Albert left Australia on October 8th, 1968, and would take 132 days to deliver the fare paying passengers to their destination. This was to be the first of 15 journeys.
"As the GPO clock struck ten o'clock Albert began to move, bedecked with balloons and streamers. Half-way down George Street there was a distinct lack of power and the bus came to a stop . . ." and so began Albert's log to London!
Albert's "crew" of 13 sailed aboard the good ship "Centaur", a wonderful 5 day line voyage from Fremantle to Singapore from a past era, then by "jungle train" through Malaysia to Bangkok, then by air to the "City of Joy", Calcutta."Home away from home" : the galley and forward lounge
Calcutta to Quetta
Once all were safely reunited in Calcutta Albert took to India's Grand Trunk road with the daily challenge of cyclists, ox carts, wandering cows, low bridges and dangerously overhanging trees, all demanding the driver's attention and care. Not surprisingly the journey was slow, but fascinating always. A routine soon set in to keep moving until late at night as best protection against intense curiosity from over friendly locals. Early every morning groups of villagers would be crouching roadside talking the name A-L-B-E-R-T and debating whether they were seeing a double or a triple decker bus. The next major obstacle was at Dozan in the Bolan Pass, Pakistan, along the route via Quetta into southern Iran, where it was necessary to dig out a dry riverbed plus a piece of the mountain, well assisted by railway workers and the local tourist and highway departments (see picture below - the railway crosses the parallel road via a bridge too low - out of picture).
Quetta to Istanbul
The Turkish military to the rescue
All past obstacles were there to be overcome, an accepted part of the challenge. Now safely in Europe - Albert having crossed the dividing Bosphorus waterway - the crew were looking forward to a smooth ride to the English Channel with, hopefully, some bonus wayside comforts to be included. But not so!
A winter Monday: 17th February 1969, 132 days out of Sydney.
Slightly amazed driver, conductress and coach passengers meet the aliens!
A year-round timetable was drawn up for a regular service between London and Bombay, being trip Nos 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 & 9, and then trip No 10 running right through to Sydney and Trip No 11 from Sydney back to London. Trip Nos 12, 13, 14 & 15 operated between London and Calcutta.
In 1976, with political tensions rising in Iran, trip No 16 was planned to return ALBERT back to Sydney for a well earned retirement. However, the pace of revolutionary fervour beat our schedule with travel through Iran being considered impractical, so Albert had to be rested in England.
Over the years ALBERT made more than 150 border crossings without ever being held up for serious scrutiny and not once was a bribe proffered to smooth the passage, this at a time when other vehicles were all too often seen marooned at check-posts with neither body panels nor owners.
The bus earned universal respect as a friendly ambassador for all those on board and was always welcomed and smiled upon by officials and the countless friends made along the way for whom the name A-L-B-E-R-T was one they could read, remember and say - in any language!