TALES FROM AN UNTIDY BUS – washing strewn everywhere and there’s a body in the aisle, 1976

EXTRACTS FROM LETTER HOME, WRITTEN IN FLORENCE, ITALY, 1976

” … refrained from spending small fortunes on leather goods (and of course the pink inflatable pocket size statue of David – thought you’d like it for the new mantelpiece at Suardal!)
However we treated ourselves to real Italian pizzas and ice cream (water melon flavour)

… the rain has caught up with us again I think we’re cursed.  Tonight we’re going into a disco – the Red Garter.

By the way we’re not going to Tehran which is a bit of a shame, so don’t write there.  Geoff the driver (a Scot) said that writing on p.cs or aerogrammes to Asia is advisable so no one will break into them.  (It takes about 4 days for a letter to get to Istanbul).

We’re a day ahead of schedule if you’re following on the map!  The group we met in Paris were a month overdue from Kathmandu, so I may be spending Xmas in the Khyber Pass!  Half their group were struck by hypertytus [sic] and flown home!

Well, signing off – got to tidy the bus!  At the moment all the packs are down, washing is strewn from railings and there’s a body sleeping in the aisle (Fred who appeared in Paris and makes himself useful cleaning windows etc – done the trip before).

Off to Venice tomorrow,
Love and kisses,
Jan

HOGMANAY IN DELHI – a ticket hunt that leads to mice at Ma Calaco’s, 1976

[It’s Hogmanay but Delhi is a long way from the Isle of Skye.  Nikki and I are on a search for tickets home, existing on coffee and toast and running out of money.  It’s going to be a long last day of 1976 …]

Nikki on the bus

FRIDAY 31ST DECEMBER, 1976 – Part One

“Both woke early and checked out.  Wandered around Place, nowhere open.  Found hotel so had toast and coffee there.  Then got rickshaw to Post Restante (one of million that we got that day!) 

At P.R. bombshell hit us – no chit saying we had registered mail.  (Got letters for Di and Rob).  I asked if could check reg mail – sent to a different building.  Asked again at big school where to go – nice priestly looking men; boys playing cricket.  Found place eventually.  Asked to see reg. mail – bloke wouldn’t listen because we had no chit from the post office.  Both broke down and cried!  So he relented and took us up to nice middle-aged man in charge of the mail.  Let us look through the book.  Nothing come the whole of December for either of us (although Asian Greyhound had telexed Kathmandu that Nikki’s had arrived and mine on its way 2 weeks ago).

Told to come back at 4.  Decided to check p. restante under name Asian Greyhound – wouldn’t let us when got there.  Decided to go to British Airways and see if booked with them.  Nice [Sikh] man very helpful, sent telex to A.G. asking for details of tickets – we don’t even know the company flying with, let alone the date!  Told to come back later.

Went to Ariana [Afghan Airways] – but they’d moved.  So trailed over to new building – asked if booked with them – had no record of it.  Went to Iraqui Airways – sent upstairs (like following clues to a riddle!)  Nice man but no record of our tickets, said would telex on Monday if not arrived.

Exhausted, fell into restaurant and had coffee and omelette.  Hardly spoke felt so miserable – both on verge of tears all day.  Set off again – tried Indian Airways and Syria-Arab Airways but no luck – tickets don’t seem to exist!

Decided to find accommodation.  Shirley had given us address of Mrs Calaco’s, Janpath Lane.  Booked in – she turfed 2 weird blokes out [of room] and gave us their beds.  Filthy bare room, dark, with 4 beds in and nothing else.  Beds made of huge frames and canvas strapping for mattress.  Given 2 grotty sleeping bags because had nothing.  Both lay down – Nikki had sore throat and headache.

Watched mouse running over opposite bed and onto window ledge by bloke’s food etc.  Both burst into tears!  Never known such despair – and on Hogmanay too!  Funny Dutchman came in and brewed up some tea – said there were loads of mice and proudly showed us a trap he had made!”

BOXING DAY IN KATHMANDU – bicyles, buffalo steak and the blues! 1976

[Word came through that return tickets for Nikki and I were waiting at Post Restante in Delhi – this was the pre-electronic quaint old days of handwritten letters and cryptic telegrams where mail was sent to post offices in large cities to await collection.  So the next step in finding the elusive tickets was to arrange to back-track to Delhi …]

SUNDAY 26TH DECEMBER, 1976

Slept in!  Got up and went with Nikki to book tickets for Delhi.  Yeti Travels confirmed flight to Patna but not Delhi – our usual luck.  Back to hotel – Di still sleeping; Heidi got touch of flu but wandering up and down corridor!  Went and joined Sally and Adrian in Shangri la for pancake.

Then went into Yeti Travels again to check mail – got letter that should have received on 23rd – from family in Malvern – various rude messages tacked on end of Mum’s letter! [from brother Torquil]  Met Rob there – he gave me lift back to hotel on back of bicycle – hair-raising experience!  Dodging cows, rickshaws, roundabouts – nearly thrown into gutter but didn’t come off once!

Met Sally on roof (superb view over Kathmandu and surrounding hills, could see Swayambuth easily).  Went and gave jackets to little man to put dragon on.

Had drinks in Anders’s room with Heidi, Bill, Shirley, an American couple en passant (French interjection!)  Then Di, me and Sally went and ate at Shangri la – buff steak and chips, then coffee at KC’s – met Hans and Chris.  Then went for drinks in Gary and Beryl’s room (Canadian couple that met us all over Xmas and live near Bill and Shirl in Vancouver). 

Great evening – packed at first – Chris and Nikki (went early because Chris got dizzy spell), Rob, Maree, Diane, Mark and Pam, Hans, Chris, Di, Sally, me, Anders, Heidi (left then came back!).  Had great chat with Little Chris about Skye – he climbs in Cullins – very keen – made me feel close to home.  Listened to tapes, then Gary and Rob started playing guitar – Rob played blues and Gary played bongo drum; then Gary played folk songs and lovely Philipino song.  Shirley came in because couldn’t sleep.  Then got complaint about foot stomping from bloke below!  Beryl broke party up at 2.30 because of noise.  Said goodbye to Di, Rob and Maree.”