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!”

SAD FAREWELLS EASED BY COFFEE & CAKE AT KC’s, Kathmandu 1976

[More Swaggie friends departing and feeling jaded after the previous heady day – there’s only one remedy – back to KC’s for coffee and cake!]

Swaggies eating at KC’s, Thamel, Kathmandu, 1976

WEDNESDAY 22ND DECEMBER, 1976

Went to airport to see Pam and Sue off.  Great scenes of tears as said goodbye – especially when Pam said bye to Rob, Mike, Anders …!  Waved them away from terrace.

Washed jeans!  Moved up to Di and Heidi’s room.  Tried to write letter but gave up.  Tried to find diary but gave up!  So went and had cake and coffee at KC’s!

Went to Utze’s quite late that evening with Di and Sally – had 4 dishes between us – lovely food – sweet and sour chop suey, rice, chicken etc.  Then had banana split – enjoyed every calorie!”

SWAYAMBHU MONKEY TEMPLE – the spiritual and then the high spirits of partying Swaggies, Kathmandu 1976

[The spirit was with me in more than one sense on this day: fantastic climb to the Buddhist temples at Swayambhunath, mixing with the monks, worshippers and monkeys – then a high-spirited evening of Nepali rum and country liquor to mark the final evening of Aussie friends Pam (my room-mate) and Sue, who were heading back home.  As ever, we ended up eating at KC’s]

Buddha and me at Swayambhu

TUESDAY 21ST DECEMBER, 1976

Walked to Swayambhu with Chris and Nikki and Fran.  Coldish morning – set off through back streets the wrong way, ended up crossing mud banks and planks over river.  Lots of little people rushing around with huge baskets of earth balanced on poles across their shoulders.  Saw moving haystacks with legs rushing along underneath! – must be very strong.

Got lost among intensely cultivated fields – lovely countryside – saw boys making mud bricks; kids playing, cowpat-type things drying on walls of houses.  Walked up terracing on narrow ridges between fields and across pole over stream!  Everyone very amused at little file walking about.  At least we weren’t plagued by rickshaw drivers.  “Hello, rickshaw …!”

Decided to rest before climbed steps up to Monkey Temple – very steep!  Exhausted at top – loads of monkeys running about and whizzing down railings.  Top was crowded with little shrines – pretty filthy everywhere; spattered with white and red paint.  Saw ceremony outside shrine – people squatting, old man reading from manuscript while others poured water over flowers.

Various monks wandering round the big stupa (biggest in world) spinning prayer wheels, dressed in maroon robes, cropped hair.  Nothing doing in temple (no horns etc)  Found pie shop!  Very reasonable prices.

Wandered back across bridge and back through main way – passed loads of washing.  Got bacck and flopped on bed – went to sleep! (Shows really unfit).

Woke when Fran came in.  Sue came and said Geoff taking her out to eat instead of group farewell meal – Pam fuming – Geoff make it worse by pretending he’d done nothing wrong.  Pam calmed down.  Hans and Little Chris came in – somehow started a booze-up!  Passing round gin, rum, whisky and country liquor!  By 7.30 we were all well away – “Pissed out o’ me skull” as Little Chris put it!  Don’t know how we made it over to KC’s!  Had great meal there – tomato soup and steak.  Managed to eat it with bit of difficulty.  Sat next to Mike who told me how he never drank anymore!

Back to room (after a “Night Life” – rum and lemon) – had great party – room packed with people.  Chris had crashed next door – locked self in, so when Hans tried to get in, we were banging and shouting and chucking things through the window – finally woke him, though he doesn’t remember unlocking the door!”

Little Chris, Hans and Pam at Hotel Star party

KATHMANDU IN DECEMBER 1976 – spring rolls, Freak Street and Americans singing the Messiah!

[It’s Kathmandu – spring rolls, Freak Street, braid belts, rickshaws and ….the Messiah in tuxedos?!]

MONDAY 20TH DECEMBER, 1976

“Got up and went in by rickshaw to New Road – Nepal Bank.  Driver didn’t know where I meant and stopped several times – no one seemed to know where centre of town was!  9.30 got there to find not open!

Went for rip off coffee and toast in Crystal Hotel – dim lights, soft Radio 2 type music, was only one there – lots of waiters in white, all very polite.  Finally collected money so can eat again – relief because funds low.

Back to hotel (bought braid belt).  In again with Nikki to see if booked on Air India, can’t find out.  Lunch in Utze with Bread and Jam (Fred and Jan) – spring roll.

People lazing on terrace at hotel.  Shared cake with Heidi at KC’s.  I went into town on own again – a few back streets, then down New Road and Durbar Square (into Freak Street). Bought some cheap jewellery but on whole shops disappointing.

Early supper with Heidi, Bill and Shirley at Shangri la (lovely chicken and cashewnut) then piled into taxi and tried to get to Messiah concert at Lincoln School.  First taxi had no clue, so piled into second.  Went all over far side of Kathmandu looking for the place.  Eventually got there – Chris, Nikki and Anders already there.  Amazing to be among loads of diplomatic Brits and Yanks sitting in a school hall with choir in suits and long dresses.

Great evening, really amusing – electricity failed in middle of overture and organ wound down (we couldn’t help laughing).  All men singers were painfully bad, but choir sang with gusto and the Yanks all gave them a standing ovation!

Piled into mini bus going back – absolutely chock-a-block – knees crunched up together!  Chris almost disappearing out of door.  (Di trying to engineer something between Heidi and Anders!)”

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!”