FUSINA CAMPSITE, VENICE – fog, fleas, foamies and fun! 1976

OFF TO VENICE AND FUSINA CAMPSITE …

SATURDAY 2ND OCTOBER, 1976

“Up early.  Rolled the foamies!!
The foamies are explained in a letter home: “we’re quite efficient at getting up, fed and tents packed etc in 1 and a half hours (up at 6 every travelling day!)  The worst job in the morning is rolling the foamies (that go under our sleeping bags) and squeezing them all in between 2 sets of seats; they are rather temperamental things and tend to spring out and flow into the gangway if not given their due attention.”

Left for Venice.  Good card games at the back.  Scenery of hills, trees and picturesque houses – tunnels etc (hopeless to try and read!)  Then fog descended and saw nothing.

Got to Fusina after lunch – cabins not tents!!  Seems nice campsite but lots of mosquitoes.
My letter home says: “The campsite was really rather luxurious – hot showers and what’s more we managed to book into cabins and so got a bed!  It may have been rather flea infested but it was real high living.”

Run into Venice briefly in afternoon and saw gondolas tied up by canals, lovely bridges; not time to see much else (apart from station).

Evening spent in the bar of camp – Fusina is rather famous for rowdy evenings in the bar because the camp is always full of bus tours!  Graffiti on walls, exuberant barmen etc.  Eventually only Julie, Paul, Mark and me left, retired to bus – few others there.  Sat at back listening to Supertramp.

We’ve had t-shirts designed with Asian Greyhound on – the design is a bus inside a large carafe of wine! ”

More photos on Facebook Page, Overlanders: http://bit.ly/bEVp5V

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This campsite was used as the setting in my novel THE VANISHING OF RUTH to introduce one of the key characters – the charismatic Marcus.

DELHI – samosas with postmen, Tamla Motown and Indian whisky to drown bad news, 1977

[Thanks to the help of the B.A staff, word was finally filtering back home that we were stranded in Delhi.  But they feared that the reason I hadn’t heard from my granny was that she had died.  Worse still, they couldn’t confirm if this was true.  My grandmother, Sydney Easterbrook, had gone out to India from Scotland in 1923 to marry forester Bob Gorrie, and they had lived there until the Second World War.  Granny was one of the inspirations behind my trip east.  Now like the elderly enigmatic Mrs Moore in Passage to India (another inspiration for going to India), it was possible she was dead.

So we ‘attacked’ the whisky to drown our sorrows …]

WEDNESDAY 5TH JANUARY, 1977

“Happy Birthday Ank! [youngest brother Angus]  At breakfast a Sikh came to our table and asked us to model his clothes, so could guarantee right size – he sells to boutiques in Germany – we certainly meet all sorts in this place!!!

Went to B.A – nothing.  Went to GPO – they’re so used to us, today we were given sweet tea and chapatis wrapped round potato samosas (potato in batter)!  Cheerful fella warmed chapatis over small electric fire!  Must be the only tourists to have done this – probably the only ones to penetrate so far!  Nice middle-aged man gave us address of Foreign P.O and told us to try there in case mail had been insured. 

Off we went in a rickshaw for miles, racing with traffic far beyond the confines of Connaught Place!  Hassled away with Indian and weren’t understood very well – 2 blokes helping – said had no access unless we had registered number etc.  Discovered this wasn’t foreign mail!  Went to building behind – same story.

Back to centre – cheered ourselves in record shop by listening to Tamla Motown L.P!!  Then found really good Penguin bookshop and browsed in there for a while.

Back to B.A – telex for Nikki telling her to go and check GPO!  Several for me – no reply from Granny.  They in touch finally with parents.  Dad sent cheque for ticket – then horrible news that Granny may be dead.  No confirmation – felt very upset.  Can’t stop thinking of it – what can be happening at home?  To be stuck in this place because of Asian Greyhound inefficiency and to have no news from home!  Very anxious and miserable.

We attacked the bottle of whisky bought for New Year – drank half of it before supper – took mind off worries.  Went down to dining room giggling and wearing new tops.  Waiter in good mood tonight.”

DELHI YMCA – witches, hair washing and Whisky Galore, 1977

[The YMCA continues to be our home as it becomes increasingly obvious that Asian Greyhound have never sent tickets for our return home – paid for the previous September.  But eccentric ballerina’s, a clothes sale and Whisky Galore keep up our spirits.]

TUESDAY 4TH JANUARY, 1977

We were joined at breakfast by one of the “witches”!! (Two bony women with scraped back black hair, pencilled eyebrows and tight-skinned, gaunt faces, who sit in garden too – Nikki calls them the witches).  She was Aussie with cultivated English accent; loved London and the Arts (!) – a ballerina also feeling “the call of India”.  Runs her own company and has a theatre room in the Sydney Opera House!  Very easy to talk to but we can imagine a Prima Dona.

Into B.A – Nikki got telegram – her parents in touch with Asian Greyhound – said sent ticket on 20th Dec! (Supposed to be in Kathmandu by 14th!)  She sent another saying to buy ticket as desperate.  Went to GPO – no tickets.

Read!  Bored silly again.  Went into B.A in evening. Nothing.  (No shops open but had found chemist, so washed hair in afternoon for something to do!)  Sale still on – succumbed to temptation and tried on half of garments!  Had great time tossing clothes all over the place! (Bought 2 tops again).

Waiters in a bad mood tonight – ours was rude and refused to change a note for us, as well as ignoring us and serving us last!  Bed early – reading “Whisky Galore” now!”

HOGMANAY IN DELHI – a ticket hunt that leads to mice at Ma Calaco’s, 1976

[It’s Hogmanay but Delhi is a long way from the Isle of Skye.  Nikki and I are on a search for tickets home, existing on coffee and toast and running out of money.  It’s going to be a long last day of 1976 …]

Nikki on the bus

FRIDAY 31ST DECEMBER, 1976 – Part One

“Both woke early and checked out.  Wandered around Place, nowhere open.  Found hotel so had toast and coffee there.  Then got rickshaw to Post Restante (one of million that we got that day!) 

At P.R. bombshell hit us – no chit saying we had registered mail.  (Got letters for Di and Rob).  I asked if could check reg mail – sent to a different building.  Asked again at big school where to go – nice priestly looking men; boys playing cricket.  Found place eventually.  Asked to see reg. mail – bloke wouldn’t listen because we had no chit from the post office.  Both broke down and cried!  So he relented and took us up to nice middle-aged man in charge of the mail.  Let us look through the book.  Nothing come the whole of December for either of us (although Asian Greyhound had telexed Kathmandu that Nikki’s had arrived and mine on its way 2 weeks ago).

Told to come back at 4.  Decided to check p. restante under name Asian Greyhound – wouldn’t let us when got there.  Decided to go to British Airways and see if booked with them.  Nice [Sikh] man very helpful, sent telex to A.G. asking for details of tickets – we don’t even know the company flying with, let alone the date!  Told to come back later.

Went to Ariana [Afghan Airways] – but they’d moved.  So trailed over to new building – asked if booked with them – had no record of it.  Went to Iraqui Airways – sent upstairs (like following clues to a riddle!)  Nice man but no record of our tickets, said would telex on Monday if not arrived.

Exhausted, fell into restaurant and had coffee and omelette.  Hardly spoke felt so miserable – both on verge of tears all day.  Set off again – tried Indian Airways and Syria-Arab Airways but no luck – tickets don’t seem to exist!

Decided to find accommodation.  Shirley had given us address of Mrs Calaco’s, Janpath Lane.  Booked in – she turfed 2 weird blokes out [of room] and gave us their beds.  Filthy bare room, dark, with 4 beds in and nothing else.  Beds made of huge frames and canvas strapping for mattress.  Given 2 grotty sleeping bags because had nothing.  Both lay down – Nikki had sore throat and headache.

Watched mouse running over opposite bed and onto window ledge by bloke’s food etc.  Both burst into tears!  Never known such despair – and on Hogmanay too!  Funny Dutchman came in and brewed up some tea – said there were loads of mice and proudly showed us a trap he had made!”

PATNA: RETURN TO INDIA – chilled beer and rickshaws but no Rolling Stones, 1976

[After the emotional farewell to Nepal, Nikki and I flew to Patna en route to Delhi.  A chilled beer, a rickshaw ride and pleasant people in Patna lulled us into a false sense of holiday.  We laughed at a mad American searching for the Rolling Stones and a cautionary tale that Swaggies had been left stranded in Delhi without tickets home …]

THURSDAY 30TH DECEMBER, 1976 – Part Two

“Soon left the hills and below was the Plain of India.  Air hostess in sari said, ‘Namaste’ as we boarded.  Given nice snack and free Carlsberg beer! (chilled!)
Landed at Patna.  Met up with driver of Encounter Overland – cheerful hot-tempered Aussie.
Nice middle-aged Indian man – well travelled, amusing and very polite treated us to coffee then put us on a rickshaw and told the driver to give us a tour of Patna and drop us off for lunch then back for next flight.

Lovely day – felt on holiday as jogged through wide streets lined with trees and attractive bungalowsStrange to be in India with no Swaggy bus in sight!  Familiar sights of men in loincloths; millions of bicycles and rickshaws pouring across traffic lights and mad drivers again.

Stopped and talked to funny American guy who’d missed the plane to Kathmandu because they had lost his luggage.  He asked our driver if the Stones were playing tonight in Patna!  He couldn’t bear the idea of New Year in such a place! 

Went to bank then dropped at incredibly posh hotel – had a coffee!  Man was complaining behind me because he got cabbage and not carrots, just the limit because this morning he got orange instead of tomato juice!  What a fuss!

Back to airport – plane to leave at 2.55 – didn’t leave until 4.30!  Talked with Encounter guy – he’d heard of Greyhound [Asian Greyhound] people having no tickets waiting at Delhi post restante!  Airport stood us sweet tea and gritty butties!

Air India flew us out – Indian music, bigger plane, hostesses in saris.  Gave revolting mango juice.  Landed at Lucknow then off again to Delhi.  Tiny snack and coffee.”