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.”

XMAS EVE IN KATHMANDU – PARTY TIME! 1976

FRIDAY 24TH DECEMBER, 1976

Xmas Eve!  Di not well.  Went into town early and sent telegram home, “Happy Christmas – love you all. Alcoholica”!
Met up with Mark and Pam – wandered back – Mark bargained for our postcards – any excuse for an argument!  Walked through backstreets – cows, dark shops, rickshaws, kids with pockmarks – Pam worried in case gets chickenpox.  Met Rob and Maree eating rock hard gooey things – Mark said looked like cow pats!

Went in later to collect suits – Di went back because sick.  Yeti Travels, then expensive tea at Ra Ra Restaurant – not good.

Had bread and cheese and curd in room – Di in bed; Heidi egg nogging!  Then went to rum punch party in Chris and Nikki’s room.  Really good fun – lots of people there, great drink.  Rude comments about my green suit – “come in your pyjamas” etc.  Sang Christmas carols then decided to sing outside KC’s – so we all grouped at the door and sang away – difficulty in remembering words, but appreciated by diners at KC’s Xmas Eve party.  Sally knocked down some of new kitchen wall!  KC very tolerant with us.  Some of us sneaked in and listened to guitarists and drank Night Lifes, while others went on to sing elsewhere.

Tried to organise going to midnight mass but didn’t know where place was – Mike had already set off walking, had said I’d go too.  Joined others in cake shop – KC lit cake with brandy on – all had some – kept pouring rum into my coffee – no one paid for anything!  All very merry.  Went round kissing everyone merry Xmas.  Back to restaurant – funny little urchins grabbing onto us out of the dark.  Locked us into restaurant, so Nikki rushed back for Chris and others!  Pushed back tables and had a disco – really great bop.  Finished about 3 o’clock!  Got Xmas kiss from KC!”

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