The Silk Road

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Forty-nine members of Forfar Probus were recently entertained by speaker Graham Watson of Scone who regailed the group with tales of his travels on the Silk Road from China to India.

A Glaswegian born and educated, Graham embarked on a textile career after National Service in the 50s. He worked for ICI at Ardeer, Jute Industries of Dundee and finally Don Brothers before retiring in 1991.

Graham and his wife had taken this adventure holiday of three-and-a-half weeks back in 1997 before the closing of the Chinese border. This route existed from AD600-1600 stretching some 7000 miles from the Mediterranean to Peking.

Camel caravans would take 18 months transporting dates, saffron, pistachios, frankincense, myrrh, sandalwood and glass bottles to the east while the return cargoes would be jade and other precious stones, perfumes, porcelain, laquers and silk borcades.

Although Graham travelled some of the tracks in a 4x4 people carrier and flew other legs of the journey, his slides showed the tortuous and dangerous path the early travellers had to face and, even 14 years ago, his group had to have a military escort through Afghanistan and endure nervous hold-ups at border posts.

He had to endure extremes of temperatures from over 40C down to freezing and height differences of 300 below sea level to 15,000ft above and the food was very basic.

To compensate, the Pamir, Hindu Kush and Himalayan mountain ranges were breahtaking. When he eventually reached China, Graham was fortunate to visit the Terracotta Army in Xian Province, Peking Temple of Heaven and the Great Wall.

Graham finished by bringing greetings as a past president from the ‘Fair City’ Probus Club of Perth.

David Webster proposed the vote of thanks for a detailed account of a fascinating journey and excellent slides - especially of the Himalayas.