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English, mad and very, very proud...
   Julia returns home in her 1954 Fiat after epic drive from Bombay   
by Lyndon Whittaker, Melton Times, May 18, 2000

The Mad Englishwoman from Wymondham has returned safely home three months after setting off on an epic mission to drive her 1954 car back from India.

After 7,500 miles in all weathers across deserts and mountains and through ten countries at a top speed of 45mph, Julia Moore’s little Fiat now stands as bright as a new pin in the driveway of her rambling stone-built home.

It had a few breakdowns – including one in the middle of the desert – a couple of flat tyres, a dynamo on the blink, an oil leak, and problems with bits of metal falling off, but Julia is immensely proud of what she calls its “courageous performance.”

Her own performance was equally noteworthy but she brushes aside any suggestion of courage on her part.

The wacky adventure began in mid-February when she set off to bring back the car she had left behind after living in India for six years and at the same time raise £8,000 in sponsorship for homeless children in that country.

“I know some people said I was mad and expected me to be frightened but I had a fantastic time and people in all the countries I visited were kind and helpful.

“I was often surrounded by people. I think they were absolutely amazed that this mad woman from England was driving this old thing across the world.”

People went out of their way to make her feel welcome and Julia never felt any hostility towards a western woman travelling without her husband.

The first part of the drive – a five-day journey through India from Bangalore to Bombay – looked decidedly unpromising. Mechanics who overhauled the car had botched the job.

Within half an hour it began making terrible grinding noises which indicated the suspension was up the spout. But she got it patched up and made it to Bombay – “a fantastic journey over beautiful countryside” – where mechanics did a proper job this time.

A brush with officialdom was encountered at the docks, where the car was to be shipped across the Arabian Sea to Bandar Abbas on the southern coast of Iran, ready for the overland journey through that country and on into Turkey and through Europe.

Julia was told the Fiat would have to be parked outside overnight before being loaded. But she had other ideas and threatened to spend all night in the car on the docks rather than leave it to the mercy of thieves who might have smashed the windows and stolen anything of value.

“Eventually, after much shouting, they found a solution to keep this mad woman from spending the night in her car and opened up an enormous warehouse full of cardboard boxes for the Fiat.”

Several days later the car was shipped to Bandar Abbas ready for the next bit of the journey. Julia’s stepson Alexander (20) joined her at this stage and drove with her until they reached Istanbul.

The car wouldn’t start and when it did it quickly broke down. No oil. “People are so scared of breaking down they don’t go anywhere. But when it happens there’s always somebody on hand to help,” said Julia.

“I believe in the fundamental goodness of man and the local people were always willing to help me.

“When we broke down in the middle of the desert on the way to Shiraz a police car came along and stopped. I had the spare part needed, the police flagged down a lorry, everybody helped and we were off again.”

Julia stayed in cheap hotels, always where she could keep an eye on the Fiat. “The car came first and I wanted to make sure it was off the road and I could see it,” she said.

There were hazardous journeys through a cloudburst, across snowcapped Turkish mountains when the windscreen wipers froze to the windscreen and badly potholed roads in Bulgaria.

But there was a lot of fun, too. “We spent three days in Shiraz where there is such a lot to see. And Iran and Turkey are fabulous places. The mosques and the ancient ruins are sensational.”

To comply with strict Muslim tradition in Iran Julia (44) wore a long Indian dress and had to keep her head covered with a shawl. When she crossed into Turkey a border official pointed at her shawl and said: “Take it off, you’re in Turkey.”

“A sedate 35mph or so is a good speed to travel if you want to admire the beauty of the countryside,” said Julia. “Overtaking wasn’t an option, especially since the car is right-hand drive. It purred like a pussycat and I bought some polish in the middle of Turkey and spent two hours washing and cleaning it.

“Its courage knew no bounds as it climbed 10,000 feet into the mountains. It was panting at the end but it made it.”

Julia pressed on through Bulgaria and Romania into Hungary where she saw prostitutes standing in the countryside outside Budapest exposing themselves.

And on to Vienna where she was reunited with husband John before driving through Germany to France and home.

She says she never doubted she would get back to Wymondham with the car. “There were plenty of problems but you have just got to keep going. I couldn’t have come back and told the homeless kids in Bombay they wouldn’t be getting any money because the car had broken down.

“But I did get excited when I reached France because I knew then I’d made it. That was a joyous feeling.”

She completed the journey from Calais to Dover in beautiful sunshine before driving to London to a party where no-one was expecting her to turn up.

As for the car that Julia could not bear to be parted from after returning to England last year, she plans to use it to get around Rutland and drive to the shops in Melton.

“In India it’s only worth a couple of hundred pounds. But there’s no way I would ever sell it.”
• It’s still not too late to contribute to Julia’s effort to help
   homeless children in Bombay. Send donations to:
Rescue a Child, Mrs J. Moore
PO Box 6013
Melton Mowbray
Leicestershire LE14 2ZP

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