“Hot shower! Porridge in the kitchen. Dropped at the Blue Mosque – people bombed in on the bus with bread, pcs and shoe cleaning boxes! Jan, Rob and me went to the Blue Mosque. At the inner courtyard we took off our shoes and went in under a leather curtain. Lovely inside – blue tiled mosaics – 4 main pillars (called elephants’ feet) with arches and semi arches. Turkish carpets covering all floor, with wooden trays for extra shoes. Two taps on wall for drinking water from Mecca – guide zoomed up and told me to drink, but couldn’t get anything to come out!
Inner courtyard of Blue Mosque
He told me about blue being to guard against the devil. Showed me 3 black pieces of stone set in the wall – bits of the stone at Mecca; two large candles on either side of alcove – all facing to Mecca. Beside was very steep, narrow staircase, pointing upwards – guide said no one allowed up because top belongs to God, top step to Mohammed, priest allowed half way up and speaks from there each day. He calls people to prayer through microphone! Large boards in black with gold inscriptions on 4 sides – the 4 most important prophets?
After (collected Diana too) we wandered off towards the Galata bridge, looking for dancing bears! Streets very dirty and busy – bought chestnuts from a little toothless grinning man, popped extra ones into our mouths!”
[Not even the discomfort of a cold night or sugar in the porridge could detract from the awe-inspiring sight of the sun rising over Everest and the Himalayas – and the sound of school girls singing through the dark. Not surprisingly, this magical memory has stayed with me and influenced a scene in my novel OVERLANDERS.]
TUESDAY 28TH DECEMBER, 1976 – Part One
“Banging on door at 6. No one felt like waking – pretty cold because only a few blankets and no bag.
Staggered out and up very steep hill again (Nagarkot about 6,000ft) View was breathtaking – mist rising out of valley – mysterious blue ridges, then dark blue ranges of the Himalayas, nearer ones snow-capped, waiting for sun to rise – great feeling of expectancy. Gradually deep pink light began to seep into valley and catch the peaks – snow really burning in dawn light. Then sun rose to the left of them all – brilliant orange light. Saw Everest’s blue peak clearly – little orange cloud above it. Group of girls chanting down the road – lovely sound.
Down hill again for breakfast. They put sugar in the porridge and the coffee! Not my lucky day!
Set off 8.30 down to Karapati again – met a little guide (in his pyjamas!) – thought Pam woul know an Aussie girl that he had the passport photo of, because she came from Oz! He pattered along beside me – english quite good, 11 years old. I gave him my passport photo (spare copy) and wrote my address for him – he looked at picture and said “very good” with a grin!”