DELHI CAMPSITE – no money for the bright lights but happy with corned beef and salad

[Money – or lack of it – was beginning to curb my tourist choices, and reduced me to hanging out at the campsite.  But at 18 I was easily pleased – an ice-cream, a lift on a Harley Davidson and a camp supper of corned beef seemed to be all it took to keep me happy!]

Inscription in Buddhist temple, Delhi


” They [Chris and Nicki] went off to embassy and we [Aussie Jan and me] went round emporiums of different states – nicely done up shops with regional handicrafts.  Got choker from Maharashtra and sandalwood letter opener/pen from Kerala.

Felt really shattered, so hunted down an ice-cream shop (best ice-cream ever – strawberry flavour) then piled into a Harley Davidson to the campsite.

Had a shower, hair wash – felt much better!
Sat in campsite cafe (on raised terrace) drinking coffee and chatting with Jan, Sue, Fred.  Lovely camp supper of salad and corned beef (no money to eat out or go to Son et Lumiere.  Caberet was on!  But too far out of town! sob sob)  There was a circus in town too.

Spent evening at cafe – big reminiscence of Durham, and Sunderland at Wembley with Di (owe her a coffee at House of Andrews!)

Others came back from Son et Lumiere – good music and lighting – and British Empire bashing in last 15 minutes!  Picked up Mike – mad Irishman working in Ceylon (VSO)”


[It was chill-out time in India’s capital city and then a meander through the bazaar area, Chandni Chauk, and a hot-bottom ride into Connaught Circus in central New Delhi.]


Had a lazy half a morning – coffee and actually cleaned my shoes!
Went into Delhi with Jan, Chris and Nicki by foot.  Walked up to Red Fort – I acted as official guide much to annoyance of real one who kept insisting he knew more than I did!  Had a coffee in the arcade.  (Red Ford built in 1600s by Shahjahan – put in prison by his third son who also bumped off his brothers to become Moghul)

Walked up to Chandi Chauk – very busy; amazing characters, people selling flowers of bright orange and yellow.  Women with baskets of mud on heads.  Great amount of drapers – cheap looking garments and loads of bright clothes.  Bazaar looked a bit too dingy.  Got scooter rickshaws to Connaught Circus – me and Jan got into a real heap – there was smoke coming up behind the seat and by me; my seat was red-hot!

Chris and Nicky took us to the Indian coffee-house up a lift – a real grotty cafe, but with waiters dressed in white with green cummerbunds and hats with parrot crest-type top.  Had 6 chips and a coffee!”

DELIGHTFUL DELHI – Mohguls, monkeys, levitation and a Harley Davidson!

[In a letter home I wrote that ‘Delhi’s a super place – drove around the new part – lovely broad steets and parkland.  Had a really good guided tour of the Red Fort’.  Little did I know that I was going to see a lot more of Delhi than I bargained for once the bus trip was over – and not as a tourist.  But luckily that 18 year old was oblivious to anything beyond the next amazing marble building or crowded bazaar.]


“I cooked porridge!

Took bus into New Delhi for a tour of town.  Really lovely broad streets and parks with big meadows and trees.  Drove up main parade road (crash barriers because used for processions on Republic Day etc)  Viceroy’s palace in front (hazy but impressive) and then past Parliament buildings and up Parliament Street to post office – 6 letters.

Very moving letter from Mum describing Chief’s [Dame Flora] funeral and cuttings showing Dad, Don, Rory, Tom and other familiar faces.  Felt I’d really experienced it.  All of them had carried coffin.  Felt upset – Di cheered me up by letting me talk about it.

Went to Nepalese Embassy for some people to get visas.  Saw round modern Hindu Temple – fascinating, mass of colour, almost garish.  Made me happy and want to laugh all the time.  Many statues of gods and goddesses.  Next door was a Buddhist shrine.  Elephant statues in the garden.

Drove to Connaught Circus and stopped for lunch.  Went and found a milk bar with Heidi and Di – dim lights, posh enterior and expensive prices – so had half a sandwich and a coffee for lunch!  Dodged back among bicyclists and richshaws.

Taken to “Ivory Palace” where we saw men stitching gold and silver thread on black velvet and carving intricate ivory pieces.  Lovely showroom of gems, evening bags, metalwork and ivory chess sets, jewellery, elephants etc – ivory sofa, chairs and screens that took 25 years to make by 2 men.  (This was near big Mosque).

Went to Red Fort (Di, Sally and Fran).  Got a guide who was very interesting about fort – Lahore Gate, “umbrella” bazaar, barracks, gardens, drum house and parade to audience house where Moghul Emperor sat on huge marble throne and listened to petitions etc. (used to be a marble way covered with canvas, lined with people).  Tiles behind throne of attractive birds taken by British but returned by Lord Curzon.  Lots of little chipmunks running about in the gardens.  Lovely marble buildings – delicate archways, inlaid jewels in shape of flowers etc.  Peacock throne base was in one of them – but throne now in Tehran.  Used to be a silver ceiling, channel of running water and big fountain in shape of lotus leaf.

Balcony looking over parks where Emperor used to say good morning to people.  Looked over this side of wall and saw a boy beating time while monkeys danced and jumped – threw him some “baksheesh”.  Then two boys doing levitation trick – one beating while other rises up under big white sheet.

Saw women’s winter and summer baths and a private mosque of the family’s.  On the way back were taken into a jewellers and I bought a little jade elephant (student’s price!).  Got a Harley Davidson back to campsite (motor bike had big carriage behind and above – very open).

Went shopping for dinner with Chris, Nicki and Di.  Couldn’t find any veg or rice (dark by now).  Man kept trying to sell us sandalwood necklaces in French!  Tried to get through to him and friends that wanted vegetables – they thought we wanted sandalwood tables!  Finally got through to him, so he took us off down dark narrow lanes, crowded out with kids and people and animals eating in the road.  Got to veg shop (men ironing in the back and veg in the front!)

Cooked for 20 – only about 13 around.”

EMERALD PUNJAB – palms, crocodiles, milk bars, bright green parrots!

[Now back in the Punjab after Kashmir, I was excited by everything I saw and aware that my grandfather Bob Gorrie could have been responsible for some of the trees planted 50 years previously.  One of his areas of expertise was the problem of soil erosion.  Trees were crucial in stopping this erosion from hillsides and from silting up fields and river courses.

His photo shows where ‘a big dam of earth and sand has been built by 14 villages each doing their share of the digging and carrying.  It is to keep a river in its proper place and stop it cutting away villages and fields.  It has since been planted up with a lot of trees which I had to arrange for.’]


“Geoff on the rampage because us cooks had slept in!  Lovely sunrise and ball of fire through the trees.  Locals watching but at a discrete distance.  Puffer train went by.

Interesting day’s drive – oxen pulling ploughs in greeny-brown fields – some green quite emerald in colour.  Palm-like trees among the others.  Big hay stacks and smaller cone-like grey ones.  Bright green parrots flew across road.  Plenty of horn blowing at slow oxen and carts and public buses.  Stopped to shop in village.  Medicine man sitting with bottles and baby crocodiles!

Next stop at a milk bar by a very pleasant garden – lawn and lots of flowers, 2 coloured umbrellas – part of a new dairy complex (project mostly in Punjab and nearby state).  Really nice cold milk drink – supposedly pineapple but tasted like the last one which was chocolate!

Stopped for lunch at cay shop – great little fellow collecting cups – big smiles, great concentration for job!  Builders nearby – wooden rough logs as scaffolding.  Very dark skinned workers.  Bill got left behind – Shirley only realised quarter of an hour after we left!  She suddenly shrieked “Where’s Willy?”!  Bill drove up in a truck a few minutes later!

Interesting countryside – little mud huts.  Great crowd by the road and going along parallel railway – great collection of trucks by side of the road – probably a local village fair – people streaming in on the area.

Reached Delhi after dark – through old city – great bright lights everywhere – big circus and old bazaar lit up.  Cooked on compound of campsite in middle of town.  Great meal!”
[My cooking team was Chrispin, Nicky and myself]

India Gate, New Delhi

BACK TO JUNGLE INDIA & ROUGH CAMPING – "Drive slowly your family needs you."

[My letters home had been full of ‘the great hospitality aboard the Golden Bell’ and the ‘superb meals’ cooked by Noor’s father, but now it was back to reality – the bus and camping rough and watching out for reptiles in the long grass!  I obviously wasn’t adapting well, as that night I went to bed without supper – I assume it was my choice and I wasn’t banished for inferior cooking]


“Left houseboats early – given pack lunches – father came through for tip.  Noor saw us off.  Nice morning – sunny when leaving of course.  Felt like beginning of term to get onto empty bus again!

Valley looked nicer in sunlight.  Snow quite low down – fallen since we’d come.  Passed huge army convoy all having a pee at side of the road!  Climbed up to pass again.   Lovely gorge on other side – trees again on steep sided mountains.

Signs on roads like, “Drive slowly your family needs you”!  Made good time – reached Kud again where ate picnic lunch at cay shop on terrace.

cay shop at Kud

Hills smaller, trees more dense.  Hydro-electric station.  Lovely purple hedgerows.

Drove quite late and camped on bit of old road – tents all in a row (Charge of the Light Brigade style!)  Geoff said keep out of long grass – snakes!!  Went to bed early without supper – so tired.”

Monitor lizard found in my grandparents’
 garden in Indian foothills, 1930s


[Me and Noor on his shikara]

[Life on a houseboat on Dal Lake in Kashmir might have been an echo of the Raj but we were seeing it in the bone-chilling winter.  I recall wistfully in a letter home that ‘it must be idyllic in the spring or summer drifting around the lake in a shikara …!’  As it was, the monotonous brown of bare trees and dead vegetation was relieved only by snow covered peaks and the blue flash of a kingfisher.  After an hour of sitting freezing in an open boat, we aborted a trip to the Moghul Gardens across the Lake, and asked to be taken home.  Noor, our host, abviously thought us a bunch of wimps and declared us ‘artificial’.  Only the familiar and welcome cry of ‘chocolates! macaroons!’ and the sudden appearance of the chocolate seller’s shikara, lifted morale.
I observed in a letter home: ‘you can get everything off these passing shikaras from shawls to vegetables.  I think some of them are telepathic, because you just had to murmur that you’d fancy a chocolate and they’d be there outside the window!’

This experience was used as a setting for a tense moment in my mystery novel, THE VANISHING OF RUTH]


Porridge! Omelette!

Taken by shikara to woodwork factory deep in middle of the Lake past slummy looking houses – very quiet up narrow canals – lots of vegetables growing.  No carving being done because still a holiday – very ornate carvings of dragons etc. 

Loads of us in little shikara on way back – one fella carrying bits of mutton – cut them the first day, give them as presents the next.  [This was still the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha] Taken to bank, then me and Neva had a short walk up to bridge – most of shops closed.  Lovely lunch of fish, tomatoes, chips, carrots followed by apple in pastry (very smoky taste).

Very cold trip in shikara to see Moghul gardens  Stopped at post office on a houseboat on the way.  Really freezing, so asked them to stop at small floating restaurant (government owned) and had cup of tea.  (Saw Maharajah’s house in distance, old king’s dwelling on mountainside and fort away in opposite direction.  Snow on hills in front.  Got them to turn back.  Had a go at paddling!  Stopped the chocolate man and had macaroon!  Noor said we were “artificial” for not wanting to go on (but would have been caught in the dark if had gone all the way).  Saw 2 blue kingfishers on fence by water.

Thawed out by stove.  Hot shower and good meal – felt better.  Noor pestered me to sell him my shorts for 5 rupees, so finally agreed.

[Neva and Julie in shikara]

Women wear great head gear – veil pinned at back of head and hanging quite long.”


[Our Overland stay in Kashmir coincided with the three day Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha (Festival of Sacrifice) that marks the end of the Hajj to Mecca.  It commemorates the trials of the Prophet Abraham who was asked by God to sacrifice his son Isaac.  Sheep are killed and the mutton shared out with family, friends and the poor.  There is much visiting and we called on our houseboat hosts and shared macaroons.  In a rather Scoto-centric way, I likened this to First Footing at New Year.]


Moslem festival – killing of sheep for each family; like their Xmas.  They have a three day holiday.  Had lie in till 9, then as well as the usual 3 course breakfast, we were presented with cake and macaroons by Gulam’s little girl – very solemn kid with lovely brown eyes.  Today they’d been made up and she was in a wide green dress with a hanky pinned to the front and little red shoes. [a letter home reports that ‘she was a big friend by the time we left!’]

Had a really lazy day sitting around writing letters and postcards.  Outside heard them all singing in the mosques – place deserted until 11.30; all go to mosque (only Noor left).  Saw the father going off in shikara.  Watched them all streaming back from mosque – festive air, fire-works (bangers) going off all the time.

Lovely Kashmiri meal cooked by father – 2 different cooked dishes of mutton in lovely masala sauces, cauliflower and rice.  Followed by banana and custard.  Had cold beer when Geoff and Fred popped in.

Went to see Noor’s father and Gulam’s wife and son in houseboat behind ours – really cold and bare – each room exposed to the outside – big open windows.  Rocked a lot.  Proudly shown each room (4 of them) then a fire at the far end and kitchen area at the other.  Pointed out Koran and photos. (Noor showed photos of his wedding – him in turban with a necklace of rupees.  Loads of family.  He had painted nails which showed he was married recently).  Apparently family visit each other during this festival (like New Year First Footing).  In kitchen, dangerous looking contraption – electrical wires in a bucket of water.

Later on we went and called at Geoff’s boat and had tea with Ian – the only one in.  He’d been ill and not out at all.  His news was that fares going up at home.  Went to “Pandora” – Chris, Nicki, Shirl, Bill, Janice and Ann.  Saw Nicki’s lovely rug.  Big argument about how much to tip the houseboys – Shirl believes part of their job to receive a tip.

Had another jeweller in that night – no business.  Hot shower.”


[Between hearty houseboat meals, we Overlanders got down to some serious shopping in old Srinagar as we were lured by shikara to view the beautiful handicrafts of Kashmir: carpets, shawls, papier mâché, jewellery, woodwork, knives …]


“Porridge and omelette, toast and tea for breakfast!

Noor arranged a shikara to take us round the back of the boats and up canals to old Srinagar to see papier mâché work.  Swamp-like appearance – brown banks, bare trees, tall brick houses with wooden shutters, all rather run down.  Women beating washing by side of lake, kids playing around on shikaras; met men selling vegetables, chocolates, drinks, detergents etc all on shikaras. (Saw one man with bicycle being rowed across on shikara!)  Dead cow floating in lake.

Came in past dilapidated houseboats and got out by bridge.  Boss of papier mâché factory took us up to a small workroom where a man and two little apprentices were painting the papier mâché.  One tiny fellow was rubbing papier mâché smooth with pumice stone.  Then we were led further into town, down little backstreets, past a school (looked like a warehouse) went up some wooden steps and along past classrooms.  Room at the end was another workshop where apprentice boys were moulding papier mâché onto moulds.  Then we were taken to see a 78 year old man (in the business since age of 10) who was doing intricate work with gold filter on top of varnished paintwork.

Had 2 little boys by him, practising flower designs in their books – really good.  Boss showed us ancient Kashmir vase (lovely figures and elephants on) which was on loan from America because the base needed re-doing – old man was mending it.  Then we were taken to his showroom, also up some obscure stairway.  Really fabulous goods on show – vases, boxes, egg cups, bangles, candle holders etc.  Lovely colours, flower patterns and little eastern figures.

Having bought a few presents (!) we were taken back to the shikara and made our way back past the houseboat to the main landing, where we were taken to the jewellers.  Had been round with his rings the night before – all very big with massive stones.  Went along to funny dark bank, through a mattress-type door.  Like a gambling den inside with bright light at cash desk and man behind it wearing a cap.

Back for nice lunch – meat and veg and apples.  Afternoon were taken to carpet factory by taxi to the old town.  Shown silk carpets – gorgeous green and blue carpets (thought ordinary ones not as nice as Persian – rather dull).  Smaller white hairy ones with nice coloured embroidery  – Neva got one with alphabet on.  Saw woodwork showroom – very cluttered so not the best effect; but stuff too ornately carved for me.  Also went to fur shop – wolf, fox coats and hats etc.

Taken to funny old post office to get stamps.  Hair-raising journey back in taxi – got into traffic jam – bicyclists everywhere, cars coming from all directions.  Driver had his hand permanently on horn!  Sent women scattering; was like the dodgems.

Superb meal – soup, duck and roast potatoes followed by stewed pears.  Tea served in sittingroom round the stove.  That evening, a man (friend of Noor’s) came to show his gorgeous Kashmir shawls.  Kept telling us to relax in our home and view his shawls.  Lights were not working, so oil lamps lit the room.  Also had lovely tablecloths and dressing-gowns to sell.  Tried on a red dressing-gown and a green cape – must come back with money some day!  (Shawl man said I should come back for my honeymoon!)

Then man with knives came – really hideous looking carving sets in shape of fish, and other things like nut crackers.  Later on, man with jewel stones came – most of our money spent so not much trade from us.  I bought a garnet for 11 rupees (70!) – my big purchase of the evening.”

HOUSEBOATS ON DAL LAKE – chocolate, hot showers and Zorro! KASHMIR, 1976

[Into Happy Valley and houseboats on Dal Lake by Srinagar in Kashmir – this was the stuff of Paul Scott’s Jewel in the Crown.  Our Housebout, the Golden Bell, had been run by the same Kashmiri family for generations and they were generous and entertaining hosts.  The boiler was antiquated, the furnishings Edwardian, the meals of meat and two veg and stewed puddings were the menus of the Raj.  Noor and his family lived and cooked on another boat moored behind ours – and a lot less comfortable.
In the 1920s, when my mother was a baby and my grandparents were trekking through the Himalayas on forestry work, she was slung on a makeshift carriage and carried through the jungle.  The world of houseboats in Kashmir in the 1970s probably hadn’t changed much since those days.  I often wonder what has become of those families and businesses as civil war has raged in Kashmir ever since.]


“Walked up hill to small village (Kud) and had coffee at cay shop looking over mountains and valley below.  Row of cay shops on raised terrace.

Lovely journey through mountains – great wooded slopes of fur trees – kept thinking of Grandad working in similar places.  Beautiful views up narrow deep gullies – eagles flying around.  Had to stop where army were pulling up a truck that had gone over the edge, quite far down.

Had really tasty samovas in small village (spicy filling in batter).  Fairly poor villages – drab clothing again.  They all go around with big coats on and fire baskets underneath – pots with charcoal in basket.  (Noor, our houseboat owner goes to sleep with his sometimes – once the bed went on fire!)

Before lunch we climbed to a pass and went through new tunnel to Happy Valley on the other side (Vale of Kashmir).  Here the mountain sides are bare.  Stopped for lunch – had super view over valley – wide and stretching into mist in the distance.  Looked over small hamlets – taller 2-3 storied houses.  Noise of meuzzin from mosques came drifting up to us.

Met by a boy from the houseboats.  Travelled down valley and arrived at Srinagar.  Trees all bare and everything very brown and dull at this time of year.  At the edge of Dal Lake, all piled out and into shikaras and taken to various houseboats.  Passed chocolate seller in his shikara – looked delicious and tasted it!  Luggage came on, on another boat.

Me, Neva, Paul, Julie, Pam and Mark were all in The Golden Bell.  Older smaller houseboat than some of the others – run by really friendly people – Noor Mohamed and Gulam – houseboat a family concern for several generations.

Lovely hot stove in little living-room – burnt wood in it (fairly expensive).  Had hot showers!!  Stood in old tin bath – tiny bathroom.  Rooms really cold, but each given a hotty at night!  Noor put on stiff white waiter’s jacket to serve on us at supper!  Had delicious lamb, potatoes and carrots, soup and stewed golden apples.  Great to sit down at a table again.  Lovely old-fashioned furnishings and pictures (Edwardian) on the walls.

That evening we piled into a shikara and went over to Maid of the Mountain (Rob, Maree, Diane, Mary, Pam and Sue’s boat) big central room.  Chris, Nicki, Geoff, Jan, Fred, Chris, Hans and Adrian all there too.  Had gin and limes, rum, brandy; then Rob organised a game of charades!  All chose a film title (2 different teams) and gave one to member of the other team to act out  in front of their group – time limit too.  Their group gave us the most obscure titles to act (must have made them up!) eg Robin Hood Maid Marion, Lust in the Dust!  I got the worst one – “The Erotic Adventures of Zorro” What acting!  I was exhausted!  Still they managed to guess it (just over time limit) but Geoff felt I deserved extra for effort!

Really cold that night.  Me and Neva had a long chat about homes, the bus etc (and how cold we were!)”


[From Amritsar we made for Kashmir, that disputed land between India and Pakistan.  On the way we passed village India – vultures at a slaughter house, roaming elephants, snake charmer, good chai – and then rose into the hills alongside army convoys. 

In a letter home I reflect: ‘Kept thinking of Granny and Grandad as we drove through forested mountains and especially through the Punjab … the Punjab villages were fascinating – full of fried smells and cay shops; saw my first elephant eating branches off the trees …’

This landscape would have been very familiar to my Scottish grandparents (my grandfather was a conservator of forests here in the 1920s to 1940s).  Strange to think that my mother, Sheila Gorrie, would have known the Himalayan foothills of India as home, long before she set eyes on her own mountains of Scotland.]


Woke to heavy dew, morning mist.  Lots of bicyclists with gaily coloured turbans – most of them stopped to look at us!  Trains roaring past on the other side of road; road lined with tall trees.

Soon after leaving we saw loads of vultures in field by the road.  Stopped and went over to see them – massive ugly birds with long necks; some found it hard to take off because so full!  Flocked up onto trees – looked top-heavy on branches, made trees look undersized!  Slaughtering going on nearby – skinning buffalo for skins and leaving carcasses for the vultures.

Stopped at little village (with a MacRobert Hospital, Salvation Army!)  Incredibly cheap fruit and veg eg 7p for 5 bananas.  Walked up village and saw 2 elephants!  One big one tearing down ends of branches and eating them, with little fellow next, trying to get a look in by putting its trunk in the biggun’s mouth!  Both had painted ears and top of trunks.  Big one had something strapped to its back.

Stopped for lunch at wayside – incredible amount of army trucks going by (now in Jammu & Kashmir – heavily guarded).  Wandering through a dry empty field – lovely view of fields, hedgerows and greenish dips; round cocoon-type nests hanging from couple of trees – all empty.

Countryside becoming greener, with lovely pink flowers in hedges and gradually hillier.  Went to tourist place in Jammu – very helpful and friendly.  Snake charmer by bus – pipe and 2 snakes around neck and arms!  I decided to watch from the window!
Cay stop at little village – very nice cay – water boiled up with the milk, tea and sugar.  Into hills – lovely orange sunset over hills and green gullies – green pool and waterfall; climbing up slopes covered in green scrub.  Villages full of friendly waving people.  Camped quite far up by the road – dropping away to valley below.”