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Outsider Travel

In 1978, I was on an overland truck expedition from London to Kathmandu with 20 other intrepid travelers. We were going to basically camp all the way; these trips were very popular among young Europeans and Canadians at that time.

Our truck became dead and sick in Turkey about 70 k from the Iran border. A very nice Turkish truck towed us to the next town, Yuksekowa. They parked the truck on the soccer field across from the mosque and the public toilet and to the left of the local police station.

Now, we knew we were in Kurdistan, but did not quite realize the implications. After the first night, the locals became quite hostile. Despite the women's best efforts to cover up and cast eyes downward, we were chased each time we left the truck and they stoned us when we went downtown. About 20 of the louts gathered round the truck each day from dawn til dusk to harass us. It took two male escorts to use the public toilets--one to guard the windows and the other to guard the doors.

The so-called expedition leader was a complete idiot and could not devise any strategies to get us out. The police needed to be cautious because they were Turks--couldn't afford to rile the volatile Kurds. Finally, several of our group managed to rouse the sponsor tour company in London to explain our plight.

After 5 days of sheer what-seemed-like-torture, we decided we HAD to get out, dead truck or no. Several of the fellows went downtown to see if they could negotiate a tow. They finally did, on a manure truck. We were towed to the Iranian border and when we had settled in for the evening, we heard a strange English voice. The tour company's executive traveled for two days to find us.

1978--Iran--a revolution--now that was exciting, but not nearly as dangerous as beautiful downtown Yuksekowa. The coda to all this came several years later when Ken Follett released his book On Wings of Eagles, about the rescue of Ross Perot's guys in Iran. While these top-flight commandos were plotting their moves, they said they were only scared in one place: Yuksekowa.




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