Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sail. Explore. Dream. Discover.
– Mark Twain
THE TRIP: ASIA
Ken plunged into the adventure with little idea of what long-distance travel entails.
The original scheduled one-year trip was to become almost eight – a fifty country saga across Europe, The Middle East, Asia, Australasia, and Central and South America. At times, his resolve was tested to the limit.
Many set-backs had to be overcome. The first concerned money.
Alan and Ken did a whistle-stop trek through Europe. They diplomatically kept to their ambassadorial roles in the pinstripes, shaking hands with the locals, meeting with the media, and popping in to see the local British consul for tea and chat.
But they also lived it up, enjoying life in the bars and nightclubs of whatever country they were in.
By the time they reached Iran, much of their money had gone, and they had to return to their former occupations as croupiers in a remote casino on the Caspian coast.
Then came the second setback. Alan had to return home for personal reasons. Ken was crestfallen.
"At first I considered finishing the trip as well – I was so used to sharing everything with Alan. But then something inside told me I had to go on."
Potter worked through the busy summer period in the casino to replenish funds.
He spent his time constructively, developing his writing and fulfilling that aspect of the trip.
Two of the other croupiers were very good musicians. John Woods had been a bass player with Jeff Beck and Rod Stewart and was a slick guitarist. Jimmy Carr was a Scottish folk guitarist and singer.
Ken formed a group with the two of them and organised concerts to entertain the casino staff.
He took his writing in a new direction by writing a not entirely complementary pop opera called Johnny about one of the management.
Be happy for this moment. This moment is your life.
– Omar Khayyam
In the Ramsar Casino, Ken (left) formed a group with John Woods (centre)and Jimmy Carr and performed for the entertainment of staff. He wrote a pop opera called 'Johnny' about one of the management.
(Clockwise)Meeting with the locals in downtown Ramsar, a small town down the road from the casino.
A cup of tea seemed in order so Potter made a beeline for the teashops.
Suitably refreshed, he struck out with his guitar to entertain the locals.
Have to think of your vitamins. A visit to the local greengrocer seemed to be in order (below).
And a visit to the baker (below left). "How much do you want for this loaf?"
(left) "No, thanks! I don't want any chewing gum."
After Ken left the Ramsar casino with travel funds replenished, he journeyed through Afghanistan and along the 'Hippy Route' to Nepal.
Whilst trekking in the Himalayas, he contacted hepatitis. He spent two months convalescing in a Delhi missionary home then continued travelling down through South East Asia to Australia.
Before the appearance of Russian tanks and in spite of the filth and flies and unapproachable toilets, Afghanistan was a peaceful and popular haven for overland trekkers.
Ken entered from Iran and then travelled in a ramshackle old bus crammed with Afghanis and their carpets from Herat on one side of the country to Kabul, the capital, on the other.
One enduring memory he has is of whiling away the afternoon, philosophising with fellow travellers outside a guest house.
A goat stood by in the garden, gnawing on leaves.
Time lost all importance as the hot sun beat down and the travellers discussed where they'd been, where they were going, and how often they'd had the 'shits'.
(Right) Connaught Place in central New Delhi.
Given the rise of India economically and the fact that Connaught Place is a financial hub, it probably looks a lot different now.
(Below right) A welcome from Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
All around, street traders were hawking their services:
"You like hotel? Cheap hotel? I take you hotel."
"You like change money? Good rate. Better than bank."
"I make student card. For you. Very good. Like real thing."
"I take you Taj Mahal. Only thirty rupees."
"Hashish? You like Hashish? Opium? LSD? What you want I get. Very good price..."
(Left)Not sure about the gentleman shaking Ken's hand, but his friends seem to be having a good laugh.
(Right)Two hundred kilometres south-east of Delhi, the Taj Mahal was built by Shah Jahan in memory of his beloved wife, Mumtaz Mahal.
It took the finest craftsmen 22 years to complete.
In such a romantic setting a little chivalry seemed in order.
Most people live way too long in the past. The past is a springboard to jump forward from, not a sofa to relax on.
– Tawfiq Al-Hakim