25 Feb 2017
I’ve always been a reader. And a BookCrosser for almost as long. Last month at our regular monthly BookCrossing.com meeting*, I spotted a travel book and snapped it up to read.
A roadtrip adventure book, a father and son bonding tale, a trek through jungles of red tape and bureaucrats, across deserts where Mcdonalds and KFC held no sway.
From Here to There by Jon and Jack Faine
The story begins in London in 1977, when a young Jon Faine, doing the Aussie expat thing, spotted a car with a Victorian numberplate casually parked in a side street. Someone had driven this thing to London from Australia. He vowed to himself that he would one day do the same. This is his tale.
Thirty years later, he bought a car, reserved a domain name**, spent six months ringing up weird places, and drove off with his teenage son, destination London! Unlike other books along similar lines, he didn’t drive in a VW Beetle, a Mini or something equally ridiculous. No, he bought a roomy four-wheel drive with extra fuel tanks and room for spare tyres.
Fair dinkum about the overland trip, he drove from Melbourne to Darwin, a long trek up the middle of Australia, took a ferry to East Timor, and island-hopped from there to Singapore, where it was all solid land – more or less – to the English Channel.
Perhaps the most difficult part of the epic was the bureaucratic struggle with China to enter and traverse some of the more remote regions. In the end, he had to register the car on the border, collect a guide, and drive specified routes to the western edge. Oh, and pay thousands of dollars for the privilege.
Father and son are joint authors, switching in their own distinctive voices as they describe various adventures and places. Jon the ABC breakfast radio host is more practical and exasperated, son Jack more lyrical and laidback.
I read along, shaking my head at the ridiculous and foolhardy things they did. Drive in Tehran? My god, but that’s bold. I was offered the chance last year and declined with alacrity. That is serious traffic and no discernable road rules.
I’ve been along some of the roads. Melbourne to Coober Pedy. Tehran to Jolfa – and along that river border road to the remote monastery of St Stephanus. Jolfa, where they filled up with diesel for 1.25 cents a litre, is now the centre of a free trade zone, and Dominos Pizza can be found alongside Prada and Burberry outlets. The railway on the Azerbaijan side of the river has been repaired, and I photographed a train, a toy in that rugged terrain.
I’ve driven west from Tehran and down to Gallipoli. Istanbul’s traffic is not quite as frenzied as Iran’s though the roads are not as good. We were equally touched by the battlefields and the cemeteries, it seems.
Turkey was where they encountered the Golden Arches again. The unmistakable sign of Western civilisation.
Europe was a doddle. The family met up in Paris, where Jon’s wife Jan – and no, I’m not making that up! – flew in from Australia and the two men after six months together decided that that was long enough.
And Jon realised his dream of parking a Victorian-registered car on a London street, at least until it attracted parking tickets and a big red notice advising him that it would be towed the next day, at which point he found a parking garage.
All in all, one of those vicarious tales to be read at home by the fire with a cup of tea, rejoicing in the fact that you aren’t sharing a car bouncing through a snowstorm in Mongolia, sheep’s eyeballs your only food. Pass the Tim Tams, please!