Wednesday 12th August
Got down to some serious thinking about trekking, and decided to climb the ridge surrounding Kathmandu to see what was on the other side. Found out we needed permits, so after getting the necessary photos we walked all the way to the immigration office, only to find that it was closed.
Thursday 13th August
Did our usual bumming around. I ended up with a bad attack of the runs, so we again failed to make the immigration office. Chewed on some opium to try and dry things up a bit, but with little success. That evening I went down with a fever. Jerry got me some pills from a chemist (of which there are several, all selling a wide variety of European and American drugs) and, fever wise, I was ok by morning.
Friday 14th August
Malc and I both still had the runs, so we spent the day in the café, venturing out to wander round the town. Read “Seven Years in Tibet”, the story of a German interred in India at the beginning of the war who escaped into Tibet and eventually befriended the Dalai Lama. A very good book, which made me long to go to Tibet.
Saturday 15th August
Took a bus to Patan, a town about 3m from Kathmandu. We regretted not taking cameras, as the temples there were far better preserved than those in Kathmandu, and the town in general was less spoilt. Back in Kathmandu I got chatted up by a rather gorgeous Nepalese girl who sat down beside me in the café, but I lost interest when she started bumming food etc., even (or even more so) when she made it clear she was prepared to trade! The Nepalese are a very natural people in this respect, and think nothing of extra-marital affairs, provided no-one except the parties involved know. They also seem to be fairly free of hang-ups about modesty. In general they seem an extraordinarily happy race, and their smiles are so frequent and spontaneous that it is very difficult to feel sad here.
Sunday 16th August
Made a few sorties round the town, and chatted in the evening to the English guys we’d met at Benares station. It’s amazing how many European goods one can buy in Kathmandu – it’s getting very touristy. The two main souvenirs we bought were Ghurkha kukris and Tibetan calendars. The Ghurkhas have a tradition concerning the former. Once they have drawn their kukri they never put it back without drawing blood, so their thumbs are covered in little scars where they have nicked them having drawn the knife for peaceful purposes.
The Tibetan calendars are also quite interesting. I bought mine in the Monkey Temple, and on the way down met a Tibetan monk who could speak Nepalese and two Nepalese who could speak English. I found out that the “calendar” was used to flatten a dough of flour and water before offering it to the gods, and the symbols on it are the deities, which become embossed on the dough. Mine was probably made in the Tibetan refugee camp outside Kathmandu.
Monday 17th August
Spent our last day walking round taking the odd photograph and having a last look at favourite spots. In the evening Malc, who was tired, went to bed while I went to a party. This was a regular event at the bakery, near the monkey temple, every full moon. Plenty of hashish and LSD on offer. They also had the most incredible sitar player, who kept us entertained for about 5 hours. Lots of food too, for 5 rupees, which I didn’t have, so I climbed in the back. Left the party about 4:00 a.m..
Tuesday 18th August
Got back to the hotel about 5:00 a.m., woke Malc, and just made the airport bus at 5:30. Took off at 7:00 a.m., and got our first glimpse of what the Himalayas had to offer in the way of snow-capped peaks. Landed in Delhi about 9:30 and took a scooter rickshaw straight to the dentist Sondhi’s, getting held up for about 15 mins on the way when a train stopped astride a level crossing. Picked up some money I’d left with them, and then went in and picked up the sitar. This had come out really well, just as I imagined it. Took it along to the bus station and bought 3 deluxe tickets to Chandigarh (one for the sitar, which I wanted inside). The coach was air-conditioned and felt like a plane, which accounted for the 17 rupee price.
Arrived at Chandigarh about 9.00 in the evening, and took a taxi straight to the Sondhis’ where the others were. They’d got in that morning from Kashmir, bringing Andy Ransom with them. Andy was an old school and college friend, on a sister expedition to ours, who’d left his party to look at Kashmir. So we swapped stories over dinner. They had quite a lot to tell, not least about how expensive the food had been up in Kashmir. They’d been living mostly on bread and jam for the week. This was due to their visit coinciding with the annual pilgrimage to a holy cave in the mountains, said to house the lingam of Lord Shiva. Apparently the weather had been so bad that several pilgrims had died of exposure. Things weren’t helped by the shopkeepers starting to charge 150 rupees to hire a tent for the night, and 3 rupees (12x usual price) for a cup of tea, these prices being to people half dead of exposure.
Went to bed early, needing the kip. Mike lost the toss as to who should go down to Delhi to get a new Pakistan road permit (we’d lost the original one), so we put him on the night train first.
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