From Morocco To India: An Around the World Odyssey - July 1964 to August 1965
From Morocco To India
An Around the World Odyssey
July 1964 - August 1965
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An Around the World Odyssey
In 1964, four young adventurers who had just finished two years of working in the Peace Corps in Iran, decided
to travel “a bit” before going home. Their decision evolved into an unimaginably grand, 12-month odyssey. They
lived out of a Land Rover while driving through Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. The four participants were:
Willard Louden, Virginia Louden, Jeff Gritzner, and Dee Fink.
In this website, we - the two surviving members of that foursome, describe the places we
visited, the many adventures we had – both humorous and serious, all colorful – and memorable people we
met along the way. To do this, we created this website that contains written and oral comments,
pictures, movies, and maps. The text provides a “basic narrative” for the trip; the YouTube videos
located near the start of each chapter, show Dee and Jeff sharing a “fuller narrative” orally [most are
8-28 minutes]. Viewers can expand the maps by clicking on them.
When we began putting this story together, we realized how much the world has changed since the
time of our
expedition. The trip we made is probably not possible today, at least not in the way we did it. The world that
existed then allowed us to go through 30+ countries with only one brush with serious danger. That world no
longer exists; the majority of the countries we visited would be too dangerous to traverse in the casual way we
did half a century ago.
We hope you enjoy reading the stories and seeing the pictures from this adventure – almost as
much as we did
Chapter 1 - How did this Trip get Started?
One of the several good things the Peace Corps (PC) did when it got started, was to give
PC volunteers the option, when they finished their two years of service, of either (a) receiving a plane
ticket home or (b) taking the cash equivalent of the cost of a plane ticket and using it to travel
around before coming home. We don’t know what percentage of volunteers have taken the second option, but
a lot have. This opened the door for some of us in the Iran Project to travel around more in the eastern
hemisphere, while we were already there.
How Did Our Group Become a “Group of Four”?
While at the Ahwaz Agricultural High School in the southwest part of Iran, Jeff had
become good friends with Will Louden who worked at the same kind of school in Tabriz in the northwest
part of Iran. During one of their visits, they started giving serious thought to “traveling around a
bit” after their Peace Corps tour ended, before going home. But then Will and one of the other
volunteers, Virginia “Ginny” Louden, also decided to get married at the end of the PC tour, and she
wanted to go on the trip too. This created a situation where a newly-wed couple would start their
marriage going on an extended trip, essentially their “honeymoon” – “chaperoned” by a single fellow,
Meanwhile, as Jeff’s roommate in Ahwaz, Dee was hearing about this trip and watching its
development with a great deal of envy. Finally, he got up enough courage to ask Jeff and the others if
he could join them. To make his request attractive, he offered to be the “Expeditor” for the trip. This
was a role he created that would involve handling any paperwork processing (e.g., visa applications),
translating (he had studied French and German in college, and had learned a little Arabic while in
Iran), and any other “Go-fer” work the group needed. The others discussed his offer and decided it
probably would be good for Jeff to have a “buddy” so that Will and Ginny would have a little more
separate “together time” during their first year together. They accepted his offer and Dee was elated.
Where Should We Travel?
Once we had resolved the question of who was going on the trip, the next question was:
Where should we go?
After examining the many attractive possibilities, we all agreed that East Africa was
the best place. The chance to see the great variety of wild animals there appealed to all of us. We
didn’t know at the time how rapidly the population of so many species would decline over the next
several decades; we just knew the wealth of different kinds of animals was great and this would be
exciting to see – and to see them in their natural habitat.
But then our itinerary began to evolve. Will and Jeff were especially aware of the early
history of British colonial activities in East Africa, and of the role of these activities along the
Blue and White Nile Rivers that ran north from East Africa and that eventually merged to form the famous
Nile River flowing up through Egypt. Wouldn’t it be interesting, we thought, to go up those rivers and
visit those famous historical sites?
But how would we do that? The only vehicle at that time that was designed to drive
through undeveloped areas like East Africa was the Land Rover. So our first thought was: Maybe we could
rent or buy a used Land Rover in Kenya and drive it up the Blue and White Nile Rivers.
Then it occurred to us that, if we started driving up the tributaries of the Nile, why
not follow them on up into Sudan and Egypt? And the next question was: If we are in Egypt and have a
vehicle, why not keep driving on east through the Middle East and Asia? This was getting ever more
But then one more idea occurred: If we are going to do that much driving, why not go to
England, buy a new Land Rover – and drive it to East Africa and then continue on with the rest of our
expanded plan? And that is what we did!!
Some Preliminary Personal Affairs That Needed Taken Care Of
Before we could take off on this amazing trip, however, several of us had some pressing
“loose ends” we needed to take care of.
Will and Ginny wanted to get married in the States before starting the trip. So Will
pre-ordered a Land Rover station wagon while we were still in Iran. Then he and Ginny flew to the States
to get married in Cleveland, Ohio, Ginny’s hometown.
Dee had a different need. In 1964, the Viet Nam war was building up and the military was
starting to call for more draftees. The “deal” worked out in Congress when they authorized the Peace
Corps, was to state that volunteers would not be drafted while they were in the Peace Corps; but when
they finished, the volunteers would revert to whatever status they qualified for. This was done to keep
the Peace Corps from being a way to avoid military service. Of the three men going on this trip, Dee was
the only one who was draft eligible. Will had already served in the military during WWII, and Jeff had
grown up in a Quaker family and was therefore a legitimate conscientious objector. Dee, on the other
hand, was classified as “A-1” at the end of his Peace Corps service and was therefore draft eligible.
He decided to try a long-shot strategy by requesting an “educational deferment” while on
this trip. To be sure, it would definitely be a major educational experience, but this was not a typical
activity that qualified people for an educational deferment. But he mailed his request for this
deferment to his draft board in Effingham County, a rural county in south-central Illinois. To support
this request, Will generously agreed to stop by Effingham County while he was in the States, to meet
with his draft board along with Dee’s dad. Dee never learned what all was said, but in the end, the
draft board granted his request! Without this, Dee could not have gone on this amazing trip.
The Board asked how long he would be gone. At that time, he really had no clear sense of
the answer to that question. So, he estimated they would be gone a year, maybe two. Dee asked if they
could give him a two-year deferment and he would check in with them when he got back. They thought that
was too long, so they offered to a counter-proposal: “We’ll grant a 9-month deferment with an option for
one renewal.” That was good enough, so he accepted. This had a major implication for him near the end of
the trip, but more on that later.
How Did Jeff and Dee Get to England?
Jeff and Dee decided to go their way from Iran, through Turkey and parts of continental
Europe, to England. Another PC volunteer, Jim Kleinbach, planned to go to Europe, buy an Austin Healey,
drive it around Europe awhile, and then ship it home to San Francisco. He and Jeff worked out a plan for
Jim to meet them in Italy, and they would all drive together in his new Austin Healey, to the coast of
France where Jeff and Dee would catch a ferry to England. We picked a day in June when we would all meet
at noon “at the foot of the statue of David in Florence, Italy.” So Jeff and Dee had to make sure we got
to Florence by that day..
After we checked out of the Peace Corps at their headquarters in
Tehran, Jeff and Dee traveled
by train and bus through northwest Iran, and crossed the border into Turkey.
We went by the famous Mt. Ararat
[where Noah is reputed to have landed his ark] and then took a train ride all the way across the width of
Turkey, to Istanbul.
We then took a boat through
the narrow Straits of Patras and the Aegean Sea to city of Brindisi on the southeastern “heel” of Italy.
From Brindisi we hitchhiked north to Florence where we were scheduled to meet Jim. Our
first task in Florence was to find the statue of David for our pre-arranged meeting at noon. We asked
some people where the famous statue of David was. To our surprise, they answered: "Which one? There are
three of them by Michelangelo!” This meant we had to guess which one Jim would go to. We assumed he
would get the same information that we got. The famous one by Michelangelo was inside a museum; there
were two copies of that one that were outside. We took a guess on which one Jim would go to – and
fortunately guessed correctly: There was Jim, waiting for us!
Thanks to Jim’s generosity, we took several days to ride casually and
northern Italy, Switzerland (the country of Jeff’s ancestors), Germany, and France.
We said goodbye to Jim at Calais, France, took the ferry across the English Channel to
Dover, and caught a train on into London. It seemed appropriately symbolic that these two Yanks crossed
the Channel on the 4th of July – the anniversary of the year when Americans celebrate our declaration of
independence from England. In the nearly two hundred years since that event, both countries have clearly
changed a lot!
Meeting Up with Will & Ginny in London
Jeff and Dee got to London before they did, so we decided to stay at a YMCA. This was
one of those times when Dee began exercising his responsibilities as an “Expeditor”. Dee went to the
front desk to ask if they had a couple of beds for the night. The person at the desk answered and
although Dee was pretty sure the man was speaking English, he couldn’t understand a word the man said!?
Dee posed the question a second time but still didn’t understand anything. So Dee asked the clerk to
wait a minute while he checked with his traveling partner and got Jeff to come up to the desk with him
Once again, Dee asked if they had two beds and the man answered – but again he did not understand. Dee
looked at Jeff – but he indicated he didn’t understand either. Not sure what to do, Dee decided to guess
that he said they did have rooms, and said, “We’ll take them”. The clerk asked them to register and gave
them keys to their room. This was our first experience with one of the heavy regional accents of
England, a phenomenon we would encounter later but never quite as befuddling as at that time..
A few days later, Will and Ginny arrived in London from their trip to the US to get
married. We all took a train to Solihull [near Birmingham], the location of the Land Rover factory, to
pick up our new Land Rover, an exciting moment!
Outfitting the Land Rover
Throughout this story you will see asides with the Land Rover icon you see here to the right. These asides will contain
information from Jeff Gritzner's driving log. Jeff kept a log of eveny day, every stop and the conditions experienced.
To see this log, you can go to the Appendix - Documents.
One of the major challenges we faced right off was trying to fit all our equipment into
the Land Rover and still leave room for four occupants. Our equipment included 8 cameras, 2 tape
recorders, a typewriter, 1 pair of binoculars, 3 tripods, a food trunk, a medical chest, 4 sleeping
bags, 3 small tents, 3 jerry cans for gas, 5 jerry cans for water, cooking and eating ware – and
The night before leaving Solihull, Dee lay awake wondering what it was he hoped to
achieve with such an expenditure of time, energy, and money. He remembered how as a boy in rural
Illinois, he watched the out-of-state license plates pass through Effingham on old route 40 and would
dream of far away places, wondering what the rest of the world was like and what all was in it. It was
this deep desire to “get to know his brothers”, i.e., how other people live that made him want to take a
trip like this.
We eventually assembled all the equipment we thought we needed and found a way to get
all of it into – or onto – the Land Rover, and we were ready to start driving.
Heading Off Through England and Europe Toward Africa
July 21, 1964 - August 4, 1964
The logs show that the group traveled 1,924 miles to get from England to Morocco. They visited 4 countries: England, France, Andorra, and Spain.
We took three weeks or so to drive through England and western Europe on our way to
Africa. We visited Canterbury Cathedral and went on to Dover, England where we caught a ferry to
Dunkirk, France. In France, we took time in Paris to get some visas for French-controlled countries in
west and northwest Africa. From there, we briefly visited a few places in France: some Middle Eastern
sections of the Louvre in Paris, Versailles, and the Lascaux Caves famed for their prehistoric artwork.
We stopped in Andorra atop the Pyrenees Mountains to take advantage of their duty-free shopping, and
then in Spain enjoyed the wine, olives, groves of cork trees, and the historic site of Cordova, ending
up eventually at the British enclave of Gibraltar.
From there, on August 5th, we caught a ferry from Algeciras, Spain to Ceuta, Morocco.
The whole ferry price, including the four of us and the vehicle, was $16. Now we were ready to begin the
first main part of our world trip: AFRICA!!
We may not equal Jules Verne’s characters for quickness of getting around the world, but
we are betting that the color, adventure, and excitement are still there!
Chapter 2 - Morocco and Algeria
In our minds, “The Trip” really began when we crossed the straits of Gibraltar into Africa! We were at last on
the continent of our initial, primary destination: East Africa. We arrived in Ceuta, Morocco but immediately
headed east to Algiers, the capital city of Algeria. Our hope was to find a place in a city that large, that
could do some needed repairs on our Land Rover. We were aware, though, while heading into Algeria, that the
various towns and cities that we were driving through (in 1964) had been at the center of intense fighting
only a year or two earlier, as that country worked its way toward their independence from France.
While taking care of various consulate and vehicle needs in Algeria, we drove a ways out of
town one evening to find a suitable camp site and selected what seemed like a good place in some hills. We
parked at dusk, got out to relax a bit before starting supper. Will and Ginny took off to explore the surrounding hills,
while Jeff and Dee occupied themselves around the Land Rover. Shortly after it got dark, a vehicle
drove up, stopped, turned off its lights, and several men – all armed with rifles – got out and spread out
around us. This was rapidly becoming a “situation of concern”. One of them came up and, in French, asked who
we were and what we were doing here. Dee, in his best but still broken French, tried to answer their questions.
They told us that they were local gendarmes; this was not a safe place to stay; there were bandits, some of
which were dangerous, in the area. They suggested we come into town to stay. We countered that our finances
made us reluctant to pay for expensive lodging; so they said they would take us to a courtyard where we would
not have to pay. We managed to find Will and Ginny and the four of us went with our escorts, hoping they were in fact
who they said they were. The whole incident turned out well. They were in fact gendarmes, they did provide us with a
place to set up camp – of no cost, in town, and a few days later, we finished our business in Algiers and
drove back into Morocco.
Exploring the Coastal Cities and Interior
From there, we drove west, back into Morocco where we spent the next
three weeks visiting the
coastal cities of Rabat and Casablanca, and exploring the villages in the interior of
the Middle and High
The Fantastic “Phantasia”
One of our major goals in Morocco was to spend some time with and learn about the Berbers, one
of the major ethnic groups of Morocco. They spoke their own language and lived for the most part in the Atlas
Mountains. One incident in particular gave us a good, up close experience with the Berbers. We were driving
through the Middle Atlas mountains outside of Fez when we suddenly heard what sounded like gun shots. We
stopped, listened awhile, and then heard more shots. Unsure where the shots were coming from or what they
meant, we stopped and carefully walked to the top of a nearby hill to look on the other side.
There, down in the valley on the far side, was a large collection of people. We studied the
scene awhile, to figure out what it was and what was going on. We finally identified the source of the gun
shots. There was a long, empty field where a group of horsemen would line up on one end; then they would
suddenly start riding as fast as they could toward the other end of the field, with their rifles pointed up in
the air. As they neared the end of the field, it seemed as though someone gave a signal for everyone to fire
their rifles. After watching a few repetitions of this event, we concluded it was not a dangerous situation,
so we drove down to the assemblage of people. We eventually learned that this was a major Berber event. The
horse-riding and shooting were a major feature of these periodic gatherings and were called a Phantasia. We
never figured out whether it was a game or contest, or, if so, how one group “won.” But it was accompanied by
a large souk, i.e., a market, were people came to buy and sell home-made food, goods, as well as livestock and
to meet people from other areas and get caught up on “the news.”
A Close Encounter – with Barbary Apes
While near the village of Ain Leuh, on the south edge of the Middle Atlas mountains, one
family we met mentioned there were barbary apes in the woods not far away. One of our major goals on this trip
was to see some distinctive African animals, and here was our first opportunity.
The next morning, we got our cameras and binoculars and started looking for them. Luck was
with us and we found a troop of Barbary apes. The males thumped their chests and jumped around the trees,
attempting to keep us a safe distance away, but they never became seriously aggressive toward us. The adults
weighed 20-30 lbs. They are actually a species of macaque monkey but their name comes from their proximity to
the Barbary coast of Northwest Africa. This subgroup of macaque monkeys are the only ones outside of Asia.
Heading for “THE” Desert
From there, we drove to the coastal city of Casablanca and the inland city of Marrakesh,
crossed the High Atlas mountains and worked our way across adjacent arid plains to the town of Colomb Bechar
in Algeria – the jumping off spot for the next big adventure of our trip – driving across the Sahara Desert!
Chapter 3 - Crossing the Sahara Desert
When we crossed the border into Algeria and arrived at the city of Colomb Bechar which is the
launch site for crossing the Sahara, we were excited but tense. We knew this whole trip would contain lots of
challenges; most of them would be surprises and only moderately difficult to deal with. But crossing the
Sahara Desert was one we knew about from the beginning, and we knew it would be one of the biggest challenges
we would face. How does one drive almost 1,000 miles (1,500km) before reaching the next place to refuel? And
we weren’t sure where the next place would be, on the south side of the Sahara, that had petrol (as it was
called then). This was the big factor that dictated our decision about how many jerry cans to take along just
for gasoline when we outfitted the Land Rover back in England.
It turned out that Colomb Bechar was not only the last place to fill up on gasoline and food
items before heading south, it was also where one had to get permission from officials who controlled the
crossing of the desert. They didn’t want people to head out unprepared and then have to send out search teams
to rescue them.
When we talked to these officials (over tea, of course) they told us that their general policy is for all
vehicles to cross in convoys; that way, no one gets lost. But they had good news: There was a convoy forming
right now that would be leaving in a few days.
However, when we thought of driving with a convoy, the only thing we could imagine was having
to “eat the dust” of the lorries ahead of us for 3-4 days. So we decided to tell the main official that “we
are a scientific group, investigating the plants and animals in this part of the Sahara. We need to
periodically stop and collect information, and this would only be a problem for the rest of the convoy. Could
you let us leave now - a day or two ahead of the convoy? That way, if we have a problem, they will come along
behind us and find us."
We weren’t sure if the official really believed our story, but he gave us permission to go on
ahead of the convoy. So, the next morning, on September 17th, we headed out south to cross the Sahara!
What was the Sahara like?
The was the main route across the western part of the Sahara. There was a paved road heading
south out of Colomb, but before long it simply became a track in the sand.
Along the northern part of the trail were incredibly beautiful sand dunes. These were part of
the Grand Erg Occidental. The dunes here had the same shade and contours of snow dunes, except they come in
various shades of red and brown, and were hundreds of feet high.
Less beautiful were the vehicles we saw periodically that had been blown up by mines, a
reminder of the history of warfare in this area and of the still present danger that other mines may still be
lying dormant along the road.
How does one navigate when there is no “road”?
There were two guides to help travelers go in the right direction. The first were the tracks
of earlier vehicles. The high level of evapotranspiration brought salt to the surface of the sand, and this
created a small crust. Whenever a lorry (truck) drove across the sand, its tires broke that crust and left a
trail. However, driving in the trail with a broken crust was harder for later drivers because it gave less
traction for the tires. Therefore, each set of new travelers drove just outside the tracks to the right or
left. This meant the set of tracks has grown wider each year since motor vehicles began traversing the Sahara.
Eventually this created the need for the second guide. The Algerian government placed a barrel
of sand every two kilometers along the whole route. So as you are driving and you keep seeing the barrels, you
are headed in the right direction.
Our First Night: A Problem
Even though it was mid-September this was “the Sahara desert” and it was hot driving during
the day. Jeff kept a driving log during the whole trip; on September 14th & 15th, he recorded temperatures of
43° C. and 45° C. (equivalent to 109° F and 113° F.) So we decided to keep on driving during the night when it
was cooler. It seemed simple enough: There was plenty of moonlight, so we could see where to go. So all we had
to do was keep going south
Or so we thought. After it got dark and we had driven a few miles, the barrels of sand stopped
showing up! We drove a few more miles to see if we could find them, but we didn’t. So we decided to stop and
camp for the night before we got any further away from them.
The next morning, we set up a search strategy of driving in ever widening circles to find the
barrels. It worked! We eventually found the barrels and resumed our drive south.
Is There Wildlife in the Desert?
We were surprised at the amount of wildlife we saw in the desert: multiple species of birds,
Nubian asses, and Dorcas gazelles. What do they find to eat here? Our best guess was that there were small
scattered oases or other small outcrops of water that supported the plants that provided the forage that these
Reaching the Southern border
At the southern border of Algeria, before crossing into Mali, there was a station where
travelers were to check in, in order to check out of Algeria. The officials who were stationed here clearly
saw their assignment as lonely and boring. Hence when we showed up – a single vehicle with a group of four
young Americans, they were friendly and really wanted to visit with us and hear our story! Maybe because of
our readiness to drink tea with them and accommodate their interest, they were also helpful to us. They went
out of their way to get us started on the road to Gao, a large town in this part of Mali – using a route to
avoid anti-goat traps set by Tuareg tribesmen.
From Gao, we drove along the road that followed the Niger river north and then west to the
legendary city of Timbuktu. This had been a city that became wealthy centuries ago by being a major center for
trans-Saharan trade. It even supported a major Islamic university, the Saharan Madrasah, However, the city of
Timbuktu gained its fame in the West as the archetype of a distant and dangerous outpost far from
civilization, during the time when the French foreign legions used the city to support its colonial ventures
in West Africa during the first half of the 1800s.
When we arrived in September of 1964, Timbuktu was a city that had “seen better days.” There
was still a remnant of the university and a collection of buildings that reflected the city’s location of the
southern edge of the desert.
But our major memory of Timbuktu was the fortuitous arrival of a large trading ship that had
come up the Niger river and docked while we were there. It seemed like the whole town went to the river edge,
to see who came off the boat and to see what goods were being off-loaded to sell in the local markets. It was
a colorful mixture of dark-skinned and colorfully dressed Africans and nomadic Tuareg tribesmen dressed in
their traditional blue djellabas.
After a few days of soaking up this color and history, we headed south to Bamako, a city that
marked the beginning of our travel through the next segment of our trip – West Africa.
Chapter 4 - West Africa
Our group spent most of September and October, driving though West Africa, a region of change
and contrast. In the roughly four weeks it took us to drive from north to south from the edge of the Sahara
Desert to the coast of West Africa, we went through four macro-environments: Desert, short grass, tall grass,
and tropical rainforest. And as we drove from west to east along the coast, we went through countries whose
alternating official languages reflected the different colonial affiliations each country had had during the
preceding 80 years: in Ivory coast – French, Ghana – English, Togo and Dahomey – French, and Nigeria –
English. Now, all of these countries were figuring out what to do with the new political independence they had
just gained from England and France in the 5 to 8 years before our trip through the region.
It was in this context that we had the following experiences.
What were the indigenous cultures of West Africa like?
We gained our initial answer to this question when we became acquainted with Charlie and Julie
Stedman. He worked at the US Consulate in Bamako, the capital of Mali. They invited us to camp out at their
residence at the edge of the city. Charlie told us about the Fulani, a tribal group in West Africa who were
cattle herders. What was remarkable about the Fulani was their relationship with their cattle. They understood
their cattle – their moods, their health, etc., and their cattle understood them. When the Fulani issued
certain commands, the cattle would all line up, or move in this direction, or stop, or whatever. There was an
ability to communicate, between the herders and their herd, that is rare in the world but that is not rare
among indigenous cultures.
Years later, the Stedmans kept crossing paths with Jeff. In 1971, Charlie was director of the
Peace Corps program in Chad when Jeff went there to work on his doctoral dissertation in Geography. Later
(during the 80s), they met again when Charlie was in the School of Natural Resources at the University of
Trouble crossing a River
One of our travel goals was to drive west from Mali to Senegal, a major country on the west
coast of West Africa, and then drive south and east along the entire coast of this region.
The question was whether the roads would allow us to do that. West Africa has two seasons – not
winter and summer, but a wet and a dry season. In late September/early October, we were at the tail end of the
rainy season. This meant the rivers were still high. In addition, some of the roads did not have bridges
across them. We decided to give it a try anyway.
The first day out, we encountered some rivers that crossed the road, but we managed to drive
though the water. On the second day, we came to a river that was deeper. We realized this was going to be a
bigger challenge, so we waded across it first, to see how deep it was and whether there were any shallower
places to drive on. We also used grease to seal up parts of the motor. When we then drove the Land Rover into
the crossing, we got about halfway across – and the motor flooded out. And there we were – immobilized in the
middle of the river with water up to our waist when we were sitting in the car!
We had outfitted the Land Rover with a wench and cable on the front for just such occasions as
this, but it didn’t have the strength to pull us at all. What to do? Fortunately, a truck showed up on the
east, i.e., Bamako side of the river and the driver was kind enough to help pull us out of the river. Once
out, we had to unpack most everything inside the car and then took a day to let it all dry out. We also had to
accept that our timing vis-à-vis the rivers and roads, wasn’t going to allow us to go to west to Senegal. So,
we gave up that plan and turned south toward the Ivory coast.
Special People in Abidjan
We reached Abidjan, the capital of Ivory Coast, and spent ten days there because we kept
meeting interesting people. One of these was Charlie Coomb, an art teacher. He had moved to West Africa,
settled in Bingerville, a suburb of Abidjan, and decided to devote his life to helping young Africans learn
how to carve wood. Multiple kinds of wood were available in this area and were widely used to carve masks,
busts, animal figures, etc. Charlie’s goal was to help young Africans learn the techniques for carving word,
but then to use those teachings to develop their own African style of art.
We also met an interesting female peace corps volunteer who was working with women who had
moved into Abidjan from the countryside. She was helping them “find their way” in this big city.
Trouble crossing the border
In our whole trip up to this time, we had basically been working our way south through Europe,
Morocco, across the Sahara, and the Sub-Saharan countries of Mali and the Ivory Coast. After leaving Abidjan,
we changed our general direction to east for the next few months.
Initially this took us through the small, coastal countries of Ghana, Togo, and Dahomey (now
called Benin). While in Ghana, we were told that we wouldn’t be able to cross the border from Ghana into Togo
because the politicians had a disagreement about where the border should be. This posed a potentially major
problem for us; if we couldn’t cross the border, we would have to make a huge detour north, east, and then
back south into Dahomey. So, we decided to go to the border and see if there was some way we could cross it
When we got near the border, on the Ghanaian side, there was a big crowd and lots of
commotion. But we saw what looked like an official government vehicle driving toward the border and the crowd
opening up to let it through; so we decided to drive right behind it and pretend like we were part of the
It worked! The government vehicle drove right up to the border; we got out and explained that
we were on a big expedition and needed to get into Togo. Everyone became friendly, we had some drinks
together, and they escorted us across the border into Togo! Success in “running the border!”
A beautiful nocturnal sight
Togo is only 35 miles wide along the coast, so we only camped there one night. But our
campsite was on the coast. After it became dark, Dee saw an amazing sight. As the waves came in, there were
bright, horizontal splashes of light?! It was amazing and beautiful – and puzzling: What was that light coming
Fortunately, Jeff – ever the geographer, came to his assistance. He explained the ocean here
contained a special kind of diatoms (small, single-celled algae) that are fluorescent. When the waves came
crashing down, the pressure made the diatoms light up, much like what happens with fireflies at night.
Problems Due to the Ethnic Divisions of Nigeria
One of the challenges we all faced on this trip was how to periodically get money from back
home to pay for our day-to-day expenses. The general solution was for our family to have money wired to us every
few months, by sending it to a bank in some big city ahead of us.
Dee had asked his dad to wire some money to someplace in Nigeria. His bank found a branch in
Port Harcourt, one of the largest cities in Nigeria, and arranged for a transfer of money to that branch in my
But when we got to Port Harcourt, and went to that bank, Dee was told that they couldn’t give me
the money here; Dee had to get it from a bank in Kano, the biggest city in the northern part of Nigeria. The
inability of the bank in Port Harcourt to get the money from the bank in Kano reflected the ethnic division
and the tensions between the provinces in southern Nigeria which were primarily Christian and those in
northern Nigeria which were primarily Muslim. Dee eventually got his money after we got to Kano, but the ethnic
and religious divisions we encountered in this instance led, two years later, to a major civil war in Nigeria.
Jeff meets a high-school classmate
While in Kano, we managed to find and connect with Ron Garst, a high school classmate of Jeff
from when they grew up together in Mesa, Arizona (a suburb of Phoenix). Ron was serving in the Peace Corps at
As we drove east from Kano, we saw large “pyramids of peanuts” along the road. Peanuts grew
well in this climate and were a major export crop. We had spent seven weeks traversing West
Africa. In late November, we concluded this segment of our trip and drove into Chad, an extremely fascinating
Chapter 5 - Chad
We didn’t know it when we entered Chad in late November, but we would end up spending nearly two months there,
more than in any single country on the whole trip. But we also discovered that it was a good place to spend a
lot of time. Modernization was coming into Africa from the coast inwards; this meant the interior of the
continent was the least modernized.
And this meant Chad was the least modernized country we would encounter in Africa and maybe on the
whole trip [another candidate for this designation, in southwest Asia, was Afghanistan]. For the most part, Chad
was a pre-industrial society. What was such a place like? In this segment of the trip, we would learn the
answer to that question.
Initial reason for the long stay
Our initial plan for the trip was to go southeast from Chad and work our way into East Africa.
This meant we needed visas for several countries ahead of us: the Central African Republic, the Democratic
Republic of the Congo, Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania
We began the process of getting these visas by going to the French consulate in Ft. Lamy, the
capital of Chad. There we got a surprise: they told us that to get the visas we wanted, we/they had to send
all our passports and visa application to Paris; people there had to physically take them around to the
relevant embassies, and then mail our passports – with the visas back to Ft. Lamy. This would take
approximately four weeks!
We were dismayed that the visas would take this long, but if that is what we needed, so be it.
We would just take that time to explore an interesting part of Africa!
So we set off, driving east toward Mongo, working our way south to the city of Ft.
Archambault, and then back north to Ft. Lamy, hoping to be back there by late December.
Some Observations Leading to a Big Question
As we drove around Chad, we saw lots of villages. People here lived in small dwellings with
mud walls and thatched roofs. They had gardens and maybe a few goats, chickens, and cattle. We heard that the
women generally spoke only the local tribal language, while some of the men learned a bit of Arabic from
travelling to nearby villages for trade or work. This was a typical form of a subsistence economy.
In between the villages, was wildlife that was fascinating. In one area we saw “Bush Babies”;
these were primates with large eyes. One morning, a group of baboons discovered our camp. They felt we had
“invaded their territory,” so they made loud barking noises and beat their chests, trying to scare us off.
When we didn’t “scare off,” they slowly retreated. In several places we saw 6’ high termite mounds. These were
so hard that one could not chip them even with a rock hammer.
Dee’s Big Question
After some days of driving through this kind of place, Dee began to wonder: “What is the
fundamental difference between the way he sees life being lived in these villages, and the life he knew growing
up in the rural cornfields of Illinois?”
Eventually Dee concluded that two forms of technology accounted for the difference: electricity
and the internal combustion engine – along with all the additional changes that have evolved “downstream” from
these two technologies.
If this is true, there is one major implication. If, for some reason, these two forms of
technology were taken away – along with all that depends on them, life in the West would quickly become much
like what we observed in these villages: transportation by foot or animal, communication primarily
face-to-face, simple housing that is hand-constructed from local material, and a diet based mainly on local
crops and animals.
Jeffs’ Complementary Observation
While acknowledging the pre-industrial character of life in Chad, Jeff noted some additional
characteristics that were noteworthy. First, local people were often good at problem solving. For example,
when we got stuck on a road or in a river, they figured out how to construct a lever to get us out. Second,
villagers were good and creative artisans. We saw (and Jeff purchased) stylized wood carvings of antelope
heads, versions of which are now displayed in Western art museums. Third, they also had strong ethical
beliefs. One time we inadvertently left a pair of jeans at our campsite; as we started to drive off, a young
goat herder who had been observing these “strange visitors,” noticed the jeans and ran after us to return them to us.
Two Very Different Forms of Western Infusion (Intrusion?)
While travelling in the southern part of Chad, near Ft. Archambault, we met two very different
kinds of Westerners, both of whom had chosen to spend a major part (or the rest) of their lives in this
country. The first were two Frenchmen, “Mickey” Micheletto and Claude Vassalé. They were hunting guides who
hired out to wealthy big game hunters. They had extensive knowledge of where particular species of animals
hung out, e.g., at particular watering holes. They had learned much of this knowledge about the habits of wild
animals from the local villagers. It was fascinating to listen to them talk about their experiences, e.g., how
they had to stock lots of booze for their trips and how they distinguished between good hunters and bad
Meeting them led to one humorous side experience. We still wanted to get some good photographs
of elephants but had not found any yet. Mickey and Claude suggested we go to this one particular watering hole
where elephants often came in the evening. So, a few nights later, we did. When we got there, we each
disbursed, found a separate tree to climb up into with our cameras, sat on a branch – and waited. While Dee was
waiting, he became nervous; he remembered that while driving though Chad, we were able to determine when
elephants had visited a place because they reached up with their trunks and tore off tree branches!
Unfortunately for our picture taking, fortunately for our safety, no elephants came that night.
The second interesting Westerner we met in this area was a Jesuit priest, David Knight. He had been here several years
but, during that time, his experiences of living and working with the Ngama people in Chad, had
prompted him to revise
both his religious views and his sense of mission. When he looked at the general perspectives and principles
rather than the specific beliefs of his and their religious views, he found a lot of similarity. As a result,
his sense of his mission there changed from being focused on converting them to Christianity, to serving as an
David shared an interesting story linking pigeons and the corrugated room on the
house he lived in there. The Ngama belief that Dave’s mission was cursed apparently originated with
the corrugated roof. Knight’s hypothesis was that the convectional cell rising from the roof
resulted in abrupt temperature change for birds in flight. The stress resulted in strokes, and the
birds would fall to the ground dead. The clever Ngama reasoned that if the birds couldn’t survive
Christianity, it might be a bit of a challenge for them. Jeff corresponded with Knight for a short
period of time after his return to Texas. [Addendum from Jeff: Dave went on to complete a doctorate
in Sacred Theology at Catholic University and has written some forty books. I believe that he ended
up at the Monastery of St. Clare in Memphis.]
Jeff Almost Meets His Future Wife
We returned to Ft. Lamy but our visas were not back from France yet. So, we took a few more
days to visit the Waza National Park, a major natural preserve a few hours’ drive south across the border and
into the neighboring country of Cameroon. The date of our visit, January 9th, was memorable to Jeff for two
reasons. The first was that that day was his mother’s birthday. The second reason he didn’t learn until a few years
later. It turns out that a Peace Corps volunteer in Cameroon, one Ms. Yvonne Gastineau, also visited
Waza National Park only a few days earlier, on January 1st. Ms. Gastineau, like Jeff, was from
their mothers knew each other. A few years after Jeff and Yvonne returned from their overseas travels, their
mothers introduced them, they liked each other, and eventually got married. Only when reconstructing their lives in
Africa later on, did they discover that they had both been at the same place in Africa at almost the same time.
A Major Change in Plans
After returning from Waza, we checked again at the French Embassy and good news: our visas had
arrived! So now we were ready to continue toward our goal of reaching East Africa, by driving south into the
Central African Republic and then into Uganda – or so we thought.
We had been camping at a site outside of Ft Lamy. So, the next morning, we packed up and went
to the U.S. Consulate for one last check to see if any mail had come in for us. While there, we happened to run
into the vice consul whom we had gotten to know while in Ft. Lamy. He noticed we had packed up and asked where
we were headed next. When we mentioned the Central African Republic, he furrowed his brow and asked if we
would wait one more day before heading out. He had some confidential information that he couldn’t share today
but could tomorrow.
We were really ready to leave, having waited four weeks for our visas. But we knew the vice
consul well enough to know that he wouldn’t ask us to stay unless there was a very good reason. So we went
back out to the campsite and unloaded all our stuff, for one more night.
The next morning, we drove back to the consulate. By then, the vice consul could tell us what
was confidential the previous day: “The US was landing paratroopers in the Central African Republic (CAR)
yesterday – with orders to evacuate all Westerners.” We never learned the reasons why, but the people in the
CAR were very upset about something and were on a rampage - killing Westerners!
Had we not “by chance” run into the vice consul the day before when checking on our mail, we
would have driven right through the endangered area, without any weapons or means of self-defense at all.
This was the one time in the whole trip when we were in potentially serious danger.
Fortunately, thanks to the vice consul, we avoided the problem.
Chapter 6 - Sudan and Egypt
January 26 – March 19, 1965
After we learned from the American Vice Consul in Chad that we could not go south through the
Central African Republic to get to East Africa, we turned east to go to Khartoum, the capital of Sudan, to try
and get to East Africa from there.
This was an extended detour. The drive from Ft. Lamy (the capital of Chad) to Khartoum is
approximately 2,400 km (1,500 miles). This is about the same distance as from New York City to Oklahoma City,
i.e., halfway across the whole United States. But the road east from Ft. Lamy was not a paved, interstate
highway. It consisted of tracks in the sand, along the southern edge of the Sahara Desert.
Once we had crossed the country border between Chad and Sudan, we noticed that we had crossed
a cultural and linguistic border as well. The towns now all had the Arabic definite article (like “the” in
English) of “al-…” or “el-…” before the actual name, e.g., el-Gemeine, al-Fasher, en-Nahud, etc.
A Problem and an Adventure
As we were leaving Ft. Lamy, someone had warned us to be careful when driving on this sandy
road: “If you have to down-shift to get more power, be careful not to do it too slowly. If you do, the sand
will grab your wheels and pop an axle on you.”
And sure enough, on the second day after we had crossed into Sudan (~15 miles east of
Al-Fasher), Dee was driving, down-shifted – and heard a loud “p-i-i-n-n-g”, meaning our rear axles had twisted
and broken in two!
We were between cities, in the middle of “nowhere”. What to do? Will had a good knowledge of
mechanics from growing up on his family ranch in Colorado. So he could replace the axle – if we could get a
new one. And Dee had a little Arabic that he had learned while living in that part of Iran with a large Arabic-speaking
population. So he was selected to hitchhike a ride with a truck heading east, and try to find a Land Rover
dealer at the next major town. Meanwhile Will, Ginny, and Jeff would camp out with the vehicle and wait for Dee's
One mild concern we had was that this event occurred during the month of Ramadan, a holy
period when Muslims fast from sun-up to sun-down. Sometimes the resulting hunger understandably left people a
little edgy. Would they be a bit hostile to me as a result?
In fact, the opposite occurred. During the time Dee was hitchhiking, the drivers and other
riders frequently offered him food. When Dee declined, saying “This is a time of fasting,” they always replied:
“Yes, but that is only for us Muslims; you are not required to fast. So, please, go ahead and have something
to eat.” Dee was impressed by their cultural graciousness!
When Dee reached the first town, En-Nahud, there was no Land Rover dealer! This meant he needed
to go on to the next town. But before going on, he found a truck going west, in the direction toward where our
Land Rover was. He told the driver what the situation was and asked if he would try to find our vehicle and
give a message to the other three people there? He said he would. So Dee wrote out a message, explaining that he
had to go further to find an axle and it would be longer than we had hoped, before he returned. He learned
later, that the message had been delivered!
The next day, when Dee reached the next town of El-Obeid, there was a Land Rover dealer! When Dee
asked for a new axle, he asked: “Is it a long wheel-base or a short-wheel-base?” Dee answered, “Long.” “Is it a
front or rear axle?” “Rear.” To those specifications, he went over to a large pile of axles and picked one up.
Apparently we were not the only ones who had twisted an axle while driving through this sand!
Once Dee had the axle, he hitched a ride back to the vehicle, getting there 5 days after he had
Will, Ginny, and Jeff’s Experience
Shortly after Dee left to search for a new axle, some people from a nearby village (named
Broosh) discovered this group with their disabled vehicle. The head of that village, a man named
then came out to meet the travelers and see what their problem was. He welcomed them, invited them to the
village and offered them a meal.
Ginny asked if she could visit with the women in the village and was given permission to do
that. Although she and the village women did not have a common language, they managed to communicate to a
degree using the time-honored method of sign language, etc. While the content of their communication was
obviously limited, it nonetheless gave her some insight into the life of women in this part of the world that
would have been invisible to all of us, had she not been there and taken the initiative to ask for time with
Much of each day was spent with the vehicle because they wanted to be there when Dee returned.
While with the vehicle, they experienced a special phenomenon: EVERY truck that came by, stopped and gave the
group something! Some of the gifts included: tamarind juice, cookies, “Two Tractors” brandy, and a live
chicken. The group also received the message that Dee sent via one truck driver, about his delay in finding a
This display of concern and care by the truck drivers and the hospitality provided by the
village (the group was allowed to stay and invited to eat at the village for the whole 3-day period), left a
major, positive impression on the group about the meaning of hospitality and community in this part of
Fixing the Broken Axle
After Dee returned from El-Obeid with the new axle, Will jacked up the back of the Land Rover,
took out the old axle, put the new one in, and packed it with grease. It was all easy, relatively speaking –
for him, once we had a good axle.
We said good-bye to their village friends and headed off again for Khartoum – now even more
attentive to how we down-shifted in the sand!
Looking for a New Way South from Khartoum
Our primary goal in Khartoum was to find a new way to get to East Africa. First, we went to
officials in the Sudanese government, to ask about driving directly though southern Sudan to Uganda and then
on to Kenya. But they told us that southern Sudan was too dangerous. There was fighting there between the
African villagers and the Arabs from the north. [Note: Some years later, this rift would escalate into a
full-blown civil war; in 2011, Southern Sudan would secede and become a separate nation.]
This was discouraging news, but we had one more option: Go east into Ethiopia and then south
from there. But when we went to their consulate, they too said we could not go there because “the bridge on
the border from Sudan to Ethiopia was out”!
We were devastated. This meant there was no way for us to get to the original destination for
this whole trip – East Africa! One could apparently fly in or go by boat, but at this time, there was no way
to drive overland from central Africa to East Africa.
After receiving this news, we went to a bar to have a few beers and “drown our sorrows.” While
there, another Westerner noticed our depressed mood and came over to ask what the problem was. When we told
him what we had learned at the Ethiopian Embassy, he began laughing?! When we asked why he was laughing, he
said: “I know that road well, and there is no bridge at that border.” So why did they say that? He explained:
The real reason is that there are dangerous bandits in the hills as you enter Ethiopia. But the government is
embarrassed to admit that they cannot control their own land. So they just say, “The bridge is out.” A
different explanation, but the result was the same: We could not get to East Africa by going through Ethiopia.
A Change of Direction
As we slowly accepted the fact that we could not drive to East Africa at this time, we
grudgingly gave up this part of our whole trip and decided simply to turn north and go through that part of
Sudan and on into Egypt. But we stayed on a few days in Khartoum. While here, we had the pleasure of meeting
and visiting Mr. Magrebe. He enjoyed hosting Westerners, in part because his wife was British. When Sudan
first became independent from Great Britain, only 9 years earlier, Mr Magrebe was the first head of the
Council that ran the country while they developed a constitution, etc.
Ancient Civilizations and Modern People Along the Nile River
We headed northeast to Shendi and Meroë (an archeological site). Along the way, we encountered
remnants of the ancient civilizations of Nubia and Meroë. Nubia was a long-lasting civilization that was a
“southern neighbor” of Egypt. Meroë was a kingdom that flourished about 200 BCE, along the Nile south of the
Ptolemaic kingdom of Egypt. We visited an interesting Meriotic temple complex at the archeological site of
At Meroë, we met Fritz Hintze, an archeologist from Humboldt University who was a specialist
on Meroë. He was very hospitable and gave us a fascinating set of comments on this site. One fascinating
discovery here was the presence of Chinese porcelain from the ancient Ming dynasty that had been unearthed
here. This suggested long distance trade connections, even in ancient times.
Physical Features of People: We also noticed, while driving, a change in the physical features
of the villagers. They were more Hamitic: They were lighter skinned and had more aquiline features than people
we had met in central Chad or West Africa.
After exploring these rural areas of Sudan north of Khartoum, we decided it was time
to move on to Egypt. So we returned to Khartoum and took an eastward route over to the Red Sea
coastline. From there, we drove on up into Egypt and then west to the city of Aswan.
Treasures of Egypt
After we crossed the border into Egypt, our first stop was at the Aswan Dam. This was still
being built when we arrived in 1965; it was completed in 1970. This was a huge project for the Egyptian
government. The desired goals were to create hydro-electric power for the region, stop flooding, and provide
controlled irrigation water downstream. It has done all this, but it has also created disruptive environmental
problems, e.g., sediment has filled up part of Aswan Lake and the steady flow of water in the Nile has caused
erosion in the delta along the Mediterranean coast.
Just north of Aswan, we explored the amazing Valley of the Kings and the Valley of the Queens.
Both are near the city of Luxor and are where many of the kings and queens of ancient Egypt were buried, from
roughly 1,500 – 1,000 BCE. The burial sites, now over 3,000 years old, have inner walls decorated with
pictures and hieroglyphic writing that are still vibrant and colorful.
A few days later, we reached Cairo and visited the world-famous sphinx and pyramids which were
built even earlier, around 2,650 – 2,150 BCE.
A Rare Encounter with Hostility
While in Cairo, we had an unusual and unpleasant experience while driving through the back
streets of Cairo. Young kids started throwing stones at our Land Rover. This was the strongest expression we
had during the entire trip, of anti-tourist (or anti-foreigner?) sentiment. We attributed this to people
having to live in a big, crowded city, having bad experiences with foreigners generally, and therefore
developing strong feelings of resentment toward rich, condescending tourists.
In mid-March, 1965, we shipped ourselves and the Land Rover on a ferry out of the port city of
Alexandria, located on the Delta of the Nile River. We had spent 7 ½ months, making a large U-shaped drive
through that portion of this huge continent of Africa located north of the equator.
Out of curiosity, we calculated our expenses thus far and learned that, for our day-to-day
expenses (food, lodging, gasoline), we had incurred a cost of less than $1 per day, per person while in
Africa! The two main reasons the cost was so low were that, first, while in the Peace Corps, we had learned
how to buy and eat local food and keep it clean without getting sick. Second, we seldom had to pay for
lodging. We either camped out or got invited to stay with people we met along the way.
An amazing set of experiences for a dollar a day!
Chapter 7 - The Middle East
March 19 – April 15, 1965
In mid-March of 1965, we entered the second major region of our trip: the Middle East. The
dominant feature of this region, of course, is its religion: Islam. But that portion of the Middle East that
we were about to enter had other significant features that have given rise to two other labels: The Cradle of
Civilization and the Fertile Crescent.
It has been called the Cradle of Civilization because some of the earliest civilizations in
human history emerged along the river valleys the flow through the region: the Nile River in Egypt where we
had just visited and the Tigris-Euphrates rivers in this area. These countries don’t just have a long history;
they have layers of history. For thousands of years, multiple civilizations have arisen, come and gone, but
each has left materials that now constitute the artifacts of archeology.
The term Fertile Crescent was also applied to this area between the mountains of Turkey to the
north and the desert of the Arabian Peninsula to the south. This area is fertile because of both the moderate
rains that come in the spring and the melt water from the mountains in Turkey. In the early 1900’s, the
archaeologist James Breasted argued that the history of this region can be described as “an age-long struggle
between the main peoples of the north and the desert wanderers of these grasslands – a struggle still going on
– for the possession of the Fertile Crescent”. (Ancient Times, 1916, pp. 100-101)
The five countries that we were about the visit all reflect these features of antiquity and the
turmoil that frequently accompanies change.
Our ferry trip into the Middle East took us from Alexandria, Egypt to the island of Cyprus and
then on to Beirut, the coastal capital of Lebanon. At that time (1965), Beirut still had the well-deserved
nickname of being the “Jewel of the Middle East.” Our ferry arrived after dark, and the lights of the city did
indeed shine and sparkle like diamonds on a necklace. It was truly a beautiful sight!
After spending a few days in Beirut, we drove east into the mountains on the other side of the
Beqaa Valley to visit Baalbek. Baalbek is famous for its annual, outdoor production of Wagnerian operas and
for the stone temples built by the Romans when they were dominant in this area.
From Lebanon, we drove south to the country of Jordan. At that time, Jordan included all of
the West Bank and the eastern, Arab part of Jerusalem. [Note: Just two years later, the War of 1967 changed
this dramatically.] We of course wanted to visit Jerusalem but had to limit our visit to the eastern part –
for political reasons. At that time, most Middle Eastern countries expressed their disapproval of the creation
of Israel out of Palestine, by not allowing anyone who visited Israel to travel to their countries. Since we
had several Middle Eastern countries ahead of us, we only visited that part of Jerusalem that was in Jordan.
One of the highlights of eastern Jerusalem for Dee was visiting the Dome of the Rock. This is a
beautiful mosque, built less than a hundred years after the death of the prophet Mohammed, to commemorate one
of his major miracles. In the year 621 AD, he made a miraculous night journey – on his horse, from Mecca to
this rock outcrop on a hill in the eastern part of Jerusalem. From there, he ascended into heaven, conversed
with Allah about proper religious observances for Muslims, and then returned to earth.
This place impressed Dee for two reasons. First, he learned that Islam, like Christianity [and
other major religions], had major, unexplainable miracles. Second, the mosque itself was one of the more
beautiful buildings he had ever seen. It has an octagonal base topped by a golden dome. Inside, the sacred rock
is exposed and protected by a railing, allowing visitors to see the actual place where the miracle took place.
From Jerusalem we drove to a major archaeological in southern Jordan known as Petra. This city
was the capital of the Nabataean Empire and a major trading hub that linked trade routes between Asia and
Europe from roughly 400 BCE until 100 AD when they were finally conquered by the Romans. When they were a
wealthy and powerful empire, they did something very unusual: They carved several huge buildings right into
the side of the rose-colored sandstone in the mountain valley where they were located! They also developed
special ways of accessing, storing and protecting water – the critical resource in this part of the world.
From Petra, we drove back north and visited several major cities on the western side of Syria.
The first of these was Damascus, the capital of Syria. This is a city that reflects both themes that were
mentioned earlier: antiquity and turmoil. It was a major city during the time of the Greeks, Romans,
Byzantines, Muslim Caliphates and, more recently, Europeans and Americans. All of these “visiting”
civilizations have left their marks in one way or another, in the architecture and habits of the city.
One feature that has endured through all these eras is the Suq or bazaar. These are found in
many Middle Eastern cities, and are always large, colorful, and very fascinating to shop in. When we visited
the one in Damascus, Jeff and Dee both bought inlaid boxes, one of the special crafts in Damascus.
Reflecting the other theme of this region, that of turmoil, Dee also noticed multiple bullet
holes in the sides of many buildings, including some of the mosques.
Further north, we visited Homs, one of the larger cities of Syria. We were impressed by the
large citadel or castle located on top of a hill overlooking the city. It has archaeological remains that go
back 5,000 years!
Shortly north of Homs is the city of Hama. An impressive feature of this city are the
aqueducts and the large waterwheel, both of which were created in the 1300’s during the Medieval Islamic
period. Another example of the layers of history in this region.
The next major city north was Aleppo. For centuries, it was the largest city in Syria. But the
current Syrian civil war which started in 2011, has had a terrible and devastating effect on Aleppo.
When we visited here, one person we met introduced us to others as “Germans”. He later
explained that he did this to help us avoid the lingering anti-British sentiment since World War II.
From Aleppo, we turned east and followed the Euphrates River into the area known in ancient
times as Mesopotamia (“Between the rivers”) and in modern times as Iraq. While driving along the paved road
one day, it began to rain. The surface of the road became very slick and our Land Rover started sliding. When
it hit the side of the road, it turned over on its side. We were fortunate in that none of us was hurt. People
from a nearby village saw what happened and came out to help; the men got on one side of the vehicle and
helped us push it back upright. Also fortunately the vehicle was basically undamaged, but sadly a large
ceramic pot that Will and Ginny had purchased in Africa got shattered.
The first major city we stopped in was Baghdad. One of the treats here was going along the
Tigris River and buying some freshly caught fish (called Masqouf) that were fileted and grilled right on the
spot. Of course, the city had numerous museums with artifacts from the numerous civilizations that were here
over the centuries.
From Baghdad we drove on south to Basra which is located at the head of the Persian Gulf. Jeff
and Dee had visited Basra once during the summer between our two years at a high school in Ahwaz, Iran which was
just east across the border. One interesting observation we made in Basra on this trip reflected the
long-standing and conflicting political claims of places in this region. When we were in the border station
between Iran and Iraq, the station had a map of the area hanging on the wall. What we in the West know as the
“Persian Gulf” was labelled on this map as the “Gulf of Basra”!
We also made a brief visit to the city-state of Kuwait which was a duty-free port. We checked
the bazaar and shops for things we wanted to pick up, e.g., special lens for our cameras, film, etc. Will and
Ginny enjoyed checking out some Arab clothing in the bazaar.
From Kuwait, we drove back to Basra and crossed the border into Iran, the country where we had
recently spent two years as high school teachers during our time in the Peace Corps.
Chapter 8 - Revisiting Iran
April 16 – May 26, 1965
When we crossed the border from Iraq into Iran, it truly was a “revisiting”. All of us had
become familiar with Iran during our two years working in the Peace Corps here. We knew the language and had
made close friends. We were also familiar and (relatively) comfortable with the culture – certainly more
familiar with it than in any of the other countries we visited before or after Iran, on this trip.
The first major town across the border in Iran was Khorramshahr, a very ancient city that sits
on the Karun River, just before it joins the combined waters of the Tigris/Euphrates rivers in Iraq. Jeff and
Dee had visited this city numerous times during our two years in Iran. We loved visiting here because it made
one feel like you had moved back in time a thousand years, especially when you stood on the banks of the Karun
River and looked at the boats being used. Their design and use appeared not to have changed at all over the
The Agricultural High School at Ahwaz: An Amazing Change
In addition to visiting new parts of Iran, one of our goals while here was to revisit the
agricultural high schools where we had been assigned while working in the Peace Corps the preceding two years.
We wanted to say hello to our friends there but we also wanted to “look out the corner of our eyes” and see if
there were any changes that could be attributed to our work at the schools.
Iran had established these agricultural high schools in each province of Iran. The strategy
was to offer students free tuition in exchange for two years of work after graduation, usually teaching in a
village. Each school had a building with the classrooms, but it also was a working farm, with machinery, farm
animals, and fields for animal pasture or crops. Thus, when the students went to teach, they could work to
improve literacy in the villages and to support more modern agricultural practices; at least, that was the
The first school we visited was the one where Jeff and Dee worked, at Ahwaz. Before leaving the
school in the summer of 1964, Jeff had started some trials to see which kinds of grasses grew best in the
saline soils that were characteristic of the lowland portions of the province of Khuzestan. He was pleased to
learn that the school personnel had continued the trials and reached some conclusions about the grasses that
regenerated the fastest for grazing cattle.
Perhaps the most impressive change at any of our school visits, though, was what we discovered
with the chicken operations at the school. Dee's general assignment at the school was to teach English and to
work with animal husbandry. When we first came to the school in the fall of 1962, the school had a chicken
house with few dozen chickens that were laying a handful of eggs each day. Dee noticed that the chickens were
being fed and watered in a somewhat erratic pattern. But when he pushed to make some improvements, the Iranian
teacher in charge of this part of the school’s operation, Mr. Dastgerdi, was offended and “pushed back”. After
that reaction, Dee decided not to push for change, and more or less left the operation to run “however” for the
rest of his two years there.
But when we returned on this visit, the change was astounding. With great pride, the students
pointed out that Mr. Dastgerdi had organized a very large poultry operation that not only provided enough eggs
for the school cafeteria to feed to whole school but also sold hatching eggs around the whole province! All of
this had occurred in less than a year since we had left?!
Dee's interpretation of this change is as follows. While he was at the school, the local/Iranian
teacher could not make the suggested changes from a foreigner without losing face (at least not, given the
unsophisticated way in which Dee had pushed for changes). But once the source of the ideas had left, the local
person could make the changes and the changes were “his”. One possible lesson from this experience: When
trying to stimulate change, push for a while - and then leave. With a little luck, others will then pick up
the ball, make the changes, and take credit for them themselves.
We then went to the city of Esfahan which, in the view of many people, is the most fascinating city in all of Iran. It
has multiple examples of beautiful, world class architecture situated around a large Maidan [city square] with
one of Iran’s largest and most colorful bazaars nearby. We had all visited here before, while in the Peace
Corps, but wanted to “go back and see it again.”
At one end of the Maidan are three great pieces of architecture, all created by Shah Abbas
during the 16th and 17th centuries, known as the Safavid period of Iran. These are the Ali Qapu Palace for the
royal family, the Shah Mosque [meant for the public], and Sheikh Lotf Allah Mosque [meant for the royal family
only]. The colors and ornamentation of the two mosques are still some of his favorite visual memories of
After spending some time in Esfahan, we drove northwest through two major archeological
western Iran near Kermanshah: Behistun and Taq-e-Bostan. Behistun was a text and bas relief picture carved
into the side of a mountain along an ancient road between the capitals of Babylonia and Media roughly 2,500
years ago, by King Darius, one of the great Persian emperors. What made this site valuable was that the text
was written in three cuneiform languages: Persian, Elamite, and Babylonian. This allowed archaeologists to
decipher these ancient languages more easily. Taq-e-Bostan, located nearby, consists of two covered archways
carved into a hillside. It has bas relief pictures showing major events, e.g., military victories, of the
Sassanid kings of Iran, about 800 years after those of Behistun, i.e., in the 4th century AD.
From Kermanshah, we drove north to the city of Tabriz. Our main goal here was to visit the
agricultural high school here where Will had taught while in the Peace Corps. Will noticed some changes, e.g.,
new buildings, more chickens, but not as dramatic as we saw back in Ahwaz.
While in the Tabriz area, we met and spent some time with Carlton and Janie Coon. Carlton was
the son of a well-known anthropologist (also named “Carlton”) and was currently working with the U.S. State
Department at the consulate in Tabriz. They were a wealth of information about this area of Iran, and offered
to take us to the unusual village of Chanawan (listed on today’s maps as Kandovan), southeast of
Tabriz. The buildings in this village had
literally been carved out of the peaks of volcanic tufa rock. The villagers themselves were interesting and
progressive in many ways: they maintained compost pits for fertilizer, had a literacy corps teacher who worked
with both young and older students, and had a mullah (religious leader) who said he planned to send his
daughter to school once she was old enough.
The Caspian Coast: A Unique Region of Iran
Next we drove east from Tabriz to visit the southern coast of the Caspian Sea. This part of
Iran is quite different from the rest of the country. Because of its location between the sea and the Alborz
Mountains, it receives a high level of rainfall: an average of 2,250 mm (90”) each year compared to 250mm
(10”) in the rest of Iran. As a result, this is where Iran produces nearly all its rice and tea. The houses
are also built with roofs designed to be able to shed heavy rains. Another special feature of this area is the
supply of sturgeon fish from the Caspian. At that time, they were relatively plentiful; as a result, the
restaurants served sturgeon kebab, a very tasty dish. Unfortunately, since the 1960’s, the sturgeon supply has
declined dramatically, due primarily to overfishing; they are highly sought after for their eggs which most
Westerners know as “caviar”.
Reconnecting with the Peace Corps in Tehran
After spending three days along the Caspian coast, we crossed south over the Alborz mountains
to Tehran, the capital and largest city in Iran. While here, we had some maintenance work done on our Land
Rover, which gave us time to meet several Peace Corps staff and volunteers, some new and some who had been
part of our project. One of the latter was Don Croll. After our project had finished, he decided to stay in
Tehran awhile but was considering going to Spain to study comparative literature. Meanwhile he enjoyed hosting
some of the current Peace Corps-Iran volunteers who needed a place to stay in Tehran for a few days, as well
as former volunteers like ourselves who were travelling through.
We also visited with the Peace Corps staff in their new buildings. Some of them were
carryovers from our project in Iran, and some were new. Unfortunately we thought the staff had become larger
than was proportional to the number of volunteers; hence they were becoming less efficient and more
impersonal, compared to what we had experienced.
Mashhad: A Major Shiite Religious Site
From Tehran, we took the northern route east toward Mashhad. This took us back over the Alborz
mountains and into the eastern portion of the Caspian littoral, a pleasant respite before we
re-entered the more typical semi-arid part of Iran.
Mashhad, the second largest city of Iran, is also a major religious center for Shiite Muslims.
The vast majority of Iranians are members of this branch of Islam (the other being the Sunni branch). The
Shiites believe that the legitimate successors to Mohammed were his biological descendants, known as Imams.
The eighth imam was called Imam Reza, and he is buried here in a famous and beautiful shrine, with a
We found the people here, not surprisingly, to be somewhat conservative but not overly
friendly; on the other hand, we never encountered any overt hostility either. We also noticed that the local
people, located as they were near the ancient trade and invasion routes out of Central Asia, frequently had
mongoloid features, e.g., flat faces and thin eyebrows.
From Mashhad, we headed on east toward Afghanistan. Along the way, we saw vertical windmills,
one of the interesting technological inventions of ancient Iran.
Chapter 9 - Southwest Asia: Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Kashmir
May 27 – June 9, 1965
Afghanistan: Some Initial Impressions
The physical geography is Afghanistan is like a cereal bowl, upside down. There is a large
mountain range in the central part of the country – the foothills of the Hindu Kush, with the larger
settlements located around the perimeter. Therefore, driving visitors going east or west, generally take the
northern or southern route around the mountainous interior. We chose the southern route.
When we visited Afghanistan, it was a relatively quiet country that was not in the news every
week. But Dee remembers being struck by the number of adults and even young children who carried rifles with an
obvious knowledge of and willingness to use them. He said to himself: “Given their long history of fighting
among themselves and with outsiders and their knowledge of how to use their mountainous terrain to their
advantage, no one will ever conquer this group of people on their own turf”.
That adage has held up with time and all subsequent events. About ten years after our visit,
it first became a battleground between the Soviet and Western forces and their proxies (1980’s); the Taliban
became powerful (1990’s); and then, after 9/11 (2000’s), Afghanistan became a battleground between
conservative Islamic groups and Western counter-terrorism efforts. Despite all the fighting of the last
half-century and the superior weaponry of the modern armies, no outside group has yet found a way to conquer
the Afghans on their home territory.
The first large town for us in Afghanistan was Herat. It was a clean city with a population
that was largely Tajik in ethnicity. Tajikistan is one of the three “-stan’s” that border Afghanistan on the
A Meeting at a Tribal Campground
Then we drove along the south edge of the mountains toward Kandahar. Just outside Kandahar, we
saw a tribal group camped off the side of the road and decided to stop and visit with them. They graciously
offered us a meal which we accepted. Then we asked if we could take some pictures, and they accepted. But this
led to some tension. They apparently had heard of Polaroid cameras that instantly develop their pictures. The
tribal leaders assumed our cameras were Polaroids (which they were not) and asked for a copy of the pictures.
They spoke Farsi which we had learned in Iran and hence we were able to communicate semi-well. However they
did not initially accept our response that we did not have pictures available to give them. We heard the Farsi
phrase, “Doruq migan” which means “they are lying.” That made us nervous. We would have been glad to mail them
a set of the pictures, but we didn’t know of any way to do that with a nomadic tribal group. Fortunately, they
eventually seemed to accept our claim that we really didn’t have any pictures.
Exotic Experiences in Kabul
A few days later, we reached Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan.
First we met Dave Kapell, a Peace Corps Volunteer. He gave us a tour around Kabul. One
more memorable spots he took us too was the small shop of a snake charmer. This shop was no more than 10’ by
15’. There were a number of baskets around the walls and barely enough chairs or stools for all of us to sit
down. We also noticed a mongoose near the snake charmer himself. We visited a while, and then the snake
charmer took one of the baskets and dumped the contents – a cobra – on the floor, not more than a foot from
Dee’s foot (and Dee is someone who is quite uneasy around snakes)! But before he could react, the mongoose lunged
at and grabbed the cobra behind the head. The snake charmer reached over, took hold of the snake behind its
head, and told the mongoose to release the snake. Following this, he took the lid off another basket with a
snake in it, and did just what they do in movies: played a flute while the snake slowly lifted up from the
Second, we met Bill Steiner who was serving at that time as director of the Peace Corps
Program in Afghanistan. He was a friend of Bill Cousins who had been the director of our program in Iran. When
Bill Steiner was first appointed director of the Afghanistan program, he decided to tour the country
extensively, visiting with local people, and asking them: “If you had some outside helpers who came here, what
would you really like them to do?” After he heard and analyzed their answers, he proposed various projects for
the country. What a novel idea for building a good assistance program!?
Third, we noticed more people in Kabul who were Hazaras, i.e., people who are descendants of
and have physical features reminiscent of the Mongols who came through the country in 13th century.
We drove through the historic Khyber Pass on our way from Afghanistan to Pakistan. Because it
is not so high, 3,500 feet, merchants and invading armies [e.g., Alexander the Great and Genghis Khan] have
used this Pass for centuries to move between Central Asia and South Asia.
We did not pause long in Pakistan but drove rather quickly through Peshawar and Islamabad.
Islamabad is unusual because it was created specifically to be the new capital of Pakistan, replacing Karachi.
This was done in 1960, just 5 years before we were there.
Amritsar, Home of the Sikhs
From Islamabad, we drove to Amritsar. This is the site of the Golden Temple, a major holy site
for adherents of the Sikh religion. This was one of the more beautiful religious structures we saw on our
The Sikh religion is interesting. While the culture teaches people to be very self-disciplined
and to seek peace, they are also well prepared to fight when necessary. We saw many soldiers during our stay.
From Amritsar, we drove northeast into Srinagar, the capital of the Kashmir and Jammu
province. India and Pakistan have fought for control of this province ever since their independence from Great
Britain in 1947.
The geography of Kashmir is the opposite of Afghanistan. Kashmir is like a cereal bowl,
right-side up: It is surrounded by a circle of mountains with lowlands in the middle. This topography has
resulted in a number of lakes in the central lowlands.
One of the real treats we discovered was that people could rent houseboats on the beautiful
lakes around Srinagar. We eventually rented one for a few days on Nagin Lake. The houseboat had two bedrooms
and came with a cook who prepared our meals – all for a fee that even we could afford.
During the day, various merchants would come by on boats, asking us to look over their wares
or services, e.g., fruits and vegetables, cloth for suits, paper maché objects, hand-woven carpets, etc.
Especially with the latter objects, one could sense the influence of Persian culture here. Dee contracted for a
custom-made suit that he sent home and which served him for several years thereafter.
Dee always thought renting a houseboat on one of these lakes would be an idyllic location for a
honeymoon, but he was never able to test the idea.
After enjoying the houseboat for as long as we could, we packed up and headed south to India,
the final major country of our trip.
Chapter 10 - India
William, Virginia, and Jeff: June 10 – July 23, 1965
Dee: June 10 – June 27, 1965
No Room to Camp Out
It was on this Indian segment of our trip that we discovered the meaning of “high population
density”. Late in our first day in India, we started looking for a campsite, someplace where we could put our
sleeping bags down for the night. We drove and drove and drove – and for the first time in our whole trip, we
could not find any unoccupied space. ALL space was occupied by something: houses, fenced pastures, roads, etc.
Finally, in desperation, we simply pulled over to the side of the road as much as we could,
parked the Land Rover, and put our sleeping bags down on the side of the road. In the morning, we were
awakened by the sound of a convoy of Indian army trucks passing by, just feet away from the Land Rover. They
were headed north into Kashmir to fight the Pakistanis for control of that province.
Chandigarh: Another Planned City
After heading south from Amritsar, we stopped briefly in Chandigarh, capital of the Punjab
province. This is another intentionally planned city created shortly after Indian Independence. In 1966,
shortly after we were there, India created two provinces – Haryana and Punjab, with Chandigarh located on the
border of the two provinces and serving as the capital of both.
When we were there, it had all the usual features of new, planned cities: clean and
well-groomed streets, nice housing, etc., all reflecting the relatively high income of the citizens living
The capital of India, Delhi is also one of the largest cities in the world, currently at 25
million. When we were there, it had all the features of a very large, very crowded city.
One of the places we knew we had to visit was the Taj Mahal, one of the wonders of the world.
This extraordinary structure was built in the mid-1600s by a Moghul emperor to house the tomb of his favorite
wife who was a Persian princess.
As it has done with millions of other admirers, this monument greatly impressed us as well.
A Vegetarian Picnic
One day we met and were befriended by the head of a Jain family. He eventually invited us to
join his family for a picnic a day or so later. This was Dee's first experience with vegetarians. They had
prepared potatoes and breads in several different and delicious ways. It became clear that, if you knew how,
being a vegetarian could still result in eating food that was not only healthy but very tasty.
A Sudden Change in Plans
Background: Dee was the only person on this trip who was “draft eligible”. Ginny of course was
not because she was a woman. Willard was older and had already been in the Army. Jeff’s family were Quakers
and he was a conscientious objector. Therefore, to take this trip, Dee was the one person in the group who had
to deal with his draft classification.
As was mentioned in Chapter 1 of this website, Dee was able to get an “Educational Deferment” from his
draft board before the start of this trip. But it was only for 9 months.
During the trip, Dee periodically wrote letters to his draft board, noting how truly educational
the trip was. As we approached the 9-month mark, he requested an extension and directed the board to send
their response to him, in care of the US Embassy in Delhi, India. This was where we expected to be when the
answer came back.
When we checked on our mail at the embassy, there were two letters for Dee from the draft
board. He opened the first one and in it, the board noted that the trip sounded like it was indeed educational, so
they were granting the extension and directed him to report in when he returned home. Good news!
Then he opened the second letter, dated about two weeks later. In it, they noted that the
number of people the federal government needed to draft had increased because of the continuing buildup
of forces in Viet Nam. Therefore they regretfully had to change their decision and had to classify Dee as “1A”
– AND he had already been drafted. Dee was instructed to report to St. Louis for a pre-induction physical exam,
only a few weeks from the day he read this letter in India!
This meant that, for him, the trip had come to a sudden end. He had to prepare to quickly return
to the States, which he did. Dee flew out of Bombay a few days later because the group went there immediately
after leaving Delhi.
Bombay (now called Mumbai)
The group wanted to visit Bombay, in part to visit Bill Cousins and his wife Dori. Bill had
been the director of our Peace Corps group in Iran, and Dori’s family was from India. So they had decided to
spend time in India after finishing work in Iran with our Peace Corps group.
Bill was an extraordinary person. He lived his whole life working on social change projects.
But he had a level of intelligence and a personality that commanded the respect of everyone who was fortunate
enough to know him.
From Bombay, on June 27th, Dee caught a Japan Airlines flight headed for the States but managed
to make this trip home an extension of the bigger trip he had just completed.
Will, Ginny and Jeff continued driving a few weeks longer in India, and then left from
Calcutta on July 23, almost one month after Dee left, to begin their trip home, using a route that was
very similar to his.
Chapter 11 - Finishing the Trip & Returning Home
Our Return Trips Home: Dee’s Trip
After Dee received the letter from his draft board back in Illinois, that he had been drafted and
needed to return home right away, he had to arrange for a relatively quick trip home.
However, he made two decisions about the trip home. First, although the distance home from
central India was approximately the same going east or west, he decided he definitely wanted to fly east and go
home via the Pacific. He had come to Iran across the Atlantic. Hence by going east, he would be able to complete
a trip “around the world”.
Second, he would take a little time to see a few places while flying home. He booked a Japan
Airlines flight from Bombay through to St. Louis. But every place that that flight landed, he got off, stayed
24 hours, and caught the same flight headed on east the next day.
This gave him a chance to briefly explore the cities of Calcutta, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Tokyo,
and San Francisco. Each of these were different in special ways.
Dee remembers Calcutta being very crowded in an “old world” way and filled with people hawking religious materials.
Bangkok impressed him with the kindness and gentleness of the people.
Hong Kong was a very commercial city; everyone was selling something. Dee picked up a few carvings to bring home.
Tokyo was also a crowded city but in a modern way: lots of high-rise buildings, modern transportation, and facilities.
In San Francisco Dee spent the 4th of July weekend with a family that he and Jeff had met in Iran who were now living in this fun
From San Francisco, Dee caught a plane to St. Louis and a Greyhound bus from there to Effingham,
Cutting It Close
After paying for the Japan Airlines plane ticket, and the bus ticket to Effingham, Dee pulled
out a dime to call his dad on a pay phone at the bus station, to tell him that he was there and ask if he could come pick
After making that phone call, Dee had a total of 15¢ left! No need to carry an unnecessary
amount of cash.
Dee's Favorite Homecoming Story
His dad, Les Fink, was a widower and bachelor. He had never remarried after Dee's mother died
seven years earlier, during his first year of college. Dee was an only child; so as one might guess, their
relationship was very special to his dad.
He also had a well-deserved reputation for being a slow-moving person. He drove slowly; it
took him longer than most people to complete basic, day-to-day tasks, like washing dishes or getting dressed
up to leave home.
Some years after Dee had returned from the World Trip, their neighbors, Walter and Erlene Jutkins,
who lived about a mile down the road from his dad’s place, told him this story of the day Dee returned home:
Walter and Erlene were out in the front of their house that day, doing yard work. They saw a dark
green pickup whiz by. They looked at each other; Walter asked, “Wasn’t that Les Fink’s pickup that just went
by?” They thought a bit, puzzled that his pickup would be going that fast. Then they looked at each other with a
sudden realization, and said: “Ooh, Dee must be home, and Les is going to pick him up in town!”
Les was indeed anxious to see his only child return after a complete absence for three years!
And Dee felt the full warmth of his welcoming him home!
The Cost of the Trip?
All of us on this trip had different ways of financing the trip. In his case, Dee asked his dad if
he would be willing to take a mortgage on the farm and Dee would pay him back as soon as possible after he
returned, hopefully within the first year. His dad agreed to do that, even though it was a rather open-ended
agreement because Dee did not have a clear idea of what the trip would really cost.
During the trip, Dee sent him requests for various amounts of money or draws on the mortgage.
His dad would arrange for the local bank to transfer these to a bank where Dee was headed in the future.
After Dee returned, they sat down to add up how much Dee had borrowed for the trip. To
cover everything – his share of the Land Rover, the gasoline, food, occasional lodging, film, books, souvenirs,
and the trip home, i.e., the total cost of the trip, Dee owed his dad a total of $3,000.00!!
In today’s dollars (2019), this would be approximately $24,000. The original $3,000 was
approximately 60% of his one-year’s salary for teaching school in his home town, which is what Dee did that
following year in order to pay his dad back.
Three-fifth’s of a beginning teacher’s salary for one year: Not bad for the total cost of a
12-month, life-changing trip around the world.
Length of the Trip in Miles
On a related note, people often ask how many miles we ended up driving on the whole trip. Since we
bought the Land Rover new at the factory, we had 0 miles on the odometer at that time. When we left
Africa, the mileage was 21,643 miles. When Willard shipped the vehicle from Calcutta to his ranch in
Colorado, this was in effect the end of the driving portion of the trip. At that time, the odometer
read 36,187 miles - roughly 50% longer than the circumference of the whole world. What a ride!
Jeff, Willard, and Virginia's return home
Jeff, Willard, and Virginia actually took a route home that was similar to what Dee did, but
with a few additional stops.
After Dee left, they drove from Bombay on the west side of India to the northeast border with
Nepal. Their intent was to drive up to Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal, and explore this mountain kingdom a
bit. Unfortunately, the rains during the recent rainy season had washed out that road. They tried to drive it
anyway, but it soon became apparent that it wasn’t going to work. So they turned back and headed southeast to
They stayed in the Salvation Army Hospital located in Calcutta. Somehow the police in Calcutta
arrested them because they believed the group was selling the equipment they had, e.g., cameras, tape
recorders, etc. Fortunately representatives from the Salvation Army spoke up in their defense and the police
released them. As gratitude for this act, Jeff has always made sure he contributed to the Salvation Army
donation buckets at Christmas time.
Their plan was to drive from Calcutta to Burma and from there to continue on through southeast
Asia. Unfortunately they learned that they would not be able to drive to Rangoon because of
political tensions between India and Burma.
As a result, they had to make a major decision. They needed to ship the Land Rover back from
Calcutta to the States and make the rest of the trip home by plane. As we had agreed earlier, Will purchased
the Land Rover himself and the rest of us paid him a portion of the cost to cover depreciation and the
shipping home. Then he would get to keep the Land Rover for use on his family’s ranch in southern Colorado.
On July 23rd, the group flew from Calcutta to Rangoon and stayed one day. They found the place
to be a sleepy city with a colonial feel to it. The food was a mixture of Indian and southeast Asian.
While there, though, they met a Burmese man who told about the government’s suppression of
tribes in northern Burma. The king and queen of Thailand were supporting the tribes. This man gave Jeff a copy of an
underground newspaper and asked him to give it to the princess - which he did.
Thailand and Cambodia
The group then flew to Bangkok on the Union of Burma Airlines and found it to be an
outstanding airline. They spent time visiting some of the many beautiful temples in Bangkok.
From there, they took a train to Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia. Here they
visited Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom.
They found the Cambodians to also be very cordial.
The group then flew to Saigon. This was in the summer of 1965 when the US military was
building up. They in fact watched US mortars being shot at Viet Cong.
They saw several statues of Vietnamese who fought Chinese in the past. Interestingly they also
saw grave markers with the crescent on it, for Moroccans and Senegalese who had fought here during the French
period of the country.
Hong Kong and Other Places East
From Saigon they flew to Hong Kong on the Vietnamese airline which was using
French-manufactured planes. They stayed a few days longer than anticipated because a typhoon grounded all
flights for a time.
The flight on to Taiwan had to make a tricky landing in Taiwan because of typhoon winds. The
group did not spend much time here but flew on to Okinawa and Tokyo on China Airline.
In Tokyo, they were able to use Jeff’s Quaker background and stayed at the Quaker Guest House.
The rooms here had paper walls. They had hoped to visit the religious city of Kyoto but it was late August and
the city had too many other visitors.
Back to the U.S.
The final leg of their return trip was on a Japan Airline flight from Tokyo to San Francisco,
arriving there in mid-August, roughly six weeks after Dee had arrived in this same city on his way home.
How that World has Changed
The world that we had just finished traveling through, so enjoyably and in a relatively carefree
manner, has changed dramatically since 1965. Our realization of one major part of that change was
highlighted by our discovery of the Travel Risk 2019 map that was published by SOS International, a
medical and travel securities firm.
Almost all the countries that we traveled through – without feeling any major concern
for our safety, are now areas of moderate or high risk. The only two exceptions, interestingly, are
Morocco and Iran. As we said at the beginning of this website: “That world [of 1964-65] no longer
exists; the majority of the countries we visited would be too dangerous to traverse today, in the
casual way we did half a century ago.”
Chapter 12 - After the Trip
Fall 1965 – Spring 1966: Getting a Job and Avoiding the Draft (temporarily)
One of Dee's immediate concerns was to see if there was an alternative to being drafted into the
Vietnam War which he did not support. As it turns out, there was.
Thanks to a lead obtained by his father who drove the school bus at our local school, Dee was able
to obtain a temporary job, teaching at the school he had attended as a youngster in downstate Illinois. At that
time, teachers were exempt from being drafted.
He spent the next year (1965-66) teaching English and math to 7th and 8th graders. But Dee also
asked if he could teach a junior high geography course, and the superintendent granted that request.
Teaching this geography course challenged him in a way that led to a new direction in his
post-Peace Corps career plans: Geographic Education. The challenge was that Dee knew he could not lecture from
the textbook; it would bore him and bore the students. It would have been fun to show his slides, but Dee also
knew that after one or two weeks, they would go to sleep (or do other things) after the lights were dimmed.
This forced him to do some creative thinking and raised a major question for him: How does one teach geography
Giving local talks on his Peace Corps Experience in Iran.
While teaching in 1965-66, Dee began receiving phone calls from various local groups, asking if
he could share his experiences in the Peace Corps with them.
Since he had been in one of the very first Peace Corps groups to go overseas, this was still a
very new experience in the U.S., so people were anxious to hear “what it was like.” That year Dee probably made
10-15 presentations over a 9-month period, from all different kinds of groups, e.g., church groups, school
groups, hunting clubs, 4-H Clubs, etc.
Summer 1966: Summer Institute on Teaching Geography.
Toward the end of that school year (spring 1966), Dee saw a notice for a summer workshop on
teaching geography for high school and junior high teachers. Having tried to figure out how to do this on his
own, he thought it would be interesting to hear how professionals recommended doing this. So he applied and was
During the workshop, Dee heard this very interesting idea that, when one gets ready to teach,
one possible approach is to (a) figure out what you want students to learn and then (b) figure out what they
would have to do to learn that! Several years later, this turned out to be the central theme of a major book he
wrote on college teaching.
1966 – Spring 1970: Drafted a 2nd Time – But Enlisted in the Navy Instead
While at the workshop, Dee learned he had been drafted – a second time; the draft board had
started drafting single teachers. He decided to enlist in the Navy instead, in order to reduce the chances of
having to fight in a war he did not believe in.
Ironically, the Navy eventually assigned him to serve as the Supply Officer on a Ballistic
Missile Submarine, one that carried 16 nuclear missiles. Theirr mission was to be ready the fire those missiles,
presumably aimed at the Soviet Union, if and when they received an order to do so from the president of the
So here Dee was: roughly two years after working in the Peace Corps trying to “save the world”,
he was being asked to work on a “war machine” where, if they pushed the right buttons, they could launch a set of
nuclear missiles that could literally blow up the planet! Dee had to think hard on how to reconcile those two
aspects of his life.
What eventually allowed him to reconcile them was to believe that our president would not send
the order to launch our missiles unless missiles from the Soviet Union were already headed for the US. And if
any nuclear missiles were already launched, “it was all over” anyway. It didn’t matter whether they launched
ours or not, life on the planet Earth as they had known it was over!
Fall 1970 - 1975: Graduate School
After his time in the Navy, his earlier experience of trying to teach geography on his own and
then learning some exciting ideas during that summer workshop, all that together prompted Dee to apply to
graduate school for a joint program in Geography and Education. With some guidance and help from Jeff on where
to do that, Dee applied to and was accepted at the University of Chicago where he was; they had just hired a new
professor with a joint appointment in Geography and Education. That set him off on a career that has worked out
1976 – 2005: University of Oklahoma
After graduating from Chicago in 1976, Dee applied for a rare academic position with a joint
appointment in Geography and Education at the University of Oklahoma.
However, after a few years there, Dee proposed a new program aimed at working with professors
across campus, to help them find ways to become more effective teachers. That activity, called faculty or
instructional development, became the focus of the rest of his professional career.
Dee retired from Oklahoma in 2005, in part to free himself to do independent professional consulting,
based on a book he published, Creating Significant Learning Experiences (2003; Updated Edition 2013).
2005 – 2018: Consulting and Retirement
For the next 13 years, Dee spent his time running faculty workshops and making conference
presentations on teaching in colleges and universities. Initially these were in the United States but after a
while he also started getting invitations from other countries. By the end of this segment of his life, Dee had
done professional consulting in every state in the U.S. (except Alaska), and in every geographic region of the
globe: Europe, North America (Canada), South America, Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, Southwest Asia,
South Asia, Southeast Asia, East Asia, and Australia/New Zealand.
It was exciting and rewarding to feel like he was contributing some new ideas for professors
and administrators as they thought about college-level teaching, trying to move them toward a more
The consulting was exciting but after a while, it involved more traveling than Dee really wanted. It seemed like he was
never “at home". Hence he was ready for a change when the number of requests leveled off and eventually stopped in 2019.
As a result, Dee is now fully retired for the first time in his life – and is enjoying life with his wife, Arletta.
Fall 1965: Temporary Job in Indian Program
When Jeff first returned, his initial task was to figure out how to finish his bachelor’s
degree. While working on that, he spent the fall of 1965 working with Bob Russell on an Indian Community
Action Program in Arizona. Bob was married to a Navajo lady and had coordinated the Navajo Reservation portion
of our Peace Corps training program in the summer of 1962.
1966 - UC-Berkeley
In January 1966, Jeff went to UC-Berkeley to finish his bachelor’s degree with a major in
1967 – 1971: Graduate School, University of Chicago
In January 1967, he started graduate school at the University of Chicago. But he left that
fall after being traumatized by witnessing the fatal shooting of a young person as a result of violence in the
local community. He returned to Arizona to work with his dad, again on Indian affairs in that state.
However, in the summer of 1968, people at Chicago invited him to return and offered him
substantial financial support; Jeff accepted and returned that fall.
1971 – 1973: First (Return) Trip to Chad
For his doctoral dissertation study, Jeff chose to return to Chad in the summer of ‘71 and
study the indigenous use of the flood plain around Lake Chad. He was now married and his wife, Yvonne,
accompanied him on this trip.
Problem: That year, the drought prevented the Lake from rising and that prevented Jeff from
studying how the people in that area alternated their activities between high and low lake levels.
1973 – 1975: Working with “Agricola du Tchad”
To support himself while waiting to see what would happen with Lake Chad, Jeff took a job in
’73 as Technical Director with this French company. In this job, he supervised the development and marketing
of gum arabic. This activity also provided the possibility of being the new focus of his dissertation study,
about the process and effects of gum Arabic production in this region.
However, that year, there was a political revolution in Chad and working in the field became
dangerous; Jeff was shot at a number of times. So he decided to return to the States for one year. However the
new government also banned any documents with any connection with the former president, from leaving the
country. This created a problem for Jeff, in terms of getting his dissertation notes out of the country. He
left his dissertation notes with a PC volunteer who agreed to mail them to himself in the States. Second
dissertation problem: Those notes never showed up in the States!
1975 – 1978: Trinidad State Junior College
When Will Louden got back from our world trip, he returned to his ranch in SE Colorado and
eventually became active as a teacher at the nearby TSJC. When he heard that Jeff was back in the States and
needed a job, he invited Jeff to accept a job at Trinidad State. Jeff accepted (Fall 1975) and became “fairly
busy”. He taught Geology, Anthropology, Geography, and Physical Science; he became curator at the college’s
archeology museum, director of the local program for natural hazards, and directed a Summer Institute in
1978 – 1989: Director of the Sahel Program at the National Academy of Sciences
In 1978, Jeff left Trinidad and accepted an invitation to direct this program for the NAS. In
this role, he worked with science organizations from all over the world. He also discovered the dissonance
between the high level of cooperation at the scientific level and the high level of intrigue at the political
1989 – 1990: World Resources Institute
Based on his work at NAS, Jeff was invited to be the Environment and Climate Change person at
WRI, which he did for one year (’89-’90). This organization was comprised of numerous high-profile people,
e.g., Robert McNamara, Chamberlin (sp?). In one sense, this was exciting work, being an advisor to such
people, but Jeff worried that the people making policy had a serious lack of scientific knowledge to shape
their policy decisions. After a year, he decided he was not a good fit for this position.
1990 – 2016: University of Montana
Given Jeff’s extensive experience by this time, in organizations concerned with public policy,
people at the University of Montana offered Jeff a position as director of their Public Policy Research
Institute, which he accepted. In time, he also became a faculty member in the Department of Geography,
eventually became chair of that department (’96-’06) as well as chair of the Asian Studies department. He
retired from Montana in 2016.
After returning from the World Trip, Will and Ginny settled down at the Louden ranch
in Branson, Colorado. Their first and only child, Tamara, was born a few years after their return. Not
long after that, Ginny began law school at the University of Colorado and received her J.D. there in
In the decade following, she held a variety of law related jobs:
Editor of the Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Institute
Deputy District Attorney
Had her own private law practice in Colorado and Utah
She was featured in a book called “Women Trailblazers in the Law” because she was the 66th woman to ever receive a bar
license in the state of Utah.
Later she joined the law firm of Parsons, Behle and Latimer, a division of the Kennecott Copper
In the early 1980’s, she was the Arbitration lawyer for the Directors’ Guild of America in Los
Angeles. In the early 1990’s, she worked for awhile with the Veteran’s Administration. In 1998, she
returned to private practice in Colorado.
When receiving the honor of being featured in the “Women Trailblazers…” list, she was quoted with the
The world needs a feminine approach to solving legal problems but…[a prospective woman attorney]
should be careful about the economics involved. To survive, she’ll need to find a niche that affords
her an income but is also an area of interest to her. I also hope that she’ll consider trial work,
because in the end, it’s winning cases that involve issues crucial to females and children that will
make a difference in this world. Emotionally, it’s the most difficult area, but the thrill of winning
a case involving a point dear to your heart causes immense joy.
In the last several years of her life, she settled back in Trinidad, Colorado.
She died in 2017 at age 76.
Willard’s life after the World Trip continued many of the activities he engaged in before the trip,
but it added some and expanded others.
General Life Activities:
Late 1960’s: Will & Ginny’s daughter, Tamara, was born
1969: Will and Virginia were divorced
1973: Did graduate studies at Adams State College, University of Colorado, and Colorado State
1973: Married Mary Ann Thiel (they remained married until his death)
Will continued to help operate the family ranch that was homesteaded by his father and mother.
Ranching was one of
several major loves of his life.
Early in his life, Will worked a lot with photography. But later, he began a serious study and
practice of painting.
He helped establish the Arthur Roy Mitchell Art Museum in Trinidad, and later served as the director
and curator for
He also served as president of the Trinidad Art League, 1975-77.
Will’s paintings were focused primarily on Western landscapes and steadily became more and more widely
known. One motel
in Trinidad commissioned him to create original paintings for every room in the motel.
Will was heavily involved as a teacher at the Trinidad State Junior College, teaching a wide variety
geology, anthropology, music, gun smithing, etc.
1977 on: Worked as a building renovator in Trinidad
1977 on: Environmental consultant for the town of Branson
1980 on: A.R. Mitchell Museum: museum director and curator
1990 on: Louden-Henritze Archeology Museum, Trinidad State Junior College, Board of Directors
1986: Colorado Nature Conservancy, Outstanding Service Award
1987: Beyond War, International Peace Prize
1988: Colorado State Historical Society, Stephen Hart Award
1990: A.R. Mitchell Art Museum and Gallery, Outstanding Service Award
1996: Chenoweth Award for Outstanding Community Service
Died: September 2, 2013 Age: 88
“Know you, my friends, though I am gone still I am here...
My image is in the clouds.
You may hear my voice racing the wind
And feel my spirit dancing in the rain.”
- Willard Louden
Chapter 13 - Long-term Impact of Trip
A trip like this obviously changes one in many ways. I learned a lot about myself; I learned a
lot from the others with whom I was traveling; I learned how to plan and engage in a major undertaking; I learned
how to take risks, etc.
But one of the more significant results of this trip was related to our experiences of
encountering people with so many different social characteristics. We interacted with people from different
economic conditions, different religious orientations, different races, different political beliefs, different
ecosystems, different economic systems, etc.
As a result, I became better at identifying (a) what was “human” about someone and (b) what
was a result of the particular social and cultural forces that shape all of us. Our humanness is what is
universal and unites us. We all, for example, want to find a form of work that is satisfying and allows us to
provide for ourselves and perhaps our family; we all want to nurture our children in a good way; we all want
to have friends with whom we can share problems and joys; and so forth.
Understanding this better has helped me interact with people in a way where we recognize our
common, shared humanity. Our other, more idiosyncratic features can also be a source of enjoyment and even
growth, although they can also at times get in the way of our being able to understand one another. What we need
to do is learn how to identify what is unique about a particular culture and person, and then work to
understand how to work with and interact with that person.
This is a journey that still I work on every day, but this amazing trip that took us through
so many different cultures, advanced my ability to do this enormously. That was an invaluable lesson for this
young farm boy raised in a fairly homogeneous society in rural Illinois during the 1940s and ‘50s.
I grew up in a family that valued and engaged in extensive multi-cultural activities. Hence, I
had already learned some of the insights about what it means to be human in different cultural contexts, that
the Peace Corps experience and this world trip generated for Dee. What was more important for me was the
development of a deeper understanding of the conflict between the modern world and indigenous societies.
Even while I was at Ahwaz in the Peace Corps program, I was not yet aware of the limits of my
understanding of modern agronomy and earlier forms of agricultural adaptation to their specific environments.
Thanks to the efforts of my Arizona congressman who sent me seeds that were common for forage plants in the
U.S., I tested and promoted the use of these in the pastures at our school – only to later discover that they
did not do as well in this specific environment as the kind of alfalfa that had been used here for centuries.
Then, when we had more extensive contacts with indigenous people on this trip through Africa,
the Middle East, and Asia, I realized how these people were extremely capable with the techniques and
technology that they used to construct houses, grow crops, collect fertilizer for their crops, etc.
Perhaps the major impact of this trip for me was the way it made me much more aware of the
conflict between (a) the modern world and its effort to modernize the “not yet modern” worlds and (b)
traditional societies and the long-standing environmental adaptations generated by the indigenous people. The
problem that became so apparent during the trip was that the modernizing efforts were destroying indigenous
knowledge and capabilities.
The trip in essence “blew things open”, i.e., deconstructed my understanding of what should be
happening in the traditional societies, without immediately putting them back together again, i.e., without
creating a clear understanding of what should be happening. The latter process took time and occurred during
my post-trip activities.
Dee and Jeff would like to acknowledge the valuable contributions of the following
individuals for their help with the materials in this website:
Tamara Neo – She provided several pictures and two movies from the archives of her parents, Will and Virginia Louden.
Mary Ann Louden - Will’s second wife, contributed valuable material for reconstructing
Will’s life after this trip.
Christine Louden - Will’s niece, contributed valuable material for reconstructing
Will’s life after this trip
Julie Parker - She created the many maps in this website, working hard to faithfully follow the
wishes of both Jeff and Dee. She works as a professional consultant with Tellus Geospatial out of
Jeff Gritzner – He provided many of the pictures that appear here as well as the driving log
that he assiduously maintained throughout the whole trip and which provided many of the details
of the trip. He also drove to Oklahoma two different times in order to make the videos where he
and Dee share their memories of the trip orally. In addition, his amazing memory generated
numerous names, events, and details about multiple parts of the trip.
Dee Fink – He also provided many of the pictures, wrote the text for each chapter, and was
responsible for the overall process of producing this website during the last two years. If you
have questions about the website or the trip, feel free to contact him at: email@example.com.
Ben & Lisa Vassmer – They did the videotaping of Jeff and Dee where we talked about each segment
of the trip, and then edited this material into the many, short clips that appear in each part of
Ben also did the “heavy lifting” of assembling and organizing all the different kinds of material we
had, into the coherent, multi-media experience that this website provides! If you like this website, and
are interested in having Ben & Lisa do any videography or website design work, please contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Basemap imagery courtesy of National Geographic and ESRI. Copyright 2020.