CHRISTMAS IN KATHMANDU – porridge, parties, pipes! 1976

[Christmas in Kathmandu: at the start of the trip I hadn’t expected to still be there for the 25th – a return plane ticket should have been waiting from Asian Greyhound.  But it was a very happy day with all the right ingredients: good food, drink and lots of friends with which to share it – and a dusk walk with a magical moment when musicians came out of the dark like a group of Biblical shepherds playing their pipes.]

SATURDAY 25TH DECEMBER, 1976

Christmas!
When woke, Di gave me and Heidi a little Xmas stocking filled with nuts, sweets, bics and tangerines!  Got up leisurely and had breakfast with Sally and Anders, Heidi and Di at about 11.30!  Sally and Fran gave me a little bead choker and card.  Had porridge at KC’s – all a bit chaotic from the night before – some suffering!

Nipped down to corner shop and bought vodka, spicy nuts and sweets for Di and Heidi and peanut butter for Sally and Fran.  Back to hotel for cocktails in Chris and Nikki’s room again!  Went on till about 3.30!  Great atmosphere – chatted with guy off Contikee – trip where bus rolled – didn’t get on together etc – not like Swaggies!

Went for lunch with Di and Heidi – had gorgeous mushroom and chicken roll at Shangri la served by sweet grinning waiter!  Went for evening stroll with Di round streets – lovely dusk with moon and evening star and mist settling on hills around.  Passed a little band playing drums and pipes and bells – lovely rhythmic beating in the half dark.  Streets busy still (passed shop stacked with coloured glass bangles).  Di still not better.

Met Sally and Heidi in KC’s cake shop and Heidi treated us to piece of pie and coffee. 

Had a drinks party in our room with selection of spirits and nuts – Bill, Shirley, Sally, Fran, Adrian, Anders all came.  They all went off to KC’s and I went down to ‘Cafe de Star’ where Rob and Maree prepared a fabulous dinner – we stood around having “Crispin’s aperitif” ie country liquor, water and orange, until meal served.  All sat in far room at long table – Rob, Maree, Geoff, Jan (Fred ill) me, Diane, Mike, Hans, Ian, Chris, Nikki, Mark and Pam.  Really super evening – all stuffed ourselves with turkey, chicken, carrots in butter, peas, cauliflower, stuffing and roast pots, follwed by Xmas pud and white sauce, presented with flaming Cleopatra whisky on top!

By the time it came to KC’s cake we were all so painfully ill that we sat there just looking at it!  No one moved for hours because couldn’t face going up steps – Geoff and Jan had to stagger back with Fred’s grub.  All gave Geoff his Xmas pressy – woolly waistcoat, pen, biro.  Had my bottle of Muscadet wine from Channel crossing!  (And hotel made us a punch).  Everyone in good mood, cracking jokes etc. 

Mike said farewell because off early – so I said, “Ceylon Mike!”  Eventually all lights in other part went off and waiters went to sleep on floor – so we finally broke up and crept upstairs to bed with pieces of cake!”

ANNAPURNA DAWN & CONSTIPATION IN KATHMANDU – the final day on the bus, Nepal 1976

[Our final day as Swaggies/Overlanders began with a breathtaking sunrise over the Annapurna Range at Pokhara.  Then we were doing all the chores for the final time: dismantling the tents, heating up last night’s leftovers, cleaning out the bus … but not the rat!  Then is was off to Kathmandu, our final destination on the hippy trail.  Whether from nerves or excitement or strew and baked beans for breakfast, I was doubled up with constipation for this final leg of the journey and remember lying out on the seat unable to sit up listening to everyone oohing and ahhing about the view coming into Kathmandu.  I did get a look at the mountain tops though … 

Kathmandu – a magical medieval muddle of houses and mayhem of rickshaws, bicycles and animals.  We decamped into cheap tourist hotels of the Thamel District – the Asia and The Star – and discovered the delights of KC’s restaurant and cake shop!]

THURSDAY 16TH DECEMBER, 1976

Woken at dawn, shouts from outside that view fantastic, so grabbed clothes and staggered out to see pink light on Annapurna range, behind hotel!
Really breathtaking and clear, with dark wooded foothills in front and thatched huts in foreground.  Everyone clicking away with cameras.  Peak of Machhapuchhare in centre really magical – gradually whitening then disappearing in morning cloud.

Last breakfast – stew and baked beansThen great clearing and washing of bus and equipment, (rat still stowed away with us!)
Left Ian at Pokhara – lake looked glass-like as drove past with fringe of mountains around.  (Nice, cheerful, quick blind boy said goodbye to us – helped at hotel until went blind – no money for operation – Neva and Julie want to help him financially if possible).

Lovely run to Kathmandu – negotiated festive archways out of Pokhara (nearly lopping picutre of queen off), had to rush to front of bus then to back to change weight and height of bus!
Lovely valleys with rounded mountains, thick with green vegetation – deciduous trees and banana trees, paddy fields, haystacks, thatched shelters in the fields; small villages, lots of cattle and hens – with good reflexes!  People carrying heavy loads attached by bands round heads, including small kids.

Climbed up pass from Pokhara valley into Kathmandu valley.  Lovely view of Himalayan range in evening sun – paddy fields set into side of hairpin bends!  Not much room for buses!

Had incredibly painful stomach pains by this time (constipated on final day!) so had to lie down the whole time.  Could hardly walk when reached Kathmandu.

Called in at Blue Star – most people felt too expensive, so drove through city to other side – narrow streets with brick and wooden houses – got stuck trying to get round corner – great hootings from rickshaws and consternation from shopkeeper whose house we were about to take away!

Dropped in street by KC’s restaurant – had look at “Asia” and “Hotel Star” – latter cheaper so most piled in there (Jan at Asia waiting for Fred who’d gone to Pokhara to meet us!)  Shared room with Big Pam and Neva (on floor). 
Went to KC’s for meal (stomach relieved by this time!) with Fran, Sally, Di, Heidi, Adrian, Chris and Hans.  Good meal – I had cheese jaffle (like puffed up bread) and apple pie – soon learned about excellent pie and cakes – KC’s have separate cake shop across road from restaurant!”