Frederik (Tontyn) Hopman, was born in Holland in 1914, where he
studied to become an architect. At the age of 18, after the death of his
father, he had a powerful experience that led to his subsequent study of
Oriental esoteric teachings. This was to become a life-long fascination.
Responding to the call of the East, at the age of 21, he travelled to India
by car. In those days this adventurous journey took many weeks. Once in
India he married his travelling companion and settled down in Kashmir, where
he lived with his young family for 12 years until in 1947 the invasion from
Pakistan forced them to flee.
Still in Asia, at the age of 38, Tontyn Hopman had a profound Kundalini
awakening that gave his life a new dimension. It was during this awakening
that he had a vision of Genesis, which revealed to him the ‘Order in
Creation in Number and Geometry’.
Around this time, however, Tontyn Hopman decided to return to Europe to
enable his children to have a good education and he settled in Switzerland
to practise his profession as an architect. Later he occupied himself with
astrology and art therapy.
Here, in Switzerland, after almost half a century, the memory of his vision
came up again, with great clarity. Tontyn Hopman experienced a strong
impulse to work on, and present the images that had been dormant for such a
long time to the wider public.
Tontyn’s 27 Happenings.
Tyn: Thank you so much for your care!
Rhea: That’s quite natural.
Tyn: Well, it’s special natural.
Rhea: Would you like to listen to some music?
Tontyn: All right.
Rhea puts on some Eastern devotional music, supposed to awaken enlightenment,
and leaves the room.
She returns 20 minutes later.
Tontyn: Turn off that music! I was in such a peaceful state, and it spoiled
By the fire, in the evening, burning rubbish.
Tontyn: How good we have it here, my dear daughter, especially me.
You do all the work and I laze in a laughing armchair.
At lunch, with Tontyn’s hick-ups
Rhea: If you eat so quickly, Dad, your stomach protests and you get hick-ups.
You should eat more slowly.
Tontyn: Thank you for the advice. I will pay attention to it in my next
At the evening meal by candle light.
Rhea: Look, the candle wax on the sides of the candle has made some lovely
Tontyn: I can’t see them.
Rhea: Then imagine them.
Tontyn: O, yes, they are fantastic!
Tontyn sitting in the sun
Tontyn: Could you please stop the earth from rotating.
I’d like to stay in the sun like this all day.
Tontyn: Everything one resists creates tension.
On a walk, passing a young couple standing on the pavement, who were looking
Rhea: Can I help you; are you looking for something? Directions?
Couple: No, we are just waiting here.
After passing them and at some distance away.
Tontyn: They are looking for each other.
Rhea: You know the Dutch man and his wife I met the other day?
Rhea: They want to meet you… He is a librarian and talks non-stop.
Tontyn: That saves us the trouble of talking.
Walking passed a pram with twins.
Rhea: Did you ever make a horoscope of twins?
Tontyn: No… yes, of the Shah of Iran and his twin sister.
Rhea: It must have been difficult telling them about their horoscopes.
Tontyn: Yes, very. I had a good name as an astrologer in those days.
I had to invent something different for each of them.
Getting out of a taxi.
Rhea: Do let me pay, Dad. I would be happy to pay.
Tontyn: Well, then, I’ll make you happy.
I had trouble for months with Tontyn’s Dutch bank when Tontyn was first with
Finally a couple of friends helped, which Tontyn did not know.
Tontyn: Today is a good day, a very good day.
Rhea: Yes, Dad, but how do you know that?
Tontyn: Well, I can smell it.
Rhea: So you know everything that is going on here?
13. At breakfast
Rhea: You still have some breakfast on your beard.
Tontyn: Beards were made to preserve food.
14. Taking Tontyn to an oriental shop to chat Urdu.
Rhea: Here is your Fez, so you look authentic.
Tontyn: Am I not eccentric enough?
Tontyn: I don’t know why I am so out of breath today!
Rhea: Well, Dad, your body is getting old.
Tontyn: I know, I try to get it to be younger, but it does not work.
Tontyn said he wanted to die to stop all the difficulties with banks, Old
Age pensions, Social Service etc.
Rhea: That’s chickening out!
Tontyn: Yes, I know. I must be cock sure I chicken out.
Tontyn: I am so lucky. Almost every day it has been sunny here, since I came
Rhea: You must have brought it with you.
Tontyn: I’m not so sure. I have a hole in my pocket.
Tontyn: When I was a child in Rotterdam, we lived near a hospital. One day,
when I was walking along the road, a dog came running toward me, very happy.
In his jaw was a human arm. Operation successful. Disposal failed.
Rhea: I never got around to looking at the news.
Tontyn: Never mind; the news tomorrow will be even fresher.
Tontyn: The weather does not know what it wants, just like parliament.
Tontyn: Did your parents also make lovely Christmas decorations and
Rhea: My dear Dad; you are my parent!
Tontyn, heartily laughing: I had forgotten.
Tontyn had a cough.
Rhea: How is your chest?
Tontyn: O, it is still there!
Tontyn: The fire has never burned as well as tonight.
Rhea: O really? You say that every time we have a fire.
Tontyn: And every time I’m right.
24. Tontyn often says “I am still alive” when he stumbles or has some small
He knocked himself on the doorstep after we returned from a small walk.
Tontyn: I am still alive!
Rhea: You know what, when you are dead you will say: “I am still alive!”
Tontyn: Well, I hope you are listening!
Tontyn: Ach, wie schön ist das Leben!
26. After reading Kim by Rudged Kipling for the third time, Tontyn said with
heart felt emotion:
Tontyn: I thank you so much for reading this book to me. The author is
remarkable, the way he can capture the atmosphere of India and the character
of the people. It reminds me greatly of my time in India.
Rhea: It was a very important time in your life.
Tontyn: Yes, and you have helped me bring it all together. Now I feel l can
just go on to the next stage, the new adventure. It does not feel dark at
all. I have had such a good and interesting life.
Tontyn: I am so happy with my life. I never achieved anything, but I am
To British India with the
by Tontyn Hopman
It seems that overcast winter evenings are thoroughly suited to making great
travel plans. That's how it was then, too, that February day, when in a
small village in Limburg four people bent over a world map on which a thick
line was drawn straight across Europe and Asia. The four of them were very
excited, which was no wonder at all, for they were making plans to walk to
India. Yet as is often the case with these sorts of great plans, it ended in
a weekend trip to the Ardennes.
One year later, there were people bent over the map again. This time there
were twelve of them, yet they were no less excited than the four from a year
ago, as now the plans were beginning to take on more definite shape. The
trip by foot had transformed into an expedition by car, and a date of
departure had been determined. But when time eventually demanded that a car
be hired and it came down to setting off, then there were only two travelers
left: Clara and Tontijntje. At the last moment, however, Clara's sporting
mother decided to join the party and we could depart.
One fine day, some time before the departure, we drove to the Ford factory.
There, we poured out our hearts before the boss of the advertising
department, told him of our trip and of the great advertising opportunities
attached to it for the Ford Co. The good man looked at us compassionately
and told us that every week, ten people with similarly great proposals came
to him and that a reduction or anything of that sort was out of the question.
Red-faced, we left the factory.
The best time to depart seemed to be between July 1st and mid-August,
because it would then be possible to traverse the Orient before the rains
and reach India in the cool season.
A Ford van was chosen as our mode of transport, which we cleaned and
repaired ourselves. We equipped the car with a reserve water tank, petrol
tank and storage space for luggage. The car was painted with aluminium,
which reflects the sun's rays and keeps the interior cool.
Finally, on August 5th, 1935 our dear Ford was ready. That same line
straight through Europe and Asia, which had initially been drawn on the
atlas, was now marked in red paint on the rear door, upon which half of the
world map was painted.
After a hearty farewell, we set off on our first day trip. At the German
customs house it became immediately apparent that our world map would come
in very useful, for everyone was interested in the travel route and nobody
checked the luggage.
We undertook daily journeys of 300 to 370 km: Frankfurt, Ulm, Lucerne.
Ascending the Gotthard was the first test of power for our motor, which it
endured pluckily. Milan.
Immediately on the southern face of the Alps, although still in Switzerland,
it is noticeable that one has arrived in another region. The air is pure,
but it is much warmer. People with dark hair and brown eyes gesticulate
excitedly on the streets.
It is here for the first time that we find a donkey being used as a beast of
burden. That poor donkey, under improbably heavy loads, frequently with
great open wounds, working ever steadily and patiently for his master, who
gives him barely enough to eat: we would encounter them the whole way
through South Europe and Asia.
It is remarkable that the restless and lively Italians build such tranquil
and simple houses which, soothed by ochre and terracotta tones, fit so well
into the landscape. The Italian architectural style is not diluted as is the
case in the northern European countries; the Italians are probably too
artistically-minded for there to be mention of a similar degeneration in
It was precisely mid-August when we were in Italy and feelings had been
deeply stirred by the imminent war with Abyssinia. The various Italians
whose opinions we asked led us to a quiet corner and told us, dropping their
voices to a whisper, that they did not have much respect for the war plans
of Mr. Mussolini.
The landscape varies: lofty, forested mountains in the north, corn and rice
fields and the mountains of Tuscany, strewn with silver olive trees and dark
green cypresses. It is regrettable that the charcoal burners have gradually
deforested the mountains and that the Italians shoot every single bird
audacious enough to cross their path, for these two things would really
enliven the Italian landscape.
Florence. After a journey of 5 days we arrive here and continue our travels
after a week, now accompanied by Clara's mother.
Up until this point, we had continually found shelter with acquaintances and
friends en route, but when we drove Venice-way that evening, we would have
to find a suitable camp site for the first time.
A large farm on the roadside, half hidden in the trees, caught our attention.
We drove up to the entrance and asked for permission to pitch our tent on
the field. To our horror, however, it turned out to be a depository for
dynamite. Our first choice was therefore not very fortunate. Nor were we
successful at the large villas. The owners took us for a modern kind of
gypsy, which might well go stealing at night. Dead on our feet and
crestfallen, we decided late in the evening to simply pitch camp in the
grass alongside the road. The farmers and the people in the tram who passed
by the following morning looked with utter astonishment at the bunch of
idiots who preferred to spend the night in the wet grass alongside the road.
A completely different impression was made when we tried to find a camp site
in the evening in the Italian Alps. The farmers there were greatly honoured
when we addressed them in their former national tongue, German, and offered
us a magnificent spot in the mountain meadows. The mountain air was so
gloriously pure that we could not resolve to leave the following morning
before going for a long walk.
After two glorious days of driving in Austria we reached Vienna, where good
friends were expecting us. Here was the seat of the Austro-Indian Institute
of Science and Commerce, under the direction of our friend Dr. Pundit
Agnihotri, who invited us to become members. He also gave us many important
letters of introduction for high-placed and interesting persons in British
India, who later helped us considerably.
After a stay of several days in Vienna, we set off in the hope of being able
to reach Budapest that very same day. At the Hungarian border we learned
that a few months ago, a trio of officers from Delhi had passed by, having
completed the whole journey by car. The Road to Budapest was excellent; only,
the rain made the road very slippery and moreover, it didn't take long
before we saw a large Spanish car lying along the road in a pitiful state.
Blood was still on the cracked windows. Half an hour later, we saw the wreck
of an English car which had met the same fate. Shortly afterwards, there was
yet another, which had skidded into a herd of cows. Taking heed of these
examples, I drove on very slowly. After a while, a cyclist rode in front of
me: he swerved to the wrong side of the road after I hooted. I braked but
the car skidded and we shot into the cyclist. What happened the next moment
I do not know. We drove over a hard bump and jolted to a stop against a tree.
We got out and looked behind the car, fearing that we would see the cyclist
lying severely wounded on the road, yet there was only a milestone that had
been run over. We then looked under the car, where only a buckled bicycle
was to be seen. Finally, we discovered him sitting on the bumper with a torn
suit and a few bumps, just as pale as ourselves. We put him in the car, the
bicycle on top, and drove to the next police station. The verdict was
immediately pronounced and we were made responsible for paying for a new
bike and clothes. At this administration of justice, half of the village
that consisted of Swabians acted as our interpreters and they all shouted
their hardest over each other.
In Budapest we met a Geography teacher, who was insistent in wanting to join
us. On closer inspection, however, it appeared that he was penniless and it
was not without great difficulty that we got it through to him that in our
case, accepting passengers without money was absolutely out of the question.
Hungary was the first country in which we could not speak the language and
from here onwards we begun to compile little dictionaries at the borders
with numbers and the words which were necessary to buy petrol and food. All
further conversations had to be held in sign language.
From Vienna, the landscape had become increasingly flat and south of
Budapest we drove through the endless puzta. Long rows of four-wheeled carts
with splendid horses made transport by car difficult. As we approached the
border with Yugoslavia, the roads became increasingly bad. Up until this
point we had been able to drive 300km per day, but now our daily speeds
began to decrease considerably and the average distance that we covered per
day in the Balkans cannot have been any more than 150 to 200 km.
In Yugoslavia, a car is a curious thing. Over 200km, one encounters one or
two at the most. Even the people and animals are unused to this means of
transport; carts drawn by oxen and horses travel down the middle of the
streets and when one finally succeeds in hooting the reinsman awake, who is
submerged in sweet dreams, the fellow firstly looks around to convince
himself that a car is actually attached to the horn. When he then sees that
this actually is the case, he starts to deliberate about which side of the
road he will swerve to. By the time he had then steered the cart to one side
of the road, we had naturally passed by a long time ago. Less pleasant for
the farmers but nevertheless much more conclusive was when people and
animals were so frightened by the horn that they would take to flight, trap
and all, whereby the cart often came to rest in a ditch, hurled completely
Belgrade is more reminiscent of a provincial town than a capital city; still,
the picturesque living in the countryside is very much worth the effort of a
journey. The former rule of the Turks is still noticeable in a few places
and the farmers, bursting with pride, showed us the photographs of their
father's komitadjis. A small portion of the population is Mohammedan and we
see many walking around in a fez and cholera belt, some of the women wear
trousers and it is here that we see the first mosques.
Everywhere we went, the rural population was very friendly. They brought us
fruits, eggs and milk, not wishing for anything in return and showed us
their gold-embroidered Sunday outfits and jewellery made from golden coins.
The villages are very picturesque. Here, all of the shopping streets are in
the form of bazaars; all vendors and craftsmen of a guild have their shops
next to each other. On the plazas, the farmers dance to the rhythm of the
gypsy music. All of the women wear head scarves and necklaces of old Turkish
and Greek coins. The landscape is hilly, and here and there the cornfields
alternate with woods. The number of carts drawn by oxen increases and horses
are scarcely seen any more; water buffalo pull the primitive ploughs through
the fields. After a few days driving and a mountain excursion over the
Dragoman Pass, we reached Sofia, the capital with the worst streets I have
ever seen. Dung heaps lay in the middle of the street.
One of the most interesting things that we saw in Sofia was the dance of the
Sun Worshippers, or Danovists. A few years ago a certain Mr. Danov came to
Bulgaria. It was said that he was one of the White Brotherhood from the
East. In a short time, he had gathered 45,000 people around him, who
performed mystic, rhythmical dances by the light of the rising sun. These
dances were devised by Danov and partly based on Yoga exercises and on the
teaching of Zoroaster. To the beat of music specially composed for the
occasion, they dance in large circles around their master.
From Sofia to the Turkish border, we drove through a magnificent mountain
landscape, yet the further we travelled, the worse the streets got and we
could only make progress very slowly.
Finally, on a Saturday evening, we reached the Turkish border town Edirne (Adrianople).
Our reception there was not immediately overwhelming. We had to report to
the police and the inspector declared to us that the following evening we
would have to be in Istanbul (Constantinople) at 6 o'clock precisely. “But
that's impossible”, we said, “that's 236km from here and with our
heavily-loaded car we would be unable to cover such a distance on a road
described by our automobile club as practically impassable”. “That doesn't
interest me”, the police inspector rebutted, “tomorrow evening at 6 o'clock
precisely you will be in Istanbul”. “But we don't have any Turkish money to
buy petrol, the banks are closed, it's Sunday tomorrow and until now, nobody
has agreed to exchange money for us”. “That's correct”, he maintained, “in
Turkey, only banks are allowed to accept foreign money and nobody will
exchange it for you, but you are to be in Istanbul tomorrow evening at 6
o'clock”. And so it continued for a further half hour until we enquired
after a suitable camp site. “Yes”, the inspector knew a very suitable place.
We were shepherded with the car through a large gateway onto an inner
courtyard next to the police station. When we had driven inside, the heavy,
iron door of the gateway was slammed shut behind us and bolted. We were
trapped and found ourselves surrounded by high walls in the inner courtyard
where, during the day, the prisoners were given an airing. Fortunately we
had food enough with us to have something to eat that evening, and we waited
anxiously for whatever was to come. Initially, absolutely nothing happened
and then two young men with rucksacks and shorts suddenly appeared in the
inner courtyard. One was a German communist in exile; the other, a Czech
Nazi in exile, and both came to bear us company in the prison.
The Czech was called Harry and had been on his way to Teheran where he hoped
to find work, yet had ended up stranded in Istanbul. He had been a mechanic
for years and had once already undertaken the overland journey to Teheran by
motorbike. He told us frightening stories about the state of the roads and
the troublesome Turkish police. That evening, we decided to appoint him as a
mechanic and in so doing, give him one more chance of reaching Teheran after
The following morning, the prison gate was opened and we were allowed to
leave. Furthermore, we were successful in borrowing money from a complete
stranger and could buy petrol. Harry had surrendered his passport to the
police the previous evening to get his exit visa, but because he was now
coming with us, there were no further formalities to attend to. Nevertheless,
three hours passed before his passport was in his hands again.
Then began a journey which will remain in our memory for a long time. A few
kilometres outside of Edirne, the road changed into a cart track which was
so deeply worn down that the grass and the stones often grated against the
sump. At every turn there were holes a foot deep, then the large stones
again, over which we only dared to drive very slowly. It really did resemble
more an ossified sea than a road. The landscape through which we drove was
inconsolable. The undulating fields of grass and thistle extended infinitely
into the distance; there was no tree or bush to be seen; only a single bird
of prey drifted over the row of decayed and warped telephone poles, the
wires of which frequently split on the roof of the car. Small towns and
villages were dotted about, but even they brought us no joy, for we already
knew in advance that we would be held up for a long time at each. Turkey can
viz. pride itself on an extremely active and paranoid police organisation.
Driving into a town or village, a police officer will immediately jump onto
your car's running board and take you to the police station. There, the
passports are delivered and after some time, the exacting work of copying
out names commences. In the meantime, coffee and cigarettes are offered
round. Registering the name goes as follows: first of all, it is attempted,
with great trouble and care, to ascertain how the passport is laid out. To
that end, the passport is held upside-down by its side and subsequently
leafed through from the back to the front; the snapshot must be examined
with intensity. When the nationality has finally been discovered, it is
stated and somebody is called who is presumed to speak a modern language.
This man continues with the torture, noting father's name, mother's name,
profession and age; in short, everything connected with one's life and any
previous incarnations and decides to scrawl in the back of the passport with
a few illegible scribbles. Now, when all passports and corresponding persons
have been maltreated in this way, half an hour to three-quarters of an hour
has certainly elapsed. This ensured that after the ceremony our tempers were
not always particularly pleasant. Furthermore, we had to lug a soldier along
with us for a further 100km through the so-called military zone, where there
was nothing military to be seen and which forced one of us, given the
limited space, to go and sit atop the car.
Finally, after driving for 26 hours and camping once, we reached Istanbul
late in the evening, where we found lodging in the Netherlands Consulate.
For centuries, Istanbul has been the great connecting link between two parts
of the world, and this is why this city bears partly a European, partly an
Asian character. Here, alongside the most modern buildings and people
dressed in a faultlessly European way, the great mosques and venerable
mullahs in traditional Eastern attire can be seen. Priests alone are
permitted to preserve the traditional costume. Fez and veil, although the
latter can generally still be seen in the Anatolian villages, are forbidden.
After a week-long stay in Istanbul, we transported our car one sunny morning
onto one of the largest ferries and after 2km of travel we were in Asia.
Right from the start, we had to take a gendarme with us again, as the
journey passed through a military area. Fortunately, the landscape was much
cheerier than in European Turkey, especially when we drove, as night fell,
through the Anti-Taurus Mountains, which are partly covered with forest and
very picturesque. Long after sunset, we drove into Izmit, the end of the
military zone. There, we were assigned a camp site on a plaza. A policeman,
seated on a chair, kept watch next to our beds throughout the night.
We slept more peacefully the following night at the side of a large lake in
the mountains, completely forsaken by all human beings. The fish in the lake
were so tame that they nibbled at our feet as we swam there.
After driving for a few days, we arrived at the edge of a desert one evening
just before sunset. This was the most beautiful sight of natural beauty that
I had ever seen in my life. The desert plain stretched out in front of us
and surrounding it was a chain of mountains, each of which had a different
form and colour. Some followed regular courses and all were coloured
nuancing between dark terra cotta, blue, green, violet, orange, ochre to
light yellow and almost white. And over this splendour the sun cast her
last, warm rays, which made the tufts of desert grass shine like silver upon
the golden desert sand. We were all so moved by this sight that we took out
our various boxes of paints and pencils and ardently set to work. But there
was somebody who was unable to enjoy this with us and that was Harry, our
mechanic. Already he had lain for a few days with a high malaria fever in
the back of the car and we had to make haste in order to reach Ankara.
As we drove through the desert the following day, the motor suddenly gave up
and upon inspection it appeared that all of the petrol had been used up. We
saw on the map that, fortunately, we could not be far from a village, and Ma
Quien and I set forth in the hope of being able to get hold of some petrol.
A 12 km stroll through a desert quivering from the heat is not exactly a
great pleasure, yet to every hardship comes an end and our trip was rewarded:
we found that which we sought.
In the middle of this barren, sunburned solitude, the ultramodern city
Ankara suddenly surfaces. This, Turkey's new capital, has sprung up by order
of Kemel Pasha in just a few years. Alongside collapsed slums and houses
made of petrol cans, the most modern houses can be seen.
Our poor Harry was in a bad way and we had to carry him into the hospital
unconscious. After a few days, however, he had picked up so much that we
ventured to continue the journey with him. On the advice of bus drivers, we
took the route straight across the desert, which was supposed to be much
better than the main road, which was no longer in use. You should know, as
it happens, that the roads in Anatolia are in such a state that one is
forced to cover a third of the distance in first or second gear. It is not
possible to cover more than 90 to 100km per day.
One evening, when we were busy pitching our tent in the desert, our
attention was caught by a number of soldiers on horseback. They gesticulated
and shouted to us and pointed at black specks on the horizon, which were
gradually coming closer. From the gestures, we eventually understood that
the black specks could be nothing but robbers. Quickly, we flung everything
back into the car, Clara climbed onto one of the horses; its rider, an
officer, jumped into the car with us and a few minutes later we pitched our
tents under the safe protection of a policeman on duty.
Another time, we drove along a large, dried-up salt lake. Camels walked to
and fro over the snow-white, hardened surface and carried the salt in great
mounds. Of course, we also had to take a ride on one of those conceited,
When we had pitched our camp next to the police station in Aksaray, we were
paid a visit from a friendly, French-speaking Turk who would not rest before
he had put us up in his large house. We were his guests on various days.
Poor Harry was in a bad way and we had to abandon taking him any further
The journey then went over the lofty passes of the Taurus Mountains. When we
had reached the summit, a downpour broke, the rain came down in torrents and
trees creaked as they fell to the ground. We hoped to reach Adana that same
day, yet when we came onto the plain and still had 55km ahead, the road
seemed to have transformed into a mud-filled ditch into which the car wheels
sank 30cm and we lurched up and down along the road like a small boat on the
sea. Sometimes we skidded across the road, then the wheels would sink
completely into pits of mud, but finally we did indeed arrive in Adana,
where the streets were still flooded, trees and telephone poles had snapped
in half and even rail transport had ceased to operate for a few days. This
is how we were therefore stranded in Adana: the whole surrounding area was
flooded, the hotels were overcrowded and we were barely 150km from the
Syrian border. However, a saving angel appeared, this time in the form of
the French Consulate, which made the attic of the Consulate available to us.
After 5 days, the water had dried up to such an extent that we ventured to
undertake the journey to the border.
At this point, the worst part of the journey, as far as the roads were
concerned, began. Sometimes the car became stuck in the mud, and we had to
dig it out; then the track led us over bridges in a state of semi-collapse
from which large nails protruded, or straight across streams. On the final
day, our passports were inspected 8 times, so we reached the Syrian border
with a sigh of relief and were at once cordially received by the customs
house. That night we camped safely within the heavy barrier of barbed wire,
whilst outside the jackals howled.
Syria is undoubtedly the most pleasing and interesting land in the Orient.
It has a network of excellent asphalt roads designed for modern through
traffic and petrol is available everywhere. Along the Mediterranean Sea
extends, on the one side, a chain of mountains on which there are old
castles and forts from the Romans, Mohammedans and the crusaders; on the
other side, the azure-blue water of the sea foams over rocks of lava. Whilst
the Turks are dressed in badly-fitting, ragged European clothes, here, the
age-old traditional costume is worn. Bedouin, Turks, Syrians, Egyptians,
Jews and gypsies, each in their characteristic, colourful cloaks and head
In the bazaars of Aleppo, one would almost believe that one had been
transported to a scene from the '1001 Nights'; the golden sunlight falls in
delicate beams through the small openings in the vaulted roof and gently
colours the colourful stream of the crowd, donkeys and camels, which move in
the narrow passageway between the tightly-packed shops.
The one day is spent swimming in the crystal-clear seawater of the
Mediterranean; the following is spent driving through the cedar forests of
the Lebanon. It is a joy to be able to cover a distance of 350km per day
again. Alexandretta, Aleppo, Beirut, Baalbek, everything flies by in a
couple of days.
In Damascus we must prepare ourselves for the great journey to Baghdad. This
journey can only be undertaken twice a week, for on these days, aeroplanes
guard the transport against raids from gangs of robbers. Furthermore, it is
obligatory to either take an experienced chauffeur or to drive in convoy
with the buses, but given the fact that their speed was too high for our
heavily loaded Ford, we chose the first option.
For the first 60km, the road is still good, but then, after the Syrian
customs house, there is no further road or track whatsoever: each chauffeur
chooses his own path between the rocks and the dunes. A few days before our
departure it had rained considerably, which meant that we were, fortunately,
untroubled by the dust storms and sandstorms. The ground consisted of a hard
mass of sand, shingle and clay, and we were able to maintain a good speed.
The heat made the air shimmer and strange phenomena of mirages appeared.
Sometimes the desert resembled a great, calm lake, above which cliffs and
hills protruded and were even reflected in it. In the distance a dark spot
appeared; probably a camel we thought. 100 metres closer by, it suddenly
became wide and swollen and we were convinced that it must be a bus. However,
when we got close to it, it seemed to be merely an empty can of petrol.
Camels' skeletons lay everywhere and almost as many remains of cars which
had become stuck and had been left behind. After driving for 300km, our
driver became agitated; he seemed to have lost the right path and drove
around in big circles. The desert lay endless and deserted around us, but
suddenly we saw that we were surrounded by real water and a moment later we
were stuck in the mud and could neither move forward nor reverse. We tried
stuffing planks, bags, and stones under the wheels, but the sole result was
that the contraption sank even further. A couple of hours later, right
before sunset, we saw a car in the distance and by waving cloths we
succeeded in attracting the attention of the driver. Shortly afterwards, the
16 bus passengers came over, armed with ropes and a jack. But all their
efforts were in vain and as darkness fell, they departed and left us behind,
alone in our desolation. Our chauffeur Ali said unkind words about Allah,
who had made him choose the wrong way. We wanted to pitch our tent at a dry
spot, but Ali made it clear to us with drastic gesticulation that wolves
were about and we spent the night sitting on the narrow car seats. The
following evening, however, the water, for the most part, seemed to have
disappeared into the sand. Once again, we collected stones to stuff under
the tyres and shortly afterwards a lorry passed by. The two passengers came
to help us and an hour later, with a hoorah!, the car, which had been just
as far under the red mud as we had been, was moving on dry land. We got
stuck several further times, but we succeeded each time in quickly breaking
free. We passed a lorry which had been stuck for 4 days already and the
driver told us that he hoped to be able to excavate the vehicle in a week's
time. Shortly afterwards, we encountered an army vehicle, armed with
soldiers and a machine gun, which had come to our aid. A Syrian aeroplane
had spotted us and sent a radio message to Ruthbar Wells, from where this
car, full of petrol, water and food [had been sent]. But fortunately, the
help was no longer necessary, and a few hours later we reached the Fort
Ruthbar Wells. We were advised not to travel any further that day, since the
eastern part of the desert was still flooded and we would certainly get
stuck again. After a peaceful camp within the protected walls of the Fort,
we departed the following day over the rugged dunes strewn with boulders,
with table mountains and cliffs surrounding us. Great bluey-black eagles
drank at the mudpools and shy gazelles fled from the car.
We were relieved when we reached Baghdad after a journey of 870km. In this
warm city we heard that it had rained to such an extent that the desert was
completely submerged and that all traffic had ceased. We had, this time
again, escaped great difficulties at the eleventh hour.
Baghdad to the Persian border is a mere day trip. Once more, our journey
took us through the desert, this time into a sandstorm which blew mouth,
nose, eyes and lungs full of dust and obstructed the view. In Kanakin, at
the foot of the mountains this vexation fortunately ceased. The Persian
customs houses were the first to search through all of our baggage. They had
to see everything, right down to the last scrap of paper.
Immediately upon entering Iran (as Persia is now called), the road begins to
get steeper and steeper, great, bare mountains tower and a glorious coolness
replaces the sluggish heat of Iraq. The whole of Iran covers a plain of
approximately 1,200km with endless rows of mountain ranges. It is possible
to drive around for days without seeing a tree; there are only a few, small,
poor villages; a mosque surrounded by houses made of loamy mud. Only in the
north, around the Caspian Sea, are there supposed to be extensive woods. In
the salt deserts through which we travelled, the saltgrass struggled to stay
alive. After 4 days we reached Teheran. En route, we were once the guest of
the English Consulate at Kermansha; there we slept again in a caravanserai's
empty room made of mud
The houses in the capital are raised half in the old style, half in a new
style. The larger Persian cities are characterised by their wide streets. On
both sides of these streets runs a dirty stream in which the inhabitants
wash themselves, brush their teeth and even drink it, whilst it is also used
as a rubbish bin for waste from the street and the home. In the Koran, it is
written that all running water is pure.
By order of the Shah, everyone wears European clothes; that is to say, rags
with holes and badly-fitting hats. The women walk in veils which reach down
to their feet.
It was originally our plan to drive via Meshed, Dusdaab to Quetta and to
reach India that way. However, the English Consulate informed us that, in
view of the devastation caused by the earthquake, it would not be possible
to take this route. Moreover, it was already too late to travel through
Afghanistan, since the Khyber Pass would already be snowed under. The one
and only option remaining to us was to go via Bushir to Karachi by steamboat.
After a short stay in Teheran, where we camped on the grounds of the
American College, from which we had a magnificent view onto the Elburz
mountain range and the snowy peak of the Demavend, we travelled southward.
The streets in Iran, although bumpy, are fairly good, which meant that we
could maintain a good speed. Along the road, every 20 to 30 km, is a traffic
police station. These stations are erected completely from loamy mud. The
soldiers frequently invited us to come inside. In the round building was a
stable, amongst [other rooms]. In the metre-thick wall, a narrow, low spiral
staircase led upstairs, which had to be ascended on hand and foot. Once
upstairs, one found oneself in a low, vaulted space, which was lit by a
couple of window-panes of decimetrical size. The soldiers lay on mats on the
floor around a small, charcoal fire and smoked opium. Small glasses of tea
were downed in endless numbers. Every so often, someone yelled
indecipherable sounds from the look-out up on the tower. We were invited to
spend the night in these rooms, but we preferred the stables to the
atmosphere of the soldier's space, permeated as the latter was with the
oppressive air of opium.
Before we left Europe, people often warned us of the dangers which would
threaten us on the part of the European-hating natives, who would rob and
murder us. Yet nothing could be further from the truth. We have constantly
been met with help and friendship, especially from the rural population.
They frequently offered us tea and fruits and how often did they abandon
their work to drive kilometres with us and show us the right way. We
travelled without any weapons and moreover, have never regretted doing so.
One unfine day, as we were driving at full speed, one of the rear wheels
flew from the axle and flew in front of the car with great bounds. We
succeeded in keeping the car on the road, whilst, with the one axle grating
across the ground, she came to a halt. We were convinced that this would be
the end of our faithful Ford, yet upon inspection it appeared that nothing
had been broken. I brought the wheel back into place again and secured it
with two of the five screws that I could still find and an instant later, we
were on the road again. At this point, I must express my thanks to Mr. Henry
Ford, who makes such excellent cars on which pranks of this kind can be
played without anything breaking. Not for one moment did our dear car leave
us in the lurch.
Between Teheran and Bushir, there are a few larger cities. Qom is a holy
city with a magnificent, golden-domed mosque, which can be seen gleaming
even from afar. A day later, we were in Isfahan, the most beautiful ancient
city that we have seen in Persia, once the residence of the Shah. The
ancient mosques and palaces are still in a relatively good condition;
moreover, a German has been employed as municipal architect. Then comes
Shiraz, the city of the Roses, yet none of the Europeans we met in Shiraz
had ever seen a rose there.
We were told that it was only a drive of 9 hours from Shiraz to Bushir. 5
high mountain passes must be traversed, some of which ascend to 3000m above
sea-level, followed by a descent into the plain. After we had passed over
the first two mountains, our dynamo's driving wheel broke. We were unable to
repair it ourselves, and drove further on battery power in the hope that it
would hold out to Bushir. After driving for 15 hours, we camped at the foot
of the final mountain. There, in the middle in the night, a violent
thunderstorm broke out, which blew our tent upside-down. The following
morning, the traffic police told us that it would be impossible to reach
Bushir in the coming days, given that the entire plain, through which we
still had to drive, was flooded. We had, however, learned on our travels
that we could not simply count on everybody's advice and decided to travel
onward, nevertheless. For the first 45km, it all went brilliantly, but then
the road stopped and ended in a muddy plain, in which we got stuck 5 times.
After we had taken the whole afternoon to cover 15km, we spent the night in
a dilapidated caravanserai. The following morning, there was a further 10km
of mud, in which we got stuck again the necessary amount of times and then
reached a better road which led to Bushir. Fortunately, the dynamo held out,
otherwise we would have had to wait a number of days for a new motor. And so
we reached Bushir after 3 days instead of after 9 hours. There, we later
learned that we had been one of the last vehicles that had succeeded in
getting through the mud. The others had got stuck and had to wait a week
before the rainwater had sunk. Moreover, we were informed that cars
travelling without a guide frequently end up in mud-filled pits, into which
they sink until even the windows are covered.
3 days later, a steamboat would depart, which was supposed to take us to
Karachi. These steamboats, however, are unable to enter the harbour at
Bushir as it is severely silted up, so have to remain 10km from the coast.
The car would have to be brought on board by a small sailing ship. However,
when the date of departure arrived, a violent storm rose and nobody dared to
sail out, which meant that we had to wait a week for the following boat.
This time, however, we were more fortunate and were in Karachi after 3 days
at sea. En route, we sailed along Baluchistan and deep down we were happy to
no longer have to drive for weeks on end through this endless desert of
How entirely different is the image with which one is presented upon
arriving in India in comparison to the Persian harbours. The nicely-kept
landing stages and customs hangars, the coolies who wait neatly in a row
until they are permitted to carry luggage and the sturdy Sikh policemen; it
all seemed much more civilised. How glorious to once more be able to lie in
a real bed in a hotel and not to have to boil your own pan, but have
yourself waited on by a swarm of boys.
After bare, dry Persia, we were also struck by the magnificent, blooming
trees in the well-kept parks and the nicely maintained houses and streets.
From Karachi we travelled to Hyderabad. Although this region is very barren
and dry, there are nevertheless large cacti and forests of thorn trees and
In Hyderabad, where we camped next to the airfield, a Hindu invited us to be
his guests for a few days, which meant that we were able to get to know
Indian family life first-hand. In keeping with ancient tradition, he lived
with his whole family: brothers, sisters, uncles and aunts, around 40 of
them in total, together in a large house. Although everyone was very
friendly and everything looked prim and proper, it nevertheless became too
noisy for us in the full house and we wanted to continue travelling before
long. Yet our host would not let us go so quickly, putting a whole bungalow
at our disposal. Furthermore, because of his help, we were successful in
gaining permission to drive along the canal road from Hyderabad to Rorhi.
That is to say that in the Indus, at Rorhi, a large dam has been erected
which makes it possible to irrigate 12,500,000 hectares of land. This means
that the Indus valley, to a large extent, has become fertile. Along the
canals, which transport the precious water, tracks have been lain, which,
however, remain closed to everyday traffic. However, for us all tollgates
and barriers were opened, which meant that we reached Rorhi in a day. On the
way, we were able to see a few examples of the numerous, magnificent species
of bird which the Indian mainland holds. Since the birds are not killed by
the inhabitants, they are very tame and it is possible to watch them at very
close proximity. Various species of kingfisher, jays with magnificent blue
feathers, green parrots, great birds of prey and numerous species, the names
of which I do not know. Some look like a miniature of our hoopoe, others
like magpies with a yellow belly and a black-and-white striped tail and
numerous variations of the paddy bird. After sunset, a jackal or a wild cat
would sometimes shoot suddenly over the road.
We stayed in Rorhi in the house of a canal engineer for a few days, and
began to make enquiries regarding the way to Multan. One of the engineers
there had, three years ago, heard of somebody who had set off in a new car
from Multan. One week later, the good fellow had arrived in Rorhi in a
strange sort of vehicle, which consisted principally of a set of four wheels
between which, miracle of miracles, a motor still hung. Given that the road
to Multan had not yet been improved since the journey of this enthusiast, we
decided that it would be better to cover this bit by train.
From Multan onwards, the road is excellent. It is possible to reach Lahore
in two days by joining the Grand Trunk Road which runs from Calcutta to
Peshawar. This G.T.R. was constructed by one of the Moghul emperors, and has
a fountain and a mosque every few miles, whilst trees are planted along the
whole stretch of road. For the English, it is the largest military
connecting road between North and South and it is in excellent condition.
Finally, thus, all of our difficulties with bad roads were past, and our
journey onwards would be mere child's play in comparison with what we had
behind us. Yet instead of feeling relieved, I felt as if one of the great
attractions of our journey was lost; now there would be nothing more to
In Lahore, [one] of the largest Indian cities, a cheery Christmas rush
dominated the large, European shopping streets. We found accommodation in
the hospitable home of a rich Hindu. From our balcony, we looked down for
hours at the colourful bustle in the streets beneath us.
Cumbersome, white zebu oxen drew the heavy wagons on wooden wheels; camel
wagons with their conceited draught animals and herds of heavily-loaded
donkeys: everything teemed past each other. Even more colourful are the
people themselves. The Sikhs are immediately recognisable by their long hair,
which they are not allowed to cut off. Their beards are plaited, rolled up
and hidden under their turbans. Hindus usually wear the sign of their caste
on their forehead. Male attire is not always as elegant. Usually a European
shirt is worn without a collar or tie, which flaps out from under the jacket,
and with it a white pair of trousers or a piece of cloth wrapped around the
waist and legs. The women, however, go undoubtedly more elegantly clothed in
colourful, pleated skirts, short bodices and head coverings. These are
accompanied by embellishments, usually less pretty, like rings on their toes
and fingers, armbands, several ear and nose rings. The fashionable ladies
take a turn in pretty saris.
From Lahore, we travelled to Kapurthala, where we were guest to the
Every Maharaja considers it an honour to invite Europeans and next to his
palace he has had bungalows built for guests.
The Maharaja of Kapurthala spends half of the year in France, speaks better
French than English and has had his palace and the magnificent gardens
designed in the Renaissance style. At the entrance, sentries in neat livery,
armed with spears, stand guard.
The guest is spoiled in every possible way. He enjoys the most magnificent
dinners and is shown around everywhere by one of the palace officers, in
order to see His Highness' estate. He goes for rides on the elephants and
the horses and looks at one of the hobby collections: be it of Kashmir
shawls, insignias of knighthood or images of the Buddha, it is fitting of a
Maharaja to have one or other unique collection. It is also fitting for a
distinguished prince to have a cinema or private airfield.
In Patiala too, we were the guest of His Highness. This time, we had the
honour of staying in the palace itself. Once, we were taken to the princely
duck-shooting. In an elongated lake, several overgrown dykes had been
installed, upon which the hunters, who had arrived in some 40 cars, hid
themselves. The Maharaja opened the hunt with the first shot and then bangs
broke out from all sides. Ten thousand birds ascended: ducks, geese, herons,
cormorants and snipes. It lasted until sunset, when more than 1,500 poor
birds had been shot.
Yet there comes an end even to palace life in the land of plenty, and we
looked forward to once more being able to sleep under the stunning, tropical,
star-spangled sky and to boiling our own pan.
On January 2nd, 1936 we arrived in Delhi, where we decided to stay
temporarily. The deputy commissioner put a magnificent, old Moghul garden at
our disposal, in which we pitched our camp and rested splendidly from the
F. J. Hopman.
Copyright Rhea Quien Hopman. All Moral Rights Reserved. February 2011,
Postscript. Tontyn and Clara were the fifth party to attempt the overland
drive from Holland to India and the third to arrive. One party was murdered,
the other had everything stolen from them, and they walked naked into the
This text was translated from the original typed document, for Tontyn had a
small typewriter on board the car. I found the parched pages falling apart
amongst papers of Tontyn’s.
Rhea Quien. 10 March 2011, Cambridge England
Copyright Rhea Quien Hopman