In towns, we were forever dodging people, animals, little motorcycles and bicycles.
There is surely no more tiring or dangerous place to drive than India. We passed a major accident every 11 miles. The crowds were huge, the biggest of the rally. People lined the route for about 200 of the 500 miles. Whenever we stopped - for a street light or at a railway crossing - our car would be swamped.
Faces beamed, hands were outstretched, enthusiastic questions were asked in broken English. We arrived in teeming, ramshackle Bombay in late afternoon, in heavy traffic. Beggars, often with deformed limbs, accosted us whenever we stopped.
Tonight the cars were all steam cleaned to pass Australian quarantine regulations. They were then loaded on to the two Antonov cargo planes for the flight to Perth.
Three drivers narrowly missed the flight. The former British Touring Car champion, Barrie Williams, broke the gearbox of his Hillman Hunter, hired a low-loader and missed the plane by less than an hour. A Mercedes driver arrived at the airport just in time to see the Antonovs taxiing down the runway. And a Porsche driver who hit a bridge also missed the cut. All three cars are stuck in Bombay.
DAY 20: Rest day, Bombay - Did some shopping downtown. I was suffering from Delhi belly, which didn't bode well for the evening's chartered Uzbekistan Airways flight to Perth.
DAY 21: Bombay to Perth, Western Australia - Arrived safely in Perth after the overnight 11-hour flight. There could be no greater contrast with Bombay than clean, spacious, orderly, beautiful Perth, one of the world's most pleasant cities. Took the Escort to a local Ford dealer for new brake pads, some work on the clutch and to check that the suspension was tight. Also bought some rally tyres, for the gravel special stages of Australia. Thus far we've been using normal road rubber.
DAY 22: Rest day, Perth - The Delhi belly has come back, and I'm feeling poorly. Depressing news: Basil Wadman, the British driver who succumbed to heat stroke in Udaipur after four successive days of driving in temperatures of more than 100 degrees, has died in Delhi.
DAY 23: Perth to Esperance - We left Perth in 18th place, along clean, deserted, well-maintained highways to the Mundaring Forest for the first of today's three special stages. All were on tight, narrow gravel roads, bordered by gum trees. A host of current and former Australian champions are in this event, and all went quickly. Afterwards, a long transport stage to Esperance, near Australia's south-western tip, 550 miles from Perth. Many of the roads were rough gravel. Recent heavy rain has filled the usually dry creek crossings. Some cars were bogged, and we stopped twice with damp ignition, caused by floodwater drowning the engine.
DAY 24: Esperance to Kalgoorlie - More rough gravel roads and two long special stages, both on narrow tracks edged with eucalyptus. One was a straight drag, but the closeness of the trees and the thick sand on the road made conditions treacherous. Our Escort was doing 105mph in places, and getting airborne on the crests. We were seventh quickest on that stage.
In Kalgoorlie, an old gold-mining town, we had a two-mile street race for the third and final special stage of the day. Half the town - about 10,000 people - turned out to watch Kalgoorlie's mini Monaco Grand Prix. Overnight we're in 18th place. Tomorrow we begin the toughest part of the rally - crossing the Nullarbor Plain, the vast treeless desert that promises broken suspension, punctures and, possibly, a complete shake-up in the results.Reuse content