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.”

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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 – more photos, Kathmandu, December 1976

The walk out to Swayambhunath from Kathmandu had me reaching for my Kodak instamatic.  Here are some further photos of the rural route and the sights around the monkey temple of Swayambhu that compliment the previous post for Tuesday 21st December 1976.

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!)”

SEVEN MINUTES IN TIBET – or at least gazing at the sentry post! Tibetan border trip, 1976

[Overland drivers were a resourceful lot and often had to supplement low wages (or no wages) with side trips until they got paid.  They held the trump card – the bus itself.  The Derek referred to in the diary was Derek Amey, another driver for Asian Greyhound whose overland trip had set off a little before ours.  I signed up for his day trip to the Tibetan border – that mysterious land under Chinese control that had fascinated me since reading ‘Seven Year in Tibet’ by Heinrich Harrer. 

In the 1920s my mother had been a baby carried around on a makeshift carriage through the Himilayas on my grandfather Bob Gorrie’s forestry work.  A family story tells that some high up British diplomat was piqued to discover that some British baby had beaten him into Tibet!

Derek Amey, who now lives in Australia, has set up a brilliant overland website covering many trips and bus companies from the 60s and 70s.  http://www.indiaoverland.biz/]

SUNDAY 19TH DECEMBER, 1976

Up early – Derek’s bus trip to Chinese border (ie Tibet).  Misty to begin with.  Lovely scenery into foothills – wooded winding gorges, green rivers; stopped at one which begins in Tibet and flows into Ganges!  Stopped at fantastic waterfall – another division between Tibet and Nepal.

Saw brown mountains of Tibet peeping between green slopes at borderBridge with Chinese guard in green sentry box at the other end.  Had passport stamped on Nepal side. [Kodari]

Stopped for lunch by river and hot spring baths (grotty concrete affair) – good KC’s packed lunch.

Stopped at swing bridge for fools to rush across (ie I didn’t!)  Grandmother, mother and happy kid – old woman with huge earrings in ears and big discs in nose.

Saw rice paper factory at side of road – mill to grind corn then muslin screens which woman used to sieve water and pulp mixture (bark pulp and ground corn) then left to dry in open air and then paper peeled off.

Lovely villages – mellow orange brick and dark thatch.  Women breast feeding by road.  Little kids carrying even littler kids!  Got back sixish.

Went to Shangri la with quite a few of the others – so service slow.  But nice when it came – shared a Tibetan dish with Di (like omelette) and also Buff Bean Curd (Buffalo meat) Nice.”

BOUDHNATH, KATHMANDU – bowled over by Buddhist temple and bonny boots, 1976

SATURDAY 18TH DECEMBER, 1976 – Part Two

Back in Kathmandu after lunch – at Utze Restaurant – really good, cheap Chinese food and quick service.  Then out to Stupa at Boudhnath – big solid white dome with steps up and ledge round to walk on, then layered pyramid with face on and streamers of rice-paper flags strung from top!  Extraordinary.  Like a pagoda except solid not hollow.

Saw inside fascinating Buddhist templewalked round with mouth open – up left and right were benches with four boys chanting very quickly – then banged huge gongs and clashed cymbals – very stimulating.  Pillars with strips of material hanging down; candles being lit at the back, bowls of water; golden images behind glass cases in centre and one to side full of little Buddhas; smell of incense strong (took shoes off).  Quite amazing and bewildering place.

Bought some cloth boots – rather good. 
Tickets still not here [for return home].  Had gin and orange with Pam to celebrate her sister’s engagement!  Then she, me, Fran and Sally went down for something to eat.  Went into Shangri la for meal (jam pancakes!)

Talked to American couple from another tour – hassle at border – lost 4 days because some had tried to smuggle pistachio nuts into India.  They’d had good weather.  All fascinating to compare trips.  We seem to be only group who’ve stuck together once in Kathmandu (we’re all at the same hotel!)”