[Last sunrise in Kathmandu – goodbye to last of the Swaggie friends and final breakfast at KC’s before Nikki and I flew away from the snow-clad Himalayas. Chrispin waved us off – he was heading off to do more travelling around India, so I took his large suitcase home and leant him my backpack and sleeping bag not thinking I would have need of them again for a while … bad call as it turned out!]
THURSDAY 30TH DECEMBER, 1976 – Part One
“Up very early because Heidi leaving at 6. As she went I could lie and see the sunrise out of the door. Lovely winter morning – dark clouds with orange-pink light seeping into sky behind. Hils dark behind and trees in foreground full of the noise of birds. Streets quiet for once but dogs already beginning to stir in hotel courtyard (big black one and little black puppy that looks like a baby bear and plays with my tatty jeans!)
Waved off Heidi, Pam and Mark – fresh cool air of early morning. Met Chris and Nikki and went for breakfast at KC’s – he was still asleep on the chairs! OK and KC helped get us breakfast – fried eggs, toast and lovely milky KC coffee. Back to hotel after KC wished us happy journey – amused when I said I’d see him in Scotland. He has a saying that: Chinese food is best food, Japanese women best women, Nepalese dope best dope and Scotch whisky best whisky!
Taxi waiting for us. Frances saw us off – Adrian still sick in bed. Went to airport via narrow lanes – last glimpse of narrow streets inhabited by cows and dogs. Our into fields then airport. Chris organised us into right queues etc trying to cheer Nikki up. Customs nosed around in cases – opened my souvenirs. Body search – girl helped herself to coconuts and Nikki’s cigs! Walked out to small Nepalese plane – Chris waving us off from terrace. From plane, Nikki noticed that he lit up cigarette (she was always trying to control his consumption). Waved us off even when in the air.
Circled over Kathmandu – saw terraced brown fields and houses for last time growing more distant – picked out the Boudhnath Stupa. Great white range behind us, slightly clouded; then left Kathmandu Valley and on into smaller range of hills with roads winding through them.”
[Not even the discomfort of a cold night or sugar in the porridge could detract from the awe-inspiring sight of the sun rising over Everest and the Himalayas – and the sound of school girls singing through the dark. Not surprisingly, this magical memory has stayed with me and influenced a scene in my novel OVERLANDERS.]
TUESDAY 28TH DECEMBER, 1976 – Part One
“Banging on door at 6. No one felt like waking – pretty cold because only a few blankets and no bag.
Staggered out and up very steep hill again (Nagarkot about 6,000ft) View was breathtaking – mist rising out of valley – mysterious blue ridges, then dark blue ranges of the Himalayas, nearer ones snow-capped, waiting for sun to rise – great feeling of expectancy. Gradually deep pink light began to seep into valley and catch the peaks – snow really burning in dawn light. Then sun rose to the left of them all – brilliant orange light. Saw Everest’s blue peak clearly – little orange cloud above it. Group of girls chanting down the road – lovely sound.
Down hill again for breakfast. They put sugar in the porridge and the coffee! Not my lucky day!
Set off 8.30 down to Karapati again – met a little guide (in his pyjamas!) – thought Pam woul know an Aussie girl that he had the passport photo of, because she came from Oz! He pattered along beside me – english quite good, 11 years old. I gave him my passport photo (spare copy) and wrote my address for him – he looked at picture and said “very good” with a grin!”
[The strenuous puffing and panting of unfit overlanders that morning was rewarded with specacular views of the Himalayan range and Everest hidden in cloud that my Kodak Instamatic did not do justice to! Magic surreal moment was after dark sitting by cosy fire in candlelight, eating simple meal to the strains of The Eagles, at the Everest Cottage …]
MONDAY 27TH DECEMBER, 1976 – Part Two
“Lovely view over valley and jungle to the right. Cay stop – sat on terrace step in sun. Reached top at about 4. Two vans up there at viewpoint – fantastic panorama of Himalayas – from Annapurna to beyond Everest (semi-circle).
Went for coffee at nearby coffee house – all really thirsty. Then rushed out to see sunset over mountains -lovely pink light and gorgeous blazing orange behind clouds over Kathmandu Valley with dark trees silhouetted on hill in front.
Then rushed around trying to find somewhere to sleep – eventually went down very steep hill to “Everest Cottage” – opened it up for us because no one else there. Lit a big fire in large room with hight matted ceiling. Candlelight in all rooms – sat round fire relaxing.
Then had Nepalese meal – plain but good fare – rice, little omelette, veg curry and dhal soup. Finished with Tibetan bread (like stodgy pancake). Sat round fire drinking Chris’s Country Liquor. They put on tape – Eagles.
In room with Chris and Nikki (Mark and Pam other side of partition) – wall to wall bed and nothing else! Mouse running above our heads in the roof!”