KING OF NEPAL’S BIRTHDAY – truck loads of screaming kids: ‘Hello, bye-bye, Kathmandu!’ 1976

[This turned out to be a mega day – it started with a spectacular sunrise over the Himalayas and then dropping down into the Kathmandu Valley we found ourselves swept along in celebrations for the King’s Birthday.  My battered overlander’s shoes were not keeping pace – I was picking up blisters as well as cheerful children along the way.]

TUESDAY 28TH DECEMBER, 1976 – Part Two

“Lovely walk down – soon became warmer.  Little lad pointed out jungle to left.  Another kid joined us waving a palm type leaf, dressed only in grubby shirt – asked my friend if this was a friend of his and he said no firmly!  His school began at 11 but he’d set off down because his school was going into Kathmandu for the King’s Birthday.

At village we saw 2 truck loads of screaming kids set off shouting, “Hello, bye-bye, Kathmandu! Kathmandu!” Truck over-brimming with them!

Walked to Bhaktapur because minibus not there – it passed us just as we entered town!  My feet and Nikki’s were blistered from loose shoes coming down hill, so hobbled painfully to nearest cay shop!  (They make it with boiled milk and water in the same pan like Indians).

Through Bhaktapur – passed dead animals, potter spinning big stone wheel with a long stick.  Bought little cake things.

Caught trolley bus – whole of Nepal seemed to dash for door as soon as opened – nearly trampled in the rush!  Then there was loads of time before it left and everyone had a place so it was futile to begin with!  Don’t think there’s a word ‘queue’ in Nepalese!  Imagine the indignant looks and tutting that would receive such enthusiasm in ‘respectable’ Britain!

As bus progressed more and more piled on until it was almost impossible to ever get off!  Chris was complaining about rubbing shoulders with a frenchman and bottoms with a Nepalese!  He and Mark were swinging from the bars.  Pam was worried about the kid next to her with a plaster on his face in case he had chicken pox and also about the dead chicken in his mother’s string bag! 

(A mother was feeding her baby on the bus even after the baby had fallen asleep!)”

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SUNRISE OVER EVEREST – burning snow and sugar in the porridge, 1976

[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!”

Girls singing in the sunrise, Nagarkot, 1976

TREKKING OVERLANDER-STYLE – jeans, wedges and an orange! 1976

[After three months of sitting on a bus and doing nothing more strenuous than sightseeing and drinking cay, a trek into the foothills of the Himalayas – however short – was a test for the average Overlander.  Standard trekking equipment – jeans (newly washed for the first time since Kabul), Afghan jacket and scuffed wedged shoes!]

MONDAY 27TH DECEMBER, 1976 – Part One

Nagarkot, foothills of Himalayas, 1976

“Waved them [Rob, Maree and Diane] off from hotel – going to Bangkok.
Left after eleven with Chris and Nikki – meeting Mark and Pam at trolley bus.  After and few 100 yds the ropes of trolley came off the rails!
At Bhaktapur walked across vale – stopped for cay after 2 mins!  Asked way to Katipur, but man said didn’t have any of it!  Over bridge saw women washing below – and through filthy streets of Bhaktapur to Durbar Square.  Had another cay stop! (lovely curd).

Then piled into minibus with milk churns crunched up against our knees; 2 lads kept swinging in and out of van door collecting fares and pushing in sacks and people on top of us!  Really good fun!

Dropped at Karapati then started walking – little boy guide joined us plus various little fellas with baskets strapped to heads.  Up rocky path – very steep straight away.  Stopped on rocks for lunch (my breakfast) of cheese, bread, tomatoes, and an orange.  Talking of cheese, Chris said look behind me and I nearly jumped 10ft to see 2 black goats peering over my shoulder!

Went on past lovely little hamlets – yellow and orange painte houses with thatched roofs, with hens and kids rushing around, little stores with nuts and grain etc., women pounding grain and sieving it; cows trying to block us off!  We were wheezing and panting all over the place!  I managed to keep up near front!”