Wednesday July 1st
The start of yet another month and the year is already half gone. Unbelievable that so much has happened in those six months but time just seems to have whizzed by. I wonder what the next six months will have in store for me and whether they’ll pass equally as fast.
I didn’t wake up until after 10-00 a.m. because we hadn’t got to sleep until late (2-00 a.m.). This was due firstly to an invasion of small insects which we had to deal with by spraying the room with a spray Rita had with her and secondly to the fact that I must have been allergic to the spray so that I couldn’t stop sneezing for ages, developing something like hay-fever for a while.
When I did sleep though I slept well and woke up fairly refreshed. Later on I made a request to the ‘management’ to cover a couple of large-mesh grilles so that the insects couldn’t get in. Although at first I thought the guy hadn’t understood, when we returned in the evening my request had been complied with so hopefully there won’t be a repeat of the problem tonight.
Today was basically for organising things and as such it was successful. We left the hotel at 11-00 a.m. and went first to the railway station to try and make a reservation for a train to Jammu on Friday. After some messing about filling out forms and making enquiries I was eventually successful in obtaining bookings for Friday on a special train, put on for the summer rush, which leaves at 16-15 and arrives early the next morning.
We must return a little earlier on the day the train leaves to check where we’ve been put on the train. While all this was going on Rita sat down and got talking to a Sikh guy, Suni, who we met again later in town. He had a tri-shaw and was connected with a firm called ‘Kashmir Himalayan Expeditions’ which possesses houseboats in the Srinagar area. More of that later.
Left the station at 12-15 p.m. and started to walk into the centre of New Delhi, a walk of some twenty minutes. Once there we went into a shop, which I’d remembered from last time I was here, where I had a nice pint of milk and Rita had a pineapple milk shake. Suitably refreshed we went to the post office and posted various letters; Rita’s to her parents, my card to divert any mail from Calcutta to Srinagar and my diary to Jan.
Also bought five aerogrammes for Rita and discovered how high the newly applied postal increases really were. An aerogramme which would have cost R1-60 yesterday now costs R2-70. The cost of an ordinary overseas letter hasn’t risen quite so steeply, the diary cost R12-30 as opposed to R9-15 before for the same weight. This all illustrates though how inflation is ravaging the Indian economy. The annual rate is presently 20%.
We then went back to the bank where Rita changed another US$100 T/Chq at a branch of Grindlays Bank. They were incredibly slow. After that we wandered around for a while trying to locate the Air India office so I could book my ticket to Frankfurt and Rita could enquire about the cost of a ticket from Delhi to Bombay.
It was after half-an-hour of walking about in the intense humidity of the early afternoon that we ran into Suni again. He persuaded us to go with him and at least have a look at the prospect of booking a houseboat. If we did he promised to take us to the Air India office as well, which was conveniently nearby.
Sped off into the traffic (almost literally) and within five minutes were at the shop cum office of the ‘houseboat company’. We chatted for a while over a cup of tea to the owner, a young Kashmir guy whose father in fact owned the houseboats and a very well educated young Indian who works for him.
They were very nice and we agreed to take a place on one of the boats for our first night in Srinagar at least. This will cost R60 with breakfast for a ‘C’ category ‘room’, which I was led to believe includes a bedroom, living room & dining room plus the services of several ‘servants’ who live on a separate boat nearby. If it’s as good as it sounds we may well stay there for the duration of our time there, we’ll see.
At 2-20 p.m. we were driven to the Indian Airlines office where Rita got a ticket to Bombay alright leaving at 8-30 p.m. on the 25th. The flight takes 1¾ hours and should leave plenty of time for her to connect with the flight back to Frankfurt which leaves Bombay at 1-20 a.m. on the 26th. The cost was US$81 or R715 which is expensive but saves all the hassle and time involved if she’d had to get the train down there.
We then went to the Air India office where, after waiting half-an-hour or so, I got my reservation made as well. I also managed to get a flight alright although mine leaves a little later at 8-55 a.m. on the 26th. It will be quite a long flight stopping at Bombay, Rome and then Frankfurt at 5-00 p.m. on the Sunday afternoon.
At 4-30 p.m. we headed back towards the railway station so that I could try to book our return tickets from Jammu for the 24th arriving in New Delhi on the morning of the 25th. On the way we stopped at a magazine shop which stocked international mags. and newspapers. I managed to get an airmail copy of yesterday’s Guardian for only R10.
At the station I bought tickets from Jammu to New Delhi and got a wire sent to book berths for the 24th. We got back to the hotel shortly after 6-00 p.m. and made enquiries about various tours which we could take tomorrow. Jaipur seemed out of the question as it involves a one-night stay and Agra (for Rita) would involve a very long day with a lot of travelling and a little sightseeing.
We booked instead the Delhi & New Delhi tour for R12 each which leaves at 9-30 a.m. and returns at 5-30 p.m. We will be picked up from the hotel tomorrow morning.
After a hectic day in which we’d got everything organised alright (or rather I did) we rested for a while and freshened up with a cooling shower. I also read some of the Guardian paper I’d bought earlier, before a power-cut plunged the room into darkness. Shortly afterwards, at 7-15 p.m. we went again to get some food.
I took Rita through the bazaar, which was bustling with life, and back to some of the haunts of my first time in Delhi. We had dinner at a street-side restaurant I’d been to before. We had a really filling meal consisting of chicken masala, fried dahl, egg & potato curry and two fruit juices each + mango & orange. It was all excellent.
Halfway through the meal we were again plunged into darkness as another power-cut hit. We’d already got our supply of chapattis so we were able to keep eating. The meal was excellent and really good value. With our stomachs weighing us down, we waddled back through the bazaar again, stopping only for a fruit beer (non-alcoholic) before retiring to the room at 9-30 p.m.
Spent the rest of the evening writing, chatting to Rita (nothing heavy) and cooling myself down with another shower. Didn’t go to bed until nearly 1-00 a.m., exhausted after quite a hard day. Am looking forward to what should be an interesting tour of the city tomorrow.
Thursday July 2nd
I woke up first at 8-15 a.m. after a good night’s sleep and had a refreshing shower to wake me up properly. Sat around reading my paper before Rita woke up at 9-00 a.m.
We ordered a couple of teas which we drank in the room before going downstairs at 9-45 a.m. to wait for the bus which would later take us on our sightseeing tour. Thinking about it later it was the first tour of its kind that I’d ever been on during my various travels and it certainly turned out to be an amusing experience (although also very tiring).
The bus arrived at 10-00 a.m. and we were soon on board for our magical mystery tour of Delhi. Our touring companions were mostly Indians although there were also a young Israeli couple who we got chatting to later on. It would be impossible to go through the trip in any sort of order (on paper anyway) as we saw so many different things which eventually became a huge blur.
It was a bit like a comedy show with the guide speaking very fast, monotonous ‘Indian’ English which was difficult even for me to understand. When we weren’t travelling along in the bus swivelling our heads from right to left to see various sights we were getting on and off the bus for periods varying from ten minutes to three-quarters of an hour.
The bus wasn’t exactly of our ‘luxury’ standard and when the guide wasn’t talking our eardrums took a bashing from some very loud Indian music which was blasted from a loudspeaker at the front of the bus. Despite all the disadvantages though, we were taken to some very interesting places (and some not so interesting), a few of which I’ll try to describe.
Jama Masjid, a beautifully constructed mosque made from coloured marble which was built in the 17th century. It is beautifully maintained and we had a good look around the various altars & gardens (in bare feet of course). There was a prevalence of symbols in the temple, which are found all over India in many religious places, looking strangely like swastikas. I used to think there was some connection and that Hitler had used the symbol as well for some religious purpose.
Qawat-ul-Islam mosque is an old temple at the centre of a whole series of ruins dating back to the 5th century. The whole construction must have looked fantastic and even today looks fascinating with various different remains including a tower which was originally seven ‘stories’ high but now only consists of five, still pretty impressive.
In the centre of the ruins was a tall metal cylinder dating from the C5th made out of non-rusting metal. The story goes that if you can join hands round it, standing backwards, then you’ll be world famous one day. Needless to say I couldn’t do it. This place and the newer temple already mentioned I found to be the most interesting sights we visited.
We also saw the Nehru Memorial, Gandhi Memorial, Shantivan, Mumayan’s Tomb, Cottage Industries museum and lastly the Red Fort which looked really impressive on the outside with its red sandstone walls but was a little disappointing once we got inside.
From the bus many things were also pointed out to us such as the embassy area, India Gate and the open-air railway museum. They certainly managed to cram a lot of sightseeing into one day although it all got a bit too much towards the end of the tour. All the Indian tourists seemed quite happy with it though.
It was certainly a splendid way to see a lot of things very fast but in the end the mind becomes a little dulled by it all. We were eventually unceremoniously dumped at Connaught Place and had to walk back to the hotel which took us twenty minutes so that we arrived back at the hotel at 5-30 p.m. (official tour end-time).
Both of us were quite tired and had a rest for a while before I took a shower. We then sat around reading for ages. I read a very interesting article in the Guardian about a BA course being run in business studies. It lasts for four years and includes practical experience in Hull and Munster. It leads to a degree both in Germany and England although four years is a long time.
It was getting late before either of us realised the time. Rita wasn’t hungry so at 8-45 p.m. I went off on my own to get something to eat. It was good to be alone for a while again and after wandering about I found a south Indian restaurant where I ate my fill for R2-50. I had a ‘special dosa’ which is a sort of thin pancake filled with potato, peas & salad along with several tasty sauces of which you could eat as much as you wanted.
I then wandered through the bazaar, stopping once at an Allurvedic chemists to enquire about some special tooth powder. I bought some Chaywanprash (health tonic) the other day for R11 (250 ml) which I’m now taking three times a day. It may be purely in the mind but I’m certainly feeling healthier because of it.
Tonight I bought some special tooth powder to help against paradontose (pyorrhea) as my gums have been getting very tender & sore again recently. Hopefully with the new toothbrush I bought as well it will help.
On the way back to the hotel I also bought ½ kg of lichees (fruit) for R5 which on my return Rita and I ate. They were delicious. Rita also bought some apple juice which we drank so we should be bouncing with vitamins soon (or get the raging shits).
We also had a long talk and got a few more age-old problems out into the open and in so doing clarified how we felt about each other and life in general. We are certainly finding it easier to talk with each other openly here and also without the aid of alcohol, which we often needed in Frankfurt before things were said (and then often misunderstood).
Talked for a couple of hours before Rita did some reading and I wrote for a while. It is now 1-30 a.m. and although I’m tired I will probably try drafting a letter (about the BA course) before going to bed. Tomorrow we should be heading on up to Kashmir and hopefully be able to take at least a two week break in the sunshine before making any decisions about my future.
Went to bed at 2-00 a.m. (didn’t get the letter done).
Friday July 3rd
Woke up once at 8-30 a.m. and then again at nearly 10-15 a.m., disturbed by all the building work going on around us.
Had a wash and started packing in preparation for our move north today. My packing was quickly completed although my clothes all need washing once we reach Kashmir. Rita took a little longer getting prepared but we were both ready by 11-30 a.m. We had a last cigarette before going downstairs and checking out of the hotel.
I paid the bill and we left our luggage with reception so that we could go into town for a couple of hours. The weather was absolutely stifling with very high humidity, a haze over the city and only a slight cooling breeze.
It was really uncomfortable to be walking around so we made our way as quickly as possible to Connaught Place when we took a short breather (literally) and had a milk shake each. Rita had pineapple and I had vanilla which was delicious.
We then checked at the airline coach office on the times of buses going out to the airport and found me which will suit our purpose on the 25th, it goes at 18-45. To escape the heat we then went underground to the air conditioned bazaar where conditions were much cooler.
Wandered around for a while looking at the various shops before stopping at a Chinese restaurant where we had a meal to fill the gap before our journey up to Srinagar. I had sweet & sour vegetable while Rita had a chicken chow mein.
By the time we had finished eating it was nearly 1-30 p.m. so we headed back into the heat and towards the railway station. Once there I checked our tickets and found that we’d got berths alright in coach E nos. 50 & 53 (both lower berths).
After a coffee we walked back to the hotel and collected our luggage, drinking a refreshing glass of water there before going back to the station again. We arrived back there at 3-00 p.m. and made our way across to platform 7 where our train was due to leave.
I bought some reading material for the train, a newspaper (Times of India R0-50) and a magazine (India Today R4). We also got chatting to a young German guy heading in the same direction and later on saw a few other young westerners trying to locate their places on the train as well.
Spent ages wandering up & down the platform trying to locate our carriage. Eventually found it near the front of the train at 4-00 p.m. and fetched Rita and the luggage so that we were safely on board when the train left promptly at 4-15 p.m.
The journey was pretty uneventful and I spent the first three hours or so reading the newspaper & magazine I’d bought. Also ordered a meal but as it worked out I didn’t need it and it never arrived either. Instead we were invited to join the two Indian families travelling with us and had a delicious vegetarian meal with chapattis.
The two families were travelling together to Kashmir with their numerous children who seemed to spend half their time clambering over us and shouting at the tops of their voices. We had the meal at 7-30 p.m. and then at 9-30 p.m. we got all the berths ready and went to bed.
I got to sleep quite quickly and was dead to the world by 10-00 p.m.
Saturday July 4th
Woke up at 1-00 a.m. because there was so much noise from the station we had stopped at. Rita was also awake so we had a couple of teas to quench our thirst from the meal (which had been very spicy). Rita went to sleep again quite quickly but I was unable to sleep again for a long time.
Instead I did a lot of thinking and later on even drafted a letter about the BA course which I’ll try to get written once we’re settled in Kashmir. If by some chance I was accepted for the course then I’d have to stop dreaming and decide whether the whole idea was practically possible.
Got back to sleep at 3-30 a.m. and slept well until 6-00 a.m. when Rita woke me up. I felt pretty groggy but before I knew it we’d arrived in Jammu so I had to spur myself into action.
It is now 7-30 a.m. and I am sitting on the steps near to the station with Hans (a young German guy) while Rita queues for our bus tickets (she had to do some work sometime). The queue is a long one and she has already been there nearly an hour although she is now nearing the front of the queue.
We have been informed (reliably or not I don’t know) that the trip to Srinagar lasts twelve hours so it will be good to have someone meeting us there and taking us to the houseboat.
Rita has just got back with the tickets, shortly after 8-00 a.m. so we should be off soon (hopefully). We had reserved seats on an ‘A’ class bus which cost R30-50 each and was due to leave at 8-30 a.m. Having got our bags stowed on top of the bus we boarded it and took our seats although it didn’t leave until after 9-00 a.m.
The journey took eleven hours in all and was quite a comfortable and enjoyable ride. In all the distance between Jammu & Srinagar was just over 300 Kms. A lot of it involved winding roads up into the hills and along various river valleys. The scenery became increasingly spectacular as we wound our way deeper into the mountains & valleys leading up to the Kashmir Valley along which we travelled for the last third of our journey.
Made several stops along the way for refreshment. Normally we just had some tea but at one stop we also had some salad and chapattis, which were really tasty. We also had a lively crew which included two drivers (taking turns along the winding & sometimes dangerous roads) and a couple of younger guys as assistants.
There was a beautifully chalked notice at the front of the bus written in both Hindi and English which said ’no smoking’ but as the crew were smoking most of the time they had no objections to us doing so as well.
The road was littered with the remains of landslides and there were many groups of workers along the way repairing parts of the road which had fallen away or bridges that needed strengthening. At times the driving was pretty hair-raising, made worse by the fact that we were sitting near the front of the bus.
We saw many advisory signs telling drivers to slow down and be careful. We saw the scene of one bad accident where a vehicle had crashed through one of the protecting walls and into the valley and a couple of trucks were there towing it out. There was also evidence of a large military presence in the province (due to its proximity to Pakistan).
This was especially noticeable for the first half of the journey where there were many army checkpoints along the road and each town or village had its own army camp so that soldiers sometimes seemed to outnumber civilians. There were also many army trucks along the road and many soldiers on the numerous buses travelling to and from Srinagar.
The weather was very variable along the way. We started off in heavy cloud cover but later on this broke up a lot and we were treated to several hours of beautiful sunshine. As we neared Srinagar the clouds returned with some high winds and rain which made it seem quite cold.
When we arrived I donned my cardigan for the first time since Darjeeling. Later on in the evening it rained quite heavily but more of that then. The last third of our journey was the most impressive as we climbed up to the highest point on the highway at nearly 8000 ft. before passing through a long tunnel which had been driven straight through the mountainside.
We emerged on the other side and caught our first glimpses of the beautifully lush green Kashmir Valley. The lower ground was well irrigated and consisted largely of rice fields and other corn crops. The houses were also fascinating with most of them being in the same style (if a little more sophisticated) as Nepalese buildings.
After a very enjoyable journey we arrived at the bus station in Srinagar at 8-00 p.m. only to be pounced upon by many agents trying to get us to stay at their houseboats. We searched in vain for a representative of the company through which we had booked our first night. The agents were all very clever offering us many different terms to go with them.
I went into the tourist reception centre where I found out that the correct price for a ‘C’ category room (without breakfast) was R40 so we then had a little more idea of our bargaining position. We were ‘taken into protection’ by one of the guys at the tourist desk only to be released to an agent a little later who proved to be cleverer than the rest (although still quite helpful & friendly).
He had a card from ‘Kashmir Himalayan’ (among many others) and we went along with him although we ended up going to one of his three houseboats and getting a place there. We went first with a tri-shaw and then on one of the small ‘Venice-type’ ferry boats which took us to the ‘Wild Rose’ (one of over 800 houseboats on Dal Lake).
Our host (Gulam Kawa) showed us around the boats and we sat for a while drinking tea on his ‘B’ category boat (normal cost R90 incl. breakfast) where he said we could stay for our first night. It was really classy with a lovely bedroom with attached bathroom, a dining room and beautiful living room.
We were also shown his ‘C’ category boat on which we’ll probably stay from tomorrow. It is also quite adequate with the same basic facilities. If we decide to stay for a week or so then the guy has offered us a room (it becomes vacant tomorrow) for R50 a night including breakfast for us both.
After sitting talking to him for a while we had a wash before joining an English guy (from Surrey), an Australian girl and a French guy on the other boat. The girls had a small room in which we sat. I had a couple of really enjoyable smokes with them which got me nicely stoned for the first time in over a week.
Played cards for a while (Blackjack) in which Rita also took part. The game went on for ages and was really amusing. I then chatted with the English girl for a while (I’ve forgotten names as always). She has been here for quite a long time (India, I mean) but returns to England in September to go to university where she’ll study the psychology of language which sounds intriguing.
Shortly after midnight we drank a tea before returning to our deluxe bedroom for the night. I lay there for ages, feeling really relaxed after the smoke, although Rita got a little annoyed because of my lack of physical reaction to her. We did chat for a while but she hasn’t learnt how to handle me properly when I’m stoned.
Went to sleep at 1-00 a.m.
Sunday July 5th
Woke up quite early at 8-30 a.m. after a good night’s rest. Had a really cold shower which bought me to life again and I then sat for an hour writing my diary.
Rita woke up at 10-00 a.m. and after she’d had a shower we sat chatting for a while before going over to the other boat (the Wild Rose) where we’ve decided to stay for a week or so. I had to fill out an agreement form & discovered that we also have to pay 10% service tax on top of the R50 a night.
Had breakfast which was very tasty and included a large pot of tea, two plates of toast and an omelette each. After that we sat in the living room and had a look at the wares of two merchants (friends of the owner). First we looked at some shawls, shirts & carpets which were beautifully hand-embroidered and then at a selection of set stones, bangles and boxes.
We weren’t exactly big buyers (Rita bought a bangle for R3) but it was interesting looking at all the different things they had. I may even have a plain silk/cotton shirt made for me, later on. By the time we had finished ‘window-shopping’ it was already 1-30 p.m.
The rest of the afternoon was spent making ourselves at home and getting a few essential things done. The boat is quite impressive. We have a nice double room near the back of the houseboat with a connecting bathroom & toilet. There is one other bedroom on the boat which is now unoccupied but normally we would share the dining room & living room at the front of the boat with any occupants of the other room.
Rita spent a couple of hours doing some washing which included most of my clothes as I haven’t had a chance to do any recently. We hung the various articles of clothing from different parts of the boat.
The weather was beautiful with hot sunshine and very few clouds. I sat outside for a while soaking up the sun and getting the letter written to Hull College of Further Education about the BA course in Business Studies. Also chatted to various people who ‘dropped by’ during the afternoon.
During the day there seems to be a lot of action on the waterways although in the evening it is very quiet (especially after Bombay & Delhi). As I write this latest addition to my diary it is already 5-00 p.m. and I am now sitting in the shade of our room while Rita sits outside (on a section at the front of the boat) taking her share of sunshine.
Later on we got a boat to the nearest point on the boulevard. The short ride takes about five minutes and normally costs R1 for the two of us. It seemed strange to be back on dry land again, even after only a day on the boat. We suddenly realised that we were back in a town of nearly 300,000 people and were hit by the noise of the traffic especially.
We walked the kilometre or so out to the old city and were joined along the way by various people who wanted us to see their factories or join them ‘just for a cup of tea’. The people are very different here (with a large muslim influence) and I felt a bit lost, not knowing how to handle them properly.
Had a good look around the old city which was quite interesting although it was a bit bemusing with so many people around and so many varied reactions to our presence. We went into a couple of restaurants but the first one was too dirty and the second only served snacks so we kept on walking back towards the lakefront.
On the way we were joined by a middle-aged guy who was very pleasant, spoke a very proper English (although rather limited) and we had a good chat. He had been a lawyer but upon his father’s death had taken over the family export business. When he therefore invited us for tea I knew what the end result would be, although Rita didn’t catch on and therefore the invitation was accepted.
We walked for ages, firstly along the Jhelum river and then across it and through numerous side-streets before we reached his residence. He had a large house, beautifully designed & furnished, set in a garden with a lawn and many fruit trees. We sat in the living room and had tea & biscuits (served by his two brothers) and a rather limited (stilted) conversation.
By this I mean that I had to slip into a rather posh & forced way of speaking. Rita later said that she hadn’t realised I could be such an actor and conversationalist. She had never seen me before in such a situation. At last we came round to the point of his inviting us back although he wasn’t pushy at all because of his nature and the nature of his business (a family firm founded in 1880).
We were just shown some incredibly intricately woven wool & cotton bed covers which they normally sell wholesale along with many other articles. Despite myself I was quite impressed with the artistry of them and also the very reasonable prices.
Agreed to meet him on Tuesday at 1-00 p.m. in front of the General Post Office so we can have a look at some more things. Although one can never tell this guy seems pretty genuine and not a cheat as many of them obviously are. After we’d seen the bed-covers we excused ourselves and were escorted back to the lakefront which was a good half-an-hour’s walk.
We shook hands, parted company and headed for a nearby restaurant. We hadn’t walked a hundred yards when the houseboat guy, Kawa, caught up with us and asked who the guy had been. I told him it was a lawyer we had met so as not to worry him about his loss of commission if we buy something later on.
Went to quite a flash veggy restaurant for a snack where we sat for a while listening to some good music (Eagles). Rita had a tomato sandwich, I had a vegetable cutlet and we both drank lassis.
At 10-00 p.m. after some hassle getting a boat (they all wanted R3) we headed back to the Wild Rose where I finally paid the guy R1-50. We went into the living room where Sharon (the Australian girl) was sitting. She had some hash which Kawa had got hold of for me, a tola of excellent stuff for R50.
I made up one joint & Sharon another one which we smoked and got quite blasted. Rita was still reluctant to try any although she’d said she wants to sometime. We had a laugh chatting about various things before we were joined by Kawa who killed the conversation a little.
Sharon went to bed at 11-00 p.m. and Rita gave up trying to understand Kawa’s ‘shoptalk’ about half-an-hour later. Kawa and I sat and chatted for ages, smoking another joint which he made.
The conversation was quite interesting when I managed to steer it the way I wanted. They regard Kashmir as an independent country suppressed by an Indian army (which muslims can’t join). The population here consists of 95% muslim & 5% hindu which makes for incredible religious and social differences with the rest of India.
He managed to always get the conversation round to some ‘sales point’ whether it was touring a mosque, going to Moghal gardens or the effects of inflation and how he can save us money.
I went to bed at nearly 1-00 a.m. after an interesting evening. Rita woke up and despite being very stoned we managed to have quite an intelligible talk which raised a few questions about any future we have together. She seems really keen on this college idea although that would mean permanent separation.
My feelings are still mixed about going so I’ll let time do the decision-making for me. Rita also had a smoke of another joint I made but didn’t seem to have enough to really hit her.
Went to sleep at 1-30 a.m.
Monday July 6th
Woke up at 10-15 a.m. after a good night’s dreamy sleep although my brain felt a bit muzzy.
After a good wash we had breakfast for which I had fried eggs, plenty of toast & strawberry jam and several teas. Since then we’ve been basically lazing around. Rita has been sitting outside reading my diary about Thailand. I’ve been writing my diary and have also had a good smoke already with Sharon which has left me rather high.
It is now 1-30 p.m. and I should get over to the Post Office this afternoon to post my college letter and check Post Restante for any incoming mail. Rita decided not to go into town as she wanted a lazy day relaxing on the boat. Sharon wanted to get some aerogrammes so we got a boat across to the boulevard at 2-00 p.m. (after another smoke).
The weather was beautiful, almost like a hot summer’s day in Europe because of the freshness in the air. The sky was almost clear with very few clouds around. This led later on to a beautifully clear and cool evening with the new moon growing from the sliver it had been a couple of days ago and stars twinkling brightly against a pitch black background.
After getting the boat across (50 paise for two) we wandered into town having quite a laugh as we were both pretty stoned. We walked out to the Post Office where things seemed chaotic and it took ages to sort through all the muddle and get things done. After half-an-hour though I’d managed to get stamps for my letter to college and also discovered that no letters have arrived for me yet at Post Restante (a pretty disorganised one).
Sharon also managed to get her aerogrammes before we wandered back to the boulevard area, stopping off for a while for a cup of tea at a roadside stall. We then went and bought a few things. I got a half-bottle of rum for Rita (quite expensive at R32), some postcards which I should get written in the next couple of days, a supply of cigarettes and half a kilo of apples (R4), the first I’ve been able to buy for ages.
In addition, Sharon bought some apricots and chocolate as well as a treat. She is quite a character with a pretty heavy background (especially with drugs) but she seems to be a survivor and has got her head screwed on alright. At the moment she doesn’t have so much money but is still having a good time teaching Kawa’s two sons English in the mornings (they’ll speak with broad Melbourne accents soon) and getting stoned the rest of the day.
At 4-00 p.m. we got a boat back to the Wild Rose. I really enjoyed the trip across, looking at the water and the life that was going on amongst the weeds so near to the surface. The sunny weather really seemed to bring everything to life and I could see many small fish swimming amongst the green plants that grow just under the surface and sometimes cause difficulties as boats get stuck trying to traverse their path.
Back on the boat Sharon and I had a couple more smokes and were joined by Rita for a while, although at 6-00 p.m. she went back to bed for a rest from her lazy day. She had spent most of the afternoon sitting out in the sunshine, knitting, reading and fending off merchants.
Had a fairly lazy late afternoon & early evening getting pretty out of it, watching the sunset and all the activity of different boats & people going to and fro on the lake. Sharon also did some fishing and caught a few small fish which she says are really tasty to eat.
We also chatted quite a bit and I learnt a bit about her background, really interesting although she’s been through a lot in the last few years. I’d decided to have some dinner as the munchies were coming on hard although Rita said she wasn’t hungry so we only ordered one (R15) while Sharon also had some as a reward for her teaching.
Our meal arrived at 9-00 p.m. and was really delicious and spicy. Rita had a little bit but I ate the most as I was starving. It was basically a rice meal with cauliflower in a vegetable sauce and some tasty veggy ‘protein’ steaks. Really got stuck into the meal and filled myself up although with the apples and apricots I’d eaten my stomach got a little unsettled later on.
The rest of the evening we spent at the front of the boat playing various card games which were great fun, especially when stoned. Sharon and I had a couple more smokes while Rita got stuck into the rum which tasted very nice mixed with sugar and water.
We all went to bed, after a relaxing and enjoyable evening, at 11-30 p.m. and being quite tired I went to sleep really quickly.
Tuesday July 7th
After another night full of strange dreams about the future I woke up at 9-30 a.m. with my stomach feeling a bit loose and my head all over the place.
Rita woke up as well and after talking for a while I went and had a shower to clear my head a bit. I then sat for ages trying to write, which I’m finding at the moment needs much more concentration than normal. At 11-00 a.m. we had breakfast as per normal, fried eggs, toast & jam and a large pot of tea.
I tried to write some postcards and my diary as Rita went for a shower. We are due to meet this guy today to have a look around the workshop and factory of his firm. Neither of us are very keen on going and will almost certainly not buy anything although it could be interesting looking around.
At 12-30 p.m. Sharon & I both made up a joint which we smoked and this put me on a much better level to go and meet the guy. Rita and I caught a boat at 12-45 p.m. across to the boulevard. We were taken by Kawa & his son Abrahim (who did most of the rowing).
We then made our way over to the Post Office which took quite a long time, especially as I was pretty out of it. We arrived for our 1-00 p.m. appointment a few minutes late and the guy had already been waiting for a while. I was in a totally different frame of mind and was off-handed most of the afternoon, although I found the show he and his brother put on quite amusing.
Having walked for ages we then caught a bus before arriving at the warehouse and packing room of the company. The door was opened by an old guy who looked as though he was more suited to a scene from Dracula’s Castle. As we were shown around the brothers also assumed their roles; big brother (our guide) was the salesman, second brother was his assistant while the third acted as tea-boy and general busybody.
The display of goods went on for ages and we looked at hundreds of things which the company sells abroad ranging from papier mache boxes to wooden figures to carpets and chip turquoise bangles to bed sheets. Eventually at 4-00 p.m. we were served with some strange sort of tea with Tibetan bread (which was delicious).
Rita bought a few little things as presents although after acting the way I’d been (so non-committal) I couldn’t very well get anything. She got seven small highly decorated papier mache boxes. After he’d slowly written out a bill for these few items we managed to get out of the warehouse at least although our faithful guide insisted on walking us back.
It was in fact a very interesting way back through parts of the old city, along the banks of another river and along Dalgate back to the lakeside. By then the guy had taken the hint somehow and knew we were fed up so he left us without further mention of the big lunch we’d been offered or his accompanying us to Moghul Gardens.
We went for a drink at a nearby restaurant before getting a boat back to the Wild Rose. The weather on the walk back had been really beautiful although we weren’t really in a mood to appreciate it and both of us felt pretty dazed by the whole experience. Back on the houseboat we joined Sharon at the front in the remains of the sun.
Rita did some knitting to unwind and I had another smoke with Sharon. Abrahim was at the very end of the boat doing some fishing and managed to catch several quite large fish which provided some amusement. At 7-00 p.m. Rita went to lie down for a while and have a rest. As I later discovered she hasn’t been feeling too well, partly because of her period.
On comparing notes Sharon, Rita & I have all got the shits and quite badly. Sharon’s is partly a reaction to coming off opium for a while, mine is due to some sort of infection. Hopefully I haven’t caught dysentery or something.
We’d all decided to go to a nearby restaurant by boat but when I woke Rita shortly after 8-00 p.m. she said she didn’t feel well enough to come along so she stayed on the boat for the evening. In the meantime Sharon and I went to the restaurant, rowed again by Abrahim, to a floating place called ‘Sunshine Inc’, where we had a couple of good smokes and dug into lots of munchies materials.
Had a good time out of our heads listening to some pretty weird music, a mixture of some really spacey stuff and Country & Western. There were also a couple of young Irish girls across from us although we didn’t get into any great and detailed conversations. At 10-30 p.m. we paid our bills and hailed a boat to take us back ‘home’.
We were picked up by a friendly old guy (who we’ve seen shooting up and down the lake a lot) and he charged us the proper price of R1 to take us in his rather classy speed-machine. Back at the ‘Wild Rose’ Sharon and I sat in the living room having another smoke before going to bed although our nights were badly disturbed by the shits.
I have been kept awake by a couple of pretty bad attacks so after taking four medical coal tablets I am sitting writing for a while to give my stomach time to settle down. As I write it is 2-30 a.m. and Rita is now soundly asleep although she was very restless earlier on.
When I got back she was still awake and had been writing her diary. She seemed very quiet and depressed but I don’t seem to be able to do much to help her. Later on (when I was half-asleep) I heard her crying before she wandered about the boat for a time smoking to settle herself. Since we arrived here things haven’t been going as smoothly between us and I’m at a loss as to what I should do (except maybe stop smoking).
She seems to be making herself lonely and fed-up but then cutting herself off so no-one can help. Although I enjoy Sharon’s company it’s a little unfortunate that at the moment we seem to be spending more time together and have more in common that Rita and I do.
When Rita is feeling like she does at the moment it makes me feel a right bastard and I blame myself a little for not considering her properly as I should do. I still feel as though I have to protect her although she should grow up in that way someday soon. Alright enough, it’s now 2-45 a.m. and after another cigarette I’ll try and get some more sleep (if my stomach allows).
In the end I didn’t get to sleep until much later, around 5-30 a.m. and it was already light.
Wednesday July 8th
After a restless night I slept quite well until 11-00 a.m. when I got up for a while and had some breakfast of dry toast and black tea.
Rita had been up since 9-00 a.m. and Sharon had gone to the bank, although both of them had dodgy stomachs as well. After breakfast I took another Mettifax (which had eventually stopped the shits for a while this morning) and then went back to bed as I was feeling pretty groggy.
I slept until nearly 3-00 p.m. and then got up to join the other two in the living room for the rest of the afternoon. We were all feeling a little better although weakened by the illness and spent a lazy time drinking tea, eating biscuits and reading. I wrote a couple of postcards and my diary, although there doesn’t seem much to write about today.
It is already 6-00 p.m. and the weather is starting to cloud over after a really hot day (although I’ve been in the shade most of the time). Another guy has come to stay on the boat and will be staying in the room next to ours. Maybe Rita will find someone else to talk to, although she seems much livelier today anyway and if anything happier than she’s been for a while.
Rita has ordered a meal for later on but my appetite hasn’t really returned so I may just have a nibble of hers if I get really hungry. Haven’t really felt like a smoke yet today but as the evening approaches I may feel a little more tempted to roll one up.
We had a smoke (Sharon and I) so that by the time the meal arrived at 7-30 p.m. I was getting quite hungry. The food which they provided for two fed the three of us quite well and it didn’t seem to upset our stomachs too much. We had rice with a potato ‘curry’, cooked cabbage and a side dish of fish which all proved to be really delicious.
The rest of the evening we spent in the living room reading, talking and drinking a bottle of beer each which we’d got for R10 each from a salesman. With the beer and a couple more smokes things got quite spacey and Sharon and I had a really good conversation although Rita wouldn’t let herself be drawn in too much. She remained quite aloof although still friendly as she spent most of the time doing some knitting.
Sharon went to bed at 10-30 p.m. and I then had a pleasant talk with Rita although she is now much more reluctant to talk about things as honestly as we did in the first week. I really can’t understand the way she thinks sometimes although I do try hard to communicate with her.
We went to bed at 11-30 p.m. after some more talking although there is still a gulf between us which makes things difficult.
Thursday July 9th
Woke up several times during a night of strange dreams before getting up at nearly 10-00 a.m. when I had a good wash (and a fairly normal shit) before sitting writing for a while.
Rita didn’t wake up until 10-30 a.m. and seems alright. Sharon is outside teaching Kawa’s two sons some English which sounds quite entertaining. We had planned to take some bikes out today and cycle around the lake a little but I’m not sure whether that plan is still on.
At the weekend or early next week Rita and I will probably go up to Palagham and from there to a nearby village where Kate (the English girl) is working at a lodge. We will be able to stay there a week or so before we have to start thinking about getting back to Delhi for the 25th.
I also talked to the English guy who arrived yesterday. He has been staying at this lodge and reckons it is really good with plenty of treks, some interesting ones of which only one or two are really difficult lasting anywhere from a day to a week or so.
Had breakfast at 11-00 a.m. although I was feeling quite nauseous from a Mettifex tablet I’d taken. The toast, eggs and tea didn’t help at all so after breakfast I had to lie down on the bed again for a while as my body sorted itself out. Sharon & Rita decided to go out cycling anyway although I was feeling pretty dead.
They left shortly after midday so I was left to myself and had a very lazy afternoon. I sat outside (although the weather was cloudy and cool) and spent most of the time reading and smoking a couple of joints so that the time drifted by quite pleasantly. Also watched a lot of the action going on nearby as children played, people were ferried one way and another, along with the merchants making their way around the different houseboats.
At 4-00 p.m. the sun came out and the clouds cleared for an hour or two. The English guy returned (his name is in fact Guy) and we sat around talking, smoking another joint and drinking some tea until the girls returned shortly before 6-00 p.m. They had a good time and managed to cycle around the lake, taking in some local sights along the way.
Apparently the going is meant to be quite flat so they didn’t have too hard a time. When I’m feeling fitter again I’ll have to take a bike out as well. Sharon, Guy and I had a couple more smokes before I went and had a shower at 6-30 p.m. It was really refreshing and livened me up a little (I’d been feeling a bit listless after such a lazy and stoned afternoon).
I also put on my jeans and a fresh T-shirt much to Rita’s delight. We had dinner all together (the four of us) at 7-30 p.m. and it turned out to be another very tasty meal of rice, mutton & vegetable stew and stewed spinach. We then all sat outside for a while and as my hair was still wet, Rita had a go at trimming it for me. This caused a lot of amusement for the local kids who always seem to be scattered around somewhere nearby.
She made a good job of it and it looks a little neater although I’ll have to get a proper job done when I return to England. At 8-30 p.m. on the spur of the moment we decided to go into town and get a coffee at one of the restaurants. Abrahim took us on his boat and we were soon on dry land again. We went to a nearby restaurant where Rita met Hans and sat with him and some other Germans.
Sharon, Guy & I went up to the other end where the music was better and we drank coffee, still pretty stoned and listened to Supertramp, Crime of the Century, which sounded really good. After a while we decided to head over to the Sunshine Inne where we could have a smoke, listen to music and also eat banana fritters & custard (really good munchies material).
I told Rita where we were going (although she obviously didn’t understand) and we hung around for ages before getting a boat the short distance across the water. After checking the restaurant again and finding Hans and Rita had gone we decided to go across anyway. We stayed there until 11-00 p.m. and had a really good smoke which blew my brains out and left us all pretty dazed.
On our return to the houseboat we found Rita, who’d got back fifteen minutes before us having failed to find the restaurant (which she assumed was on dry land). After another smoke with Sharon I went to bed and was later joined by Rita with whom I then had quite a long chat about how things are going, which as I’d gathered didn’t seem to be so good from her side.
I’d expected her to make some decision about the future but nothing as drastic as what she seems to have decided to do. She has decided that the best thing for her to do now would be to fly home a couple of weeks early. I couldn’t agree with her reasoning at all but eventually agreed for her sake that it might be for the best.
We had a long discussion but it would be impossible to detail everything and it all boils down to the fact that we are basically very different people whose aims in life don’t seem to coincide very much. I knew that this holiday would make us think a lot more drastically about the future but never realised that things would happen so suddenly.
Rita also wants me to read her diary tomorrow so that I can see how she has been thinking over the past few days. If I do read it that could be quite a harrowing experience. I eventually got to sleep at 1-30 a.m. after doing a lot of thinking and plenty of talking.
Friday July 10th
Woke up several times in a dream-filled night before coming to properly at 10-00 a.m. Rita was also awake and we talked a little more although not having decided much it was very unsettling.
She wants to leave the rearranging of her flights until Monday while I would like to be on the move again by then. I really feel that she is my responsibility and it will be difficult just to leave her here, although of course it’s her decision to go home.
Had some breakfast shortly after 11-00 a.m. and then sat for ages at the breakfast table, firstly talking to Sharon & Rita and then trying to keep my head together enough to write my diary in a fairly detached way. All three of us will be going into town shortly. Sharon has just given me four dexys from a bottle she managed to score from a local chemists, so that should liven my day up although I think it’s probably better at the moment if Rita doesn’t know.
It rained a lot during the night and even in the morning until 10-00 a.m. Later on the sun appeared and it got quite hot but we still had to be careful to avoid the many puddles around town, evidence that the monsoon isn’t really so far away. Sharon split almost as soon as we reached town while Rita & I headed up to the post office and got some postcards sent off to various people.
I also checked post restante but there wasn’t anything there for me. From the post office we walked along the river (which was nice and peaceful) until we reached the main town which was in contrast very busy indeed. We decided to go our own different ways as we both had things to think about (and the dexys were starting to work).
Checked a couple of tailor’s shops but found that to have a tailor-made suit done in Srinagar can be expensive, much more than I’d thought; R900+ for a good suit whereas I was expecting something more like R350-400 which I would have been willing to pay out.
As I wandered around the speed took effect and I got quite out of it for a while. After looking round town I then headed out to the river and started walking along there so I could find some quiet to think things out. Instead I ran into three Kashmiri guys who attend a local college and asked if I’d have a smoke with them.
We sat there for ages having a good blow, watching the local people go by and also getting involved in an interesting conversation with one of the guys who spoke English. Later on at 3-00 a.m. we walked into town but I then left them and headed back to the boulevard area.
Along the way I was stopped and a guy offered to clear the wax out of my ears. I was pretty out of it and it sounded like a good idea although I had some hassle over the price afterwards. He reckoned he found a ‘stone’ in one ear which he showed me although it could have been put in with the wax after its extraction. He wanted R20 originally but I stuck to R5 and afterwards got the feeling that I’d probably been ripped off anyway. My hearing was a bit sharper though.
I then walked back to the boulevard where I went into the ‘music’ restaurant which was packed out with westerners. They were playing all four sides of ‘The Wall’ by Pink Floyd which after not hearing it for so long sounded really good. I sat at a table with an English guy & a German guy and drank a lassi followed by a cup of tea as I read a paper.
Sharon & the German guy’s girlfriend joined us later on and we all sat chatting for ages. At 5-00 p.m. Sharon & I left and wandered around some more before getting a ‘shikara’ back to the houseboat. Once there I joined Rita in the bedroom and we had another long heart to heart talk about our present situation.
She had enquired about fares and discovered that a flight from Srinagar to Delhi would cost another US$45 which is fairly reasonable. She seemed today more willing to back-peddle and try to compromise a bit but I wasn’t really in the mood for that.
The only suggestion I had was that if she liked the houseboat she should stay here for the next couple of weeks while I go off somewhere before we travel down to Delhi together. I said I couldn’t understand why she should want to throw away her chance of seeing some of India by returning earlier.
Rita had also bought a half-bottle of gin which she had been knocking back, maybe to build up her confidence a little. We both have our different ways of forgetting things. We chatted for ages although we didn’t really get anything sorted out. There is still the whole weekend to go for her to make a decision (or rather one she’ll keep to).
I then sat for ages at the dinner table writing while she sat at the front of the boat knitting. There are quite a few new people around, an English girl who has taken Guy’s bed, as he moved on south today, and there are an Australian couple in the other boat. Rita is presently eating her meal although I’m not hungry.
She has arranged to meet Hans this evening but I’m not sure of my plans yet. Sharon is going to a party but is presently on another boat having a smoke and may go direct from there. I may simply have a quiet evening on the boat.
One thing I forgot to mention. Rita had a visit from the police before we returned and until Kawa stepped in they were apparently being really obnoxious to her. They were basically checking passports & visas and are due to return tomorrow, so I won’t have to leave my dope lying around.
I ended up spending the evening on the boat, firstly playing cards with Kawa’s two sons and then sitting out on the front of the boat reading an old Reader’s Digest, smoking a couple of joints and generally enjoying a peaceful evening on the tail-end of the speed.
Don’t know what happened to Sharon but Rita came back at 11-00 p.m. after spending a nice evening in the company of other Germans which she’d enjoyed and surprisingly enough that pleased me. I’d been feeling a bit down from all the hassle being caused at the moment.
After chatting for a while Rita & I were joined by Mr Kawa who looked pretty out of his head himself. After sundry hints from him, as he wanted to close the doors, we went off to our room at 11-45 p.m. We had to walk around the outside of the boat on planks as the English girl had locked her section.
We may also be unable to use the shower and toilet on the other boat as both boats seem to be full, so we’ll be reduced to using our own basic facilities. These consist of an elaborate hole through the boat into the lake (it’s all very sanitary) and several buckets of water to wash ourselves in.
Rita, rather conveniently I thought, went almost straight to sleep while I’m sitting at the table writing and looking every so often at the mirror where I’m confronted by a rather large pair of pupils, sleep will be rather light tonight.
I feel like writing a lot at the moment but the inspiration isn’t quite there for anything of substance. Besides that I’m getting rather pissed off with the whole ‘Rita saga’ so I won’t bore you with my feelings as far as that goes.
The range of boats (and prices) varies tremendously from the basic sort of accommodation Sharon has with the family here to the really classy, deluxe boats which can cost as much as R350-500 a night for two people (still quite reasonable by European standards).
Sitting on the boat one gets the ‘chance’ to buy from various merchants who come your way in their travelling shops. They can be a hassle at first but after a couple of days disinterest they seem to fade away. Meals can normally be had on the boat although this can prove to be expensive (relatively speaking).
It’s getting quite late (1-00 a.m.) and the night-sounds over the lake (dogs barking, people singing & wailing) are moving in. I’ll rest my weary eyes & head for a while although my brain will probably be pretty active for the rest of the night to come. Sleep well, dear reader.
I fell into a restless night’s sleep at 3-00 p.m., although my sub-conscious stayed pretty aware and involved a lot of outside things in my many dreams.
Saturday July 11th
After waking several times during the morning I eventually got up shortly before 10-00 a.m. feeling surprisingly refreshed. Had a wash and then chatted to Sharon for a while. They had been unable to find the party last night so she had been back by 1-00 a.m.
She also gave me a couple more dexys which saw me through the day very nicely while she took another six and seemed surprised later on when she had heart palpitations I also borrowed a book from her, the classic ‘Tinker, Tailor, Soldier. Spy’ by John LeCarre, which I’d never read before and by the end of the day I’d finished its 369 pages, an enthralling book.
Rita and I had breakfast of scrambled eggs, toast, jam and tea which went down very well. We also talked further about her wish to leave soon but the whole idea seems to have evaporated now. I wish she’d make up her fucking mind. Instead she has decided to come with me to Pahalgam (if I don’t mind) so being both weak-willed and strong at the same time I agreed although with obvious reluctance.
Now that I’m used to the idea it sounds alright, but I’m annoyed at Rita because of her whole attitude which has caused so many hassles. While still on her ‘flying home kick’ she had told me something that would making the separation easier for me (that she’d been to bed with, although she didn’t go the whole way, with a guy in Ibitha). Now that she’s decided to stay that fact only makes things more difficult although I’m not too worried about it.
It was a really beautiful day so at 11-30 a.m. Sharon, Rita, Abrahim and I took the boat out on the lake where Sharon and I had a bash at rowing. Sharon could do it quite well but it took me a while before getting the hang of it. In doing so I used muscles in my arms and shoulders which hadn’t been used for ages so that later they stiffened up a lot.
I also got a few blisters on my hand from not being used to the oar. In all we were out on the lake for over two hours in very intense sunshine and had a great time buzzing around different parts of the lake up to Nehru Park where we could have gone swimming but Sharon was afraid the boat would tip over if we did, so we didn’t.
We all got a touch of sunburn being out in such strong sunshine, Rita across her shoulders, me on my legs and even Sharon (who is quite brown) got burnt on her legs & arms a little.
Returned to the boat at 2-00 p.m. where we relaxed for a while. Sharon & I had a smoke and then I had a shower which was exhilarating, more so through being stoned. I spent the rest of the day in the shade of the living room reading the book Sharon had lent me. It was very good reading and I was only interrupted a few times as other people came in and out.
Rita sat most of the afternoon knitting and reading although we didn’t talk much (there doesn’t seem to be much to say). Sharon was speeding around, unable to slow down, and joined me every so often for a smoke. She also went into town a couple of times to try and burn off some of her energy.
All three of us had dinner together at 7-30 p.m. and ate a delicious combination of chicken, vegetables, dahl and rice. The rest of the evening I sat reading & smoking. I’d also wanted a beer but all the shikaras had sold out by the time I tried to get one, it had been a very hot day.
At 9-30 p.m. Rita went into town for an hour or so to meet her German friends for a while. I really got into the book and managed to finish it in one stint, eventually closing it at 11-45 p.m.
After another smoke I then went to bed and although my brain was still pretty active I was able to get to sleep fairly quickly as my body was quite tired.
Sunday July 12th
After another dreamy night I woke up at 9-30 a.m. feeling rested, although a little stiff from yesterday’s exertions.
Sharon didn’t seem to be around, having probably got side-tracked along the way last night. She was well out of it so anything could have happened.
Rita & I had breakfast at 10-30 a.m. which today consisted of boiled eggs, tea, and plenty of toast & jam. We talked a little about our plans for tomorrow and have decided to only take along a few clothes and other essentials in one bag, leaving the rest of our stuff here until our return next week.
We will try to get a bus shortly after midday and should be in Pahalgam by late afternoon. From there we have to find the lodge where Kath is working. It is meant to be a fair walk out of town so it could be fun. After breakfast I sat writing for ages while Rita went into town to get a few necessities and have a look round.
Sharon returned from her night out a little later looking a little worse for wear but still ready to go on with the smoking. She had some more Kashmiri gear which was pretty pokey. The afternoon turned into quite a session with Rita returning and the purchase of a couple of bottles of beer. I then went with Sharon over to the other boat where we had some more of various different hashes to smoke. I got (as Sharon would say) absolutely debauched and at 4-00 p.m. had to go to our room for a lie down.
I was confronted with Rita (was hast du genommen?) but after some hassle I managed to get some rest and slow down a bit. In the meantime Kath had returned with two British guys, who apparently got themselves plastered on bottles of brandy and beer during the late afternoon as I slept.
Woke again at 6-30 p.m. feeling quite dazed but otherwise alright. Joined the others at the front of the boat for a while, had another smoke with Sharon and chatted with Kath who hadn’t managed to get the job she’d hoped for. We will still go to Pahalgam but probably stay in a lodge near town rather than try to find the other lodge as we were going to do before.
Dinner was served at 7-30 p.m. and because one of the guys was still feeling sick there was a spare plate at the table. Rita wasn’t very hungry but I got stuck into a really delicious meal of mashed potatoes, fish, cauliflower and rice.
Shortly afterwards Rita and I got a boat to the ‘Sunshine Inne’ which was very crowded for a change. I wasn’t in a very good mood most of the evening and communication with Rita started to get awkward again. We had a toasted sandwich each but didn’t stay as long as I would have liked (the music was very good).
Back on the boat we sat in the living room for a while before Rita went to bed and I smoked the last of my gear which was very pleasant.
Went to bed at 11-15 p.m. and after some tossing and turning (Rita was reading with the light on) I eventually managed to fall asleep.
Monday July 13th
I woke up at 8-00 a.m. after a good night’s sleep.
Rita had already been up an hour and was busy organising her things for our move today. I had a wash and then we had some breakfast together before getting the last of our packing done. We weren’t taking so much and therefore the stuff we left behind was a lot more than that which we packed in Rita’s bag to take with us.
I am taking only a couple of pairs of trousers, T-shirts, a cardigan and my washing gear. As it worked out though I ended up carrying the bag all the time and it was still quite heavy.
We paid our outstanding bill to Mr Kawa which came to R600 for the eight days since last Sunday (including meals, taxes and teas). We paid him another R200 each (which left me with R7) and he packed away all our gear until we come back again in a week or so.
About 9-30 a.m. we got a shikara into town with the idea firstly, of finding out when the buses to Palagham went from and secondly to get some money from the bank. After walking around for ages in the blazing sun we’d been unable to find out much about buses as there seemed to be some confusion over which ones were running still due to a strike by many of the bus drivers.
The banks were also closed due to a strike so I was unable to get any money and had to borrow some from Rita. At 11-00 a.m. I went off to the post office to check if there was any post while Rita tried to find out what was happening with the buses. Was overjoyed to find a letter waiting for me from Jan and Debby.
I sat on some nearby steps in the shade waiting for Rita and also reading the letters which were really cheerful and made me feel heaps better despite the heat. A Kashmiri guy joined me for a while and soon had a joint made which we smoked together before Rita returned. I felt even better after that.
Rita came back with the news that there were some buses running but that they left from the other side of town. After some more messing about we managed to get an auto-rickshaw for R5 which took us to the ‘garage’ where the buses started from. With the help of another Kashmiri guy we made the bus and even managed to get seats near the front.
Five minutes later we were off, it was now shortly after midday. The bus we caught was the local government bus and cost us only R6 each for the journey of 94 Kms. to Phalagam (the tourist buses cost R16 at the moment but prices may rise after the strike).
We had the two seats near the front entrance which meant we got more and more cramped as the bus stopped at various points and picked up more people. I ended up with the bag squeezed between my legs and unable to move my legs or my bottom which got really sore on the hard seats. At 2-00 p.m. we reached the halfway point of Islamabad where we had a twenty-minute break.
Rita and I didn’t walk too far and were having a thirst-quenching drink of lemon when we saw our bus being invaded by hordes of weirdly attired pilgrims (sadus). We put down our half-finished drinks and dived into the fray trying to save our seats which we succeeded in doing after much pushing and shoving.
The driver then arrived to try and sort out the whole scene. He ordered the pilgrims off while the other passengers regained their seats. Then the pilgrims swarmed everywhere, onto the roof, into the aisles and almost sitting on the driver’s lap as they sat all over the engine cover.
These were just a few of the thousands of pilgrims heading up to Armanath cave for the full moon this coming Friday 17th. This cave, which is of great significance to many Hindus and Buddhists, is a good three day’s walk from Phalagam. We left Islamabad with a fully packed bus straining at the seams at 2-30 p.m. with relative sanity restored. Somehow along the way we managed to pick up at least ten more passengers and cram them in.
After so much trouble a lot of the pilgrims didn’t even have to pay because of their being sadus (and therefore having no worldly possessions). This is a very tolerant country in that sort of way.
We passed from the lush Kashmir Valley and started heading up into the mountains again where the landscape changed considerably and became at points very heavily forested. We travelled upwards along a river valley with the raging River Liddar coming fast in the opposite direction flowing down to feed the green pastures of the valley we’d just left.
On the way we passed through numerous small villages where life continued regardless of what was going on around them. The scenery became more spectacular as we climbed higher and I soon felt as though we’d moved into a picture-book with the landscape being so grand and contrasting heavily with the charm of Srinagar.
We arrived in Phalagam’s main square at 4-15 p.m. after a very interesting journey. Once off the bus we stood around for a few minutes smoking a cigarette and stretching our cramped limbs. Quite a crowd of touts gathered around us but after five minutes waiting we baffled them completely by walking away towards the end of town.
A couple of them chased after us but soon gave up. We walked out to the other end of town where we followed a track towards a collection of lodges and hotels on the other side of the river. We were joined by a guy who works at Bente’s Lodge, the one which I’d decided to try anyway. He accompanied us over the bridge and along a footpath which led along the riverside for a long way.
After a good walk we arrived at the lodge which is set in the middle of a small forest. It stands in its own grounds a little way up the hillside with some spectacular views of the surrounding mountains, some of them still with traces of snow on them.
Arrived shortly after 5-00 p.m. and we were shown to Room No. 1 which was a large, open double room with spectacular views on two sides through large, spacey windows. It costs only R20 for the two of us which seemed eminently reasonable to me. As it’s quite a way from town they also do meals and some drinks which will be useful.
We lay on the spacious bed for a while recovering our wits after an exhausting journey from Srinagar. I had a shower which was extremely bracing. We are now at 7000 feet and the evenings became quite cool so cold water can feel very cold, know what I mean? I then lay on the bed, dozing for a while and thinking about things that could and can happen in the future.
Later on I was approached by one of the guys from the kitchen who had some hash to sell. I couldn’t resist buying the whole beautiful lump when I’d had a good look at it. It was still quite fresh and smelt lovely. After some bargaining I got it for R65 and it should keep me going nicely for the next week or so.
After buying it I thought I should test it (completely the wrong way round of course). Rita and I went out onto the balcony and joined a young German guy from Berlin who made up a joint so that I could try his hash as well. Both were excellent smokes and after a repeat operation later on I got pretty out of it, but a really good buzz and on the verge of hallucinations a couple of times, weird.
This place has a cassette player with a loudspeaker so we were treated to some good music during the evening but I was also haunted by the many sounds going on around the valley as night descended in an incredible fashion. Later on everything quietened down a bit, both in my head and in the surrounding countryside as well.
Rita went to our room at 10-00 p.m. and there was then a lack of conversation between the German guy who speaks very limited English and me who isn’t used to speaking much German when I’m out of my head. After half-an-hour of silence (which was cool) we were thrown off the balcony as they wanted to get the place locked up for the night.
In the bedroom I lay for ages, floating away when I was not disturbed by Rita who was being a bit difficult again. Went to sleep shortly after midnight.
Tuesday July 14th
I woke up feeling good at 9-00 a.m. after having slept pretty well, although I was woken a couple of times by weird dreams which unsettled me a little.
When I awoke it was cloudy but later on the blue sky and a very hot sun appeared. The real heat of the day was taken out by some refreshing breezes blowing along the valley and also by the two rivers (yes, two) which have their own cooling effects as they bring melted snow down from the highest and coldest mountains.
We had some breakfast in our room looking out at the fabulous postcard views through our windows as the sun made its appearance and brightened everything around us. The views are indescribable, with huge mountains towering away in the distance and clouds rolling in over their peaks in all sorts of strange ways.
For breakfast we had toast, butter, jam and a pot of tea. I ate the most as I was feeling really hungry and drank the most as I was really parched. After eating I sat for ages writing my diary as Rita tried to catch up on some letters that she has been meaning to write ever since arriving in India.
Also had a couple of smokes which set me up for the day nicely. We started the long walk into town at 11-45 a.m. and in all it took us twenty-five minutes before reaching the main street. It’s a very enjoyable walk though, as we first headed down the hillside, along the riverbank and across three different bridges and the two rivers (I could only remember one from yesterday).
It’s a very scenic little walk and the effort involved, especially coming back, should get us quite fit again. Once in the town we went up the main street and found the small office used by the State Bank of India as we needed some more cash. The place was pretty disorganised with the staff trying to catch up on all the work left over from yesterday’s strike.
I changed 2 x US$50 T/Chqs and got R867 in exchange while Rita just changed another US$50. Hopefully that money will last me until the end of my trip so I’ll still have a US$50 T/Chq to change upon my arrival in Frankfurt.
At 1-00 p.m. we had a coffee and some biscuits at a coffee shop in the main square before slowly wandering back towards the lodge in some beautiful weather, which made one feel good to be alive.
Once back in our room we had a rather lazy afternoon lounging around on the bed reading and having a smoke (even Rita did although she still failed to get much from it). I was reading a book I’d managed to buy at the only bookshop in town called ‘Killtest’ by Graham King. It was quite an interesting book and by the time we went out again at 6-00 p.m. I’d already half-finished it.
Rita is slowly wading through the Winston Graham book ‘Greek File’ which I read whilst on the boat in Srinagar. We ‘popped’ into town again for an evening meal which we had at a large Indian restaurant in the middle of Pahalgam.
We really filled ourselves with four different types of curry; cheese & peas, cauliflower & potato, bean & curd & curried bean, which all went down very well with numerous tasty chapattis. The bill for both of us including a couple of drinks only came to R21-50, very good value for what we had.
In the restaurant we had been sitting watching the world go by along the street in front of us. At our next venue we sat on a bench actually on the pavement and became part of that world. We had a coffee each and watched a lovely colourful sunset over the end of town and behind the mountains.
Rita had wanted to buy some wine but on checking at one of the shops found it to be much too expensive a luxury here (R50-60 for a bottle) so we left it. In the quickly failing light we started to make our way back to the lodge once more and arrived there just as the darkness of night really set in (clouds covered the light of the moon).
The evening was spent partly in the room and partly on the balcony soaking in the atmosphere of the place around us. Really impressive. Had a couple more smokes of which Rita also tried a little and later in the evening actually got properly stoned from the cumulative effect of them.
This happened after we’d returned to our room at 10-00 p.m. and had a couple more smokes there. She didn’t know how to control the sensation and although I tried to calm her down she started to freak out a bit and become really paranoid about the whole thing.
I always knew she was pretty sensitive but her reaction to getting off really stunned me for a while and I was no real help as I didn’t feel able to comfort her much. After an hour or so she came through the worst of it (which had been quite horrific) and calmed down a lot. She swore afterwards that she never wanted to try it again.
Although I tried to explain that it could be so much better I think it’s probably better if she leaves it alone completely. It’s not really Fraulein Berger’s style at all (and she has got some). After all this excitement I had to have another smoke to calm myself down.
Also read through Jan and Debby’s letters again. They can be a real boost and help me remember that there are people on the same level who understand more of what goes on in my world than Rita ever could (unfortunately in some ways).
I eventually went to sleep at 12-30 a.m. with Rita snoring beside me, the hash having eventually worked its way through so she could sleep properly.
Wednesday July 15th
Woke up once as it was getting light at 5-30 a.m. and sat outside for half-an-hour watching the creeping fingers of sunlight appearing behind the still dark mountains ranging beyond the other valley-side.
The sun never actually appeared as the clouds rapidly increased to cover the light blue sky completely. I took a couple of photos of the changing scene for Rita who was still fast asleep. I then returned to the warmth of my bed and slipped away into the world of dreams again for a couple more hours.
Woke again shortly after 9-00 a.m. and after having a wash ordered some breakfast of toast and butter + a pot of tea. Rita had bought some peanut butter yesterday which we ate with the toast, excellent. I then sat writing my diary up to date (for the first time in a few days) and had a couple of smokes to prepare me for a walk we’re going to make later along the river in the opposite direction from Pahalgam.
As I write it is 11-30 a.m. and Rita is sitting on the bed very subdued and a little unhappy about her experience yesterday. That’s the way it seems anyway. Hopefully this incident won’t lead to more hassles in the remaining ten days of our holiday in Kashmir. I’m still really enjoying the smoke and want to leave on a high I’ll remember for the months of comparative deprivation ahead.
After getting ourselves down onto the path by the river we started heading in the other direction and into the unknown. As we started out the sun was quite hot but that only lasted for half-an-hour or so before the clouds moved in again with some dark foreboding shapes appearing over the mountaintops, all a little awesome.
We passed through the grounds of a rest home run by Indian Railways (Northern Division) before reaching a bridge where we crossed over as there didn’t seem any other way through. The bridge was still under construction and led us into the middle of a tented army camp with soldiers bristling all over the place. We walked along the tarmac road which led us through the camp past the scrutiny of many different pairs of eyes.
I was a little wary of being stopped, especially as I had a lump of hash in my trouser pocket. Made it through alright though and crossed the river again by means of another bridge and along another fading footpath. This took us around a bend in the valley so we saw a whole new range of mountains. We ended up stopping at a point directly opposite a small village on the other side of the river.
There was no way we could make our way further unless we climbed a precipitous looking slope up over the top of the next section, which had eroded away with the water. Instead we picked out a couple of rocks and sat there cleaning our feet (the water was ice-cold) and then relaxing for a while, all other sounds drowned by that of the raging water nearby.
I read my book and also smoked another joint which really relaxed me. As we sat there the skies visibly darkened. We could hear the sound of distant thunder and lightning before the rain started coming down, a drizzle at first but becoming quite heavy later on.
At 3-00 p.m. we started to head back to the lodge and to avoid crossing the river again we kept along a higher track. This led us eventually to the front gate of Bente’s Lodge but not before we’d slipped and skidded along various knife-edges in an hour or so of drama and tension.
Rita was still very subdued although she said she’d enjoyed the exercise and on our return to the room she fell asleep on the bed looking mentally and physically whacked. I sat and wrote for a while before having another smoke and then relaxing on the bed with my book.
About 7-00 p.m. we went out onto the balcony where we joined a group of German-speaking people. Had a couple more smokes before getting our evening meal which we’d ordered earlier. We had chips & vegetable cutlets which were very greasy and caused nasty repercussions later on.
Had a fairly quiet evening as I didn’t feel like talking to others much but at the same time did a lot of smoking. The others (including Rita) all went to bed quite early but I sat around for a while and was joined by several locals connected with the lodge. They were having some sort of celebration and had a few bottles of beer with them so on their invitation I joined them.
We had a lot to drink and a few more smokes as they all had a good laugh and we had quite a party.
Went to bed pretty wiped out at 11-30 p.m.
Thursday July 16th
Not a great day, spent most of it in bed and rushing to the loo with raging shits, stomach cramps and a slight fever. I woke up several times before 10-00 a.m. but then slipped back into a restless, nightmarish sleep for a long time.
In the meantime Rita went into town and bought a few things; a Harold Robbins novel, jars of both peanut butter and mango jam, a bottle of gin, biscuits and bread. It sounded like a good day’s shopping and she’s spent over R100.
I was really out of it most of the day (not smoke-aided either) and didn’t really come to until fairly late in the evening after Rita had got me medicine from some Swiss people on the balcony, five of whom are staying here at the moment.
Rita came to bed at 10-00 p.m. and went to sleep fairly quickly. I was just starting to wake up and so decided to read some of ‘Stone of Danny Fisher’. I read and read, covering nearly 270 pages before the power was switched off or went at 1-30 a.m. As I said, not a great day, hopefully the morrow will bring something better.
Fell into a light sleep at 2-00 p.m.
Friday July 17th
Woke up several times and saw the sun actually appearing through the clouds and a blue sky to contrast with the dullness of yesterday. The weather must have influenced me because at 8-30 a.m. I got up and felt quite good so went for a good wash and then rolled up a smoke.
That really picked me up and I started doing things. Washed two pairs of trousers and my dirty T-shirts which I later lay out on the grass where they dried by the end of the morning in the sun and cooling wind.
We had breakfast on the balcony where we were joined by two of the Swiss and had another couple of smokes before writing this diary. If my strength is still there I’ll probably head into town for cigarettes and bread later on as Rita is feeling a bit ropey today and is at present lying out in the sun which must be very pleasant (although not if she’s feeling as rotten as I did yesterday).
She didn’t stay out very long and soon retired to bed where she slept and sweated out her fever for the rest of the day. Hopefully it’s only a twenty-four hour thing with her as well otherwise I’ll be dragging her back down towards Delhi this time next week.
I sat out on the grass for a while watching my clothes get dry, reeling from the few smokes I’d had, reading the Robbins book and soaking up some of the beautiful sunshine mellowed by a strong wind. I felt really good for a while (especially after feeling so rotten yesterday) and forgot the small problems that have arisen while dreaming of what might happen in the future.
My clothes dried remarkably quickly and I was able to change my shorts to the Nepalese cotton trousers which I much prefer and then I felt right to go into town. I had to get various things as we’ve decided for the moment not to eat food here as it seems to be the prime upset for our stomachs. Instead I’ll try to get some bread, chocolate and cheese to vary our diet a little.
Left for town at 1-00 p.m. It was a long and tiring walk but the exercise was good for me and the feeling as the hot sun beat down and the wind blew down the valley was great. Once in Pahalgam again I wandered around aimlessly for a while which can be difficult as there is only one main road leading to a main square.
Had a coffee and bought a few supplies to keep us going until our next visit to civilisation. Got several sorts of bread and biscuits which should go nicely with the peanut butter and mango jam. Also bought another book to try and keep up with my frantic reading at the moment. I chose a fairly thick Denis Wheatley one entitled ‘The Haunting of Toby Jugg’.
Rita’s request to get some chocolate was fairly easy but cheese I couldn’t locate anywhere although I expect it’s sold in some way-out dairy shop. Got the cards posted off and bought some cigarettes before a final wander around and then off on the long and tiring trek back to the lodge.
I got there at 3-30 p.m. with Rita sweating out her fever in a fitful sleep and looking exactly how I’d felt the same time the day before. At times like these I feel very close to her but not as a boyfriend more as an ‘older’ brother of sorts. That probably sounds hopelessly contradictory but I can’t explain it any other way.
After a few comforting words I left her to sleep on and joined some of the others out on the balcony. Had a few smokes with the Swiss couple and a guy from Berlin which set me buzzing again. There are some more Swiss, a threesome of one girl and two guys who stay here but always cook in the next field for hours on end with one guy collecting butterfly specimens. Really quite amusing when you’re stoned.
Conversation failed again so I got back to finishing the Harold Robbins book which I now feel I read before a long time ago. Later on I joined Rita in the room for a while trying to be of some help but only being able to get her drinks to quench the endless thirst she has. She has also been sick and is feeling worse than I did, maybe.
All my comforting only succeeded in sending Rita back to sleep so I lay for a while making a start of the Denis Wheatley ‘Black Magic’ novel. It revolves a lot around the effect of the moon which fitted in with my mood as it is full moon tonight and later on we were treated to the sight of it before clouds swept it from view again.
To celebrate the sight of the moon’s appearance I ate a couple of pretty large lumps of hash which later had some effect but not as outlandish as I had expected. As I write it is nearing midnight and the moon glimpses through its black cloud cover every so often but it will be soon out of sight of our window.
I’ve had a good evening out on the balcony with an Australian girl and a Sri Lankan guy she’s been travelling with for three months. Had a good blow and admired the moon before we all retired to our rooms shortly after 11-00 p.m.
Rita is still pretty out of it. So am I in a different sort of way, although I still seem capable of writing the effects of the hash I ate is taking a little more effect so I should have a good night’s rest.
My eyelids are drooping a lot already, my eyes must be in a state and I’m going to bed before I can’t make it anymore. ‘Night’.
Saturday July 18th
Woke up at 8-30 a.m. after a really good night’s sleep knocked out by the gear.
I read some more last night before I slept and am now two-thirds of the way through the Denis Wheatley novel. When I finish it I’ll have to see if they take books back in exchange so I can get another, thicker one to keep me going for another day or two.
Time is running out quickly. This time next week we’ll be almost back in Delhi for a last hot afternoon before Rita has to get her flight. I think my last night in India will be spent at the airport (on dexys hopefully) maybe writing some sort of epilogue to my five months.
The weather today is cooler with many more clouds around concealing the sun most of the time so that my hopes are again slim to improve my ‘not very impressive’ sun-tan. After three months (to the day I was deported on April 18th) in the heat of India & Nepal my tan is negligible, except maybe on my face and arms.
At 10-30 a.m. I decided to go off for a walk as Rita was still feeling unwell and felt better staying in bed. I didn’t walk very far as I wasn’t feeling too strong myself but found myself a little grass mound near a stream maybe half a kilometre away from the lodge.
Once there I lay down for a while in the sun which dodged from behind clouds every so often to give me a burst of heat and a little more colour. I stayed there for what seemed like ages fighting against the ants who took great delight in crawling all over me as I tried to read the remainder of my book.
Apart from the various bites I received everything seemed very peaceful. I had a couple of smokes as well which really relaxed me and made me appreciate the beauty of everything going on around me in the forest. I finished the book early afternoon and as it was clouding over a lot decided to go back to the lodge where I arrived shortly before 2-00 p.m.
Rita was still sleeping so I sat out on the balcony for a while having another smoke and getting stuck into yet another book, an Agatha Christie I found behind the reception desk. Not a very eventful afternoon although at the same time quite pleasant & relaxing.
About 4-00 p.m. Rita came out for an hour or so before we decided that we should go into town and get something to eat. She had a real craving for some noodle soup. We left shortly before 5-00 p.m. and slowly walked into town as neither of us were feeling particularly strong. My stomach was once again starting to play up, it never seems to let up for more than a couple of days.
After climbing down the hill again, dodging numerous streams and piles of donkey droppings along the trail, crossing three bridges, two rivers and a desert we reached our destination. We tried several restaurants before finding one serving Chinese food which suited Rita’s taste after two days without eating at all.
Making our way back towards the lodge we stopped at several points along the way for some much needed rest. Once back there we lay on the bed for ages recovering ourselves before getting involved in some stupid games I’d remembered (after having another smoke). We played ‘hangman’ for a while before going out onto the balcony where we played ‘dots’ for an hour or so before Rita got fed up with the monotony and went to bed.
I sat outside reading, talking and having a few more smokes with a crowd of people outside, some of them a new crowd moved in today. Went to bed at 11-30 p.m. feeling pretty knocked out again, partly by another bout of stomach trouble
which became worse during the night.
Sunday July 19th
Woke up several times during the night with cramps and the shits. Took a Mettifex, hoped for the best and it later settled down a bit.
Saw the sunrise from the toilet window and got absolutely frozen as I dived all over the place. In the end a very restless night with its nightmares, bad dreams and slight fever turning me hot & cold all the time.
Eventually got up shortly before 9-00 a.m. feeling a little annoyed and frustrated after such a disturbing night. Intended to have a shower but the bathroom was occupied so that got left until later. Instead we ordered what we hoped would be a healthy breakfast. Both of us had poached eggs (no fat), cornflakes and milk (powdered, awful), toast and some tea.
Surprisingly it’s settled my stomach quite a lot, along with the four joints we’ve had since then I’m feeling a little happier about my state of health now. We were joined for breakfast by a Danish guy and his Arabian friend who were right into having a good morning blow. Got quite out of it before getting down to doing some writing for a while.
Rita has just had a shower and is feeling much better than she has been for the last couple of days. The illnesses have in truth provided a little diversion from the fact that for the last couple of weeks Rita and I seemed to have been growing further apart or maybe even ‘growing-up’ a little together in that time.
We’ll be on the move again in a couple of days back to Srinagar and before we know it back to Germany and me to England. All my thoughts seem to be centred on the future and what the next couple of months could hold for me.
Sat outside on the front lawn for ages soaking up some beautiful sunshine and getting at least a little colour before going back home. The weather was great with a stiff breeze as well to keep one fairly cool. The only thing that was missing was a nice stretch of beach and some water (the river is too cold and it’s not really possible to swim because of the speed with which the water rushes towards its destination).
Part of the time we spent playing the remainder of the game of ‘dots’ we’d started last night which proved to be quite entertaining and Rita eventually won by a hefty margin. I also had another smoke before lying around reading a little and dozing in the pleasant early afternoon heat.
I got the munchies really early today and after a coffee at the lodge, we headed into town in search of some good food. It was by then about 4-00 p.m. Once there we had to search around a little before finding a place that was still serving food.
We found a neat little vegetarian restaurant where we ordered two meals which were the normal Thali variety. Each consisted of two plates of dahl, two plates of vegetable, portion of rice, papad and five puris. It was all really tasty and proved to be very spicy but filling at the same time. We both needed a lassi to quench our thirst after eating.
After that we walked around town for a while and had a coffee at the shop in the main square before walking out of the place in a slightly different direction. Followed the road for a while but then crossed over the first river and walked along its left bank for a while. Finding ourselves climbing we were soon at the top of a mound with a flattened top which fills the central section where the valleys of the two rivers meet.
Turning away over the top of the mound and along a track we were in the middle of a huge plateau which normally isn’t visible because of all the trees. We walked across the plain until we reached some grassy areas which would have been the golf course we’d seen a sign to. A heartily contested game of football was taking place in the middle of the fairway leading to the ninth green (I get the impression this course only has nine holes).
After watching the game for a while we clambered our way back down the front side of the mound and slowly made our way back to the lodge. Rested in the room for an hour or so and chatted to Rita about a few things before we joined scores of others out on the balcony.
The evening turned out to be a real blast as it was the Sri Lankan guy’s birthday today. His girlfriend had arranged a super-looking (and tasting) cake which we all got stuck into along with some muddy tasting tea. Joints were also flying around and the Danish guy also produced a super water pipe.
He made up a pretty lethal mixture with almost four different types of hash (maybe some opium in there as well) which we proceeded to smoke between seven or eight of us. It was knock-out, incredible, a mind-blower. No, it really was an excellent smoke which seemed to wipe quite a few of us out.
The reason I mentioned opium was because I got so weary-eyed, relaxed & laid out by the smoke but that could easily have been due to the mixture of hashes as well. As I reflect on it the next day I realise it was probably just hash but it had dynamite effects.
Went to bed (and pretty quickly to sleep) at 11-00 p.m.
Monday July 20th
Had a very good night’s rest although disturbed a little by the sun in the early morning, which led to more strange dreams.
I eventually got up at 8-00 a.m. with a heavy head cold which has developed overnight. This really gave me the snuffles, a lot of which was catarrh which also gave me a headache later on. Hopefully, I’m getting all possible illnesses now so that I can be fit and healthy on my return to Europe.
We had breakfast at 9-00 a.m. for which I consumed a lot of food (for a sick man), poached eggs, tea, hot lemon and countless pieces of toast with mango jam and peanut butter. After that I felt a little stronger but still dazed by the cold which has deadened me a lot. I even had a smoke later on which seemed to do very little because of the muzziness in my head already.
Most of the morning I spent sitting around on the balcony writing, chatting with people, having a couple more smokes (they worked alright) and generally being lazy before we make the big move back to Srinagar tomorrow morning.
I also discovered from the Australian girl, who’d made last night’s birthday cake, that she’d put half a tola of hash into it. As I ate a fair bit of cake that could explain why I felt so wiped out towards the end of last night, great stuff.
About midday, feeling pretty groggy from the cold, I lay down for a while on my bed (it was too hot to lie outside) and fell asleep. Didn’t wake up until gone 4-00 p.m. and after the sleep felt a lot better although my cold was still very evident.
Rita ad I walked into town in the still-hot sunshine to look for some food. I still felt pretty weak but after the meal I bought some ‘contac’ tablets which helped clear my head a lot. We stopped at a vegetarian restaurant where Rita had a masala dosa and I had puris with vegetable curry.
For afters we went to the coffee shop where we had a cup of coffee and a luxury bar of chocolate each. We bought a few other odds and ends before starting the long walk back to the lodge for the last time. On our return we sat out on the balcony as the last vestiges of sunlight disappeared behind the mountains and had quite a laugh with various people throughout the evening.
There was a lot of smoking going on and the water pipe appeared again from which I had another good blast. Also chatted to a few people and listened to some good music although after a week Bob Dylan and Bob Marley are getting a bit much. Some of the other tapes including Dire Straits, Rolling Stones were excellent though and got quite a few feet tapping.
A few other people are making a move tomorrow morning, although not all in the direction of Srinagar. Some are off trekking for a few days, which sounds really good in this weather. The trekking conditions here are a lot more remote than Nepal and one has to be well equipped with a tent, sleeping bag and some food.
Went to bed at 11-15 p.m. and after chatting to Rita for a while fell asleep quite quickly. Woke again at 1-00 a.m. but after a smoke was soon fast asleep again.
Tuesday July 21st
Woke up early at 7-00 a.m. and made use of the time sitting writing my diary.
We should be catching the bus at 10-30 a.m. but the timing isn’t so important so I’ll let Rita sleep as much as she needs. Have bought another half tola of hash (R15) which seems like a pretty good deal and should keep me going until the end i.e. Sunday morning.
I may have to make up a few ‘cigarettes’ for use on trains and at the airport before I fly home. I don’t intend to be carrying any gear going back to Frankfurt though. As much as I’d love to take some back with me the risk is too great, especially after Thailand which took a lot of my nerve with it.
After writing I had a wash, brushed my teeth and had a smoke before getting my few clothes ready for packing. We had a nice breakfast at 9-00 a.m. and then paid our bill for eight days which with food, 7% service charge extra came to R366, more than I’d expected but still quite reasonable.
We hit the trail for the last time, after saying our various goodbyes to people, and headed off towards town. Got to the tourist office shortly before a bus left at 10-15 a.m. We managed to get tickets (R6 each still) and boarded the bus with an Iranian guy (Safa) who had also been staying at the lodge and was travelling back to Srinagar as well.
It was a fairly uneventful journey and although the bus got quite crowded we were seated towards the back and it wasn’t very comfortable. The journey was over within three hours and by 1-30 p.m. we were back on the houseboat again where we’ll spend our next three nights before heading home.
Rita had been in quite a good mood but getting back to the boat only managed to depress her again and I had to contend with her sullenness for the rest of the day. We did have a chat about it later on but were unable to sort anything out.
It was very cloudy when we arrived after the sunshine which we’d been treated to in Pahalgam this morning. Back on the boat I got chatting to Sharon and Kath who are still around. It was like seeing old friends again and we all had a good afternoon and evening together. We were also joined by Safa who knows them both and had also decided to come to the Wild Rose for a night’s rest before heading onto Simla at 7-00 a.m. tomorrow morning.
The gear I’d bought down from the hills was the only stuff around but I still had a fair bit of it left so I didn’t mind at all sharing it around. By the end of the day, between the four of us, we had managed to demolish at least of it which got us all well out of it.
Sharon also slipped me a couple of dexys which sparked me up and even helped me forget the cold which has been dogging me for the last couple of days. She’s also given me three for tomorrow and will get hold of a bottle (25 tabs) for me before I leave.
We had a great afternoon getting well blasted and having a good laugh although Rita didn’t feel able to join in the action. Kate doesn’t smoke at all but gets off nicely from eating the gear. She cut herself a nice chunk which saw her all right for the rest of the evening and we had a really good chat later on.
I was really getting into the smoke and after a week of quite heavy consumption was still getting a really good kick out of the stuff. This has largely been the problem with Rita that I’ve been smoking most of the time, but I don’t feel guilty about it because it’s really giving me a lot of pleasure and if such a harsh choice has to be made then I’m not in the mood for compromise.
At the end of the evening (2-00 a.m.) she was crying again about our situation. It only seems to happen on the boat, maybe because she feels trapped and unable to walk away from a difficult situation. She complains of being lonely here because of being the odd-one-out but I can’t sympathise with that after a week in which she has had the company of other German-speaking people.
I think in a roundabout way I’ve already described how most of the day went so I’ll just mention dinner which we had at the quite late hour of 9-00 p.m. It was delicious and consisted of rice, potato & vegetable curry and some small pieces of meat.
The evening was very pleasant as we all sprawled out across the end of the boat smoking an occasional joint and getting very relaxed and laid back. Safa and Kath played guitar, singing along to some of the songs. It was really entertaining and they were both very good in their own different styles.
Time just bombed past and before I realised it we were already well into another day. Sharon was asleep on the floor of the living room while Rita had gone to bed hours before, although when I eventually retired at nearly 2-00 a.m. she was still awake, and how.
Had a very restless night not sleeping much but drifted off into a state of semi-consciousness at 4-00 a.m.
Wednesday July 22nd
(My sister Chris’s twenty-first birthday, I sent my greetings in the form of thought waves so hopefully they won’t get waylaid along the way). I was awake very early and feeling much better.
Got up at 8-00 a.m. and dropped the other three dexys which got the day moving a bit. Sharon has also taken a few. We were later on comparing our pupil sizes. Hers are pretty hardened and don’t grow so much bigger but mine are still very expressive (I’m surprised Rita doesn’t notice).
I sat in the front room with Sharon. Kath was still crashed out on the floor where she’d finally gone to sleep last night. Safa had already left very early this morning to get his bus to Jammu. Sharon and I didn’t talk much, not even having a joint between us which was unusual. I sat for a while writing but when breakfast arrived shortly after 9-30 a.m. that project was abandoned for later on.
Rita joined me weary-eyed for fried eggs, toast and tea of which I consumed the most part as my stomach is feeling a lot better at the moment. After the meal we sat at the table smoking a lot of cigarettes and chatting over the many things which have been passing through her mind.
As usual we analysed things, said how we felt and compared ideas before (after two hours heated discussion) we discovered (surprise, surprise) that the way we think is still the same. The whole thing is washed-up and finished (for the third or fourth time).
I was on good form for the discussion because of the dexys but I’m afraid it didn’t leave madam any happier. I happily conceded that I was a nasty bastard and really cold, of which I was accused, but got very wound up inside because of the hassle which has unfortunately crept onto the scene again.
After the big talk show I had a couple of smokes with Sharon to settle me down again. She’s proved to be a magic smoking partner and we have a good laugh together.
Around midday all four of us residents got a shikara over to Dalgate and from there went our separate ways into town. Rita and I went first to the tourist office where we booked our bus seats to Jammu for Friday morning (7-30 a.m.). With that settled it gave a final seal to the fact that we’ve got very little time left and will soon be on our way back to Europe.
I checked at the Post Office for any more post but was disappointed as there was nothing at all from my family or news from Kim & Geoff (or anyone else who’s passed through in the last few days).
Rita then changed another US$50 as she wanted to buy a present for her sister. I sat and watched the incredibly slow service (although not as slow as many) of Grindlays Bank Ltd. I sat there for ages and watched the whole charade in action. Banking must be basically the same set-up the world over.
She then purchased some beautiful earrings and a pendant made from ‘bluestone’ and silver, a lovely combination. They cost R240 and there seemed little bargaining to be done but they’ll make great presents and seemed like an excellent buy.
After this bit of shopping I split, pleading the fact that I wanted to buy some trousers as my cop-out. I also needed time to myself as I was starting to feel a bit crowded and hassled again. I soon got that out of my system, speeding around various parts of town and looking in at numerous tailors shops, making a few tentative enquiries.
My long search cost me much precious ‘shoe-leather’ (the flip-flops are paper-thin). I eventually called on a gentleman calling himself ‘Honest Injun’ (unbelievable isn’t it?). I saw a couple of things I liked and because the guy said the things would be finished tomorrow I decided to get measured up for some trousers and a shirt (something respectable to come back in, or rather go back in).
I paid a R100 deposit and will pick up the finished articles tomorrow evening. Ordered a smart pair of khaki trousers with side pockets, a pair of black cotton trousers styled the same as the ones I have from Nepal and a cream cotton shirt (Indian style). They cost R185 all together, R80 for the khakis, R50 for the cotton pants and R55 for the shirt.
As long as they are finished alright by tomorrow evening I could actually have something quite smart to wear for the benefit of our dear friends, the customs men. I did some more unnecessary walking around but was having a great time on the dexys so it didn’t really matter.
Eventually got back to the boat at 5-00 p.m. after a really enjoyable afternoon in town. Rita seemed a little happier and my mood was considerably better than this morning so we stayed amiable throughout a very enjoyable evening.
Had a good shower to wash the filth off me and suitably refreshed I re-emerged clad in my jeans and grey shirt. That provided sufficient contrast to provoke some comment. We had a meal of mutton, chips and tomato which was very tasty but not all that filling. I’m feeling that especially now, at well past 1-00 a.m. with the munchies and no food available.
We’ve had a great evening smoking plenty of gear and having a good laugh, mostly between the three of us getting out of it. Rita bought some beer which was really good and gave the evening some momentum. She crashed out quite early on while the rest of us laughed on, we had a magic time.
With the time now approaching 1-30 a.m. I suppose I should do something about going to bed, but Sharon is just constructing another joint first. We are the only two awake, although Kath surfaces every so often, and are both still speeding away with no hope of sleep for a couple more hours yet.
Tomorrow is packing day but I don’t think that presents too many problems (unless I get too out of it) as everything should still fit easily into my bag. It has served me well on this trip although I may get something a little stronger at the next time around.
This trip is nearly at an end. It’s unthinkable but true and soon this whole thing will be just another memory (how poetic) recorded faithfully only in the annals of ‘Fred’s Diary’. Anyhow must go now as the next joint is almost ready and the little hand is fast approaching the second one down on your right (2-00 a.m.) but sleep is still a distant dream. For now I’ll call a halt to these stoned ramblings which aren’t leading anywhere at quite a fast rate.
I did in fact sleep well despite my earlier reservations, falling asleep at 2-30 a.m.
Thursday July 23rd
Time moves on relentlessly and another day came into being. Our last before having to get on the road again. Woke up at 8-30 a.m. feeling quite good and after a wash sat at the front of the boat for a while.
Had breakfast with Rita who only drank tea as she wasn’t feeling very well again. She spent most of the day crashed out in the bedroom as her stomach was giving her a lot of trouble. I had quite a restless day on the boat feeling strangely unsettled as the day of returning gets closer and closer.
I sat around for ages in the living room talking to Sharon & Kate, smoking a few joints and generally trying to relax. I also did some reading of Aldous Huxley’s ‘Brave New World’ which Kate has given me in return for a couple of books that I’ve already finished.
Decided to get my packing done and went into the bedroom where I sorted everything out and had it all neatly packed within twenty minutes. After five months of travelling I certainly know where everything should go and it still fits in really neatly. The rest of the afternoon I spun away, chatting, reading and having an enjoyable time in the company of Sharon and Kath.
At 5-00 p.m. the three of us got ourselves together and got a shikara into town. Kathy came along with me and although it was earlier than arranged I decided to walk up to the tailors. Surprise, surprise, the clothes were ready (and very well made into the bargain) so that I was able to inspect them, try them on and check the quality.
Was very pleased with all three articles and Kath also approved of them, which made it even better. I paid the balance of R85 and although I felt that I was being overcharged bargaining didn’t even enter my head. Earlier today we’d also paid Kawa R250 to cover our stay and meals for the last three nights of our time in Srinagar.
I was left with R45 which should last me until Delhi and Rita can lend me a little extra for my last night at the airport when I’ll undoubtedly consume a large number of high-price drinks. I also have R100 put specially on one side to pay the outrageous airport tax which everybody has to fork out on leaving India.
After collecting my new clothes we wandered back along the boulevard before Kath headed off to another boat where she’s been invited for a meal. I went to Baba’s tea stall which seemed to have a very convivial, local atmosphere. The owner was quite a character who certainly made his impression on the place. I had a very cheap but tasty and filling meal of idly vada (fluffed pastries & veggy sauce masala dosa) and a tea.
Then caught a shikara back to the boat where I arrived shortly after 7-00 p.m. Rita was still feeling pretty grotty so hopefully she’ll be fit to travel tomorrow. As I write this at 9-00 p.m. she is attempting to get her packing done but still feels very weak. I feel really sorry for her as it only makes her feel worse and she wasn’t feeling happy before anyway.
I’m sure she’ll be feeling a lot better by the morning though. She’ll probably be fine and I’ll end up with a case of the raging shits tomorrow. Most of the evening was spent relaxing with Kath playing guitar, Sharon her mouth organ, the locals singing as they celebrate a big wedding due to take place tomorrow and me slumped in a chair, writing, reading and smoking the last of my dope.
I’d been a little worried about getting hold of some dexys for Saturday night at the airport. Had tried a couple of chemists without success but Sharon allayed my worries on that front when she told me later on that I could have the rest of the ones she has, as she is going to leave them alone for a while.
It still hardly seems possible that I’ll soon be on a plane home again. Once I’m on the move it will be different but sitting here in these idyllic surroundings it’s very difficult to imagine. In a week’s time this will all be another vague shadow of the past. Life’s full of them, isn’t it?
Later in the evening I went and saw Rita again, only to discover that she was feeling even worse and seems very uncertain about whether she should travel tomorrow. She looked pretty rough and certainly not fit enough at present to stand up to the rigorous travelling conditions facing us.
We drew up a contingency plan which I later discussed with Sharon and Kath to enlist their help if it’s needed. The idea would be for Rita to go to the airline office (with one or both of the girls) later on tomorrow and buy either a direct ticket to Bombay (cashing in the Delhi-Bombay part) for Saturday evening or a connecting flight from Srinagar to Delhi on Saturday afternoon.
This way she’d have another day and a half to get better before undergoing this not so stressful method of getting back home and also I can be certain that I am not just abandoning her but that she’ll be in safe hands on the boat. If this ‘plan of action’ becomes necessary then I’ll be travelling down to Delhi on my own, which would be quite a relief in some ways.
Retired shortly after midnight with the wedding party still in full swing and the rain beating down on the roof of the boat. It had been a very cloudy day with a few showers which have really cooled the air temperature considerably.
Friday July 24th
After trying to get to sleep for ages I eventually gave up and decided to get up again. Rita was dozing restlessly as I returned to the living room and joined Sharon and Kate who were still sitting around reading.
As it was already past 1-00 a.m. I decided that there was no real point trying to sleep when I had to be up again at 6-00 a.m. so I dissolved two of the dexys Sharon had given me under my tongue. They soon had the required effect and as I write the time is already nearly 3-30 a.m.
Sharon went to bed an hour ago but Kath is still awake and writing letters to all and sundry. I finished reading ‘Brave New World’ which I found quite interesting. Have now chosen another book of Kath’s called ‘Buddenbrooks’ which is an English translation of the classic German novel written by Thomas Mann.
The wedding party still continues and will apparently carry on into the early hours of dawn and maybe even later. The music is very rhythmical and has a special Kashmiri quality although it’s difficult to describe. The basic chant is always the same with a forceful base line produced by various drums and a different person singing the solo line as the singing chorus chimes in afterwards with the chant.
As I said very difficult to describe, extremely basic but it appeals to my sense of rhythm as I speed on through the night. By the noise that has been echoing around the lake I don’t imagine many people are sleeping well and that (unless they’re involved with the wedding) they’ll be even more irritable than normal tomorrow.
It is the month of Ramadan at the moment (until Aug. 2nd) which involves a month of abstinence from drinking, smoking and eating except for some relaxation of the rules while the sun is down. All this sacrifice has led to a lot of families falling out over various things and to big verbal fights which carry on day and night and can be even noisier than tonight’s party.
Kath and I chatted for ages and had quite a good conversation considering the early hour it was. The party continued unabated although towards dawn the singing and drum-beating became more and more subdued. The night has passed very quickly and we are presently just sitting here listening to the dawn chorus, which is very loud, and watching the rain as it continues into the morning light.
Rita seems to have slept well most of the night and her fever has subsided a little but we’ll have to see how she feels before making any decisions about whether she travels today or not. If things go according to plan this morning then breakfast should arrive at 6-30 a.m. leaving plenty of time to get over to the tourist centre from where the bus leaves at 7-30 a.m.
Woke Rita shortly after 6-00 a.m. to see how she was and although she felt a little better it was decided that she wasn’t fit enough to travel by bus and train today so our contingency plan was put into operation. I had some breakfast of fried eggs, toast and tea. After saying some hurried farewells to Rita, Kawa and Kath I got a shikara across the peaceful lake and then walked along the boulevard towards the tourist office.
I found the bus quite quickly and left my luggage there while I went in search of someone else to share my ticket. I went to the reservations counter where the guy paired me off with an old Kashmiri teacher travelling to Jammu who needed a seat. He gave me R30 to cover my costs and took the seat next to mine so that we were both happy.
The bus set off at 7-45 a.m. into the driving rain, which has really been coming down heavily considering that Kashmir is not usually an area hit by the monsoons. I heard yesterday that Rajhastan (state south of Delhi) has been badly flooded and that Delhi itself has been quite heavily hit. Hopefully it won’t affect my travelling arrangements at all.
As the bus moved off I dozed gratefully and fell into a dreamful sleep from which I was only occasionally awoken during the morning as we travelled the length of the valley from Srinagar to the tunnel from where the road winds itself down towards Jammu.
I was feeling a little upset this morning because of leaving Rita behind but I’m sure she’ll be well looked after and will still arrive home before me. I’ll miss her though. Despite all our arguments I’m still very fond of her as a person, which is maybe why I find it so difficult to stick to resolutions made between us about the future.
The rain produced some spectacular results and some very dangerous ones as well. The rivers and streams were all swollen with muddy-coloured water produced in raging torrents from the towering mountainsides. This led in turn to slippery, muddy roads which in places were eroded away to dangerously narrow levels.
The road was also subject to many landslides and mudslides, a small one of which landed on our bus with a loud crash (which was quite frightening at the time).
It is now nearly 3-00 p.m. and we’ve just had a break from the painfully slow journey for some dinner (veg. curry & chapattis). There are now only 120 Km. to go before we reach Jammu, so there should be plenty of time before the train goes at 9-25 p.m. for me to try and sell the other half of my ticket to Delhi. That statement now sounds really cheerful.
The journey got worse and worse. As we drove along the bus had another small collision, not with a rock this time but another vehicle, a lorry. It caught the back end of the bus causing some damage to the side and smashing some windows. After sorting that out we moved on only to hear sundry pieces of metal from the bottom of the bus scraping along the ground and then falling off with a loud clatter.
With 70 Kms. still to go and the time fast approaching 6-00 p.m. we pulled into a garage and all had to dismount as the bus obviously wasn’t going to make it to Jammu.
Got chatting to an Australian guy (Andy) who had been travelling on the same bus and later on discovered that he had been in Chiang Mai when I was in prison there. It was another of those many coincidences one runs into whilst travelling.
He had arrived there a couple of days before I was shifted to Bangkok and heard the whole story of Stan, Fred & Andy from Sharon, Aja, Marie & Willy at Isra House. For him it was also strange meeting one of the three famous convicts. He also gave me some news which I hadn’t heard yet.
The lawyer Stan had hired didn’t turn out to be much help and when he left the question of an appeal against the sentence seemed to have been dropped, so it looks as though Stan may still be there, with another two months still to serve.
His girlfriend Maria had returned from Malaysia by the time Andy moved on, so hopefully she was able to give him some moral support and help keep his flagging spirits up. We talked a lot about what had happened on another bus we eventually managed to catch at 6-45 p.m. as the rain was starting to fall heavily again.
We caught a private local bus and had to stand in the corridor with our heads bent low by the roof for the next couple of hours. I think the bus must have been built for midgets originally because the roof was only 5 ft. higher than the floor causing most of the standing passengers a considerable amount of discomfort.
Andy knew Jammu fairly well and advised me on the best way to get to the railway station as the buses head off to the bus stand which is a long way away. Instead I dismounted on the outskirts of town at 8-30 p.m. with rain still coming down in buckets.
I got a motorised rickshaw which proved to be quite expensive (R20) and the driver refused to bargain. However, it was a long way to the station (9-10 kms.) and so many things seem to have been going wrong that I just wanted to get on the train for which I had a reservation.
We had another accident along the way (believe it or not) in which the driver, blinded by oncoming lights and the rain, ran smack into a concrete bollard. Luckily he wasn’t travelling too fast and didn’t cause too much damage to his vehicle although I smashed my knees and shins on the bars in front of me.
Was quite shaken up by the whole incident. It wasn’t turning out to be a very good day at all and I was becoming more and more pissed off by the moment.
Arrived at the railway station shortly before 9-00 p.m. and in the process of getting out of the rickshaw one of the handles on my bag ripped almost clean off. It has been a good bag but obviously isn’t strong enough to take the rigours of travelling. Hopefully it will stay in one piece and not fall to bits completely before I get to Frankfurt.
I spent the twenty-five minutes before the train was due to leave trying to decipher the rain-soaked reservation lists and asking the various ticket superintendents for help, but without much success. Running up and down the platform one of the straps on my trusty flip-flops parted company with the sole, so that I was reduced to rushing around in bare feet.
The train left on time and I jumped into the nearest second-class sleeper, as it was moving off, feeling absolutely wretched. I sat for a while in a corner (on my bag) thinking about things and feeling utterly defeated mentally and physically.
I was soaking wet from the rain (despite my umbrella), thirsty and dying for a cigarette (of which I had none left). The only change I had left was a R50 note which meant I was unable to buy drinks along the way (or cigarettes) because no-one had sufficient change. I had also managed to twist my ankle whilst jumping onto the train in bare feet to add to the misery that had pervaded me.
After half-an-hour the ticket-inspector came around and we discovered that I’d actually jumped into the right carriage and soon located my berth which was on top, thank God. I climbed up there and was soon asleep after a very trying day.
Saturday July 25th
I managed to sleep quite well although restless because of many different dreams which disturbed me a couple of times during the night.
Woke at 8-00 a.m. feeling more refreshed but still in a state of semi-depression. I had to leave my berth as the train was filling up and people had nowhere to put their luggage. I sat down the bottom and joined a group of young lads who spoke only Hindi and we had an entertaining time trying to communicate.
They gave me a couple of beedies to smoke which helped relieve the tension I’d been suffering within myself because of all that had happened yesterday.
The weather has become very hot with the sun appearing for a while although there was ample evidence along the way of the damage caused by the recent monsoon activity in these areas.
One more unpleasant incident occurred on the journey although I saw nothing of it. Someone had either fallen or thrown themselves under the train and the wheels had severed an arm and a leg before the train was able to stop. A lot of people rushed outside to see the spectacle but I was unable to face it and thought only how lucky I really was.
We arrived in New Delhi at 11-00 a.m. after quite a good journey. I went first to the station’s ‘South Indian vegetarian restaurant’ where I had a lunch of rice and curry for R3-50. Back downstairs again I went to one of the many shoe-repairers who for R1 secured the strap on my flip-flops so that I could use them again.
Decided to try and get a hotel room for the afternoon at a reduced rate before going out to the airport this evening. I could take a room for the night but as I must check-in at 7-30 a.m. the risk of me oversleeping is too great. Besides I’ve got six dexys left and want to get some sort of epilogue written for the diary before I go home.
Found a room for the afternoon at a nearby hotel for R15 where I had a nice, cool and refreshing shower. The rest of the afternoon I spent dozing, writing and thinking a lot. There were a couple of power cuts during the afternoon to remind me I was back in Delhi.
The heat in the room when the fan stopped was almost unbearable and made it necessary for me to have another quick shower before leaving at 6-00 p.m. I decided to leave early on the off-chance that I could see Rita again on her way to Bombay.
I wasn’t very hopeful of meeting up with her but I’ve missed her a lot since I left yesterday morning and wanted to make sure she was alright now. I really don’t understand my feelings for her sometimes, it’s crazy.
Walking from the hotel towards Connaught Place I got really hot & sweaty as the late afternoon sun beat down on me, the clouds having largely dispersed. I stopped off for a last milk-shake before going for the bus which left promptly at 6-45 p.m. (cost R8). The journey was not as long as I’d remembered and we were there within twenty minutes.
On the way I saw a beautiful sunset as the sun shone through the darkening clouds producing some incredible colours. Got to the airport shortly after 7-00 p.m. and headed for the national departure lounge where I sat myself and hoped.
Surprise, surprise, five minutes later the little lady herself appeared. We were both really glad to see each other and I was pleased that she was looking so much better. We didn’t have time to talk much before she had to hurry through the security check to board her plane for Bombay.
Having seen her again really cheered me up. She had been delayed a couple of hours in Srinagar before flying down which was why she had been so late arriving here. If she hadn’t been delayed then I probably would have missed her completely and still been as worried as before.
After our few minutes conversation I agreed to phone her on Monday (to let her know that I’d got back safely) and then went up to the very flashy restaurant they have here. From there I saw Rita’s flight take off alright at 8-00 p.m. In Bombay she’ll have a couple of hours to waste before flying home.
This restaurant will probably be my abode for the night and I’ll shortly be taking four dexys (as soon as my pot of tea arrives) which should keep me awake enough to get plenty of writing done. If not then I’ve got two more but I don’t particularly want to arrive in Frankfurt wide-eyed so I’ll have to be careful how late I take them.
The tea has just arrived so things should soon be underway. The restaurant is proving an ideal place to sit as it is reasonably comfortable with not too many people around and no hassles as long as I eat and drink something. I have already had an evening meal of baked vegetables ad chips (R15), a pot of tea and a coke (quite expensive at R4 each).
It is now 11-30 p.m. and the dexys have had their required effect of keeping me wide-eyed although I’m having to channel my physical restlessness into the writing I intend doing over the next six or seven hours. I have already drafted a plan of what I want to write about as an epilogue to this diary.
To try and make it a little more organised I’ve split it up into eight different sections plus an explanatory introduction although there is of course the possibility that other things will pop into my head as I am writing. Here’s hoping that it makes interesting reading and provides the reader (and author as well) with an insight into how Fred ticks.
With this trip rapidly coming to a close I thought it would be useful to try and formulate a few thoughts and opinions on what I’ve achieved (or otherwise) in my five months or so back on the road. This summary can only express my feelings at the present time and is therefore in some ways only a reflection of my present mood (which is pretty good at the moment).
To be able to share my experiences with other people through these pages has given me great pleasure although at times I think I may have bared my soul a little too much. One last ‘apology’ before getting down to details. Having taken dexys to keep me awake tonight I trust that I can keep things concise and to the point. Please excuse any ‘wanderings’ (of both the brain and pen) as I try to express my views, feelings and hopes for the future.
Impressions on the different countries visited
The hand of fate seems to have been hovering in the background and giving the occasional push, which has meant that the whole trip turned into something completely different from what was originally intended.
Originally I had planned to tour only South-East Asia with the possibility of going to Australia and working acting as a light at the end of the tunnel. Fate played its hand at a couple of vital points in the trip so that in the end the direction I was to take was decided by forces outside of my control.
The following summary of countries I visited in the last five months is out of necessity only a short résumé:-
A splendid introduction to my tour of Asia providing a mixture of conditions, some of which I could relate to from previous experience in the west and others providing an insight into a completely different way of life. My five weeks there gave me the chance to view a hectic, overcrowded and sometimes paranoid society.
The work I did as a T.V. extra gave me a little extra cash and a chance to try my hand at something very different. It was all great fun. Looking back at my original intention of working there I feel it would have been a bad mistake and am pleased that things didn’t work out as planned. The humidity, pace of work and competition would have turned me into a nervous wreck.
My real regret here was that I didn’t really get the chance to see much of the country. Of my four weeks there, only six days were spent outside the law’s greedy clutches so I only saw a small part of the country and its people. My time in captivity was one hell of an experience which I don’t regret now it’s past history but then again it’s something I wouldn’t want to go through again.
One good thing about my Thai experience was that I got the chance to stopover in India on my ‘deportation’ ticket back to Europe. At first it was all a hell of a shock, especially due to the fact that I was only given two days’ notice before being plunged into the unknown.
My two months here have proved to be a real eye-opener with so many huge contrasts both in living standards and the people themselves. It is such a huge country that I feel my travels here have only scratched a little of the surface, leaving plenty more to see on subsequent trips. Next time I would like to see some of southern India i.e. Goa, Kerala, Madras & Sri Lanka.
An overused phrase often quoted in connection with this country is that it is a fairy-tale place. It is indeed a lovely place and I had a very enjoyable five weeks there breathing in the incredible atmosphere produced both by the scenery and the people. The invasion, over the last twenty years, of western ideas has spoilt much of Nepal but there are still many areas which maintain their beauty and are relatively untouched by the taints of western civilisation. Hopefully some balance can be achieved to keep that special something which Nepal still has.
Health throughout the trip
Physically my condition has been generally good although a couple of illnesses gave me some worry about having contracted something serious. The most common complaints have been either to do with the stomach or the nose. The shits have been frequent but never too serious while the couple of colds I’ve had cleared up relatively quickly.
My medical insurance ran out after my first month in Hong Kong and I have been lucky that nothing serious has happened to me. If anything had, then I would probably have got the first available flight home. Having met many other travellers who have contracted either hepatitis or dysentery I feel that I have been very lucky.
On my return to England I’ll visit the Hospital for Tropical Diseases in London just to make sure I haven’t caught anything which hasn’t raised its ugly head yet. I was particularly lucky not to fall ill whilst in prison because of the lack of attention evident on the medical front there.
I have lost quite a lot of weight during this trip although I’m not certain now whether this occurred only in India and Nepal but I’m sure a substantial part did. When I left Frankfurt I was a sturdy 70 kilos (11 stone) which is a little overweight for me. On meeting Rita in Bombay I had dropped to 62 kilos (under 10 stone) but think I’ve recovered some of that due to all the breakfasts I ate whilst in Kashmir.
The only inoculation I had was against cholera and typhoid which has proved effective (I hope) and the malaria tablets I’ve been taking once a week have done their job. I must just remember to keep taking them for four weeks after I get back home.
Mentally I think my condition could be described as fairly stable although my senses have had to put up with quite a battering sometimes. I now feel better equipped to handle certain situations because of the many differing experiences I’ve been put through since the start of this trip.
It has been excellent writing this diary because it has provided an outlet for many ideas and problems which would otherwise have remained bottled up inside me. I’m sometimes still subject to bouts of depression but these seem to occur less often now and not in so much depth. On the whole I feel more content with life in general although how long that will last once I’m working again God only knows.
Keeping in touch
Communications by post to and from England & Germany have given me a vital link to what is happening back at home in Europe. On my side I have written regularly to Jan (sending her the originals of this diary), once a week to Rita before she came out (plus of course a couple of telegrams) and every couple of weeks to my mother.
Although the post seems to have been quite efficient from Hong Kong and Thailand taking only 4-7 days, it became very erratic in India and Nepal, sometimes taking three weeks to reach Europe. Incoming post also arrived at varying speeds and due to this a couple of letters (to my knowledge) have gone astray, which is always a shame.
Initially the letters from Rita were very depressing but later on they became more light-hearted again as her health recovered somewhat. Jan’s letters have always been fun and a pleasure to receive whilst travelling. With the return of Debby as well they got even bulkier which was even better.
My mother as always kept me informed on what was happening at home in her own beautiful way and Chris shocked me (but pleasantly) by writing for the first time in a couple of years. I think she must have sensed that something was wrong and her ideas really gave me something to work on, nice one Chris.
The only times communications broke down completely were when I was trying to meet up with people whom I’d met in Asia. The notable success was of course initiated by Graham, Sharon & Aja but that was the only one.
Post Restante in Asia has proved to be the most convenient way to receive mail although their efficiency sometime leaves a lot to be desired. Especially bad were those in Kathmandu and Srinagar where post was quite often mis-sorted and the system was open to all sorts of abuse. I much prefer a system where one has to produce identification to a responsible official rather than the slap-happy way in which letters are chucked about without accountability at both the above-mentioned places.
Telegrams proved to be efficient & cheap for urgent messages, taking only a day or two either way. Post is becoming more expensive in Asia but is still much cheaper than in Europe.
New things happening
As is of course normal, whilst away from Europe, many new things have been happening to friends and family. The following are some of the changes I’ve heard about whilst away, but I expect to hear many more once I’m home again.
Dawn Cottage has witnessed a couple of changes with various members of the family disappearing in different directions. My father is now in the Seychelles getting a new radio station off the ground. Ali is again travelling through Europe and may even have been in Frankfurt during July. Chris has been spending more time away from home as well, so that my mother has had to cope with a lot during the last few months.
In Frankfurt things haven’t stood still either. Jan moved into Pete’s new flat although that was of course on the cards when I left. They seem to make a great pair and hopefully things are still going well for them. From Jan’s letters it sounds so anyway.
It also sounds as though The Cottage will see some changes soon. The last I heard was that Bobby would join Murray and Eric in the firm running the Irish House at present, and that they would buy the lease on The Cottage, installing Bobby as manager there.
Fran & Beany have certainly made 1981 their year by firstly getting married, then finding a house and now producing a child into the bargain. I wish them all the happiness in the world. Debby & Philippe returned after a few months in Jamaica which they thoroughly enjoyed but were apparently unable to stay there as long as they would have liked.
Some sad news for Jim whose mother died, but from what I hear he seems to be alright if not naturally so then he’s putting on a good front. It must be absolute agony deep down. Other news includes the fact that Micky has now gone to the States while Colin was sighted by Debby whilst in Greece.
Changes within myself
This is something that I find very difficult to judge because Fred happens to be permanent company so I don’t notice the changes as much. It is easier for others to judge.
Rita thought I had changed very little during the five months we didn’t see each other, except maybe in becoming a little harder on the outside. The following are some of the ways in which I feel I’ve changed but I’m still finding out about myself so they may not seem relevant to anyone else.
My aims in life are still rather indistinct although the more I travel the easier it is not to worry about that. As I gain more experience I’m sure my confidence in myself becomes greater which must be a good thing. During this trip I’ve also learnt to become more broad-minded as I’ve had to adapt to the many different ways of life that exist, often side by side, in Asia.
This should be helpful in the future as it equips me better in my fight to accept people for what they really are, although I’ll still find it difficult not to laugh at the stupidity of the human race sometimes.
I’ve also discovered the fact that I do have some talents which I often don’t use as much as I should, such as my writing abilities which could be earning me extra money through articles for magazines or even a book.
Through my prison experience and also travelling in India I’ve learnt to appreciate the effects that corruption has on a society, affecting large sections of it. We have of course our own corrupt systems in Europe but nothing like those which exist in certain countries in Asia. Bribery does the talking, not justice.
I’ve also seen a lot of both the good and bad sides of the drug scene. In prison I witnessed the selfishness and hardship that heroin produces among its users and got warning enough never to abuse any drug to such an extent that it leads to destruction of my own personality.
During the trip I’ve also tried a couple of new things myself but most of the time I’ve stuck to the limits within which I know I can operate. I feel that I’ve learnt a lot, using hash and grass more to set me thinking and not just to get blasted all the time (although that’s happened a few times as well).
My desire for further education has returned this trip and whether I go to college for four years or simply learn another language my mind will soon be active in the learning (or rather educational) field again.
I am finding that I don’t dwell on past problems so much as I’m slowly learning the fact that you can’t change something that’s already happened, only modify it in some way. The present is the only time that really matters and the future is not worth too much worry although one does have to make tentative plans on which direction your life will take.
Quite often the decisions are made for us anyway so that our real choice is a very limited one. So why worry, what’s going to happen will more than likely happen whatever you do about it. This attitude, at least partly adopted by me, has led to a greater peace within myself than I’ve known for a long time.
Hopefully, like the massive reduction in how much I drink, this feeling will continue once I get back to work again. It’s very easy to revert to how one was before so I hope that I’m strong enough to hold onto some of the gains I’ve made. That is as long as those changes aren’t in reality an illusion.
I’m sure that there are many other things that I’ve learnt which affect the way I act and behave but as mentioned before it is not easy to see those changes within myself because I’m so close to them. I’ll let other people judge if they want to, it’s easier that way and life shouldn’t be complicated by too much self-analysis.
My attitude towards the ‘root of all evil’ is a much more philosophical one after my experience in Thailand. It is still important and I will try to be a little more cautious in the future as regards investments but I don’t worry about it now as much as I used to. I have now used all of the money I took with me for this trip, just over five thousand marks, which under ‘normal’ circumstances in Asia could have lasted me another couple of months.
I still have some money in reserve although I don’t want to use too much of the gift my grandmother left me when she died. As it is I’ve dug into nearly a third of it leaving a little over £1000. I also have DM600 in Germany plus the stones which, if I can sell them, should fetch another DM300-400.
So no worries, I’m not bankrupt yet and if everything else fails I always have the job in the bank to go back to and provide me with a steady income so I can start saving again.
The Rita saga
Now this is a tough one. I find my own attitudes and feelings towards Rita are very difficult to understand so it must be even more difficult for others (including Rita) to know what’s going on.
Our relationship has become very involved after such a long time. Even though we’ve split a couple of times in the past it’s never easy to make a complete break. I know what should happen, but whether it does and we both have the strength to make a complete separation is another matter.
Enough said, only the future holds the answer and as I can’t read the future I’ve no idea what the outcome will be. The saga will no doubt produce a few more twists and turns before the end of the day. Whatever happens will surely be for the best, I hope so anyway.
What does the future hold?
As I mentioned in the previous section I cannot read the future but I do have a few clues as to what might happen to me in the next few months. The most drastic would of course be a return to college but any decision on that is out of my hands now and fate must make the next move.
Other options are rather limited due to the jobs crisis in Europe so if college doesn’t become a viable alternative then I may return to the bank for a year at least before taking off again. Other possibilities include getting a job on the black to get money quickly and be on the move again within four months.
The last possibility, if I discovered that I couldn’t handle Frankfurt again, would be to go for broke and grab my money (all of it) and head for Australia (via India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Indonesia) where I should be able to find some work. Much of what I’ve said about the Rita saga applies to this situation as well because there are so many unknowns hidden around the corner which may change my present ideas completely. Whatever happens I’m not going to worry about it unduly.
Footnote – The last day
Sunday July 26th
Spent all night writing the epilogue which I hope provides a useful insight into the way Fred thinks.
It is now 7-00 a.m. and the dexys are starting to wear off a little so I should sleep well on the flight back to Frankfurt. My right hand has taken a battering with all this writing so I’ll give it a rest now and on the plane, adding any other essential details upon my arrival in Frankfurt.
Thanks to all the writing I’ve done during the night, time has passed very quickly. Hopefully the flight won’t drag too much. Rita must already be well on the way home and after all the flying and hanging around she’ll be exhausted.
The flight was slightly delayed and didn’t leave Delhi until after 9-30 a.m.
I am now sitting at the S-bahn station in Frankfurt feeling really strange. Had a pretty uneventful flight although they fed us well with breakfast, lunch and after a stopover in Rome early afternoon, another snack.
Only managed to get a couple of hours sleep on the plane, so I dropped my last two dexys before going through customs so that I can see the evening through.
I will now head over to try and see Jan and Pete first so I hope they’re around at the flat or maybe Jan will be working night. Feeling a bit shattered about being back but that’s the way at the end of every trip.
Roll on the next adventure.
It is now 7-00 a.m. and the dexys are starting to wear off a little so I should sleep well on the flight back to Frankfurt. My right hand has taken a battering with all this writing so I’ll give it a rest now and on the plane, adding any other essential details upon my arrival in Frankfurt.
Thanks to all the writing I’ve done during the night, time has passed very quickly. Hopefully the flight won’t drag too much. Rita must already be well on the way home and after all the flying and hanging around she’ll be exhausted.
The flight was slightly delayed and didn’t leave Delhi until after 9-30 a.m.
I am now sitting at the S-bahn station in Frankfurt feeling really strange. Had a pretty uneventful flight although they fed us well with breakfast, lunch and after a stopover in Rome early afternoon, another snack.
Only managed to get a couple of hours sleep on the plane, so I dropped my last two dexys before going through customs so that I can see the evening through.
I will now head over to try and see Jan and Pete first so I hope they’re around at the flat or maybe Jan will be working night. Feeling a bit shattered about being back but that’s the way at the end of every trip.
Roll on the next adventure.