LIKE DURHAM MINERS’ GALA – King’s Birthday: parades, bands and cocky lads! Kathmandu 1976

[This amazing day which started with a burning sunrise in the Himalayan foothills and a packed trolley ride with dead chickens and excited kids on their way to the King’s Birthday celebrations, continued in Kathmandu.  Its happy crowds, banners, noisy bands and side stalls reminded me of the annual Durham Miners’ Gala – and it all took my mind off those blistered feet.  What better way to finish the national holiday than with a meal at KC’s?!

Heidi, Sally, KC and Di at KC’s on King’s birthday (King and Queen in background!)

TUESDAY 28TH DECEMBER, 1976 – Part Three

We finally disgorged back in Kathmandu! 
Town by post office was almost deserted; no rickshaws to be seen.  So walked into centre – great crowds on public park and lining the streets – people selling chunks of fruit on pavements.  Processions of people, especially kids parading round field and then up New Street to Durbar Square.  We we couldn’t get through until finished so wandered up New Street.

Like Miners’ Gala Day [in Durham] – people pouring in and the sound of bands.  These bands consisted of small drums, cymbals, pipes and flutes and strange singing.  Lots of schools in uniform marched with banners – a few managed to swing arms in time, while some cocky lads followed and mimicked.  Other groups of Nepalese carried biers with greenery all over – couldn’t see what sat underneath.

We rested blistered feet (me, Nikki and Chris) in Paras Hotel, by Nepal Bank, and had omelettes for lunch.  When emerged again, streets breaking up – went back via back streets to hotel.  Heidi and Di packing for Pokhara.  Finished rum.

After shower, went to KC’s for their final meal.  Had lovely tomato soup and hamburger steak with salad and roti (ie potato).  Followed by night life! (rum and lemon)  KC in good form – bought me night life; offered me and Nikki job driving a hamburger stall!  Full of new ideas and plans for saunas, bakery etc.  Fred and Jan came in – Fred still not well enough for him to go trekking.”

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!”

SUNBATHING AND SHOPPING IN FREAK STREET – life of the Overlander in Kathmandu, 1976

[Sunbathing, shopping, eating out … No, this is not the Riviera; it’s the life of the Overlander in Kathmandu!]
THURSDAY 23RD DECEMBER,1976

Sunbathed on terracelovely hot sun but awful flies – felt virtuous because wrote letter and cards! Lay in sun for awhile – really hot – Little Chris had tent out (on concrete) – people made cracks about hard ground for pegs etc).

Went out later with Sally and Di to get embroidery put on skirt and jeans by this little man in tiny workshop in one of lanes between here and Durbar Square.  Then hunted round Freak Street for Nepali suits (baggy trousers and wrapover tops) and had some made up at little tailor’s.

Went to Utze’s again for another good meal – little boy with black fez works really hard there.”

BHAKTAPUR – snake gods and feisty kings, Nepal 1976

[It was goodbye to room-mate Neva who was returning home to Australia for Christmas – we’d shared many a delicious pastry and cake along the trail and a lot of laughs.  Then our driver Geoff took us to look round the amazing medieval town of Bhaktapur – vibrant, squalid, artistic and mystical]

SATURDAY 18TH DECEMBER, 1976

“Neva woke early – very excited, smoking like mad!  We all went in convoy to airport (flap on because clothes not dry!)  Tearful partings then we all shouted rude things as she walked to the plane – “Can we have some more music please?!”

Then Geoff took us on trip to Bhaktapur– one of 3 capital cities – medieval town.  Big square with pagoda temple 15th century.  Old run down brick and wooden houses – ancient carvings – museum full of them (various Hindu and Buddhist gods and goddesses and ghosts).

Art gallery full of rice paper paintings and wooden paintings – highly elaborate, colourful, intricate, often horrific paintings of gods – snakes with big gaping mouths etc.  Collection of paintings depicting life of Krishna; one or two modern paintings of mountains and town (good).  Old wall paintings of warrior figures – great costumes.  Several artists’ impressions of Nepali kings (since 18th century) – all look the same – underneath is explanation of each one – rather interesting.  Great praise for one who repulsed British influence – worshipped as a god.

Tallest pagoda temple in Nepal was a little beyond Durbar Square in smaller square.  Very dirty and poor – dead dog covered in stones, loads of chickens, people pulling lice out of each others hair!  Saw the outside of Buddhist temple – the horse of the temple was tied up outside – statue of god and goddess by small door, so all bow when go through it; 5 small windows for Buddhas (a young boy pointed all this out to me).”