Places not on my bucket list

Das Island

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The photograph of Das Island has been downloaded from the net –

tc-map1I’ve marked the position of Das Is – under the ‘er’ of Persian under lined in cream.

I think the only main change since 1963 would be the upgraded runway. I always had the feeling that the island was floating on a pool of oil.
Das Island is a hundred miles (160 km) off the coast of Abu Dhabi; the size of the island is three quarters of a mile by one and a half miles, and is famous as a landing spot for migrating birds and a place for sea turtles to breed. Not a particularly sexy place to visit, but apparently the turtles liked this place as a holiday island.

bandar-e-mahshahr-8
Banda Mashur in Iran now called Bandar-e Mahshahr
In August the temperature can reach 50 c (122 F) not a fun place to be at the best of times.

kharg-is

kharg-island
Kharg Island

Memories, memories – every time I smell crude oil it all comes back to me.

Five miles (8 km) by half a mile (0.8 km) – 8.1 sq miles (21 sq km) – another island on a pool of oil
The Kharg Island facilities were effectively out of commission at the end of 1986. Heavy bombing of the facilities from 1982 through 1986 by the air forces of Iraq during the Iran-Iraq War had all but destroyed most of the terminal facilities.

It’s other claim to fame is that it has inspired a computer generated a game called Battlefield WiKI . . . enough said.

My final ‘hot spot’ would be Ras al Khaimah. Funny, but Ras al Khaimah means ‘top of the tent’; which is the last place I’d think of in 1963 if I wanted to go camping.

ras-al-khaimah-1960-rare-old-photo
The thought that Tip Advisor would list the best hotels in Ras al Khaimah would have been science fiction in 1963.

On our return from Europe  it was a fast loading and this time we were off to Wilhelmshaven in Germany, via of course LEFO.
In the next few months we focused on Mina; the corrugated canteen, with its joy of the reason for travel, and visits to Little Aden, but all good things come to end and we finally returned to the Isle of Grain where I paid off the tanker, after nearly nine months, and went home to Birkenhead in June 1963.

I was given eight weeks leave, but after two weeks I was bored. The boredom was my fault because I’d changed. I’d seen some of the world, experienced storms, picked up enough Hindi words to make myself understood to our Indian crew, and could now steer an ocean going vessel. I was even beginning to miss the Mina / Aden ferry I was in a bad way.

My friends back home hadn’t changed. They spoke of last night’s TV, football at the weekend, and they looked forward to their annual holiday.
There was nothing wrong with their life, but it wasn’t for me, after all, I doubted that I would have any reason to go ‘abroad,’ didn’t I say that at school?

The thought of another six weeks of boredom was too much, so I rang the Company and asked for a ship.

The Company obliged, and sent me an airline ticket for Kuwait!

They must have hated me in Head Office .. . .

comet_4

I left Heathrow on a Comet 4 for Rome, next stop should have been Damascus, but we were diverted to Beirut, and finally we arrived in Kuwait. On landing I was met in the arrival hall by a representative of the shipping agent and within minutes I had my bag and was through customs and immigration, while many other passengers were still queuing.

Outside I was escorted to a very large American car; (see similar cars in the picture below) the driver opened the rear door and indicated that I should sit in the back. The agent shook my hand and wished me a safe journey, which at the time I thought was a strange comment. After all we were only going to a city hotel. The driver smiled at me, via the rear view mirror, and put his foot down on the accelerator. Now I understood the agent’s comment, within minutes we were travelling at over one hundred miles an hour along a freeway to the city. At that time nobody wore seatbelts. I just hung on to the roof strap. Thirty minutes later we pulled up at the Bristol Hotel in a cloud of dust and sand. I was to wait in this hotel until my ship arrived in to Kuwait.

kuwait-001r

I sent the above post card to my parents to let them know that I’d arrived safely. At that time we did not have a phone at home, and e-mail was thirty-five years in the future.
It was mid July and I only ventured out of the hotel in the early morning or late afternoon – it was the height of summer and it was HOT & dusty. The hotel was ‘dry’ i.e they were not allowed to sell alcohol, so one couldn’t have a cold beer in the cool of the evening.
I received a phone call at 4.00 am one morning, and I thought it was the agent telling me that my new ship had arrive – wrong number.
I received another at 10.00 am the same day and this time it was the agent to let me know that I would be collected and taken to my new ship in the early afternoon, the Landuara.
What a difference between this vessel and the tanker. The tanker was just over two years old, and my latest posting was to a vessel that had been launched in 1946, two years after I had been born. Her deadweight was 7200 tons. She didn’t have any air-conditioning, cadets slept two to a cabin, and the cabins were not at all large, in fact the shared cabin was smaller than the single cabins on the tanker.

landaura1

Our first port of call, after leaving Kuwait, was Basra, about 60 miles up the Shatt al Arab. Many people refer to it as the Shatt al Arab River, but the Arabic meaning is Stream or River of the Arabs, so by putting river at the end we have Stream or River of the Arabs River, which is a bit of a mouthful.

shatt_al_arab

The river itself denotes the border between Iraq and Iran, and it is the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates. Basra is about as far upriver as a sea going vessel can reach from the Persian Gulf.

The river flowed through miles and miles of Iraqi and Iranian desert. Khaki was the colour of the day, in fact every day. Sand storms, along with the heat and the flies made this area of the world one of the most unattractive. From memory the only green things I ever saw were the leaves of palms, and the lawn of the British Club, which was not the lush green of England, but a pale green – yellow effort that stood little chance of ever turning a lush green in the searing heat of August. The Shatt al Arab water was a dirty brown combination of local sewers, run off from the surrounding land after oxen had walked in circles to drive water from the river to irrigate the riverbank area, and the occasional shower of rain. It was unthinkable for any of us to wish to swim in such water, walk on it perhaps, but never in it to swim.

palm-treesShatt al Arab river near Basrah

111641They do say that photographs don’t lie – they do, because I’ve never seen the Shatt al Arab look so blue and attractive.

I did hear once that where the Tigris and the Euphrates meet, is where the Garden of Eden is supposed to have been located. Things have changed in the area since Adam and Eve left the garden.

By now it was August the hottest time of the Iraq summer and temperatures during the day were well over the 40 c (106F) mark and when working in the holds of the ship, the temperatures were higher again. At night I used to obtain two very large bath towels, soak them in a bath of fresh water, and put one on the deck of the highest part of the ship, and pull the other over me in an effort to get some sleep before either towel dried out. Sleeping in the cabin was impossible, because of the lack of air conditioning. We did have a small fan, but all that did was move the hot air from over there, to over here, without generating any cooling.
When I was in my fifties I suffered from rheumatism in certain weather conditions and I blame the use of the soaking wet towels as the cause – but without the wet towels we wouldn’t be able to get any sleep. Imagine the conditions for our engineers when they were on duty in the engine room.
At the end of the workday (we were alongside, not moored in the river) we did have the chance to visit the British Club, where we could buy English beer. The members allowed us to use their swimming pool, and they were very kind and friendly to us poor cadets making us ‘honorary’ members. The other advantage of the British Club was that a number of the members had their daughters visiting during the British school holidays (late July to early September), and some of the daughters were my age. . . . . but we were not going to step out of line and cause any problems, after all the Club had been very kind to us, and they sold cold beer.
On the evenings that we didn’t go ashore, we would sit outside our accommodation on the riverside of the ship, not the shore side, and eat watermelon, and hold pip-spiting contests across the river – we never reached the other side. The melons were obtained via barter. Wood in Iraq was expensive and hard to obtain. Our ship used wood as dunnage when stowing cargo during loading cargo (well before containerisation), because it was inexpensive or a waste material from another process. After we had unloaded cargo we would always have plenty of dunnage left over, and we either dumped it at sea (forty years before the PC brigade were invented), or we would reuse some of the dunnage for the next time we loaded cargo. Our old dunnage had value to the local Arabs, so we would swap some for huge watermelons that grew along the banks – we were happy and the local Iraqi boatmen were happy.
After completing our unloading and the loading of export cargo (dates), we dropped down the river to Khoramshah, which is on the Iranian river bank, so we had to remember to refer to the Shatt al Arab as the Arvand Rud (Swift river), which is the Persian (Iranian) name for the river.

kharomInstead of watermelon pips we swapped dunnage for pistachio nuts; we didn’t spit, but flicked the shells across the water. Iran, being the largest producer of this nut ensured we had a regular supply.

Eventually we left the Shatt al Arab / Arvand Rud and sailed for Bombay.

DSC05969r

See https://wordpress.com/post/silverfox175.com/1919 for beer & onions in Bombay.

 

 

Author: 1944april

Traveled a great deal - about 70 countries - first foreign country I suppose was Wales, which was only 80 miles away from where I was born. Visited each Continent, except Antarctica, and I doubt that it is on my bucket list - too cold. I love Asian food, Australian wine & British beer & trying to entertain by writing.

4 thoughts on “Places not on my bucket list”

  1. Geoff: I often wondered what happened to you immediately after HMS Conway, and our interview for British India in Aldgate, East London. You may remember my Father taking us there, you me and I think Mike Thornton, after your stop-off at Northampton. I am sure you don’t remember the air-mail letter you sent to me, with the details of the heat in the Persian Gulf, on board the Elenga, which put me off big-time. – In fact my business opportunity, allied to the family business, already had it’s first set of clothes, and was dominating every moment of my life. I had it in my mind that you were stuck on the Elenga in the Gulf, just going from well-head to bunkering, making up massive sea-time for your Second Mates ticket. I had no idea that B.I. was sending you all over !
    As always Geoff, I have enjoyed your travel blogs. Always a halt to the day’s unimportant regularity for me. You have a rare talent with travel description, and I find that once started into one of yours, the daylight will have gone and I will find myself doing my best to stretch the day. – Being retired, I’m not sure that is such a bad thing ! Just remember old friend, so long as you enjoy writing these travel-logs, I and many others get a lot out of reading them and I trust that this can be turned to financial benefit along the way. Seems only right that it should.

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  2. Morning Mike,

    Once again thank you for your kind words. I am pleased that I am able to divert you from your ‘unimportant regularity ‘ – that’s not a bowel movement I hope . . .

    I remember the trip in your Dad’s Jag – the first time I’d ever travelled over 100 mph, and cracking the window open took my breath away (science was not my best subject).

    I enjoy writing and only hope that it is not boring people to death. The blog site allows me to access ‘results’ so I can see the most popular blogs by the numbers of ‘likes’ or readers.
    Sometimes I think that I should post more of the popular subjects then my mind goes blank, so I post what I enjoy writing – nothing like being self-centred. :- o) As for pay – nil comes to mind :- o)

    My time on the Ellenga was an eye opener, and the work was hard, but with hindsight it helped me to grow up, which I noticed on my first leave. I’d changed so much that I found that my Birkenhead mates and I no longer ‘jelled’. I had to use a public phone to ring the company (we didn’t have a phone in the house) and this allowed me to keep the fact that I’d requested a ship from Mum & Dad, because I didn’t them want to upset.

    When the telegram came I ‘blamed’ the company, they couldn’t do without me . . .

    It was ironic that I couldn’t get away from the Persian Gulf fast enough, but the Company sent me back there to join a something like a tramp ship. She was a happy ship so shouldn’t grumble too much. Next stop China & Japan.

    Thanks again, all the best,
    Geoff

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  3. I never though that I would return to the Gulf area, and pay for the privilege, which I did earlier this year when my wife & I visited Muscat & Dubai. I doubt that I will go anywhere near Basra or the islands that I mentioned. :-o)

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