Ten days in a lorry travelling back from Riyadh in 1977 was my most intense travelling experience. Through Jordan, Syria, Turkey, Bulgaria, the old Yugoslavia, and into Europe, everything went wrong: the lorry broke down, the driver lost his papers, and I had to fight him off nightly, that problem solved by stomach bugs as a result of sharing tea and water melon with a wolfish group of fellow lorry drivers. We made a detour to the ruins of Jerash, and circled the endless slums of the Damascus ring road. We crossed the Taurus mountains by night, stayed two unforgettable days in Istanbul, passed horse carts in Bulgaria and slowly re-acclimatised to Europe in the sterile service stations of the autobahns. I have been a tourist many times since but never travelled in quite the same uncomfortable, raw, but immediate way.
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