to the wet tar and baked in the heat of the day! The first fuel station with a washing function couldn’t help but the second could and the chief mechanic knew exactly what to do – and an hour later we had a sparkling clean car – though the underside and suspension will have to wait till we get back home. How long we have to love the smell of diesel remains to be seen.

October 5th – the longest day so far at 9 hours plus stops. Some of the group left at 5am for balloon rides over the valleys and at breakfast we saw about 20 of them gliding over the valley and as we set out we saw them again, deflating on the ground. Driving at night was not what we wanted so we pushed on as fast as we could and our only sight seeing was the burial mound and statutes to King Antiochus and his family on top of Mount Nemrut.

Early evening view from Mt Nemrut

Early evening view from Mt Nemrut

We reached our hotel just after dark at about 6.30; Allison said the engine felt lumpy after she drove the last leg but a quick fluid level check was all that we had the energy for!

October 4th – a short day scheduled for 6 hours which we reduced to 4½ by using the main roads more. Our first stop was Church of St Jean at Gulsheir – carved out of the inside of a lump of rock

Church of St Jean

Church of St Jean

and contains some unusual frescos. This is the appeal of Cappadoccia where rocks take on strange shapes and are frequently hollowed out as houses and, in the case of our next visit to Tatlarin, underground cities. Then to the Castle at Orchisar, a mix of carved rock and construction, right in the centre of a town largely devoid of tourists. Our last stop was Sword Valley,
Sword Valley

Sword Valley

not many tourists but there was a film crew filming a TV episode. Getting to our hotel from the wrong direction was a challenge as the GPS was in the right place but too high up as the hotel occupied several layers of building on the side of a cliff face.

October 3rd – photographs and general milling around delayed our departure

Pera Palace Hotel Istanbul

Pera Palace Hotel Istanbul

but eventually we left into more Istanbul traffic – and the car following us, following the car in front all got lost as the Garmin (supplied by the rally) lost signal in the underpass. An illicit U turn corrected that error but more were to follow as the day wore on. So much so that Allison for whom our recently acquired TomTom was a thing to be distrusted, was soon calling out for me to chuck out the Garmin and bring back the TomTom – but the Garmin has our route programmed into it so not an easy option.
The route book said that we had an 8 hour day ahead of us; we decided that after a late start and a few wrong turns, we would follow the main road, forsaking the scenic route – but we did arrive with daylight to spare whilst most of those who followed the route were driving in the dark. We checked the car over, planned our route – using TomTom – for tomorrow with hopefully sightseeing time in the strange world of Cappadocia. Our hotel is a series of caves – and I’m not sure whether caveman has internet…..

October 2nd – this was planned as a short day – just 4 hours plus a border crossing and unsurprisingly it didn’t quite turn out that way! We reached the border ok but when it came to buying our third party insurance, the website had crashed so we spent over an hour waiting to buy this legally required but totally irrelevant document. Our wait was small compared to a guy who was taking his bike to a biking event in Anatolya. He had to insure both his bike and his van – the complication being that one person was bring in two road legal vehicles – he had arrived at 3am and it was now midday….
We stopped in Edirne to see the Selimiye Mosque – a World Heritage site – and the Lotus was much

Selimiye Mosque Edirne

Selimiye Mosque Edirne

admired in a town that is usually bypassed by folk hurrying away from the border. Then to Istanbul.
Istanbul from hotel balcony

Istanbul from hotel balcony

TomTom’s assessment of journey time was way out as we entered an 20 km traffic jam. Thanks to the powerful fans supplied by the temperature never rose above about 90 degrees and overheating was not a concern (it was 30 degrees outside). TomTom didn’t recognise our hotel but I had set a neighbouring one as our destination so we arrived in time for the evening fally briefing – with pole position right outside the front doors.

October 1st – after a non breakfast we headed further south east. The car is using a little oil and this morning the radiator needed a top up. It was warm and hazy as we passed Belgrade and pushed our way past various road works. Sight seeing was in short supply on this trip as we hurry to catch up the day we lost but we did manage a visit to a 14th century monastery set up in the hills. dsc02896
The border to Bulgaria was empty and the crossing quick. The main road was dual carriageway in the main and avoided most towns – except Sofia where TomTom reckoned that straight through the centre was better than the ring road. There is no way of knowing if that was the right choice as there is no control to compare against – you have to believe it or not! The route out of Serbia was slow as the road is still being built but Bulgaria (apart from Sofia) seems to be all dual carriageway and much of it very new.
Tonight we stopped in Haskovo (as planned) and in theory tomorrow needs only 350kms and one border crossing to our hotel in Istanbul ….and the minor matter of navigating through that huge and busy city!
September 30 – our hotel was everything you might expect of a southern German hotel, a jovial host in lederhosen, wood everywhere, large portions and an excellent breakfast. The Elan was parked in the beer garden overnight – hope it had a good time!
We were on the road at eight and planned to get south of Zagreb for the night so as to be somewhere near our original plan – and it worked; we spent the night just north of Belgrade having travelled through five countries to get there – Germany, Austria, Slovenia, Croatia and Serbia.
The car hummed, the only problem being at the border crossings where the clutch wouldn’t disengage – annoying as the slave cylinder was new the week before we left, the master cylinder refurbished a few months ago and fluid levels fine.
We were navigating on the TomTom and after Zagreb its instructions were simple – 375km straight on. Night fell as we crossed into Serbia and I was uncertain as to the quality of the road, it was dual carriageway, the slow lane was bumpy from all the trucks and the outside occupied by folk travelling much faster than us – at 70 we were constantly overtaken but much faster and the car felt unstable – I will have to chat with Spyder again when the car gets back home.
We were fortunate to be travelling east and south – our border queues were relatively short but the other way, towards western Europe they were long and slow.
Neither Croatia nor Serbia are in the Euro and we had no local currency – but thanks to plastic this was not a problem – fuel, tolls, motorway vignette, restaurant and hotel – all gobbled up by a piece of plastic! After leaving the motorway we stopped at a petrol station and asked about hotels (the language being a cross between German and sign language). The instructions included “rotunda” (roundabout) and semaphore (traffic lights) but when we arrived a local policeman said it was closed! Cue more instructions but incomprehensible – so our friendly cop jumped into his car and lead us back to the motorway we had just left, down a track and back towards town – was this an exercise in obfuscation? No, the road was closed. The hotel was a massive construction and hosting an 18th birthday party for 150 people so the restaurant was closed. More sign language/German established that they had a room but no meals and cost all of 28 Euros so where could we eat? More half German/sign language confused the message whilst the athletics club, the beton on the road, the police and the lefts and rights morphed into each other so the porter got into his car and we followed him! The beton on the road and the police merged to become a sleeping policeman and some lefts became right but we got there! He then arranged our meal and we gorged on meat, meat and more meat with a little beer to wash it down. Our first impression of the Serbs was very pleasant – last time we were in the area it had been Yugoslavia and the main road a ribbon of tarmac with dirt tracks off each side.

September 29th, we have reached the small historic town of Altdorf near Nurnberg – but it wasn’t meant to be like this – we had planned to be in Zagreb. We started as planned on the ferry to Hook of Holland but then worried too much about the car’s poor starting! The car had been fine before going to the workshop for a change of engine gaskets; when it came back the starter was grinding rather than spinning rapidly. It did not improve much after the evening trip (with lights) to Harwich but stalled on the boat and only just started. Thinking about it rather than sleeping I decided I was worried about starting a rally with a non-starting car. Was it the electrical connections (via the chassis), the battery or the starter? Not the first as I had cleaned them recently but there again both the battery and the starter were also new! I reckoned I could pick up a battery anywhere – but a starter? I had one at home so to cut a long story short we took a circuitous journey back home from Hook of Holland, picked up the starter and set off again but 24 hours late and this time via Dover/Calais as the Harwich ferry was fully booked. By now battery and starter were fine!!
Thus after a (very) early morning ferry we had a long drive to Nurnberg, held up by numerous roadworks and are still not as close to Istanbul as we should have been yesterday! We have two more long hard drives ahead of us if we are to make the rally start!

We set out tomorrow for our third long distance rally in thirteen months – that represents over 16,000 miles, not bad for a car that becomes 50 next year!
A number of things went wrong in Norway so some have been resolved –
– points so we have a Boyer Bransden for negative earth (the old positive earth version is now on the yellow Elan),
– we replaced the rear wishbones,
– the engine had been very noisy so the cam cover came off and the cam lobes were found to be disintegrating! That meant new cams and new cam cups – as well as flushing the engine to remove any loose swarf.
– still overheating so we have a pair of Revotec “pull” fans mounted between the engine and the radiator – kindly supplied by
– the engine continues to run after the ignition is switched off – not sorted yet; I’m sure its connected to the fans and cliveyboy has sent me a new fan controller (but I’ve not fitted it yet). The problem is electrical and could be a result of changing the ignition switch – get to that in due course!
– fully refurbed steering rack ( so hopefully the car will go where its pointed and not jump around the road!)

So where to this time? The title says it all – first stop Istanbul where the rally starts then through Turkey and Iran to the Persian Gulf; we take the quick route home (fly) whilst the Lotus has another container trip. I’ll try to update the story and photos as we go along.

No Comments

Arctic Highway Challenge

12 July – we arrive in Travemunde at around 9pm after about 30 hours on a very calm ferry crossing from Helsinki (about 1150 km).

View from our hotel in Travemunde

View from our hotel in Travemunde

Travemunde harbour

Travemunde harbour

Yesterday was the 300 mile drive to Helsinki, which started on glorious roads – wit no speed cameras! We had some confusion as Allison was adamant that we should be on road number 89 when in fact we were on the 68. Changing the direction of the map made life a little clearer! Sue and Will did a grand tour of Helsinki Old Town before arriving at the port 15 minutes after check in closed.
My first task at the hotel was to change the points – they had been ok but this was a precaution against a breakdown (and losing time) at the side of a German autobahn. Probably a good thing as the set that came out looked pitted with limited life expectancy.
Now 7.00 am local time on 13 July and our incoming ferry has just turned around in the narrow river to start its return to Helsinki. We hope to be on this evening’s boat to Harwich – and more car repairs to look forward to!

10 July – a drive to Kokkola but a late start as our sleep was disturbed by some noisy night clubbers. Yesterday was characterised by a sequence of lakes and evergreens, with the odd speed camera; today in principle we were on the coastal road alongside the Gulf of Bothnia – but I didn’t see any sea – I saw plenty of speed cameras. They were everywhere – grey boxes with two lenses and you had no idea what they were thinking! The car ran happily enough. Kokkola

Kokkola Orthodox Church

Kokkola Orthodox Church

used to be a port, exporting tar. Over the years the land has risen so the sea is now further away and the harbour has had to move several times! One claim to fame is a captured English barque – a rowed boat carried on warships. This was captured

Boathouse with captured barque

Boathouse with captured barque

in the Crimean war in 1854 when the English attacked Finland (yes Finland is a long way from the Crimea but Finland was then part of Russia).

9 July – so that should have been a straight forward drive of about 5 hours from Karasjok through the border to Rovaniemi in Finland. It was raining when we set off – I am sure we have had more rain than we should have. The roads were empty so it didn’t matter too much that the car was bouncing over the road when it encountered rain in the lorry tracks. The border was deserted and I guess we saw fewer than a dozen cars going our way for the first hour. First stop was Sodankyla to see a

Sodankyla Church

Sodankyla Church

17th Century wooden Church – somehow it escaped the scorched earth policy at the end of WW2. We stopped to refuel and there in the café was the friendly man from Ostend with whom I had put the world to rights whilst waiting for the lorry to be pulled out of the ditch yesterday.
We carried on to Rovaniemi but I could not resist a stop at the Arctic Circle line and the

Don't get lost at Santa's village!

Don’t get lost at Santa’s village!

Santa village which has been constructed around it – yes you can have 365 days a year Santa – whoopee! This had to be followed by culture at the Arktikum – a museum of the Arctic and the Sami people. Then to the hotel – Allison found she had lost her handbag (cards, passports, phones, money, house keys – nothing of importance!) By the time we had got back to the Arktikum no sign, gone! The hotel receptionist was very helpful and phoned around – yes a bag had been handed in but no details would be given. She drew us a map and we ran off; the building was closed, no-one there. I ran back to the hotel – oops, wrong building, try this instead! A policeman let us in, thankfully everything was there – a big thank you to the honest citizen of Rovaniemi! She had put it on the roof when getting into the car – and left it there when I drove off.

8 July – a fairly short day (150 miles) to Karasjok, close to the Finnish border. We left early and made good progress on empty roads – where have all the RVs and bikes gone? This stopped suddenly when we found a Highways van parked across the road.

Road closed

Road closed

A lorry ha gone off the road and into a ditch, two tow trucks were on hand to pull him out. After about an hour and a half it was winched up and onto the road. We were in a hurry as our guide book said there were guided tours of the Sami parliament at 1pm and Allison particularly wanted to go.



We got there with 20 minutes to spare – and found out that tours were every hour on the half hour! More culture followed at the local museum followed by a tourist trap at the Sapmi Culture park. The Sami are the indigenous people – historically semi nomadic reindeer herdsmen and now spread across Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia.

7 July – a rest day after a midnight stint at North Cape, where the weather was good, mist on the water below

North Cape Midnight Sun

North Cape Midnight Sun

us and a clear sky above. What you see in the photo is mist, not sea. The drive back to the hotel included patches of fog and dazzling bright sunlight straight ahead – what a contrast! The rest day was spent on the island, visiting remote villages, constantly surprising ourselves at the number and variety of people we meet both tourists and “staff” -Canadians on a tour boat, a girl from the Philippines, one from the Isle of Wight, from Glasgow, a Norwegian married to one from Edinburgh, motorbikers we bump into from hotel to hotel



6 July – it was almost dry as we left Alta but then turned to wet with low cloud so some very slow driving on nearly empty roads. As we went further north over the hills, the sun emerged and burnt away the cloud – great! We stopped at a silversmith in the middle of nowhere – and were given some reindeer horns for the dogs to chew.

Repvag - a hidden cove

Repvag – a hidden cove

Repvag - street lights on this track?

Repvag – street lights on this track?

Elan at Nordkapp visitor centre

Elan at Nordkapp visitor centre

The road to Nordkapp

The road to Nordkapp




After checking in we went to North Cape and booked for an evening meal and hopefully a view of a “full” midnight sun – where the sun is visible and not just its rays. So six years after the Elan went as far south as possible – to Ushuaia in Argentina we ended up as far north as possible. We stopped for afternoon tea at a German run hotel in the tiny village of Kameyvaer – picturesque with deep blue waters

5 July – a long day with rain, wet and chilly! Speed cameras, cloud, road-works and very little sight-seeing. We left Narvic after looking at the steering, deciding it was not good but equally there was nothing to be done about it here. Arrived in Alta and decided it was much the same. Tomorrow we should get to the destination – North Cape.

4 July a day of mixed fortunes! We awoke early and went to visit the “museum village” of A (it has a circle over the A but not on my keyboard). The bakery was open so we had a freshly warm bun before taking photos and getting back to breakfast. I had found oil on my trousers and feet last night – now traced to the speedo cable (speedo died two days ago) – it now turns out that the outer cable had slipped over time where I had installed one of our trip meters. Pushing that back together means that the speedo now works – whoopee – haven’t checked my feet for oil yet! Then on to Narvic. Stopping for a photo-op,

a smell of fish

a smell of fish

there was a smell in the air – no not the car but fish being dried – photo. Our planned stop was the Viking museum, where we spent a couple of hours and were fortunate to arrive at the time for a sail on

Viking Ship

Viking Ship

a Viking ship. This is a 2/3 replica of one they found – and it goes! The sail

Viking Ship - sail

Viking Ship – sail

is all in front of the mast so if they want to change tack, instead of the sail and boom flying across the cabin, they release one bottom corner of the sail, pull in the other side – job done!
We left at around 2.30 with a little over 4 hours driving ahead of us – times dependent on how quickly you could overtake the queues of RV’s – get a close convoy and you’re lost! Almost immediately the engine coughed and spluttered – you hope its something simple but experience and your inner self tells you its – points. Glide to a stop in a convenient bus stop, triangle out, boiler suit on; there is a quick way to do this if you have all the right tools and lighting and you’re in the workshop. But when you’re at the side of the road, the only way is distributor out and hope you can get it back in the same place and keep the ignition timing – and it worked! Engine purred at the first ask and we flew! Now the problem at these speeds was the car’s desire to bounce around the road on the bumpy surface. At the hotel car park – problem diagnosed – there is play in the steering rack, can’t fix it here; have to drive more cautiously – oh shame!

. 3 July – we started as has become customary in the rain. We have 150 miles to the ferry – but there’s only one a day so we can’t be late. We’re told it will take 5 hours which seems a very long time but not sure we can risk too much sightseeing just in case it does take that long. First visit, the Arctic raceway, a motor racing circuit just below the Arctic Circle; we arrived about 9am but its a bike day and no-one is awake, plenty of RV’s in the car park. Then off to the Arctic Circle Visitor Centre,

Arctic Circle Centre

Arctic Circle Centre

a building which the guide book describes as plonked by the roadside. The landscape here is much bleaker than before with barren rocks and less vegetation – its a deserted plateau. There is less traffic and we make good progress. The ferry for the Lofoton Islands leaves from Boda

Road to Boda

Road to Boda

and we find ourselves behind Sue and Will’s XK, having last seen them at breakfast. Its a 4 hour crossing and a short drive to our cabin at Reine, with a view

View from the cabin

View from the cabin

over the little harbour and the barren hills looming behind, some in cloud and others not. This last picture

The land of midnight sun

The land of midnight sun

was taken at five minutes to midnight, there’s a chill in the breeze and the sun’s rays can be seen between the hills above the boats centre right of the picture

2 July – today was going to be a long day with 300 miles to do and speed limits of c 80kph (50 mph) – and Norwegian speeding penalties are severe (so we have been told). Leaving the hotel car park, the speedo needle fluctuated wildly between 20 and 60 and settled on 0 for the rest of the day. No speedo, no odometer and the fuel gauge reads either full or empty. Fortunately the trip meter does work and tells us distance and speed. The day started warm and dry – the inevitable rain came later! We headed north on the E6 with a change of landscape to a more wooded feel.

lunch stop

lunch stop

We stopped again for afternoon tea in Mosjoen where there was a festival

Fuel at 1933 prices not included

Fuel at 1933 prices not included

and found that one of their art exhibits was a refurbished 1933 Shell petrol station. We’ve not yet met the other half of the tour but we did see a couple who we had also seen in Trondheim so maybe its them – but where’s the car? Time will tell; we have a long ferry journey tomorrow to the Lofoton Islands so all should become clear……

1 July – a rest day in Trondheim.

Trondheim Cathedral

Trondheim Cathedral

We started with Trondheim Cathedral – and a leaflet caught my eye – advertising a production of How Like an Angel – a show premiered by the Norfolk & Norwich Festival in 2013. Next to the “Festung” overlooking

Trondheim from the Festung

Trondheim from the Festung

the town, by way of the bicycle lift – its not photogenic! It consists of a metal path up the hill with a footrest poking out of a groove – put one foot on the rest, lean on your bike – and up you go! Then to the old town and later to the WW2 U Boat pens, now storage facilities, a bowling alley and other businesses – but such a solid construction that demolition was almost impossible. The car is snug in its underground car park, clocking up £25 per day parking charges. I decided the squeak was caused by movement in the rear suspension bushes (brand new!) – and that nothing will fall off just yet……

30 June – we left at 8am and headed for the Atlantic Road a series of bridges hopping over islands for 8 kms between Molde and Kristiansund,

Atlantic Road aerial view - in the sun

Atlantic Road aerial view – in the sun

winner of numerous awards for its design. sadly it was raining!

Atlantic Road bridge

Atlantic Road bridge

This bridge is perhaps the most photographed feature.
Then on to Kvernes to see another Stave Church – we got to the outside but they had a series of tour busses from the cruise liners booked in for guided tours so our visit was very brief – we continued to Kristiansund. The Codfish museum was much quieter and surprisingly interesting! Then on to our overnight stop in Trondheim where we have a rest day, waiting for the tour’s second car to arrive from Oslo.
29 June – a short day but with two steep hills to contend with. First the Ornevegen



“Eagle Road” out of Geiranger. This was straightforward, a popular road with packed view points. We met up with two English motorbikes who planned to do in one day what our route has given us 2 to do – but maybe they were travelling faster! We detoured to Tafjord

Tafjord Quayside

Tafjord Quayside

– a small village at the end of the fjord, whose claims to fame are a power station and a “tsunami” 100 years ago caused by a slab of rock falling into the fjord and creating a 60 metre high tidal wave which washed away most of the old village. Then over the plateau to the Trollstigen

The Trollstigen

The Trollstigen

“Trolls ladder” which has steep hairpins as the road drops alongside a waterfall. Lunch was on the banks of the Romdalsfjord



– a much flatter and open Fjord contrasting with the sheer sides of Geiranger en route to another Stave Church at Rodven

Interior Rodven Church

Interior Rodven Church

. Now in Molde, an industrial town and the end of the Fjord section of the journey – and the German tour group have rolled into town; they now head south whilst we head for island-hopping Atlantic Road and the north, via Trondheim where we expect to be joined by the second car in our tour.

28 June – a rest day but that is not what Allison thinks about her knees. The German tour group was leaving as we checked fluid levels, tightened the handbrake and set the electric fans to permanent “on” in preparation for the two climbs tomorrow.

Reserved Car Park

Reserved Car Park

Geiranger is a tourist area and has been for 150 years, it has loads of walking routes – just Allison reckons we walked too much! From high above the Fjord we watched a cruise liner arrive to join the Musica which was already moored up ( the Musica weighs 92,000 tonnes and carries 3220 passengers!)

Allison watching MCS Musica

Allison watching MCS Musica

27 June – the Flam railway.  This 20 km section of railway rises nearly 900 metres and lasts about an hour.  It twists and turns through some 20 tunnels to link Flam on the Aurlandsfjord with the main Bergen to Oslo line.

Flam railway landscape

Flam railway landscape

The rest of the day was concerned with tunnels, Stave Churches and overheating (nearly). Major tunnels are a feature of the area, one has a roundabout and another, 24 km long, has three rest areas,

Laerdal Tunnel

Laerdal Tunnel

slightly surreal with a ghostly blue lighting above and yellow lighting at ground level.
Stave Churches are wooden Churches from c. 1150, there were thousands but now only 29 remain.

Kaupanger Stave Church

Kaupanger Stave Church

After the Churches it was the 1434metre high Sognefjellet mountain pass (said to be the highest in Northern Europe). At the top they were cross country skiing but getting up there proved to be hot work for the Lotus and we had to stop when the temperature gauge got to 100C. Not sure those electric fans are cutting in properly! This was followed by the fastest section of road driving we have yet encountered in Norway – parts of the route have a speed limit of 90 kph but I could not possibly recall what speed the speedo showed! Arriving at our hotel in Geiranger the car park was reserved – for a German Classic car tour! We joined them, adding a touch of Lotus class – how is it that a German tour group can muster 40+ cars but our UK group was only 2 and the second has yet to arrive?

View from Geiranger hotel room

View from Geiranger hotel room

26 June it was still raining when we disembarked at Stavanger.  About 30 km later and we queued for another ferry on the island-hopping coast road to Bergen.  This was Fjordland, where the roads hug the shore line and waterfalls cascade down the steep slopes on both sides.



We stopped at Langfoss waterfall (conveniently located opposite a lay-by on the main road) and we handed some Norwegian flags by a very excited kiosk owner – the Royal Yacht with King and Queen aboard was due to pass by at any moment.

Royal Yacht

Royal Yacht

We could be honorary Norwegians and wave enthusiastically!  Our next stop was not so simple.  There was a noise and feel of a puncture but no flat tyres; one wheel had come loose and was wobbling on the hub.  This was annoying as it damages the locating holes on the rim and may be another write-off – and they aren’t made any more.  Another waterfall at Tvindefoss was said to be one of Norway’s most popular sites (it is believed to enhance sexual potency).  The continuous rain put a damper on that and it was nearly deserted!  We carried on to our overnight stop at Flam – home of the  Flam Railway.

25 June and a leisurely drive to Hirtsals in Northern Denmark with a visit to Aalborg thrown in – hmm it didn’t quite work out like that!   Getting out of Hamburg went ok but it was raining and it rained all morning until we got to Denmark.  The two lane motorway north was full of cars and water and roadworks – and we crawled.  We had to stop at one stage in an emergency pull-in when the wiper rubber tried to fly off the blade – that was fixed by that invaluable invention – a cable tie.  We crawled into Denmark as the Security Services glanced at but didn’t check every vehicle.  Aalborg was a might have been and we reached the ferry terminal about half an hour before check in.

24 June – now in Hamburg after some unwanted excitement en route. The car went to the rolling road on Tuesday morning to sort out a lack of performance and low speed power. I went to collect it on Wednesday afternoon – and drove for about a mile before it died – completely, dead. A tow truck took me back to the engine tuner. Points. No surprise, the car has always eaten points and this was solved by the Boyer Bransden ignition pack – but that was for positive earth. After the Amazon, I installed an alternator, which is negative earth and after checking all the wiring I hoped not to need this protection – wrong, obviously! How long will these points last now?
Thursday and last minute checks – radiator level low – where has the water gone? I started the engine, stopped it and saw a dribble round the thermostat housing. A new gasket was not the answer but a new gasket plus some sealer did the trick. Then off to Harwich – and the temperature gauge just carried on getting higher – the fans were ok but not switching on; I tweaked the temperature control and they woke up.
Friday and the “scenic route” to Hamburg via Hoorn with its historic port and old buildings then to the dam separating the Isselmeer from the North Sea, sadly it was overcast and apart from hordes of motorbikes there was little to see. DSC02052 We continued to Germany and motorway jams – but at least the radiator temperature held steady – useful having two fans! Reaching the hotel in Hamburg we found the reason for the motorbikes – a Harley event in Hamburg,

No Comments