My trip Overland to India in 1972

by Robert John Simpson

Created 11/16/1996


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When I was very young, and television was in black and white, and there were only several channels, I remember there was a show on Saturday mornings which I loved. Andy’s Gang with Andy Devine (“pluck your majic twanger froggy” if that helps); this was a show I never missed. I do not remember much about it except it had a continual story of a young Indian boy (Gunga Ram) running through the Indian jungle; I suppose it had tigers, elephants and maybe even had some music. He always seemed to be running.

Fast forward to September 1967; I am at Siena College, a Franciscan college near Albany, New York; my parents wanted me to go to school and I suppose I was glad to be there. The Viet Nam War was going on and Siena was a much better place to be. That was the summer of the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper Lonely Hearts Club. The first song on the second side of the album is George Harrison’s “Within You Without You”. The sound of that weird sitar and strange drums (tablas) interested me. I can remember sitting in a class-room, not really wanting to be there, and making a solemn vow with myself that I would complete college and reward myself by going to India someday.

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Everything good in my life always came very slowly and after a great deal of work; my school, my career, my family, my house, my happiness, etc…. The trip to India took 4 years of planning and saving to make it happen. I did not know it then, but those were good times. The State was building a large marble office complex downtown and I was able to work as a union laborer. My father sold construction equipment, knew alot of the people and got me in. I was able to work every summer and make enough to pay for school. I always had other jobs and seemed to have enough money for cigs and gas for my little Yamaha 180. Most of my money always went into the bank to pay for school.

In 1971 I graduated from Siena, then I worked on construction and saved up about $2,500. In August I hitched out to California and back. That took 4 weeks and I proved to myself I could do what seemed difficult. In September I got on a brand new 747 at JFK and flew to London. I carried my cheap guitar, a sleeping bag and a backpack.

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I went up to the small town of Burnley, near Manchester to visit some friends of my mother’s mother who came from there. Tom Jones and his wife took me in, fed me and showed me a great deal of Lancashire including the house where my grandmother was born in 1900; I remember them taking me to a local museum which had some beautiful paintings which were hundreds of years old; the concept of Europe was starting to sink in. The last I saw of them was in Blackpool where they took me to catch the ferry to Ireland, the home of my father.

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In Ireland I visited all of the Simpsons; and there are plenty of them. My father’s father’s twin sister, Bella took me in for several weeks. I will always remember the day when I got to her door; one of many in a long line of grey row houses, and she opened it. I saw myself in her wrinkled face. My days in Ireland will always be remembered. Breakfasts in bed, great bread, plenty of beer, singing, and the warmth of family. Of course I visited Northern Ireland in the height of the “troubles”; I did not take any sides, my father was raised a Protestant and my mom a Catholic.

After going over to Scotland, taking the Hovercraft over to Calais and wandering down through Germany, Italy and spending 3 months on Crete, I found myself in Istanbul. This was Asia and things really began to get interesting. By the way, every post card and letter I got from my parents always ended with the words “Do not go to India”.

The trip through Turkey was a nightmare (if anybody ever saw the movie Midnight Express, they have a good idea of this country; the people are neat though). I took a train through Turkey and then went into Iran. They still had the Shah back then, and they had some nice roads. I can remember seeing some strange sites in Tabriz of a religious procession where people were actually beating themselves with chains as they walked along. We looked down on the parade of people from a hotel bacony, we were told to stay inside, but of course I was 22 and had to look at it and take pictures too. All I could say as I was going through these countries was “this is just like the bible”.

Well we made it through Iran and then took buses through Afganistan. I developed my life time love of pomagranates there; but you would have to see it to believe it. Television really does not do these countries justice. Down through the Khyber Pass into the warmth of Pakistan. Now I really enjoyed being stuck in Lahore for several weeks. India and Pakastan just had a war and the border was closed. We had to take a 727 over the border to Amritsar. I can remember going down the steps in back of the plane onto the hot tarmic. I looked at my foot as it hit the ground and said to myself “mission accomplished – you made it to India”.

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I went to Delhi and then down to see the Taj Mahal. I first saw it at midnite under a full moon; it is beautiful. I can remember going around it and hearing real live Indian music from a village across the river from the Taj. That nite I slept in the tall grass along the road. ( I look back, with visions of cobras, and think what a fool I was).

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I did get over to the Ganges and saw the river and visited some very beautiful sites. Then I took the bus ride of my life up to Katmandu, Nepal. That road is incredible and I can not believe I survived the trip. Well I got my tatoo on my right arm there and I remember sitting in a Hotel and drinking a Tuborg beer and a song came on the radio, a beautiful song; “So Far Away”. Well my mind immediately thought about my family and home. I flew out of Katmandu on a DC-3 to Patna, took a train to Delhi and then got a ticket to Amsterdam. I got back to London and came home.

The whole trip took about 10 months; I used to tell everybody about it (brag actually). I went back to work as a laborer saved up money to go to South America, and just before I left I got a call for a job interview with the New York State Office of Natural Disaster and Civil Defense. I started work there on November 16, 1972 and worked there for 30 years before I retired on St. Patrick’s Day 2003.

After I got the State job, I took the money I was going to use for my next trip and bought some land in the mountains near Albany. I built a geodesic dome and lived in it for several years. My wife and I built this great big house on the same land, and that is where I live today. Thanks for sticking with this story; I love to tell it Here is my tattoo I got up in the Himalayas.

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Donna Simpson at peace

We were married on 4 July 1976, 38 years ago. We only knew each other for a few months. She came up my driveway in a snowstorm and promised me she would cook me an Italian dinner. While she was grabbing large cans of real tomatoes and putting them in the cart I thought…I will marry her.

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She brought a little boy into my life. I took this little 8 month old baby, Rik as my own. Later came Jordan and then Zachary. We built a house and moved in.

We always enjoyed our lives with the kids and gave them a happy childhood.

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Donna and her 3 boys at Partridge Run.

Donna was smart, brassy and beautiful. It was a wild time over the years. She never stopped being a loving mother.

She had all kinds of health issues throughout her life. She lost her big brother in the Viet Nam war when she was only 9. Her mom died suddenly and it broke her heart. Rik was hurt by a drunk driver and we thought we would lose him. This was extremely painful to her and then she lost her first grandchild. These shocks were so hard on this loving woman.

She was hospitalized for 3 years and in terrible health. She never stopped writing and being a loving mother to Rik, Jordan and Zachary.

Although we were apart for a long time I always kept my love and admiration for this strong good woman.

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Donna Lynn Mosley Simpson

Thanks for coming into my life Donna..

No regrets

Cape Cod June 2014

Well…..after several days waiting for my car to be fixed/inspected I got out to Wellfleet,  Mass. and I opened up my trailer without too many problems.  The little creatures were busy in my place during the winter.

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My summer home

Two Serbs helped me set up the porch screen house and I was in business.  I cooked for my Serbian friends almost every night for the first month. The BBQ still works great after 23 years of use. I really love my trailer,  my porch and my front yard. TV sucks this year. 60 channels of nothing, almost all commercial plastered nonsense.

Nemanja, my friend from Zlatibor, Serbia has given some nice clams. Chip, my Romanian friend brings me fish and scallops.  This year we have 4 Serbs, a Northern Irish couple, a Scottish lady and my friend Indy who is from London.  His family came from the Punjab, India. He has become a good friend.

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Indy


I have gone to Hyannis 5 times so far. I bring the new students down to get their Social Security cards. I usually stop off at Dairy Queen so they can buy $5.00 lunches.

I am trying to relax but I usually keep busy cleaning, cooking and playing with my computers. I did get some more patoule oil and insense. I miss Asia and try to keep some sense of it here. My food is amazing. I have plenty of time to cook it right.

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Miss the girls.


Still have 3.5 months left to go in Cape Cod. Would like to slow it down some so I can really enjoy it.

A month in Europe

I flew back to the USA from Germany. My 6 1/2 month trip is over. Now time to relax and think about my trip and future plans.After a few doctor appointments I will head back to Cape Cod and stay in my caravan by the sea.

I was cold in Europe and had to drink wine to keep warm ;-)))… I enjoyed seeing the little Russian/Serbian baby in Belgrade. I took a walking tour of Belgrade.

I then went to Budapest which is a fantastic place. They have a Parliament Building which looks like Westminster. Plenty of good food there called Langos. Wine was cheap. ..I had to stay warm. I saw a Mozart opera in Budapest, the Marriage of Figaro. My next city was Vienna in Austria.  I stayed outside of the city up on a hill. The hostel is located in a place that housed the Vienna’s Boys Choir. The hostel was a little too clean and organized for my taste. The city has many beautiful palaces and I walked long distances and now I can say I have been to Vienna.

Then I went to Prague, Czech Republic and that is a beautiful place. I took another walking tour. Everybody goes to the old square to see the clock turn on the hour. .it does a little show for the tourists.  A great place for pickpockets as they all look up at the clock.

I ended up my visit to Prague seeing Madame  Butterfly…the opening line is ‘Yanks love to travel and enjoy their lives’……I know that is true. Then two nights in Frankfort and I am here in Albany, New York. Did not mean to go on like this but what a time I had.

Glad to be back home.

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Prague Underground

Prague Antipation

Lets face it, my fourth trip around the world is about to end. I am relieved that I can get back to my home and start to lead a normal life…cooking,  cleaning, playing my guitar and riding my bike.

I will miss seeing new things and learning about new cultures. My week here in the Czech Republic is turning out to a good choice to wind up this year’s trip. Plenty of smart ladies from different countries to talk to and off-beat characters to hang with. I walked around with a nice guy from Finland. Pasy. He has read many of the same books as I have. I keep meeting smart people on the road, not too many dull people go from country to country.

We went to the Prague Zoo and enjoyed it. Saw some new animals, like this guy.

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Cassaway

So I will go around town today…there are 2 events; a VW sponsored marathon and a million man weed march with plenty of street music. So goodbye Prague, nice to meet you and now I know something about you and your people.

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Pasy from Finland


The big tourist thing to do here is walk across the Charles Bridge, this is one old structure, going back to the 14th century.
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Charles Bridge in Prague


The subway system here is simple. It only has 3 lines, is modern, clean and cheap. Seniors can ride for $.60.

Vienna waits for you

Listened to Billy Joel’s song with that title. Turned out to be a great week in this beautiful City. I started out thinking the Palace Hostel located outside of the city up on a hill was a big mistake. Turned out to be a great place to stay to really enjoy Vienna.
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You can see the whole city from the hostel. Each day I take a bus down the hill to the subway station and go visit the tourist sites. When I get to Outaking subway station I usually got a slice of Pizza and a glass of white wine. A Kurd family runs the place. My last time there I was surprised when Mama gave me my pizza on a nice plate.
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Traveling is full of these little surprises. I left Vienna with some new friends…like Kyle from Alberta, Canada. He got me to walk long ways and play miniature golf at the Palace Hostel.

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Kyle beating me..

I took a train to Prague, Czech Republic. This is much more compact then Vienna and funkier.

My hostel is near the Charles Bridge. I am walking again and trying to take it easy. I did find the Opera House and got to see Pucini’s Madame Butterfly. It was so excellent. The story is set in Nagasaki and I got to see the area where the story took place. The orchestra was Amazing!!!!

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Prague


I bought a bus ticket to Frankfort and will spend 2 nights there before I fly home.

Will write more about my time in Prague next time.
Happy my trip is ending.

Vienna time

Really felt bad about my hostel out of the city…but I got my Existentialism going and started to make the best of it. This place is so sterile compared to Asia, Serbia and Hungary.

And so damn clean. I finally got my clothes washed at the hostel. Not making many friends here but I have wifi and a sim card. I use my phone to get around Vienna.

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Rip Van Winkel


I ran into this guy in the intercity next to St. Ruprech Church. He looks like he is enjoying life.

I visited the Parliament which resembles our Capitol without the dome.
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I walked down to the Danube canal and sat in the sun with a glass of white wine…just about the most relaxed I have been in a long time. This is a big city and most stores close by 7 pm. My German is not so good but danke and bitte works for me. I am hoping to make some friends at the hostel…we shall see. Going to see Prague next Tuesday. Will have to figure out bus or train… I booked a hostel there and everyone tells me that the place is fantastic. Things are expensive here but I am staying in my budget.

A young Canadian is in my room and we took a long walk down the hill and through the city to St. Stephen Church. This is the epicenter of Vienna tourism. The walk was over 5 miles each way. We came across many churches, the Emperor’s residence and many small parks. This place is so damn clean….so different than my travels in Asia.

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View from Palace Hostel

We went in most of the churches. Most were ancient and dark. I found my old home in one of the churches. …

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Geodesic Dome

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Hungary to Austria

My week in Budapest was excellent.  I walked all over the place….ate some great food and the wine is cheap and good. I took plenty of pictures. My hostel was a real one. Meet some new friends from around the world.

My favorite place to have dinner was at an outdoor tourist place….it had tourist things to buy and food called Langos. .a big piece of cooked dough filled with veggies and cheese…

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Langos

I could buy a glass or two of wine and listen to 2 guys playing guitars. They were great.

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Great music


My last night in Budapest I went to the National Opera to see Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro. I had a good seat and enjoyed the music and the singing.
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Budapest Opera

I wanted to stay but kept with my schedule. I walked to the train station and went to Vienna. My hostel is out of town so I had to take the U3 Subway to the end and a bus up to the Palace Hostel. The hostel is on the grounds of the Schlossherberge Palace, the former housing for the Vienna Boys Choir. The view of Vienna is amazing.

So this hpstel is out of the City so I had to figure out the bus, tram and subway system. I got to St. Stephens Church which was full of tourists.

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St. Stehens

I got on a tram and ended up at the Belvedere Palace. This was jusr luck but I ended up at a great place on my first day. Sometimes when I have no plan good things happen.

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Belvedere Palace

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Belvedere Palace


I the way to find a way back to my hostel I ran into the Russian Orthodox Church.
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Nice gold domes

So I will be here for a week, hope to see another opera. Vienna is beautiful but too big….

Budapest

Ok what do you think of when you hear the word HUNGARY? My first thought is goulash, then Zsa Zsa Gabor, then Gypsies. I do not eat meat so goulash is out…Zsa Zsa is still alive, in her 90s with 9 husbands…not too many Gypsies here but Budapest is really amazing… here is the Grand Market..

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There are so many beautiful buildings and bridges here. My hostel is downtown and the neighborhood is beautiful.

I had a great hostel in Belgrade and stayed for a week. Igor, the day manager of Manga Hostel greeted me with a hug. Alex drove me from Smerdevo right to the hostel. I was still in shock coming from Thailand to Serbia. It was so nice to get to a real hostel.

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Igor the Great

I got a long van ride to Budapest, this was Easter weekend so the border took a long time to get through.

I am at another great hostel. Suite Hostel is in an old building on the 4th floor. But it has a real old fashion elevator…scarry but it works.
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Looks like the elevator in Rocky Horror Picture Show….

It is raining again so I am walking around with an umbrella taking pictures. Plenty of nice buildings here.

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A place to eat


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National Museum


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Communist Ruin Bar

Serbia…..class

My flights from Bangkok to Doha, to Ankara to Belgrade were okay and there was Marko, his wife and sister, both Maria, waiting for me at the N.Tesla Airport. Passport and Customs could not have been easier.

They drove me to Smederevo and I went to visit Valentina and Alex’s new baby boy. They are very happy new parents. Marko and Maria have a daughter who is now a year old. Ivana visited us and I have not seen her since 2008 in Wellfleet. Both ladies still have that Eastern Europe beauty and could not have been nicer to me.

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The food here is fantastic and a nice change from my Asian diet. They specialize in Burek which flaky dough with cheese in it. The turkish coffee here is strong. I had home cooking thanks to Valentina and Marko’s family. So lucky to have good friends around this world.

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Good Serbian Food

I got messages from Macedonia, Crotia, Slovenia and England….. my friends asking me to stop bye. But Belgrade, Hungary Vienna, the Czech Republic and Germany were on my list this time. My friend Petar was in Belgrade to apply for a USA Visa. So I said goodbye to my Smeredevo friends and Alex drove me there to a hostel near St. Marko’s Church.

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St. Markos Church


I will be off to Novi Sad in a few days. And then to Budapest in Hungary.

Here is a Yugo, there are many left here.

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Yugo