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.”

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LAST DAY IN KATHMANDU – goodbye bicycles, Freak Street, Yeti Travels, KC’s! 1976

[The Thamel quarter of Kathmandu had become home and I was already growing nostalgic at the thought of leaving the place.  But the group were melting away and it was almost time for Nikki and I to make our way to Delhi to find the elusive return tickets.  One more day of cycling the backstreets of the city, mooching around Freak Street, drinking endless milky coffees – and of course a visit to KC’s.

WEDNESDAY 29TH DECEMBER, 1976

“Di up really early – bus at 6.15.  Said a sleepy goodbye!  Said a second sleepy goodbye to Shirley a little later.
Morning – breakfast with Heidi at Shangri la – talked of education and interpreters!  Hired bicycles with Chris and Nikki and went to Yeti Travels – tickets to Delhi confirmed!  Signed away most of travellers’ cheques!  Gave us sweet tea.  Chris’s money come through too, so he treated us to coffee at the Ra Ra Restaurant!

Back on bikes – really good fun.  Lunch at Kathmandu Guest House with Heidi – had savoury pancake rolls.  Later set off on bikes again down narrow lanes – hair-raising ride avoiding cows, people, vehicles, gutters, porters with swinging poles of earth, dogs and babies!  No one gets out of the way – though we soon got the idea of ringing bells continuously!  No wonder Nepalese are addicted to bells and horns!

Went to Aunt Jane’s (parallel with Freak Street) for their lunch.  Very small restaurant upstairs – very famous – perhaps first of the ‘trendy’ places to go.  In Freak Street plagued as usual by boys with Tibetan books and people offering hash.

On way to Yeti Travels again, nearly got knocked over at roundabout – one of many near collisions!  Great fun though.

Had coffee and apple crumble at KC’s for last time – sob! sob!  After dark spent last of rupies on little presents eg Nepalese hats – shops are lovely at this time because still bustling with sounds and life and welcoming lights.  Know this narrow crossroads so well – on first night the bus got stuck there – quite nostalgic about leaving.”

BOXING DAY IN KATHMANDU – bicyles, buffalo steak and the blues! 1976

[Word came through that return tickets for Nikki and I were waiting at Post Restante in Delhi – this was the pre-electronic quaint old days of handwritten letters and cryptic telegrams where mail was sent to post offices in large cities to await collection.  So the next step in finding the elusive tickets was to arrange to back-track to Delhi …]

SUNDAY 26TH DECEMBER, 1976

Slept in!  Got up and went with Nikki to book tickets for Delhi.  Yeti Travels confirmed flight to Patna but not Delhi – our usual luck.  Back to hotel – Di still sleeping; Heidi got touch of flu but wandering up and down corridor!  Went and joined Sally and Adrian in Shangri la for pancake.

Then went into Yeti Travels again to check mail – got letter that should have received on 23rd – from family in Malvern – various rude messages tacked on end of Mum’s letter! [from brother Torquil]  Met Rob there – he gave me lift back to hotel on back of bicycle – hair-raising experience!  Dodging cows, rickshaws, roundabouts – nearly thrown into gutter but didn’t come off once!

Met Sally on roof (superb view over Kathmandu and surrounding hills, could see Swayambuth easily).  Went and gave jackets to little man to put dragon on.

Had drinks in Anders’s room with Heidi, Bill, Shirley, an American couple en passant (French interjection!)  Then Di, me and Sally went and ate at Shangri la – buff steak and chips, then coffee at KC’s – met Hans and Chris.  Then went for drinks in Gary and Beryl’s room (Canadian couple that met us all over Xmas and live near Bill and Shirl in Vancouver). 

Great evening – packed at first – Chris and Nikki (went early because Chris got dizzy spell), Rob, Maree, Diane, Mark and Pam, Hans, Chris, Di, Sally, me, Anders, Heidi (left then came back!).  Had great chat with Little Chris about Skye – he climbs in Cullins – very keen – made me feel close to home.  Listened to tapes, then Gary and Rob started playing guitar – Rob played blues and Gary played bongo drum; then Gary played folk songs and lovely Philipino song.  Shirley came in because couldn’t sleep.  Then got complaint about foot stomping from bloke below!  Beryl broke party up at 2.30 because of noise.  Said goodbye to Di, Rob and Maree.”