- Photo: Fiona Easterby

Why you should never judge a book by its cover

46w ago


Earlier this year at a Brooklands car meet I spotted this 1931 Ford Model A tourer. Many people walked past with barely a second glance but I got very excited because you see, we'd meet before, in a very different setting.

Photo: Katja Fenner

I first met Sir Gerry and Lady Joyce Acher searching for tigers in the Sundarban region of West Bengal, India. We weren't lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the famous man-eaters amid the dense mangrove but for us this was not the main attraction, rather a distraction while our cars cleared customs. They were competing in the Thunder Dragon Rally, a three week driving adventure through India and Bhutan, which I had been employed to film.

Replacing shock absorbers in Bumthang, Bhutan. Photo: Fiona Easterby

We flew from Calcutta(Kolkata) to the start line in Siliguri and made our way northward through the Darjeeling district famous for its tea and narrow gauge railways. Crossing in to the remote Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan the Achers, the oldest competitors on the rally, soon put the youngsters to shame by completing the steep hike to the Tigers Nest Monastery, perched precariously on a cliff face 3000 feet above the Paro Valley! Like many of the group I failed to make it past the halfway viewing point.

Driving higher into the Himalaya's we reached the breathtaking Chelela Pass, the highest driveable road in Bhutan. After descending to the Haa Valley our route took us further east; tourism is heavily restricted in Bhutan and nowhere more so than the eastern province. Rally Round were able to obtain special permits for us to visit this area but even they couldn't magic up a hotel in a district rarely visited by outsiders. Their solution was a glamorous camping option in the grounds of a small monastery where the monks were happy to host us.

On the road in Bhutan. Photo: Katja Fenner

Our route home took us back into India via the Assam region (more tea :-) ) to Guwahati for the finish line party and our transport back to the UK. This is by no means the first rally Gerry and Joyce have taken part in, the intrepid duo also competed in the Peking to Paris endurance event. When I saw them at Brooklands they were discussing more adventures so I hope to see them and their little Model A Ford in more far flung parts of the world.

Photo: Katja Fenner

So, next time you see the vintageants lined up at a car show bear this in mind; the older the car, the more stories it will have to tell and some of them have had a very colourful life! Just like people!

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