Friday May 1st
Woke up as it was getting light at 5-00 a.m.
After a really good sleep, considering the wooden board I was sleeping on, we arrived in Chapra at 5-45 a.m. All six of us headed off together in three rickshaws (R2 each) to the area where the buses went from.
There was a lot of traffic for so early in the morning so we dodged in between pony-traps, bicycles and cow-carts. Arrived at the square and sat around for a while drinking tea. The Dutch guy (Allas) also gave me a couple of tabs of speed (Dexedrine I think) which helped bring me around a lot and made the coming bus ride much easier.
We bought tickets for the bus to Raxaul (R13 each) and managed to get seats together at the back of the bus. By the time we left at shortly after 7-00 a.m. the bus was really packed with lots of people riding along on top (on the luggage rack) as well.
We bounced along for hours on a hard surfaced but really narrow road, heading north and stopping at virtually every little village along the way. We took on more and more people until there were people literally hanging off every conceivable part of the bus.
The weather got really hot but it was refreshing (if dusty) riding along with all the windows open. The countryside was a lot different from that which I’d seen so far; much more fertile with more water to irrigate the crops still growing and evidence that the wheat had all been harvested in the last couple of weeks.
There were piles of straw stacked everywhere and many threshing circles being worked both by humans and animals. The villages were more like farming settlements as everything seemed to orientate around their agricultural life. There were very few brick buildings, most abodes being constructed from wood or straw.
Seeing all this primitive action made me think I’d been transported somehow into the past and I really enjoyed looking at and trying to take everything in.
There was only one bad spot in the journey. An Indian woman of middle-age quite unceremoniously leant over me and puked out of the window splattering my trousers and bag (which were easily cleaned later with water).
As she was obviously in a bad way I let her sit in my seat by the window while I perched on the back of the seat until she got off half-an-hour later. It could have all been a clever ploy to get a seat but I don’t think so somehow.
After many stops we eventually arrived in Raxaul at 12-45 p.m. all pretty shattered both mentally and physically. From the bus we got three rickshaws who took us all through the border formalities and onto the Nepalese town of Birgunj for R10 each.
We visited various shacks on either side of a bridge separating the two countries; first passport control and customs on the Indian side and then the same on the Nepalese side. The whole procedure took about an hour before we went our different ways as the rickshaw drivers took us to different hotels.
Allas and I were taken to a hotel called ‘Delicious’ near the main bus square, where we can catch a bus tomorrow to Kathmandu. The room was quite simple but adequate at Nep.R10 each a night. We later went to a bank and exchanged our Indian rupees. I changed 700 and got 1015 Nepalese rupees.
I had a shower and Allas had a shot of morphine before we went firstly to the bank and then to a restaurant near the hotel. I had a large pot of tea, sweet & sour vegetable and a coke. We also had quite a laugh with some Nepalese in the place who seem much more open than the Indians with surprisingly different characteristics, not such a pushy and a much friendlier race.
At 5-00 p.m. I went back to the room while Allas went off to the market nearby with one of the guys. I also got our tickets booked and paid for (R32-50 each). The bus will leave at 5-30 a.m. tomorrow morning and arrives in Kathmandu nine hours later.
Sitting in the room I tried writing this diary with the electricity off (as seems normal at peak periods in Asia) so I have been scrawling by candle-light and under constant attack from mosquitoes. Here in Birgunj it is still very hot but tomorrow as we get much higher into the hills towards Kathmandu it should be appreciably cooler.
Allas came back at and we sat around chatting for a while until the lights came on again at 7-30 p.m. He suggested we go see the guy he’d been with before at a little temple nearby to smoke a ‘chillum’ or two. He took along some grass he had bought with him from India and I tagged along not really knowing what to expect, as this was all something new to me.
We had a cold drink before walking for five minutes and reaching a tiny little temple tucked away at the corner of the square. There were already a few people there with quite a young ‘guru’ who lives at the temple. We joined them, although I spent most of the evening as a very placid observer.
Allas talked with the others a lot, finding out about local situations, both with ordinary things such as rickshaw fares and also the price of various dope as he wanted to buy some. I had a couple of tokes from the chillum which were quite sufficient for me and I missed out on many of the rounds.
Sat really subdued having a private battle with the mosquitoes (they later built a small straw fire to help) and also sitting back and observing the local people trying to judge their characters and the ways they were thinking.
It was strange to see a group of men aged anywhere from 20 to 65+ all sitting around in this manner. In a different context I could only compare it with a night up the pub with the lads. We were joined by various other people during the evening and I was persuaded to have a couple more tokes which really sent me flying.
Allas also bought some Nepalese black hash, although he managed either to lose or have stolen the first piece sold to him. I still don’t know exactly what happened but he had to buy some more later on. I’m still not sure whether he was conned or was doing the conning, I’ll probably never know.
Returned to the hotel, still very out of it at 11-30 p.m., feeling that all the locals were having a good laugh at the state I was in. Went to bed shortly afterwards still fighting a running battle with the mosquitoes.
Saturday May 2nd
Woke up first at 3-30 a.m. and lay awake thinking for a while.
I then had a shower which soothed a lot of the bites I was suffering and was really refreshing. Woke Allas, got everything together and went down for the bus at 5-00 a.m.
Got aboard a rickety old bus and managed to squeeze into two very narrow seats towards the back where we were joined by countless locals. Set off on time at 5-30 a.m. and so began a fascinating but very uncomfortable ride to Kathmandu, where we eventually arrived at 4-00 p.m.
The bus stopped many times at small settlements along the way and also for breaks at little street side stalls where Allas and I refreshed ourselves with tea. The journey started off with us riding over the flat plains as the sun rose and then later winding up the switchback road heading up into the hills.
The views got really fantastic as we drove higher and higher and saw the countryside in action. Nepal is a very fertile country with skilled use of irrigation meaning that they are self-reliant for food and in fact export some surplus goods.
We eventually reached 8000 feet before starting to head downwards again into the valley of Kathmandu at 5000 feet above sea-level. The road was really bad a lot of the way. It was built 20 years ago and has not been maintained very well so that there are sometimes whole stretches of very bad driving conditions.
The weather changed drastically as we got higher and later on into the valley. There were a lot of clouds with some rain and the whole feeling was cool and overcast. This quite surprised me as I had expected sunshine and some warmer weather but we were informed that the monsoon conditions have set in very early this year.
Arrived in Kathmandu pretty exhausted and took a taxi around a couple of hotels and guest-houses to check prices. We found a good place a little way out of town which is quiet and simple, a guest-house charging only R15 a night for a double room.
Accepted the room and went inside to relax for a while. I made a small joint of grass which was excellent and relaxed us both. We went out at 6-00 p.m. totally unprepared for what the evening had in store for us. Still pretty stoned I floated into Kathmandu and we found a great little place where we sat down cross-legged at low tables and ordered some things to eat.
Even though Allas hasn’t got much money he is still splashing out. He paid out R40 for his meal and later on another R200 for two jackets. He had asked me whether I would be able to lend him money but I have said that wouldn’t be possible as I need all the money I have.
Had a great meal, a coke, mixed vegetable curry with rice and a pot of tea for only R20. The restaurant was pretty cool, in a really nice situation, the food and company seemed good and everyone was just sitting around relaxing and getting stoned.
We then went to Freak Street, a name given to it by the hippy reputation it picked up in the early 70’s. We had an interesting look around although I must admit Allas was getting on my nerves talking to everyone in sight and embarrassing a few locals. Later on we met a young guy who wanted to sell us some dope and took us to his flat where we could try a couple of joints.
We proceeded to do so and learnt quite a lot about Nepalese thinking and the way they regard drugs in their own society. Allas later paid them R50 for some heroin which they all smoked through a bamboo bong. I didn’t indulge but had another joint so by the time we left I was really buzzing.
By now it was 9-30 p.m. and most of the restaurants were closing soon, so we went into one and had a drink and got talking to another Dutch guy with whom we had another joint.
We then left and proceeded to get lost so that we spent the next two hours or so trying to find out where we were. We asked numerous different people but although trying to be helpful none of them told us the same direction.
Eventually at 12-30 a.m. foot-weary and pissed-off at getting so lost on our first night in Kathmandu, we saw a police station. We got talking to a police officer who was a great help and proceeded to walk us back over the bridge to our guest-house within fifteen minutes.
He sat in our room and we had a long talk in which he exchanged addresses and said that if we ever had any problems we should contact him. We thanked him very much and shook hands good-bye. He had been really nice, genuine and helpful even though we were pretty obviously out of our heads to lose our way as we had.
Went to bed at 1-30 a.m.
Sunday May 3rd
Slept with a cover last night which kept me quite warm although the temperature is fairly cool.
Last night I wore a long-sleeved sweatshirt with jeans rather than the cotton slacks and T-shirts I had got used to wearing. We were woken up this morning after a really good night’s sleep at 11-00 a.m. as they wanted to fix a meter in the electricity box.
Still feeling tired but a lot more rested, I had a shower, then we drank a tea before going out. Well that was our intention but we got delayed by a young lad from the hotel who came into the room and wanted to smoke a joint with us. So I rolled one up and we put off going into the town until later on.
We eventually walked in at around midday with the weather turning really miserable. Drizzle persisted most of the day and turned to heavy rain and thunderstorms later on in the afternoon. Walking in today we were able to orientate ourselves a little better.
We stopped at a pie shop, many of the ones opened for the western tastes in and around Freak Street. They are really good places for the munchies and also to get a smoke when needed. We sat and had some apple pie, bread and tea. While we were there a Nepalese guy came in with a large lump of Nepalese hash. He rolled up a joint and gave it round to the western people there.
This is a place where smoking is just accepted although in some restaurants there are ‘no smoking’ (hash) signs it seems to be very widespread. Later on we met the young Danish couple with whom we went to another restaurant and had a cold lassi.
We sat around in the restaurant for a while chatting and listening to the music. It is really great to hear some western music in some of these places. Kathmandu is certainly adapting to the influx of young westerners which has only taken place since the 60’s but had a very great effect on the way this city goes about things.
In a way I am disappointed that it is a little too commercial, a lot more than I expected, but it still seems a very interesting scene and one in which it would be very hard to get accepted in. There are obviously many different cliques in this place and it is very difficult seeing everything from the outside.
We split up at 2-00 p.m. and wandered about for a while before meeting a couple of Swedish guys we had met last night. They had wanted to buy some opium from Allas and so we headed out with them to our room. The opium was in liquid form so we coated a couple of cigarettes with it and for the first time I had a chance to see what opium would do for me.
It had no great startling effect on me although I was mixing it with grass. It left me very relaxed but I didn’t feel as much as I had expected to. I think it would be better and have a more noticeable effect from a pipe. When they left at 4-30 p.m. I went to sleep and was out like a light. Allas was not feeling very well and shaking a lot both from the cold and lack of morphine.
He has set out all the various ‘chillums’ which he has plus different hash, grass and opium he had purchased on the window-ledge so that the place now looks like a dealers shop. I am getting a little paranoid about having so much around although I think, especially after last night’s experience, that there is no real danger from the police.
I slept until 9-00 p.m., really deep and with some strange but interesting dreams (probably from the opium). On waking up I was really thirsty so I went to the guest-house nearby and ordered a bottle of beer which they bought around later on. It cost R20, very expensive, but a nice luxury to have.
It was cold and a brand called ‘Star Beer’ made here in Nepal ‘under German technical collaboration’. It was very tasty and being the first good beer in a long time gave me a really good buzz.
About 10-00 p.m. Allas went back to sleep. He is physically fucked at the moment. I sat around writing and made a joint with some Nepalese hash which I smoked on my own. It was very good and relaxed me a lot. I sat around thinking and doing some reading before crashing out again at 11-30 p.m.
Monday May 4th
I woke at 8-00 a.m. after a really good night’s sleep.
It is certainly much easier to sleep in this climate and there are hardly any mosquitoes, which is a great relief. The weather was really nice, hot and sunny for most of the morning. There seems to be a pattern here at the moment, sunny in the morning then from midday it starts to cloud over and the thunderstorms take over for the afternoon.
Allas and I walked over the bridge into town at 9-00 a.m. and had a good wander around the streets which take on a different aspect in the sun. Nepal is a country of very different styles and way of life (compared with somewhere like India) and Kathmandu seems to typify a lot of those differences.
Although the Nepalese are obviously still a poor people they seem to live happily and are not pushy or nosey as the Indians are. They carry on their lives as though it was still twenty years ago and there were no westerners around. You don’t know how refreshing that is after a couple of weeks in India.
After going to the bank where Allas changed some money we located the post-office where I bought some aerogrammes and also collected two letters from Rita and a note from Andy. The letters from Rita had been re-directed from Malaysia so she hasn’t said whether she can come to India as yet.
The note from Andy was dated Thurs (30th) last week when he left Kathmandu and headed for the village of Pokhara which is 200 kms away. I may go there later on but I think we may miss each other now unless he comes back to Kathmandu while I’m still here.
At 10-30 a.m. we had breakfast. I had muesli, fruit, milk and a pot of tea. After that we went our separate ways and I wandered about for an hour or so doing some shopping, looking down some of the back-streets and at the many shrines and temples which are all over the city.
I really like the atmosphere in the little cafes and pie-shops and would sit there for hours (especially when stoned) just listening to the music, watching people and eating different pies or snacks and a drink.
Went back to the room at 1-30 p.m. as the weather was turning miserable again and spent the rest of the afternoon writing and having a couple of joints. I wrote an aerogramme to Rita, several postcards and also got the next edition of the diary packed with a note ready to send off to Jan. Will post everything tomorrow morning when I go to the post-office again.
Am also going to try and sell my gems to a jewellery shop tomorrow although I’m not as confident as I was whether I’ll make a profit or not. Even if I get my money back though I’ll be quite happy as it will give me some more Nepalese money. If the price isn’t right though I’ll probably get a couple of stones set as that is very cheap here and then take everything back with me to Germany where I’m sure to make some money.
After having another joint we went out at 7-30 p.m. in the right frame of mind to face the big city again. Had a really interesting walk and was a little more aware of things, especially the puddles of mud caused by the afternoon’s rain which splattered the warm clothes I was wearing with mud.
Was a little more at ease with Allas tonight. I think I’m learning to take him for what he is a bit more now, and can therefore accept his eccentricities better. He is proving quite good company although he does most of the talking and I have become very quiet and subdued, following him around like a sheepdog listening to his many different stories.
He also has a great love for walking into shops, asking prices of many different things and then after a long time walking out without buying anything. Quite interesting to watch but I’m not really in the right frame of mind, especially when stoned. I’d prefer to go and sit in a restaurant and listen to some good music.
After wandering around some stalls and shop fronts we were guided by a young Nepalese guy to a local restaurant which was a popular place to eat (for the Nepalese). I had chicken masala, chapattis and a tea for R9-50 which was really cheap and tasty as well.
During the course of the evening we went to a couple more restaurants but didn’t stay long as Allas was eager to look at more shops and spend more money. I shouldn’t really criticise but the guy has so little money but can still afford to splash out on souvenirs all the time. It is a different mentality from mine so I find it very difficult to relate to.
We headed back to our guest-house at 9-30 p.m. and on the way I bought a bottle of beer and Allas bought some bread, butter and jam for later on. Got back to the room and smoked another joint of grass (very pleasant) and then sat around talking (or rather Allas talked, I listened), drinking the beer and then writing for a while.
Had one more joint later on, this made with Nepalese hash, which really knocked me out. Went to sleep at 11-00 p.m.
Tuesday May 5th
Woke up at 8-30 a.m. after a restless night’s sleep and got up almost straight away.
I went into town on my own which made a nice change. I could walk at my own pace again and do things that I wanted to do. Allas will leave the keys at the reception so that whoever gets back first can get back into the room. The weather was beautiful with a clear blue sky and very hot although it clouded over again later on, after midday.
Spent most of the morning going round shops trying to sell my gems, without much luck. None of them were even interested in quoting me prices as they all claimed to have large enough stocks of stones already. I was also advised that the stones I have are not top quality, which I had already anticipated.
I think I’ll just hang onto them and maybe have a couple of larger ones set later on. We’ll see how the money situation is before I leave Nepal. Also went to the post-office where I posted some cards & letters for myself & Allas. I then went for breakfast at a nice little restaurant called the ‘Tibetan Eattery’ on Freak Street where I had a pot of tea, fried eggs on toast and peanut butter on toast.
There are really no problems living and eating in Nepal cheaply. After eating I wandered around some of the streets to the north of the town which are much narrower, filthier and crowded but also with a lot more character. There are a huge variety of things to buy although a lot is aimed at the tourist market.
Nepal also has many more western-type goods than India because they do some importing of foreign cars, for instance, whereas India imposes such heavy import taxes it is normally impracticable to sell western products there. It is quite an anomaly in that Nepal is a much more primitive civilisation with many more backward ways than India but it has opened its doors in recent years much more than India to western goods.
It strikes a funny chord to see a Nepalese lad walking down the street with a walkman cassette player as I saw this morning. I hope they manage to maintain a balance here otherwise in another ten years the place will have been overwhelmed by the influx of western influences. I’m sure people that first came here ten years ago are convinced that this has already happened.
I stopped at one clothes-shop and had a look at some trousers and shirts and bought one of each; black cotton baggy trousers with tie-ups at the ankles and waist + side pockets (R30) and a greyish long-sleeved collarless shirt with side pockets (R30).
After this purchase I headed back to the room, collected the keys from reception and then sat around writing and relaxing for a while. The weather is really clouding over again, no doubt getting ready for more showers this afternoon.
Had a couple of joints during the afternoon and then made a special one of grass & hash when Allas came back from an H-smoking session. He was well on form talking again but at least I was feeling better able to take notice and even listen a little.
I had a really cold shower at 5-30 p.m. which was very enjoyable and brought me round a little. I changed into my new trousers and shirt which made me feel rather self-conscious. They feel a little like pyjamas but I’ll wear them anyway I think.
We went out at 6-30 p.m. and headed into town where we went to a restaurant called ‘Yin & Yang’ where we had been before. Everybody sits on different levels at small tables in a sort of semi-circle. I stayed there the whole evening while Allas left at 7-30 p.m. to go and smoke some more ‘H’ and also to see whether three saris he is trying to sell have been sold yet.
I had a good meal of rice, vegetable curry and throughout the evening had a pot of tea, vanilla milk shake and a hot lemon. I also had a lot to smoke, various forms of hash from different sources on which I got really out of my head.
The young Danish couple and a couple of Swedish guys we had met came in during the evening and I talked to them for a while but most of the time I just sat there watching people (everyone in the restaurant was stoned) and listening to the music (a real mixture of different styles).
I can’t think of any place I’ve been to where smoking dope is done so openly (and cheaply). The only close comparisons I can think of are some of the bars in Amsterdam. Here though it is so open that Kathmandu must rate very high in the rankings of ‘great places to get stoned in’.
Left the restaurant at 10-15 p.m. a little wobbly-kneed but still under fairly good control. Then walked back to the room, bought a bottle of beer along the way which I drunk with Allas later on.
I went to sleep at 11-30 p.m. still thinking a lot. My mind was feeling exhausted after a pretty heavy day’s use of the mental processes.
Wednesday May 6th
Woke up once at dawn as it was raining very heavily and then again later at 8-00 a.m.
The weather is miserable, overcast and cloudy, although I’m still going to see the Monkey Temple called Swayamblunath today. It is said to be 2000 years old, one of the world’s oldest Buddhist stupas and is situated two miles outside of town on a small hill 250 feet above the level of the valley. It should be an interesting morning’s excursion.
After a small joint to set me up for the day I set out at 10-00 a.m. First had breakfast in a health food shop of tea & toast + toast & peanut butter, quite tasty although it didn’t really fill the gap. I then set to walking the road out towards the Monkey Temple.
The road was surfaced and led me up through little villages where the people were carrying on their own lives very happily, oblivious to the intrusion of tourists. I felt a little funny walking around in my cotton trousers and shirt. A little like an imposter amongst so many people with such ancient traditions.
It was quite a long walk and difficult at times (with long winding steps up the hillside) but it was all very interesting and I had a great time breathing in the atmosphere and feeling free for a while.
Eventually I reached the top of the hill where there were many shrines and also the massive dome of the Monkey Temple topped by a square with the all-seeing eyes of Buddha and then a golden spire.
The whole place felt really old and looked very time-worn, which lent quite a religious atmosphere to the place as I wandered around the different shrines. A fascinating place to see (especially stoned, it gives you some great ideas on the significance that all the religion in Nepal must have on the people’s lives).
After leaving the temple I stopped in a small restaurant to have a lemon drink. I was the only westerner in there and my company was a table of the local lads playing cards. It was a very intricate game, involving some money, which I found very difficult to follow.
I then walked down the hill and started to find my way back to the guest-house. On the way I stopped at the National Museum which proved to be quite interesting. It cost the grand sum of 25 paise to go in, which included entrance to three different buildings; the Art Gallery, a shrine to King Mehandra and a children’s gallery where they had a lot of stuffed animals.
The only section not open was the main museum which was a shame as that would have been good to see. The shrine to the former king was very ornate and a fascinating tribute to the man who brought Nepal into the world of today.
His political system still exists and there are elections coming up on Saturday 9th for which there is a lot of campaigning going on. However, since 1960 this voting is all a bit of a farce. The King decided that trying to introduce a system of democracy was causing too many problems for the country so he introduced the nominal or partial democratic system which still exists today.
I got back to the room after an exhilarating morning. Felt quite good but as the afternoon wore on and the thunder storms returned it needed a couple of joints and a therapeutic writing session to keep that good feeling going.
Allas has got some money from the saris and will get the rest tonight. He has lost a little money on their sale but has some cash again. Mind you he finished his morphine this morning and bought some heroin, which he has just shot. I imagine that whenever he has money it slips through his fingers all the time like I’m witnessing at the moment.
Now that Allas and I go our separate ways a little the atmosphere between us seems to be a lot better. Mid-afternoon we had a cigarette with some opium which relaxed me a lot and made me feel very good. I spent the rest of the afternoon lying on my bed thinking things out and reading a book by Michael Moorcock called The Black Corridor.
We went into town at 7.30 p.m. The roads were again very muddy from the afternoon’s rain. First went to Yin & Yang which was already very crowded when we arrived so we just had a meal. I had a tomato salad, vegetable spring roll and a pot of tea.
Allas then went off to get some morphine (R60 for a gram) and I went and sat in a pie-shop for a while. Later on I headed back for the room, buying my normal bottle of beer on the way. Allas had his morphine alright and was a little happier.
I decided to take some speed to liven my evening up. Took 3 tabs of Dexedrine which made me feel more alive later on and I did a lot of reading and some writing. Didn’t go to sleep until quite late, after reading a book called City of Illusions by Ursula K LeGuin. It is quite easy to get into the fantasy-world of these books whilst stoned or speeding.
Thursday May 7th
Woke up at 7-00 a.m. after some light sleep with a lot of dreams but still feeling pretty good from the speed.
At the moment I am lying in bed deciding whether to pop a couple more and take a bicycle out for at least part of the day and explore some of the Kathmandu valley. The weather seems a little unpredictable at the moment so I’ll wait another half-hour or so before deciding.
I certainly feel fuller of energy at the moment than for quite a while. Even a lot of my thinking seemed a lot straighter due to the speed last night and helped me see a few things in better perspective.
Got up at 8-00 a.m. and was ready really quickly, also dropped two more tabs which kept me going for most of the morning. I hired a bicycle at a shop nearby which charged me only 5 rupees for a day’s hire, the bike to be returned before 8-00 p.m. tonight.
The bike was sturdy and handled very well apart from the saddle which although comfortable to start with later on became very hard to ride on. I had the bike until 3-30 p.m. when the thing finally broke me. For 6 of those 7 hours I was in the saddle.
The speed really gave me a lot of energy and I tackled a lot of hills in my travels. I also noticed a great difference in my breathing which I could control well, maybe due to not smoking for a while, great feeling.
Had a really enjoyable cycle around and just headed where I felt like within the confines of the Kathmandu Valley. I saw some amazing sights which I’ll try to describe but I think this is one time when words will be unable to convey the true feeling of what became a real adventure in some sort of fairyland or wonderland.
Everything was so natural, fertile and full of a real joy of living. It is very difficult to explain all the impressions that I got today but they left me with a very fulfilled feeling. As though I had seen and taken part in an experience which very few people are allowed to take part in as it is so out of the way, so unusual.
First of all I headed south a couple of miles, across a river to the sister town of Kathmandu, Patan. It was a big contrast and the styles of the two cities vary a lot although there are of course the familiar shrines and temples. I had a good cycle around the back streets of the town where I saw some building work in progress although all residential buildings.
As with most of the buildings in Nepal they were being constructed from red brick. Also saw a big shrine, maybe some thirty feet high made of wood and bamboo like a highly conical bonfire. The whole thing was positioned on a huge cart with four big cartwheels ready for a procession sometime. The people were all giving gifts at the shrine and receiving blessings and flowers in return.
Then I headed east through the main square and along many winding back-streets. Cycling in the cities one has to ring the bell a lot and do a lot of weaving and swerving to avoid the many people, children, cows, lorries and any large piles of shit. After Patan I headed out towards Bhaktapur, the ancient capital in the east of the valley.
It was a long ride, maybe six or seven miles along a very hilly road which required a lot of stamina. As it turned out I didn’t even get to see Bhaktapur as I took a wrong turning and liked what I saw so I kept on cycling. I had actually landed up on a parallel road to the main road going back the way I had come.
This road was a ‘soft-top’ one through many small places with a lot of activity and fun centred mostly on their agricultural work and making of pots. After a long ride through many different villages, where the children shouted greetings and chased after my bike, I emerged out near the airport somewhere and had another glimpse of Nepalese ways.
The International Airport was more like an airfield and things seem very primitively organised with a lot of construction work going on. Also up near the airport were situated a golf course and barracks for a division of the Nepalese Gurkhas.
After a drink of lemon I headed off again, this time to the town of Boudha in the north-east of the valley where a couple of interesting stuppas were meant to be situated. Rode through the town and glimpsed many shrines and also two large Buddhist stuppas (or temples) with the all-seeing blue eyes.
I cycled on through the village and then decided to head further out into the valley along a pretty rough looking road. I passed through at least ten villages and there were many people working out in the fields, harvesting corn and other people in the villages thrashing the corn and sorting out the different products.
Each village had a separate identity and place along the road and they all seemed to fit together like a jigsaw pattern. Almost every area of the plain seems to be used for agriculture with very fertile ground, plenty of water for irrigation and some rich crops.
After an hour of bumping and bouncing along I reached the end of the road and got chatting to an English woman (from Bromley) whose New Zealander husband had headed up into the hills to find a waterfall. After talking for a while I decided to follow him up and have a cooling shower or wash.
I walked up innumerable steps which linked even more villages up the hillside. I met the guy lying by a small waterfall after twenty minutes. He had not reached the top but had decided this place was as good as any. I joined him and we chatted and cooled down in the shade.
After a while we walked back down the steps as clouds started to gather over the mountains. All morning the weather had been beautiful with cumulus cloud, blue skies and sun. I actually managed to burn my face and arms as the heat was quite intense.
We collected Di, the English woman, who had been relaxing by the river and then Greg, Di and I leisurely cycled back through the many villages shouting goodbye to all the children who waved to us along the way. We reached Boudha again as the rain was starting to spatter down in preparation for the afternoon’s big thundershower.
I split up from the other two and cycled back into Kathmandu as the heavens really opened. I checked in at the Post Office but there were no letters. After cycling through town I then returned the bike as I was feeling too sore to use it any further.
On returning to the room I had a very strong hash joint which I took as my reward for a good day’s cycling. It knocked me out but pleasantly and I lay on my bed relaxing and feeling quite good although very tired and with aching muscles in my legs and backside.
Allas came back after successfully reaching his father and finding out that his money will be waiting for him in Delhi. That cheered him up a lot although I get the feeling that it will now give him the excuse to blow the money he has now.
We paid our bill this evening for six nights (including tonight) and it came to the huge sum of R50 each, very reasonable. After writing my diary for a while in semi-darkness (the electricity was off again) we went out for a meal.
One of Allas’s street dealers showed us a restaurant where we ate as much of a vegetable rice dish as we could and only paid R5 each. I then went and sat in a restaurant where the music was quite good although there wasn’t much going on there.
Allas went back to the room after getting hold of a little more ‘H’ which he smoked. I had a pot of tea, apple crumble and a banana milk shake before heading back to the guest-house at 9-30 p.m. It was already starting to rain hard. I picked up a bottle of beer and some peanut cookies, which went down well later on with a couple of joints.
The rest of the evening was fairly quiet and I dropped off to sleep, knocked out by the hash, at 12-30 a.m.
Friday May 8th
Was pretty knocked out most of the day today so this entry won’t be as long as yesterday’s.
I eventually surfaced at 10-30 a.m. still feeling dazed but fairly well rested, although a lot of muscles were aching from yesterday’s exertions. Walked into town and after a lot of searching around eventually found the Central Immigration Office. I must have walked through half of Kathmandu before I found it.
Once there I filled out the form, gave it with two photos and my passport + R61 to apply for a trekking permit. I have decided to move on to Pokhara on Tuesday and from there maybe go on a short trek (up to a week) as the weather isn’t too good.
If I have the permit already I’ll be able to get things organised more quickly in Pokhara. I might still run into Andy but I think the possibility is more remote now. Including any trek I do I will stay around Pokhara for two weeks before coming back here for three or four days.
What news I then receive from Rita will influence what I do next, either east to Darjeeling (India) for a while or to Bombay (it’s a long ride). After applying for the permit I went to the Post Office but there were no letters. It gets infuriating every day to sort through all the ‘F’s’, very time-consuming as all the letters get really mixed-up and there are many which are months old.
I then went to a travel agency and booked a mini-bus ticket to Pokhara (R40) which takes six hours rather than the nine hours of the bus, which is probably a bit cheaper but I think I prefer a little more comfort. The coach leaves at 6-30 a.m. on Tuesday and I have to be there at 6-00 a.m.
I hope I am alive enough at that time of the morning to make it. If I don’t make it then I’m doomed to spend my whole four weeks in Kathmandu, which wouldn’t be so bad. This first week has simply flashed by, almost like a half-forgotten dream because of all the smoking.
After having a pot of tea and some fried eggs I then headed back to the room where I arrived at 2-30 p.m. The weather was still quite fine but I felt really tired so I smoked a joint made almost completely of hash (Allas has made up twenty of them). This really knocked me out but after a while I read some SF short stories which were really good. I had a very relaxing afternoon.
Allas came back and we smoked another joint which was really nice and knocked me out again until early evening. About 8-00 p.m. we went into town. Allas, who is putting a lot of his money on one side for his supply, went to a cheap restaurant while I went to Yin & Yang’s.
I sat there for a couple of hours and even got chatting to a couple of people there. A lot of joints were being passed around and I got really out of it, even starting to feel a little paranoid and realised how bad I am at talking and communicating with people unless they approach me (partly to do of course with being stoned).
I feel at the moment as though I am play-acting a little and that the real me is being shielded by an exterior which doesn’t show so much of me. Allas said tonight, when he heard that I was leaving, that I had been good company, quiet but good.
He had also noticed somehow that I was a little unquiet. He then said something about the way my search was going could be a lazy and good way but could also be very frustrating. I could understand what he meant and in some ways am very tempted to try some coke or smoke some ‘H’ but will resist as I am still not completely at ease with the dope situation.
Everybody else seems so straight or takes it very well and although I doubt I show it the tendency inside is to feel very nervous and unsure. That probably sounds very naïve to some people but then this trip is teaching me how naïve I still am in very many different (and sometimes unexpected) areas.
On the way back I bought our evening bottle of beer. Allas bought some peanut cookies and we headed back to the room. Was still feeling very stoned so I lay around for a while reading, thinking and later doing some writing.
Didn’t get to sleep until nearly 1-30 a.m.
Saturday May 9th
It is Election Day in Nepal and Cup Final day in England. There is no T.V. in Nepal so we won’t have a chance of seeing it live this evening.
I woke up late at 11-30 a.m. after a good night’s sleep with some really pleasant dreams towards the end. The one I can vaguely remember involved me settling down again (but definitely in England), finding a flat and discovering that I was surrounded by people I knew from Frankfurt in the flats around me.
We were really getting some good parties and things together as I woke up, a shame as I was really enjoying the dream. Everything seemed to be working out so well. I have decided to have a very lazy day today. Saturday is their rest day here. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned but the year by them is 2030.
Around midday I got out of bed, got washed and then after doing some washing lay on my bed reading and writing some letters, postcards. Had a joint at with Allas before he went out to buy a couple of things and see how the election is going. I did some reading before crashing out again at 3-00 p.m.
It was really strange but I slept then until nearly 8-00 p.m., not even having heard Allas when he came in. He was having the same problem, feeling really tired and when I went out at 8.30 p.m. he slept on feeling too lethargic to move.
I didn’t stay out long. Yin & Yang was very full so I went to two other restaurants where I had fried rice & a pot of tea and then apple pie & banana lassi. There were no people around smoking or with whom I fell into conversation with so I headed back to the room fairly quickly, feeling weak and exhausted.
Bought two bottles of beer so we could have a bottle each and celebrate Saturday night & the cup final. It was not to be. Got back and Allas was feeling very unwell. I opened one bottle of beer and we had one joint but then Allas was very sick so he decided the best thing to do was to go back to sleep.
I sat there feeling a little dazed from the joint and did some writing before laying down and reading for a while.
Went to sleep, still pretty tired, at 11-45 p.m.
Sunday May 10th
I woke up at 8-30 a.m. after a restless night’s sleep, disturbed by an annoying stomach ache and many really weird dreams.
At 10-00 a.m. I made an attempt to get up, went to wash myself and also had a mild attack of the shits which took away some of my stomach pain. I spent the rest of the morning lying on my bed resting and doing some writing.
This afternoon we will go to the immigration office; Allas to collect his visa extension and me to collect my trekking permit. After that we will go to the Post Office and I am hoping there will be some more post for me. It seems really weird to go to all these places on a Sunday but the official Nepalese day of rest is Saturday so that to a western mind the weekend is really mixed up.
At 2-30 p.m. Allas and I went out. I was feeling pretty wobbly, but we managed to get a few things done anyway. The weather was really beautiful, the best afternoon I’ve yet seen here. The skies were blue, it was very hot and from the central park in Kathmandu one could see the ring of mountains around the valley very clearly, with the cumulus clouds forming a beautiful contrast (although blocking out the Himalayas).
We first went to the Post Office where I sent off a couple of postcards but didn’t get any letters. If no more have arrived before tomorrow then I’ll have to wait a couple of weeks before knowing whether or rather when Rita will come to India. The post between Nepal and Europe must be quite slow.
Someone told me it can take up to two weeks each way so any news will probably be waiting for me here after I return from Pokhara. We then walked out to the immigration office where Allas got his visa alright and I was given my trekking permit.
I then split with Allas and went to the bank where I changed another DM500 Travellers Cheque at a rate of 5-25 giving me a total of NR2625 which I hope will be sufficient for the rest of my time in Nepal. I then have another DM1000 to last me the rest of my time in India (6-8 weeks).
After 5 months travelling I think that by July time I will want to return to Germany and get a few things together there before deciding on my next move. It would be very tempting to come this direction again, maybe to Goa (India) to start with so that the winter could be avoided.
Whether that is just a dream I don’t know yet. A lot will depend on how quickly I can get money together again. It also depends of course on what sort of job I go for and whether I decide to get a flat again. If so then I’d be tied down for a longer time and would have to think more in terms of the winter of 1982/83.
I’m lying on my bed at the moment feeling a little sorry for myself again because of this illness. I seem to be contracting too many bugs recently although I try to be careful about hygiene I must try and look at the bright side of things though, at least I’m not still sitting in prison like poor Stan.
Spent most of the evening sleeping and dozing and didn’t go out for anything to eat as my stomach is still rather upset. Had a couple of joints which helped the evening pass by quickly.
I eventually dropped off to sleep properly at 12-30 a.m.
Monday May 11th
Woke up several times before eventually getting up at 9-00 a.m., after another night of weird and wonderful dreams in which time was passing more quickly than normal (which is fast enough).
Still not feeling very well but am in a better frame of mind today. I will definitely try to make the trip to Pokhara tomorrow morning. Sat around most of the morning writing letters, one to Rita and the other to my Mother. Both were a little difficult to write because of the lack of news due to the slowness of the post between here and Europe.
The weather was pretty changeable most of the morning with a lot of thunderstorms and later on some heavy showers. Allas went into town at 11-00 a.m. but I will probably not go in until later when hopefully the rain will have subsided.
Set off at 1-30 p.m. and in between showers headed into the city and the Post Office. There were no letters waiting for me so I sent my letters off and also the next section of the diary to Jan as it may not be so easy to do in Pokhara.
I then wandered around town a little before having a meal to see how my stomach was feeling, of fried egg on toast plus a pot of tea. It tasted really good and although my stomach complained a little it seemed a lot happier again.
Also wandered around some bookshops and looked around for a pouch to hold my passport and travellers cheques as I must be a bit more careful now. Too many bad things have already affected this trip. Stopped at one bookshop where they sold money-belts for R30 so I bought one. It is quite comfortable and is fitted around my hips and I feel a lot safer with everything close to me.
I also bought an omnibus of SF stories for R30 and an International Herald Tribune to catch up on a little news. There was not so much of interest happening although there are a lot of elections going on; Britain’s council elections in which Labour did so well, here in Nepal, in France for the President and also soon in Holland (as Allas keeps reminding me).
Returned to the room at 3-30 p.m., had a joint and read for most of the afternoon, the newspaper and a few SF short stories.
About 6-00 p.m. both of us were hungry so we walked back into town to Yin & Yang where we ate well (when the food eventually arrived). I had a hamburger, chips, salad & a pot of tea, vanilla milk shake and a coke. The music was excellent so it was good that there were also people around to get us pleasantly stoned.
There were two particularly good tapes, one from the B52’s and another from Gary Numan (shame, no Talking Heads). I stayed around until 8-00 p.m. when I decided to head back to the room and maybe even get some packing done.
Lay around thinking about it for a long time but after another joint put if off until later. It will probably all get thrown in at 5-30 a.m. in the morning.
Forgot to mention that when we walked into town this evening the sky was almost completely blue with no clouds and we got our first glimpse of the snow-capped Himalayas which usually hide behind the clouds. It was a lovely sight and we stood gazing at the beauty of it for a full five minutes.
Went to sleep at 10-00 p.m.
Tuesday May 12th
Woke up a minute before my alarm went off at 5-10 a.m.
Got up, had a wash, and did some last minute packing before saying goodbye to Allas and leaving just after 5-30 a.m. Walked into town and arrived to check-in at a little after 6-00 a.m.
I was one of the first to arrive and so I sat on the bus for a while waiting. The bus is a 28-seater reputedly from Switzerland (although it must be very old) and proudly proclaims on the side ‘Swiss Mini-Couch’, it wasn’t as comfortable as that.
Our ride was meant to only last six hours but we had a late start at 7-00 a.m. and a few problems along the way (which involved stopping every 20 kms to load up with more water for the engine). This meant that we didn’t arrive in Pokhara until mid-afternoon.
The first part of the journey was very bumpy as we headed back through a gap in the mountains but from there it was better, with a paved road built in co-operation with China (every one of Nepal’s major roads, which don’t number many, seem to be built with help from another country).
The countryside and different landscapes along the way were really interesting. Everything seemed so fertile because of the abundance of water. We travelled a lot of the time along river valleys which were extremely green and luscious.
I slept part of the way, being quite tired, but was frequently disturbed by bumps in the road and constant stops either to get tea for the passengers or water for the bus.
Pokhara is a very different place to what I had imagined. It consists basically of a long main road leading from a small airfield right down to the lakeside where we were dropped off. It is a beautiful situation with the deep blue lake, a forested mountainside opposite and the surrounding mountains, especially the Annapurnas, seeming really close because of their size. We are about a thousand feet lower than Kathmandu and the sun seems to shine most of the day. It’s also possible to swim in the lake although I think it will be cold.
After a refreshing cup of tea (which tasted like coffee) I let a Nepalese lad lead me to one of the many lodges here. It basically consists of a long bungalow split off into rooms in a row and at the end, after five or six rooms, the toilet and bathroom. The room I was shown was basic but alright with another bed.
I will be charged R10 a night on my own or if I’m joined by someone else R7-50 each. The young lad who showed me the room also sold me some grass (he has a sackful under his bed) for R12. It must be 8-10 grams of mostly flowers which, as I discovered later, were really good. It made a nice change after smoking so much hash in Kathmandu.
Sat in my room and rolled up a joint of grass. Most of the afternoon I spent reading, although I did manage to get round to having a cold shower and also do some writing before having another joint later on.
Went out at 7-00 p.m. to a restaurant called the ‘Hungry Eye’ which was only five minutes’ walk away. There are plenty around catering for the many westerners who seem to outnumber the Nepalese here. It seems like a really nice spot though, one for really relaxing and having a good time.
For my meal I had a vegetable curry & rice, an egg vegetable spring roll and a pot of tea all for R16-80, amazing value. There were a French couple there as well who gave me a couple of blows of some hash which sent me into orbit.
I moved onto another restaurant where there was some music and had a banana milk shake. The music didn’t last long as there was an electricity cut shortly after I arrived. I returned to my room shortly afterwards as there wasn’t much anyone could do and after another joint and some thinking fell asleep at 10-00 p.m.
Wednesday May 13th
Woke up several times during the night because of mosquitoes. That gave me a chance to walk outside and admire the stars and the moon which shone so clearly and brightly.
I was also conscious when it got light and later at 5-30 a.m. when everything looked really fresh and lovely. Saw some beautiful views from my window of the sun rising above the lake and the surrounding mountains.
Went for a wash at 6-15 p.m. and from the bathroom got a glimpse of even more spectacular scenery; the snow-capped peaks of the still-unclimbed Machhapuchhare (The Fishtail) which towers to 23000 feet and dominates the views from the whole valley as it is only 16 miles away. I then had a small joint and lay on my bed for a while looking through my window at the valley coming to life.
At just after 7-00 a.m. I got up again and after doing some reading, I headed out to the ‘Sun’ restaurant where I had scrambled eggs on toast (not very good) and a cup of tea. I then wandered down to the lakeside which was all very beautiful and from where one can hire boats fairly cheaply.
I walked around the lakeside and after clearing the edge of town started to wander the tracks, which all the Nepalese were using to weave their way across the irrigated plains lying between the various headlands. The natives carry really heavy materials by a very primitive method but it works. Men & women have a band across the forehead which takes the weight of everything they carry across their backs.
It is incredible watching the women plodding steadily on with massive loads of firewood and straw doubling them up. I walked for a long time but eventually rested on a grassy knoll by the lakeside amongst the cows, water buffaloes, dragonflies and many other forms of wildlife to have another joint. Sat there for a while but the weather was getting very hot so I headed back to Pokhara and back to my room.
Whist out walking I was approached by an older Nepali man who quite surprised me by trying to sell me a ball of hash. Later on I was approached by a younger guy selling mushrooms; now that could be interesting to do, especially with someone else.
A lot of people must find the dealing a much more lucrative way of life than in farming where a worker’s wage can be as little as R100 a month. The weather in the afternoon clouded over but didn’t rain. After the sights I’d seen this morning that didn’t bother me.
I think the best one can compare the scenery in this part of Nepal is to a country like Switzerland with the rolling mountains, snow-capped peaks, lakes and greenery.
The rest of the afternoon I just lay on my bed, smoking and reading. At 6-00 a.m. my stomach stirred me into some action and I went out to get something to eat.
Walked down to the centre of town where I saw the Danish couple again (still don’t know their names) and sat down with them at a restaurant. They were with an older Danish pair and they are going trekking tomorrow for ten days.
We sat for ages waiting for the meal and they all chatted amongst themselves. I was pretty stoned still, so was quite happy just sitting there. There was no electricity again so we had dinner by candlelight. It is estimated that the power here is only on an average hour or two per night and not very often at all during the day.
I had a meal of steak, chips & veg, tea and a coke which I enjoyed very much. Around 8-15 p.m. I went to another place a quarter of a mile further along the road with the younger couple. We went to this ‘shack’ where a lot of people were sitting around stoned listening to music (a recorder with batteries) and drinking. I had one joint of grass which I passed around but people were more interested in the chillum which I also got passed. I ducked my turn a couple of goes but still got well out of my head on the couple of blows I had.
I walked back to my room in darkness and after a couple more joints went to sleep at 10-30 p.m.
Thursday May 14th
It rained very heavily at around 4-00 a.m., quite a storm although it cleared the air nicely.
Eventually got up at 9-00 a.m. and after washing and doing some writing I went out for breakfast. Had cornflakes, fried egg on toast & a pot of tea at a local restaurant.
Suitably fortified I set out to walk into the part of town away from the lake, partly with some ideas of enquiring about trekking. Walked the 2-3 kilometres in very hot weather before I reached the other busy part of town, the area around the airfield where many more expensive hotels are situated.
I went into a couple of shops enquiring about the cost of organised treks which turned out to be very expensive, costing anywhere from US$20 upwards per day. I have therefore decided to attempt a trek on my own for 5-7 days (my permit is for 7 days starting tomorrow).
Walked back down to the lakeside where I bought a few things in a ‘trading-post’, a map of trekking routes (there are several good ones north towards Annapurna base camp), some mosquito coils, insect repellant, toilet paper, soap, writing book and playing cards, total cost R80.
Went back to my room, had a joint (although the best of the grass is gone) and thought about the pros & cons of going trekking. If I can get everything organised then I’d like to get started early tomorrow morning. Should be an interesting experience and hopefully I’ll be a lot fitter for it by this time next week.
At 2-00 p.m. a couple of young guys came by with a ‘tola of hash’ which they were trying to sell for R60. I didn’t act very interested so they dropped the price and I did some bargaining. Eventually got the lump for R35 and bought the guys a drink between them.
Shortly after they left I had a small joint to test my buy. It was very pleasant and a nice change after the harshness of so much grass yesterday. I had an interesting afternoon lying on my bed with the window and door open reading.
At 4-00 p.m. a real thunderstorm set in with heavy rain. A few people came onto the verandah, most of them women returning home after a heavy day’s work carrying wood and water about. At the same time I happened to be smoking a joint which made me feel a little paranoid but it didn’t seem to matter.
One woman was a little bolder than the others and started talking to me, asking if I wanted any washing done. She was young with a beautiful face and had with her a small son. We had a nice conversation as her English was very good (a lot of the locals speak excellent English) and she seemed very genuine.
In a few years she will be old and wrinkled like most of the women beyond about 30. They certainly carry a burden of the heavy work here and the men seem to have it good most of the time.
After the storm was over I helped her lift the stone water jug onto her back where it was held in a net bag by a band supported on her forehead. We said our goodbyes and I promised her, when I returned from trekking, she could do my washing at which she seemed pleased.
I am also trying to arrange hiring of a rucksack, sleeping bag & canteen through the boy at this ‘hotel’. If they turn up tonight then I’ll be on my way tomorrow morning as early as possible (I can leave my other bag here). I hope to trek to the Annapurna Base Camp but that is normally a six-day trek so I may have to stop before getting there and come back to stay within the seven days of my permit (although overstaying one or two days shouldn’t cause any problems).
I think as I’m going to be on my own and pushing myself hard it will be quite a strenuous but of course healthy exercise. There were more storms and I was unable to get out for some more provisions. If the shop is closed later on I’ll have to try and buy something along the way. It will not be a lonely trek, there are plenty of towns, settlements and places of shelter along the way.
At 7-00 p.m. I went with the boy to a friend of his who had some equipment to hire to me; a small frame rucksack, a sleeping bag and also a large water bottle. He wants R11 a day as hire charge which is alright and originally wanted R400 deposit but as I am leaving my other bag here that now seems to be no problem.
I will have to buy stomach tablets and water purification tablets at a chemists along the way tomorrow. About 8-00 p.m., still with no electricity and everywhere lit by candles, I went out for a meal. I had a Nepalese special made of vegetable dahl, curry, rice and chapattis which was surprisingly good and cost only R6.
The Sun Restaurant was only 50 yards away from my room so I simply stayed there when the rain started coming down really heavily, almost monsoon-like, and didn’t stop for the rest of the evening. I sat there until 10-00 p.m. (when they closed) drinking cokes & fantas and also chatting to some of the local people who work here.
Had a good time although I was quite shocked at the extent to which people can be influenced by dope. There were a couple of young lads involved in making joints (very professionally) and a couple of the older women were involved in selling a large deal of hash (two massive lumps) to an American guy.
The music was good (again from a battery player) and included Dire Straights, Steely Dan plus a few other oldies. Returned to my room at 10.00 p.m. and slept very quickly wondering whether or not it would be possible to go trekking tomorrow.
Friday May 15th
Woke up after a good night’s sleep (thanks to the mosquito coil) at 5-45 a.m.
The weather seems a little better although still cloudy and a little overcast. The ground is also still very damp. I have decided to go ahead with my trek though. I don’t know what I’m letting myself in for. Wrote my diary for a while and then started to do some packing.
Eventually got everything ready to leave at 7-00 a.m. Paid the boy R30 for the three nights I had stayed and he stored my bag for me until I get back to Pokhara (hopefully in a week’s time).
I decided to walk out of town towards Shining Hospital in the north where the trail started. Three buses passed me in the two hours it took me to walk but by the time the first one came I was already too proud of my little achievement to stop and catch it.
By the time I reached the hospital I was sweating heavily and my shoes (which I haven’t worn for a while) were rubbing a little. The rucksack was also quite uncomfortable and surprisingly heavy. Apart from my shoes I was just wearing shorts and a T-shirt as it gets very hot later on. I have warmer clothes to change into if necessary this evening.
After a cup of tea and a breather I set out on the trail proper at 9-30 a.m. I have decided to head up towards the Annapurna base camp and see how far I get before having to turn back again. I am hoping that I may be able to do it in four days although that is probably a little too ambitious.
After only a short while I met up with an American guy and his Australian girlfriend, who have done long treks before and hope to be away this time for at least three weeks. If this trek goes well I might consider taking another one at a better time of the year for a longer period.
We had an enjoyable chat along the way before reaching a Tibetan village called Tashi Phalkel, where we stopped off for a drink. We then walked on, mostly along the bottom of a valley without a river. Although flat it was quite hard going because of the mud from last night’s rain and a lot of stones along the track. The sun was also very hot and I was sweating profusely so that I was finding the going harder and harder.
Early in the afternoon I stopped off at another village called Suikhem, This is a sort of crossroads of whether to continue west or go over the hills to the north-west and towards the Annapurna range.
I sat for a while with a few Australians and drank a couple of teas while considering what action to take next. A couple of young boys came up to me and asked where I wanted to go. I was still undecided but let them lead me up the hill towards Dhampus.
We climbed up a very steep hill which they took in their stride but I was really struggling and we made several stops because I needed a rest. The boys didn’t, they take this route to school every day. On the way we met countless other children who were all very inquisitive and I felt rather like an old sage or grandfather sitting under a tree in the shade surrounded by them.
They have been spoilt a lot, obviously by tourists, and were constantly asking for biscuits or money. I eventually gave them a packet of biscuits but refused to give them any money. They were all very friendly and acted very nicely to me.
We eventually arrived in the village of Astam where the two young boys lived. One of them offered to take me back to stay with his family for the night. As my legs were very tired and I was suffering a little from the heat I agreed and was subsequently very happy that I did as I enjoyed true Nepalese hospitality for the first time.
The family of eight people live in a small one-room house with a verandah outside. Their house is perched on the hillside, overlooking the valley which I walked today.
After being a little nervous at first the family became really friendly towards me and although they haven’t got much, they share everything they have. Tonight I’ve said I can sleep on the verandah and I will pay them some money towards the food and place to sleep they have given me.
Shortly after arriving the weather changed quite dramatically and the thunderstorms set in again. We went inside for a while and one of the boy’s sisters made some wheatbread over the small fire, which was very tasty.
I keep forgetting the boy’s name but he is nice and does most of the translating as rest of the family don’t speak any English. He is only ten years old but they seem to concentrate a lot here on teaching the children good English.
The house is very primitive and small but it is really ‘home’ to these people and they’ve opened their arms to me. There is a grandmother, mother & father (who I’ve seen once, he is busy working despite the rain), four sisters (one only a couple of weeks old) and the boy.
I spent most of the afternoon sitting around talking to the boy and some of his friends, also teaching them a little more English which was quite amusing. I am feeling the effects of today and a few of my muscles are aching from the exertions, the top of my legs especially which is painful.
As the afternoon wore on it got quite cold as the clouds twirled around the hilltops, sometimes cutting off all visibility, so I changed into my warmer clothes. When the clouds do clear there are some very beautiful views from here. One can also see towards the Annapurnas which is spectacular to say at the least.
I had a Nepalese dinner of rice and dahl which was surprisingly good, although they gave me so much that I was unable to finish it despite the urgings of the whole family. As it was starting to get dark there were some very heavy electrical storms which were a little frightening perched here on a hillside. However, the house is very solid and everything has been built for a purpose.
We had a paraffin lamp between us and chatted for a while in a limited fashion. The father also asked if I liked to smoke, to which he produced a chillum and I my hashish. We had a good smoke although I am still not used to smoking from a chillum, a technique I’ll have to learn properly soon.
After some more talking the whole family went to sleep at 9-00 p.m. They had made me a bed of straw mats on the floor and with my sleeping bag on top it was very comfortable.
Saturday May 16th
Woke up at 6-00 a.m. by which time the women had already been up and working for a couple of hours; especially the eldest sister who is 15 and takes on a lot of the workload, carrying things, cooking & cleaning. As with many of the younger girls she is still very beautiful although with all this strenuous work that will change.
One can see that from the mother who has now borne five children and is not very well, she looks haggard from all the strain. The whole family have proved to be very nice to me and have said they like me. The feeling is mutual, they are very close and loving family held together by their poverty admittedly but also by that very closeness and caring for each other.
Before I left we sorted out how much I should pay them for the food and stay. It worked out to R15/- but as I only had R20/- and they had no change I gave them a small bit extra as well.
After saying goodbye to the family (the father told me that he wants me to marry his daughter) the boy took my pack and led me to the top of the nearby hillside and pointed out Dhampus. This was the village I was heading to next before going onto Landrung where I expected to spend the next night.
After one day’s walking I have moderated my ideas a little about how far I’m capable of going in a week. There is no way I can make it to the base camp in such a short time so I will be a bit more free and easy with my ideas and see what happens.
I started walking, noticing all the aches & pains which wracked my body, especially the frame of the rucksack pressing into sore points it made on my back yesterday. However, I soon started picking up pace and getting into the rhythm again. The walking was quite hard going with very stony tracks and a lot of them going uphill.
The weather was alright in the morning with not too much sun and a lot of cloud cover. When the sun did come out later on I could feel the intense heat on the back of my neck. I should really get a hat.
When the boy had shown me Dhampus it seemed far enough away but walking the distance made it seem considerably further. It took nearly three hours to find my way up hills and along ridges and a couple of times I missed the proper track and had to retrace my steps.
There were a few villages along the way with many eager young hands willing to point out the way, although there was often a request for money tagged onto the end. This often annoys me although it shouldn’t. They know we are comparatively rich otherwise we couldn’t afford to come here, so they expect sympathy from us.
During my climb (or rather clamber) upwards I passed into the wooded areas which frequent the upper hillsides in this valley. The only problem were the many roots which tripped me up a lot of the time. I reached Dhampus at 9-45 a.m. after a very tiring section of countryside and felt like giving up already and staying there.
After a couple of cups of tea and a cigarette I felt a little more ready to face the trail again, although my body didn’t seem to agree. I sat for half-an-hour before getting myself together enough to move again, this time to head to Landrung which was at least another four hours walk away.
If I had thought the inclines and slopes on the first section were bad then I didn’t know about those on the next part of the trek. For 1½ hours all I seemed to be doing was climbing the steps made out of large stones stretching endlessly up and across the hillside.
There were two top expressions which passed my lips today:
1/. Namaste, which is Good morning or Good day in Nepalese, and
2/. Oh fucking hell, not another lot, as I saw beyond the next bend that the path was still weaving upwards.
I made frequent stops along the way, which only made me feel worse once I started off again, as all the aches would be at their strongest then. Shortly before 1-00 p.m. I arrived at the top and had another rest although I knew I was well behind schedule.
Chatted for a while with a Danish couple who were going the opposite way and we also swapped details on how the going was. We both gave the same answer that it was mostly downhill in either direction.
I set out again, after drinking the last of the water, hoping that it was not too much further to Landrung. The trail zig-zagged down the hillside and was very stony. It consisted of a lot of shale which made it slippery and sometimes even a stream-bed along which water flowed which made the going even more awkward.
Worse still the skies were darkening and I could hear distant thunder. The rain started coming down as I crossed a rickety bridge over a small river. I got out my waterproof jacket and strapped it around the rucksack to try and keep the contents dry. I was only wearing shoes, socks, shorts and a T-shirt so that didn’t matter so much.
I struggled on as the strength of the storm and the heaviness of the rain increased. The track now wound round the edge of another hillside and after a short while, really drenched, I arrived at a little village called Thokra.
This was a real godsend as there were a couple of small restaurants and hotels, obviously to cater for the stranded tourist like me. I dashed into the first place I saw and everyone was delighted to see and welcome me to their two-room hotel of which I appear to be the only occupant.
I found out later that the tourist trade in the area has been really bad this year. The place consisted of two separate buildings, one in which the family live and I later ate, and another, like a concrete stable, which housed the two beds.
There was also a verandah with another bed and a splendid view across a meeting of valleys (when it wasn’t raining or clouded over). We were treated to an incredible storm with heavy rain & sleet, thunderstorms & claps of thunder which resounded around the hills. I must admit it made me a little scared being in the midst of so much power.
I changed my clothing to something warmer and took my shoes off to reveal a bloodied left foot and a blistered right foot, not a very pretty sight. I think boots might have been more suitable for this sort of terrain.
At 3-00 p.m. I made myself a joint (after everyone had gone next door) which went down very well indeed. I snuggled up in my sleeping-bag to keep warm and dozed for a while.
A couple of hours later I went next door for a meal which was cooked up in front of me by the woman of the house. I had vegetable dahl, rice and two egg omelettes which tasted delicious and perked me up a bit.
After another tea I went and sat on the verandah and wrote about today’s various escapades until the light got too bad to see what I was writing about.
Went to bed quite early at 8-00 p.m.
Sunday May 17th
Woke up at 2-30 a.m. after having put my feet through the bottom of my sleeping bag. As it was quite cold I did a quick repair job on it and then went back to sleep. Had many strange dreams before waking again at 6-45 a.m.
Felt very rested and some of the aches seem to have subsided but I’ll be able to judge that better on the trail. My feet are in quite a bad way though and it is difficult to do more than stumble around at the moment. After the long stretch walking yesterday I’m not going to be so ambitious today.
Had a tea and some biscuits and looked out over the mountains as the sun slowly swept its rays around in our direction. The scenery is all incredibly beautiful. After that I got my things together and packed my bag in preparation for some more walking.
After paying my bill which came to R16-50 (they don’t charge for the bed) I left at 8-00 a.m. I walked around the hillside and into a sort of hidden valley, where there were many streams leading down to the main river of the area and also a spectacular view of the unclimbed ‘Fish-Tail’ mountain. It seems really close now and dominates the surrounding landscape with its distinctive range and snow-capped peaks.
I took a couple of photos which I hope turn out alright and also chatted with some couples coming in the opposite direction. Every other westerner I see on this route seems to be heading towards Pokhara, maybe they all know something that I don’t.
After an hour and a half’s walking I eventually reached Landruk as it was starting to get really hot again. The route so far had been fairly level although very rough ground which made it hard on my feet (they suffered the most today as carrying the rucksack becomes slightly easier and the aches in my legs are getting better).
I stopped off and had a couple of teas at a small lodge before heading downhill towards the river, which was very steep and hard going although not so long. It took about half-an-hour. I crossed the river by means of an old bridge which looked as though it would collapse at any minute.
My next task looked daunting and took my breath away (as it did nearly all the way up). When I write things in my diary it is impossible to write everything down but the thoughts that go through my mind (as I am trekking the difficult parts especially) would normally be unprintable. A brief resume would probably run like this:
· what on earth am I doing here?
· how much further is it?
· wish I could have a new pair of feet
· must have another break
· this shade’s lovely, I’ll stay here for a few more minutes
· why can’t they build these pathways properly (very unreasonable)
· where’s the nearest cloud to cover the sun for a while?
· wonder if this really is the right way
· what I’d do for a drink (or a porter)
· wish we’d reach some level ground soon (whether going up or down)
The hill that confronted me from the river looked enormous and I almost dreaded climbing it as it looked so foreboding. First of all I lost my way by taking a dead-end trail going in the wrong direction. I realised this when we arrived at a waterfall and beyond there was no more path.
This cost me a lot of time and energy as I tried to head first across the irrigated land but then eventually had to return to the bottom of the valley before being able to locate the right way, very frustrating.
It took me a good two hours to struggle up the steep, winding, stony track and I had to take a break every five minutes to regain my strength and also my breath. Some of those breaks became elongated as I argued to myself that I had all the time in the world.
The weather was still sunny with blue skies and only a few small cumulus clouds hiding the ‘Fish-Tail’ mountain and its companions. After numerous struggles and with a last burst of effort I eventually reached Ghandruk at 1-00 p.m. It is perched almost at the top of the hillside and overlooks the valley and the way I had just come.
It is a beautiful little village with magnificent views which has a small ‘hotel’ called ‘Trekking Stops’ that provides showers, soft beds, food and drink. In fact almost all the comforts of home (well almost, there is no electricity but that doesn’t really matter).
Sat around outside with a couple of American girls who were very interesting and we had a great little chat. Later on a few other western faces appeared so that there was quite a crowd of us. I was the only one who had come the way I had (it seems to be a good return route but maybe a little strenuous as an out-going one for an amateur like me).
Had a couple of teas before taking all my things to the dormitory and the bed I had been allocated. I then sat around outside in the brilliant sunshine and wrote my diary for a while. Also chatted to some of my travelling companions about their experiences on the trail.
We seem to have a really nice bunch gathered together here, some French, a few Americans and a couple of Australian girls. It should be an interesting afternoon as there is also a chillum being passed around by the French couples. I’ll indulge later on. It clouded over which really cooled the air a lot but it didn’t look like raining for a while.
Had dinner at 7-00 p.m. after making up and smoking a joint and watching the full moon rise over the mountains as dusk slowly set in. For dinner I had an egg omelette, cornbread & jam and then as we all sat around talking I had a couple of milk teas and a lemon. Later on I had a smoke with the French couples which blew my head for a while.
Went to bed at 8-30 p.m.
Monday May 18th
Woke at 6-00 a.m. and got up fairly soon afterwards.
Had a glimpse of the Annapurna range but it was very cloudy so I was unable to take any photos. At 6-30 a.m. I sat down to breakfast of oat porridge (which was very good), 2 boiled eggs and a couple of cups of tea. As I write this I am in the middle of that breakfast but still undecided about what to do.
My feet are very sore so Ghore Pani is definitely out. The choice is between staying here for another day or Bhiritanti which is the hot favourite at the moment. The Swiss girl tipped the balance for me. She said that it was only a 3-4 hour walk, mostly downhill and there was a waterfall there.
Having decided that it would be very difficult for me to walk in my shoes, as they seemed to be cramping my feet too much, I dug out my flip-flops. Didn’t get away until 8-00 a.m. but that gave me plenty of time to cover today’s route. The weather was mostly overcast although the sun did manage to escape its cloud cover sometimes and when it did it got very hot.
The trail was fairly easy to follow and was nearly all downhill. At first I followed the steps for half-an-hour down the way I had come yesterday, before branching off onto a much more gently sloping path. This later descended more steeply again as the path led down to the valley floor where the river was flowing and a bridge, over which I would have headed if I’d been heading back towards Pokhara.
On the way I met some other westerners. There were a couple of guys on their own, an English family from Manchester (father, mother and two young sons) and an ex-Gurkha who seemed really pleased to find out I was English because he’d been in the British Army for fifteen years.
I also saw many fascinating insects; grasshoppers, huge bumble bees, a large butterfly with black wings and a lot of funny red-winged creatures crawling around on the ground, a lot of them mating. The landscape was all very fertile with many little settlements dotted along the way to take advantage of the natural water supply.
After the bridge the track stayed close to the river, weaving along its right bank. Along this stretch I stopped a couple of times to administer first-aid to my feet, which were cutting up a little in my flip-flops. After a long morning’s walk I arrived in the village of Bhiratanti.
The village sits on the lower slopes of the hillside alongside a stream (with a waterfall nearby). I headed down through the village looking for Hotel SunRise which the Swiss girl had said was very good. After five minutes I found it and immediately recognised some people sitting out front, it was the two Danish couples.
The one Danish couple I’ve seen in so many different places; on the bus & train to Raxaul, then in Kathmandu, also in Pokhara and now here. I had a couple of teas before going upstairs to one of the dormitories where I found a bed. There I got chatting to a really nice French girl who has been travelling around India, Sri Lanka and now Nepal for a total of nine months.
She has to go home soon but has had a great time. We also found out we had a common interest and so she rolled up a joint of grass while I made one of hash. We smoked them and sat chatting a while. She then left to go to the waterfall but I was too stoned and tired to bother. I’ll have plenty of time tomorrow.
Spent most of the time in the afternoon lying on my bed reading, writing & dozing. This place is really pleasant, set in beautiful surroundings and should be very relaxing to my weary body. While I was stoned this afternoon I was thinking a lot about this whole trip and how it is providing me with so many new experiences.
It is 3 months tomorrow since I left England and 3½ months since I left Germany and also seemingly took up monastic vows. In a lot of ways time has sped by, but in others so many things have happened it seems a lifetime ago that I was working in Frankfurt. I’m sure it won’t take me long to recondition myself upon my return though.
Went downstairs at 6-30 p.m. having already ordered my meal earlier on. I sat around for a while with the Danish people and played cards with them, ‘rummy’ at which I found I wasn’t very good. They will be moving on early tomorrow morning towards Gandruk, although no doubt I’ll see them again back in Pokhara.
I had my dinner of egg soup and veg. fried rice which all tasted very nice. I also had a couple of cups of tea and some soft drinks as I sat around playing cards. At 8-30 p.m. they closed the shop up downstairs so we went upstairs where the French girl, a Spanish guy and I smoked a couple of joints.
We sat around talking until 10-00 p.m. when the other three in our room (all Australian, one guy and two girls) came back from an excursion. It was full moon but unfortunately all clouded over, which was a bit of a disappointment.
I went to sleep at 10-30 p.m. with the sound of rushing water in the background.
Tuesday May 19th
Despite this being a rest day I still woke up early at 6-00 a.m. although I didn’t get out of bed until 7-30 a.m.
Everyone in our room had decided to stay on a day although everybody else in the hotel had moved on, very strange. I had breakfast of two fried eggs and at least three teas before having a wash, going to the ‘toilet’ and brushing my teeth. I then sat around outside the hotel chatting to the Australians most of the morning.
Geoff had been in Chiang Mai when we were all in jail and knew English John (who had been helping us) from Cosa Mui as well as Chiang Mai. He gave me all the impressions that he had from the outside and made me feel like quite a celebrity. We talked about what had happened in Thailand for a long time and everybody was really interested in my passport.
After a while I made a couple of joints of which everyone partook and we all got pleasantly mellowed out for some nice conversation throughout the morning. After midday people slowly drifted off to the waterfall and eventually Geoff and I joined them. We walked out of town for twenty minutes before reaching it and it was worth it.
The fall was quite large with a pool at the base in which I went swimming a couple of times. The current was very powerful and it was almost impossible to swim right up to the waterfall. It was very refreshing though and a great feeling to be swimming again.
At 2-30 p.m. the weather started clouding over so we all headed back to the village. I then lay on my bed for a while, writing and having a short rest before returning to join the others downstairs. Most of the late afternoon and early evening were spent sitting around chatting, rolling up more joints and getting even more stoned.
Had quite a laugh with the Australians and also a few others joined us for blows of various ‘numbers’ (as they are called in Australia). At 6-30 p.m. I had my tea of tomato & onion omelette, peanut butter chapatti and a bottle of beer which I shared with Geoff (the first since Kathmandu).
Then as dusk fell we all went down to the bridge nearby to try and see the sunset, but it was very cloudy. Instead we got caught in the middle of the bridge as the local boys played their daily game of swinging the bridge and frightening the tourist. It wasn’t that bad really although a couple of the girls were rather scared.
At 8-30 p.m. everywhere was locked up and we all went upstairs where the Australians, the Spanish guy, an English guy and I all sat around talking and smoked a couple more joints. It was really interesting getting stoned and doing a lot of talking today. It has removed some of those inhibitions that were building up inside me.
Went to sleep at 10-00 p.m.
Wednesday May 20th
I woke up at 5-45 a.m. feeling fairly fit.
Chatted to Brom (one of the Australian girls) for a while before having a wash, writing my diary and then going downstairs for breakfast. I had an oat porridge and milk tea before paying my bill which came to R93 for the two days, which for what I’ve had is very cheap.
Quite a group collected as we all got ready to head off towards Pokhara, intending to stop in Naudanda which is 5-6 hours walk. The French girl and her boyfriend set off at 7-00 a.m. hoping to walk as far as Pokhara. The rest of us set off at 8-00 a.m.
To start with there were six of us; Geoff, Kim (Geoff’s girlfriend), Brom, a Belgian guy, an English guy (who we lost along the way) and myself. Firstly we had to walk over the bridge and then ascend steadily towards the village of Chandrakot which lay at the top of the hill.
It was a hard walk and a very heavy climb impeded by donkeys which threaded along the trail carrying their burdens to many remote places. The donkeys were usually in groups of ten with a couple of Nepalese moving them along. The lead donkey and sometimes the one behind are decked out in fancy headgear with a large feather and a huge bell hangs from their neck.
Some of the other animals also have bells around their bodies to warn of their approach. If you get in the way of a fully-loaded donkey it could be dangerous as they are very strong. There were also many locals carrying their different loads of wood, vegetables and other provisions.
During the day we saw other men & women porters carrying many different parts for some machinery and also huge amounts of heavy duty steel cable, which must have been incredibly difficult to transport.
Despite all the drawbacks we made good progress up the hillside and reached Chandrakot surprisingly quickly. We walked along then, fairly on the level, chatting with each other and having a good laugh. Everyone seems very happy to be heading back. Most of the others have been trekking for a month now which is a long way away from the comforts of a shower and at least a spattering of electricity.
We headed along to the next village of Lumley where the sister of the woman from the SunRise had a restaurant. We stopped there for a while and I had a couple of chapattis with peanut butter and a lemon. The prices this near to Pokhara are very reasonable but as you go further and further away the prices increase drastically to pay for porterage charges.
We then set off for the next stretch to Naudanda which involved a lot of ups and downs, very muddy trail in places and a lot of human and animal traffic coming the other way. We arrived in there at 1-00 p.m. after an enjoyable and cheerful stroll which had proved to be much easier than expected.
The sun was very strong today and I burnt the back of my neck quite badly although it feels alright. Apparently it looks like a battlefield. We picked the first lodge and dived into the dining room where Geoff immediately ordered some beer as it was chilled. During the afternoon we devoured five bottles as well as a veg. dahl with rice each.
For the second time on this trip I seem to be meeting up with a nice crowd of people who enjoy themselves and are quite close to my level. The three Australians are a real laugh. Having grown up together they seem very close and fond of each other. They are all outgoing in their different ways and seem very genuine, real people.
For a while this afternoon we sat out in the sun admiring the beautiful view down towards the lake and Pokhara town. Also bought some local grass which we tested and found that it did the trick. It got us nicely stoned which along with the beer made us all very merry and we had a good laugh chatting and swapping stories.
Shortly before 5-00 p.m. the other four went off for a walk into the village while I lay on my bed trying to get this diary together. It wasn’t long afterwards that the black rain clouds rolled in over the mountains and we had a terrific downpour of very heavy rain. Hopefully the others found some shelter alright.
As the rain continued I read some of a book I acquired last night called ‘Future Shock’ by Alvin Toffler. I swopped it with the Belgian guy for my omnibus of SF short stories which I finished a couple of days ago. At 6-30 p.m. I had an evening meal of vegetable curry & potato chips, which was quite good.
The others eventually struggled back at 7-30 p.m. after taking shelter in another restaurant for a while. We then sat around in our room listening to the howling wind (the place sits at the top of a ridge) and smoked a couple of ‘bombers’ (hash & grass together) which were quite potent.
We all had a good laugh before going to bed at 9-00 p.m.
Thursday May 21st
Woke up quite early at 5-00 a.m. but lay in bed for a while writing my diary before getting up at 6-00 a.m.
We were heading back to civilisation today and had decided to go a slightly different way back so that we ended up at the lakeside for a swim. This way was a lot more difficult but formed a last challenge for the intrepid trekkers.
We all paid our bills. I was surprised how little mine was, only R33, even including one beer last night. Five of us moved our belongings a hundred yards down the hill to a restaurant where we had an excellent breakfast of banana muesli. Sat there for ages talking and watching the sunrise behind the clouds creating many varied patterns and different colours across the valley below
Eventually started off again towards Sarangkot which lay on the ridge overlooking the lakeside and after which we only had to climb down a steep slope before getting our long-awaited swim. It was a very long slog and a lot of it along the ridge involved more climbing but underfoot the conditions were good and we made quite a fast pace.
As we walked along the ridge we could at first see two valleys, one on either side, but later just the Pokhara valley with the lake way beneath us. We made a few stops but fairly quick ones to let people catch up. Most of the time we were walking steadily towards the end of the ridge and Sarangkot.
Arrived there at 11-00 a.m. and made a stop for a while for a cup of tea and to survey the really beautiful view over the whole of the Pokhara valley. Half-an-hour later we started the steep descent down to the floor of the valley which took at least an hour and a half and I trailed badly going down the steep rocky and grassy slopes because my flip-flops were hampering me a lot.
We followed differing tracks down the hillside, winding our way slowly to the bottom in the burning heat of a very hot midday sun. We eventually arrived at the bottom and after a brief rest we set off hotfoot towards the lake and within fifteen minutes we were all in the water.
Had an enjoyable swim in the water which was surprisingly warm. When I came out the guy from my hotel had magically appeared, as though he’d seen us in Sarangkot and come racing across to meet me. He had a lump of really fresh hash which I bought for R35.
I then made up a joint with some grass as well which was very good and got us all pleasantly stoned. The last mile or so still lay ahead of us and eventually we decided to tackle it. We stumbled into town like a team just returning from Everest and waited for the shock of arriving back in town to hit us.
It was quite a shock seeing all the people and traffic again. We spent an hour or so in a restaurant where Geoff and I had a pint of cold fresh milk which really went down well. I also had a pizza, pot of tea and apple crumble.
We then sat around for a while before paying our bill and leaving at 4-00 p.m. when I eventually got the chance to get a room again in the place I’d stayed in before. Danny, the Belgian guy has a place a long walk away but Brom, Kim & Geoff are situated only five minutes’ walk away.
I went round to their hotel where we all spent the rest of the afternoon. Danny & Geoff have small guitars which they can both play quite well so that provided some good entertainment. Geoff bought some opium from the guy that I get my stuff from and we all swallowed a tablet-size chunk which later on really subdued me very nicely.
Sat around chatting before moving out onto the balcony as the sun was setting, listening to Geoff and Danny playing some very good music, drinking lots of teas and watching the stars appear in a very clear sky. At 9-00 p.m. Kim, Brom and I went back into town but most of the restaurants were too crowded so we wandered around before the other two went back to their hotel.
I went to a small Nepalese restaurant which was deserted and had a really nice meal of vegetable cutlet and chips + a beer, which went down very well. They also had some music which I listened to as I re-read my diary of the trek, which made interesting reading.
Went back to my room and after emptying my rucksack out I did a little reading by candlelight before going to sleep.
Friday May 22nd
Woke up several times during the night during some more heavy rainstorms but fell back to sleep again fairly quickly. I came to again properly at 8-30 a.m. as the rain was stopping.
Had a wash, brushed my teeth and sorted out a few of my possessions to be washed. I sat in my room writing. A woman came by with some mushrooms which I’ve never tried properly but always wanted to. They cost me R25 for fifty or sixty tops. The boy also came to my room and rolled up a good joint which we smoked between us.
I got my black bag back, sorted out some more washing and tried to get things a little more organised. I won’t be getting very much done today although I must post a couple of letters for the Danish couple and I should also write a letter to Rita.
The others must all go to the bank today to get some money and also the immigration dept. where they must extend their visas which ran out yesterday. I am feeling quite pleased that the trek is over. It was a very enjoyable if strenuous experience which got me vaguely fit again. I now need a couple of days rest before attempting anything else like getting a ticket to Kathmandu.
As I write this it is 10-00 a.m. and the power has come on for a while, the first evidence of working electricity for quite a time. Spent most of the morning writing and also smoking a couple more joints. Brom also dropped by on her way to breakfast, the bank and the immigration office. I wrote a letter to Rita and although I was pretty stoned whilst writing, it sounded alright.
Just before midday I went down the road, firstly to post the letters and secondly to get some breakfast/dinner as the munchies had really set in. I had a cheese, tomato, onion omelette, a pot of tea and a couple of chapattis with peanut butter. I then returned to my room where I read some of the book ‘Future Shock’ for a while.
The weather was not so good the whole day with a lot of rain making the pathways very muddy. There was a little sunshine in the afternoon which dried things out a bit but the evening bought more rain. The rainfall seems to be steadily increasing as the monsoon gets nearer and I imagine that in the next couple of weeks it will get more and more difficult to go trekking.
At 1.00 p.m. Geoff and Kim came by and we sat around talking and smoking a couple more joints. I showed Geoff the newspaper clipping from the Thai paper in Chiang Mai which he had seen before, confirming that I had been inside at the same time he had been staying in Chiang Mai.
It is all quite a coincidence that he should have known John before and through that about our whole predicament. The second part of the coincidence is of course meeting him on a trek in the mountains of Nepal.
Later on we all headed to Geoff, Kim & Brom’s hotel where we sat for quite a time talking and smoking some more before the munchies dragged us to a restaurant again at 5-30 p.m. This time I had egg & vegetable cutlet, chips, a pot of tea, peanut butter pancake and banana & honey pancake.
On returning to the room again, dodging the many showers, we had some opium which Geoff, Kim and I indulged in a little bit more than yesterday. We watched the sun’s effects behind the clouds as it set and sat around listening to Geoff playing the guitar for a long time.
Brom & Danny (the Belgian guy) came by at 8-30 p.m. and joined in the conversation and rolled a couple more joints. At 10-30 p.m. we had to go out eating again to a Nepalese restaurant which stays open late. This time I just had a snack of toast & jam and a hot lemon.
After a couple of joints at the restaurant we were all pretty well blasted (although my resistance is building up). We all said our goodbyes and headed back to our various beds. I went to sleep very quickly (because of the opium which really relaxed me) at 12-30 a.m.
Saturday May 23rd
I woke up several times after a good night’s sleep before getting out of bed at 9-00 a.m., having a wash and brushing my teeth. It is good to have the luxury of running water again.
Sat around in my room writing, reading and doing some thinking. I gave my washing to the boy and hope to get it back later this afternoon. When I get that back I can start planning my move back to Kathmandu. I won’t leave tomorrow so it will probably be Monday or Tuesday.
On my present visa I’m allowed to stay in Nepal until next Sunday. It is possible to extend visas here in Pokhara although I’m not sure if I can do that in advance and it is also quite costly. I think the best plan is to return to Kathmandu, see what the post holds for me and then decide what to do.
I’m sure that I can meet up again with Geoff, Kim & Brom there if I do decide to stay a little longer in Nepal. I have not yet taken any of the mushrooms as the others were a little dubious and didn’t really want to get involved. There are various ways I can have them, washed & raw, in a soup or in an omelette.
At 10-00 a.m. I was going up to get Geoff, Kim & Brom for breakfast when I met Geoff & Kim coming down. We went into the Sun restaurant which had re-opened today and was really close to my room. We ordered breakfast and I asked if they could cook me an omelette with tomato, onion and some of my mushrooms.
They agreed and I fetched fifteen small ones we picked out yesterday which they fried up for me. The omelette tasted good and so were some of the effects later on. We sat around talking, smoking a couple of joints, drinking coffee as I gave the mushrooms a chance to work.
It is 4-30 p.m. as I write this after an incredible afternoon which is still going on. I’ve been doing plenty of thinking, a lot of hallucinating, some reading and now a bit of writing before going eating. I bought some more hash from the boy as well, really fresh stuff and excellent to smoke.
One good thing, I got a bit speedy on the mushrooms and two days after returning from the trek I eventually got round to having a good shower which was really refreshing along with a shave which also made me feel a lot cleaner.
A couple of people dropped by during the afternoon so of course we smoked a couple of joints to try the new hash I’d bought. Kim borrowed my book on India & Nepal while Brom wants to borrow my diaries of what happened earlier in this trip (I feel quite flattered by her request).
I am at this moment sitting on my bed, relaxed, content for a while, with the boy sitting at the foot of my bed rolling another joint. I think I’ll hang around here at least a couple more days as things seem to be going really nicely again at the moment.
At 5-30 p.m. we all met up and went next door to the newly opened Sun restaurant where we sat for ages talking and eating. I had three really good wheatmeal breads topped with peanut butter, a milk and a couple of milk teas.
We were joined later on by a Scottish guy and a Dutch guy who had met the others whilst trekking. We all sat together watching a beautifully colourful sunset (made even better by the remaining effects of the mushrooms).
Also made a few joints at the restaurant and later back at Geoff & Kim’s room. Geoff has taken some opium which mellowed him out a lot. Around 10-00 p.m. we all went out to eat again.
Had quite an interesting chat with Brom (although we both seemed a little too reserved) before going to bed at 1-30 p.m.
Sunday May 24th
After a very good night’s sleep I got up at 8-00 a.m.
I then sat around for a while in my room writing and reading. Am now two thirds of the way through ‘Future Shock’ which is very interesting although the author tends to exaggerate many things to try to reinforce the point he is making; that we’re all heading for a form of emotional breakdown because the world is changing so quickly.
My washing was returned yesterday (very clean & only R14 for the lot) and I will get a little preparatory packing done today although I don’t think I’ll be moving on until Tuesday morning. I should then be able to read any post on Tuesday afternoon and make any necessary decisions about how quickly I’ll have to move on, either to Darjeeling or maybe even to meet Rita in Bombay.
I feel rather mixed-up about having asked her for a holiday as I feel that I am now a little limited as to my choice of things to do. However, I’m sure if she comes it will be an interesting experiment to see how we get on together; firstly on holiday together and secondly away from the pressures of Frankfurt.
At 10-00 a.m. I went to fetch the others and we all went to the Sun restaurant where we had some breakfast and a couple of smokes. I am certainly regaining my appetite here in Nepal, a lot of it comes from smoking and the resultant munchies. Eating well is also cheap and provides many taste sensations.
We sat around at breakfast for nearly two hours slowly getting more and more stoned. The others, apart from Geoff and I, went to hire a boat and have a picnic but I wanted to start organising some packing.
On returning to my room I first of all lay on my bed for a while and finished the book ‘Future Shock’ which turned out to be very interesting. As I lay with the window open there were the usual stream of Nepalese people, beggars, children, people selling mushrooms & hash Also there were the normal Tibetan merchants selling their belts and beads.
I had been sorting out some clothes and decided that some were dispensable. One of the merchants offered to exchange things so I did some bargaining and ended up with quite a good deal. I gave him my old pair of cord trousers (which have been dead weight for a while), two pairs of socks and R10.
In return I got two necklaces. One is a heavy one made out of bones & silver which looks really good and must be worth a bit. The other is a smaller one with beads made of Yak bone and silver which is also very ‘tasty’. I like them both but will probably end up giving them as presents.
About 1-00 p.m. the boy dropped by to roll a joint (five minutes after I had eaten a lump of hash). We had a good smoke and I also showed the boy a few things from my bag as I did some re-packing. He was especially interested in the gems which I showed off proudly.
A friend of his came by and took a real interest in them so that I also ended up bargaining and getting a good deal. I gave him three Tiger Eye stones and in exchange he gave me some of hash, which although a little old and brittle was good to smoke.
As the afternoon rolled on the hash I’d eaten took effect and gave me a very pleasant and surprisingly mellow high. I was organised enough to get all my clothes and things prepared on the other bed for final packing.
A Nepalese girl (the one who’d asked before about washing) also came by and started getting quite familiar with me. She made me write out my address in England and also promise to bring her a pair of high-heeled shoes next time I come here. I gave her some small plastic bags, two candles, matches and the earphones from my stolen radio.
As I’m having a sort-out these are things that I won’t really miss and hopefully my bag will be a little more spacious again. It is so easy to travel with very few clothes and I look back at the times I used to travel in Europe & America and the top-heavy packs I had then.
The girl eventually left me in peace (after I had bought her a drink) although she re-appeared later on briefly with her mother and I was invited to a rice & dal dinner tonight or tomorrow. I managed to delay it until tomorrow although I’m not sure if I should go or not.
By 4.00 p.m. I had done all my packing preparations and lay on my bed writing and then letting the hash take effect properly, very relaxing. The rest of the day became an indistinct blur as I firstly went up to meet Brom and we had a couple of teas & a couple of numbers before heading off to a restaurant at 6-00 p.m.
We all went to a place called P.P.’s which was pretty pleasant. No, seriously it was an outside place, quite out of the way (no pun intended but I’m writing this the next morning after another way-out omelette). Anyway, I had a couple of snacks, some coffee and a few more joints as we watched the daylight slowly disappear.
Kim and I then stumbled our way in pitch-darkness back towards their hotel where we eventually arrived at 9-00 p.m. I then sat around pretty buzzed out and vacant. I had a pleasant time just laying back, talking to Brom (who has already read a lot of my diary) and listening to Danny & Geoff playing guitar. It was all really pleasant & idyllic for a while.
Went off to bed at 11-30 p.m.
Monday May 25th
Was awoken at 7-30 a.m. by Kim & Geoff who were on their way to breakfast.
Duly awake I took thirty mushrooms with me for a cheese, onion, tomato & mushroom omelette (unfortunately they had no cheese). I also had some coffee and paid a bill of something like R9. A really good way of beginning the day though, as the mushrooms started their work quite quickly.
It is now 11-00 a.m. and I am using my room as a sort of headquarters for the day, directing operations as the mushrooms take their weird effects. There is no word-imagery that can convey the feeling you get after eating them. It is really physically difficult to write sometimes and formulate the sentences sensibly.
The boy came along, we smoked some chillums and talked about getting my ticket (I’ll do that later). Also talked to the young Nepalese girl who has invited me to rice dinner at 4.00 p.m. (I have partly accepted the invitation). She was asking for money but I buttoned up and had nothing to give.
At the moment there is a sort of party going on outside with a French couple, a Japanese young guy, varied drums and a flute with a chillum passing around. Really very good to listen to. I have just been for a walk to the toilet and my conceptions of everything are just so different from how everything should be.
I was lying back earlier on just trying to use the extra brain cells that seemed to be appearing, a very strange feeling. It is weird being back on an acidy sort of drug again, quite exciting. Everything becomes a big play and the others the entertainment for a while as I lie on my bed amidst it all, great fun.
Outside the Japanese guy is teaching some local boys his language and they have already picked up some characteristics which they now incorporate in their English. The girl is waiting outside my window seemingly awaiting something, probably money.
During the morning I’ve had a brainstorm of thoughts for a story which I jotted down. Quite interesting, although I’d need a month out of my head here in Pokhara on mushrooms to get anything near enough written. If I stayed in this sort of environment though, I could honestly devote myself to something like that.
Brom dropped by and we had a really long chat. She has gallantly bought us a joint ticket to Kathmandu for tomorrow morning so my dream world will soon be shattered. Both of us dropped any remaining pretensions and really talked heart to heart and very openly about our lives. It is refreshing to meet someone receptive to my own way of thinking.
The young girl came by again and decided it would be more diplomatic to invite both of us to dinner at 4-00 p.m. She said later that she would like to marry me although she already has a husband. She is quite interesting to talk to about local customs but not my idea of a wife I’m afraid.
Brom and I went to the Sun restaurant where there seemed to be quite a buzz of activity around us; the boy rolling joints, me already spaced out and the young girl scrounging toast & tea. Brom eventually moved but I just sat there watching everything, the tourists, the traders and the locals.
I ate two tomato breads, two curds and had a tea in between sundry chillums and hallucinations which are quite strong today creating a funny, funny world. The guy who had given me some hash for the gems gave me some good grass instead as the hash was no good.
The weather at the moment is very humid, sweat’s rolling off me, and thunder-clouds are coming in off the mountains.
After a fairly quiet afternoon, Brom came down again at 4 p.m. for our dinner appointment. We had a joint of grass (which was very good) while we waited. The girl came along and we were led to her house which was very small. Her father who has been ill for ten months lay huddled on the bed looking near death.
We waited quite a while for the food to cook and heard various tales from the girl about the family’s problems caused by the father’s illness and lack of money to pay for his operation. The meal was really good; rice, vegetable, dahl and more rice. We gave the girl R5 each to cover her costs and a little more money as well.
After the meal we sat at the Sun restaurant, had a coffee and watched a beautiful sunset with some amazing colours. Later on we moved down to town and pigged out a little more. I had two apple crumbles, a coffee and a beer, as well as quite a lengthy chat with Brom and a couple more joints. After saying goodnight to Geoff & Kim I went to my room, did a little bit of writing and also most of my packing.
Went to sleep at 11-45 p.m.
Tuesday May 26th
I had a restless night’s sleep, the weather was very humid and there was also a late night party going on next door which lasted until 2-00 a.m.
My young Nepalese lady-friend came along at 5-00 a.m. to wake me up and make sure we caught the bus. I got the last of my packing done before popping up to see if Brom was ready. We walked down to the main square and the awaiting bus where we reserved a seat, left our bags and went to get some breakfast.
I just had coffee and toast as it was still early. We started off shortly after 6.30 a.m. with high hopes of reaching Kathmandu quickly but it was not to be. A group of five guys at the front lit up a chillum so that was our signal to roll up a joint or two, which greatly relieved the monotony.
Unfortunately at 8-30 a.m. after quite a steep hill the bus gave up the ghost and had to be abandoned in a village. Our driver then proceeded to hijack a local bus which we all piled onto. We got a seat at the back and quite a few people piled onto the roof with our luggage which was great until they all came inside because of rain.
We had a bumpy but interesting journey with a couple of joints and two stops where I tasted various delights of curd, bread, boiled eggs and cold onion chapattis (all quite cheap, perhaps R1 each). Eventually we arrived in Kathmandu, shaken to bits and tired, at 3-00 p.m.
After some looking around Brom and I finally settled for a hotel called the Sunlight where we got a spacious and clean double room for R20 a night, which is fairly reasonable and also in quite a convenient position to get into town. As soon as we’d dumped our bags both of us raced off in different directions, Brom to get letters at American Express and me at the Post Office.
I got there in 5 minutes flat and impatiently sorted through the letters in the ‘F’ section finding quite a selection for myself. There was a letter from Jan, one from Rita, a three week old one from Andy in Pokhara and four letters from my family.
Went to the coffee shop where they were playing Roxy Music, Flesh & Blood which reminded me of Jan, as I read her really nice letter. It cheered me up a lot and also made me realise how much I miss her. I also had a letter from Rita which seemed very vague, listless and moody. Despite this she says that she is coming to Bombay at the end of June.
I also got four letters from my family which were really nice. One was from my sister who very rarely writes and insists that I should come home sometime for longer than a week so that we can get to know each other again, that made me think a lot. Mother also sent three letters with lots of news and cheery thoughts as always.
She tells me Father is away in the Seychelles working for a while so she has a lot to do at the moment with her Vision card business, Open University course, the house and garden plus of course surgery work. My brother is off again travelling in France and may be in Germany about the time I get there in July.
After reading all the letters a couple of times (especially Jan’s which conveyed a lot of feeling), I returned to the room and had a shower. Then Brom and I had a couple of joints before heading into town and getting some dinner.
We went to quite a smart restaurant where I had vegetable cutlet with fried potatoes and a pancake as afters along with a pot of tea. We chatted to a classy (I mean upper crust British guy) who had been out doing a lot of trekking, some of it difficult, and was very interesting to talk to.
After an apple pie and coffee at one place and a coffee at another, we witnessed the return of electricity, music and also joints. We then headed to Yin Yang where I had a lemon, made a couple of joints which we smoked and listened to some good music (although it seemed a little disco orientated).
Had quite a laugh there before leaving at 10-15 p.m. and wandering back to our hotel. We seem to be getting on very well although purely on a platonic level, of course.
I lay awake for a while writing and thinking about future plans. I am really quite annoyed with Rita that with all the time she has had that she has not yet arranged anything definite. If I knew for certain I would simply head off to Darjeeling for a couple of weeks or even go back to Pokhara for a while.
Brom is in the same boat in that she has received no definite information in her letters to indicate what she should be doing next; either meeting a friend of hers, going to Europe or even back to Australia.
Went to bed at 12-30 a.m.
Wednesday May 27th
Woke up several times during the night because of restlessness and mosquitoes, but apart from that I slept pretty well.
Came around properly at 9-45 a.m. when Brom got up. We had arranged to meet an Australian girl from trekking for breakfast. I had chatted with her briefly yesterday afternoon. We hurriedly washed and dashed down to the restaurant where she was waiting and already eating.
I had a couple of coffees, fried egg on toast and muesli with fruit & curd which was all really tasty. We sat there for ages talking and listening to a Police tape, Regatta de Blanca, which they had playing.
We then split and the two girls went shopping for some clothes. I had my stones with me and so went to a couple of jewellers shops to look at prices and designs for setting them. I found quite a good place off Freak Street and picked out some ring designs which seem to be about the best investment. I picked out thirteen rings for varying stones at costs of between R35 and R60 a setting which is quite good considering the fact that the rings are silver.
I also discovered that I had paid too much for the stones I have, although it will still be possible to make a small profit on the rings I am having set (to sell at prices ranging from DM10 to DM50) basically as an experiment to see if it’s worth shipping stuff back from India & Nepal.
The setting of the stones won’t be completed until Sunday (the day my visa runs out) and will cost R550. That means that I will have to extend my visa for a week whilst hanging around (although it’s not that hard). The other thing is that I’ll have to be careful with money.
After paying for the stones and a new visa plus maybe a sweatshirt & trousers I will have R500 to live on until I leave, which is quite tight. I could of course change one of my two remaining travellers cheques but I am very reluctant to do that until I get back into India.
After arranging everything with the stones I went back to the hotel. Lay on my bed smoking my first joint of the day before writing my diary, a letter to my family, a couple of postcards and getting the diary packed to send to Jan.
Weather is pretty shitty at the moment with a lot of rain building up for the start of the monsoon which is due in the next few days.
The monsoon weather could have a big effect on the way I travel and where I go for the next three or four weeks. Darjeeling still appeals a lot and is meant to be good weather most of the year round. The only hassle then is getting all the way down to Calcutta and then Bombay to meet Rita.
At 2-30 p.m., after another joint, I went down to the Post Office where I bought stamps for my mail which came to a total of R35. The diary was quite bulky and the guy looked at it a little suspiciously (as though it was full of hash).
I then went down Freak Street to a place called the ‘Ol’ Stylist Pie Shop’ where we went last night. Had a couple of cups of coffee, apple pie and chocolate cake and also smoked a couple of joints with the guy running the place and a French guy. The hash was really good and soft and he had a lot although I didn’t have much money to buy any. I did buy a nice lump off him though for R25 and got quite a buzz of the stuff.
Later on I went back to the room and after another joint lay on the bed reading a book of Kim’s called ‘Freedom at Midnight’ which is about India’s independence and is very interesting. Brom came back with a couple of Australian guys she had also met on the trek. One of them will be sleeping on the third bed in our room.
We all went out to eat at 7-00 p.m. after another joint which gave me a little boost for the evening. We went to a nice little restaurant where I had a good meal of vegetable cake, fried potatoes & salad, pancake with sugar & lemon + a pot of tea. We stayed there quire a long time amidst sundry power cuts and storms.
After that we went to the Himalayan coffee shop where the others had cake and chatted while I had a coffee and made a couple of joints which we smoked. We sat there until 10-00 p.m. when the place started to close and then wandered back to the hotel which was already locked up so that we had to knock on the doors before getting in.
We sat around talking for a while and had another joint, although I seem to have smoked so much recently that I am getting a little immune to the effects. I was more in the frame of mind to go out and have a good drink.
Went to sleep at 11-30 p.m.
Thursday May 28th
Woke up once during the night because of the rain, which came down really heavily at 4-00 a.m. After shutting the window and wrapping myself up against the cold I went back to sleep.
The Australian guy left at 6-30 a.m. as he is going to get a plane ticket today to Patna for Sunday and will probably get another room tonight with a Dutch friend of his. Brom left at 8-00 a.m. I will meet her and Margie (the other Australian girl) for breakfast at 9-00 a.m.
After a good wash I left the room and met the girls for breakfast where I had fried eggs, toast, muesli and a couple of coffees. We all sat around for a while talking and arranged to meet at 7.30 p.m. for an evening meal, as friends were leaving tomorrow and Margie goes on Saturday to Patna.
I left the other two at 10-30 a.m. after listening to some really good music including a lot of Joe Cocker. Unfortunately no-one was smoking hash in the place so I didn’t get into the music as much as I could have done. My intention was to walk out to the British and Indian embassies, the British to catch up on some news and the Indian in case I need a permit for Darjeeling.
Eventually, after a lot of walking, I arrived at the Indian embassy and remembered the way to get there. A short walk down the road I found the English embassy. The guy on the gate told me that the reading room was situated back towards town so I walked half-way back the way I’d come before finding it.
There was a good selection of newspapers and magazines in which I became totally enthralled and stayed there well over three hours. Most of the papers were the businessman’s fare but still provided a real insight into what has been happening at home.
The latest they had was the Financial Times from Wed. 20th and I caught up on a lot of economic news which sounds much as normal although the dollar is very strong because of high interest rates (20% again) and Reagan’s influence.
I also read how Britain is coping economically; not too well by all accounts, still more difficult times ahead for the poor Britons. Also confirmed a rumour that I’d heard that the Pope had been shot, although I was relieved that he is recovering and that the Turkish guy has been arrested. The situation in Northern Ireland seems to be deteriorating rapidly after the death of Bobby Sands and two other hunger strikers, it sounds ominous.
Read also about the escapades of the Thatcher government and the resignation of John Nott over reduced spending for the Navy and subsequently the removal of two more PPS’s. It sounds as though there are some interesting developments at the moment on the constitutional front.
I left at 2-30 p.m. and wandered through Thamel, having an enjoyable walk around the area which is full of hotels, restaurants and is reputed to be more expensive than even Freak Street. Visited a chemists and bought 25 tabs of Dexodrin for R3-60 and 20 tabs of valium for R7-50.
After a couple of coffees and a brownie (no hash though) I raced up to the post-office but there were no letters. Get more discouraged each day as I have to wade through the ‘F’s.
At 4-00 p.m. I went back to the room where Brom and I smoked our first joint of the day. We sat around chatting for a while. We have been having some great conversations in the last couple of days, really open and honest and we seem to be helping each other, talking out our different indecisive feelings about what the future holds.
We are both a little despondent about our partners and their seeming lack of concern that the time-lapse would be inconveniencing us and delaying our travels. My complaint is that Rita got my letters from India alright and knew what the invitation was and that there was a certain amount of urgency about arranging the flight if she was coming.
If it sounds as though I’m being super-critical it is only because I’m still fond of her and just wish the best for her. I’m certain we’ll discover more difficulties and conflicts of interest if she comes to India and we meet up alright. A physical situation doesn’t have to be blamed like a city, it’s what is really between the two people that matters.
I just hope she’s got something organised by now and sends a telegram or express letter to PR Kathmandu which will get here early next week. On Sunday I’ll have to go to the immigration office and extend my visa a week until June 7th which will cost R100 to stay in Kathmandu for those extra days.
If you stay in Nepal then after the first month it can start getting expensive, although whilst trekking it is cheaper. In the second month it costs R100 a week to extend an ordinary visa (original cost R90) and R60 when trekking. There are occasional police and immigration raids on hotels, not looking for drugs but people who have overstayed visas or are misusing a trekking visa by staying in Kathmandu instead of out in the mountains.
Unless the crime is really serious then the problem is usually sorted out with an appropriate fine (flexible but I’ve heard figures ranging from R100 to R500 for the smaller cases). Apparently the raids are quite orderly and the police don’t enter the room but stand at the door inspecting passports and validity of visas.
There are quite a few elusive ones, some of them completely cracked mentally, who have been here fifteen years or more either with Nepalese passports (after claiming citizenship) or those foreigners who had good, secure and lifelong jobs here. Some others still have passports but are afraid or don’t want to leave because they’ve already overstayed their visa.
Even worse are others who have sold their passports and most of their possessions to fuel a desire for drugs, normally heroin, because it creates such a self-centred existence. They don’t give a shit about so called friends after a while and soon reach rock-bottom, where life is not worth anything except for the needle and its expensive and lethal contents.
I’m writing this under the influence of speed early Saturday morning (3-00 a.m.) scribbling down thoughts as they come along in my mind to try and capture some of the true feelings that go through my brain.
During the afternoon I had also enquired about flights and buses to Darjeeling if I still have time to go there. Flights go to the nearest airport (near the foot of the miniature railway leading high into the mountains to the hill station of Darjeeling). The flight would cost R590, which is well beyond my budget.
The bus to Darjeeling leaves Kathmandu every day at 5-00 a.m. in the morning. It arrives at the border after a very rough and exhausting ride 13 hours later. If I’d had news by today then I could have arranged something for Monday morning and been at the border for the evening. I would only be one day late with my visa and that is meant to be no real hassle, a maximum fine of R20 for the day.
The bus costs only R87 to the border which is very reasonable although, if I’m going that way, I should move soon because the monsoons are approaching and the bus doesn’t travel in bad weather as the roads tend to get washed away.
Back in the room at 4-00 p.m. Brom and I smoked a couple of joints which are becoming a little boring because I’m smoking so much. I also had a couple of very dizzy spells on standing up after reading some papers at the consulate reading room. It re-occurred a couple of times later on but not as serious, only momentary confusion. I have been reliably informed that this is probably due to the heavy amounts of dope I’ve been smoking.
Virtually all the time since coming to this delightful country I’ve been trying a lot of their various offerings, which on the whole have been excellent. At 5-00 p.m. (still Thursday, it was a long day) the conversation turned to drugs and what I’d tried and Brom hadn’t.
I was obviously the amateur and she tried to describe a few of the effects (impossible) of smoking & snorting H (never injected and as fiercely against it as me), also cocaine and smoking opium from a proper pipe (as with the Thai hill tribes).
We also discussed acid which in the right circumstances can be excellent, although as I discovered at the Elvis Costello concert and afterwards it can also be a difficult experience. I’m sure after such a long time (April 1980) and my experience with mushrooms recently, I’m much better prepared mentally for such things.
I discovered one thing that Brom had never tried, speed. After a little persuasion she agreed to take two tabs and I took four. We also had another joint for which we take our turns in rolling, although Brom is sometimes too lazy. I am learning a couple of new ways to roll joints, some quite spectacular although difficult to imitate.
We went out at 7-15 p.m. to find Margie’s place of abode which was the Kathmandu Lodge where she pays R20 a night for a nice single room. When we first arrived Margie was having her hair cut by an English guy, Chris, who made a very good job of it.
He is preparing to open a salon in the new hotel to be opened shortly, the Sheraton. It has apparently taken eight years to build but is seen to be one of new ‘top’ hotels in Kathmandu.
Eventually seven of us all headed off at 8-30 p.m. towards an Italian/San Francisco style pizza restaurant. We had an excellent meal and split three giant pizzas of different sorts between the seven of us. They were really filling consisting of many delicious things, such as cheese, tomato, onion, garlic, sardines and in a separate one, salami will all the trimmings.
Had a couple of milk teas to wash down the pieces and gave up after the fourth massive slice. Everybody else managed to polish the plates off and fill themselves to overflowing so that we were all satisfied.
I chatted to Margie for a while. She is a very intelligent and charming girl and great to talk to. She is in a mixed–up world because she is a traveller who really enjoys life but can’t find a comfortable niche in it.
Chris and his wife were a really nice couple and obviously very happy together. I had an enjoyable chat with him, jokingly asking if there was to be a bank at the Sheraton and of the possibility of me landing a job there, although that’s a pretty remote possibility I think.
Chris comes from Bath in Somerset and I think his wife is Australian (although she spoke English English). Other members of our little party included Brom (of course), a pretty spaced out Dutch guy, an American girl, myself, Chris (sometimes called Jason for some reason) and his wife plus of course Margie.
The Dutch guy will be leaving soon. After 3½ years here he wants to split for a while but come back later if he can. That reminds me, the other Dutch guy who I stayed with, Allas, should be returning in the next couple of days if his arrangements go as planned.
After our meal it was getting quite late, almost 10-30 p.m., so the Dutch guy took us to a place called the Dragon Restaurant where we all sat chatting and drinking coffee. The girls had some tantalising-looking cakes and I made a couple of joints to help everyone mellow out.
Brom and I said goodbye to the others and went back to our room where we chatted for quite a long time before Brom got tired at 1-00 a.m. She had enjoyed the speed which had bucked her up a little and given her quite a good buzz. She had taken only two tabs and was able to go to sleep fairly quickly as the effects had largely worn off, just leaving her tired.
I wanted to sleep well so I took 2 tabs of valium to counteract the speed which could have kept me awake all night. After half-an-hour of resting I hadn’t fallen asleep so I took one more tab and was out within five minutes and into a deep slumber.
Friday May 29th
Woke up on Friday morning feeling pretty good at 8-00 a.m.
After a wash and getting dressed we went to a restaurant called ‘Bar J’ where Brom had arranged to meet Danny. We had a good breakfast of fried eggs on toast, buttered toast, milk coffee and muesli with fruit and curd.
I wandered around the streets of the city for a while, checked with Post Restante but no more letters had arrived so it looks as though I’ll be staying around Kathmandu for a little while longer.
As well as being a little annoyed at Rita’s lack of urgency (or am I being unfair again?), I am also disappointed that several letters sent to Malaysia have not appeared here yet, although Jan posted a bulky letter there some three weeks ago which has not yet been re-directed.
Perhaps I’m hoping too much in the way of postal efficiency in Asia but it is always disappointing when letters (especially an entertaining one from Jan and the others) go astray. Maybe it will be returned to Germany in a couple of months, ‘return to sender’.
I think a lot of Stan and just pray that he was either released on appeal, which could have happened around the middle of May if he was lucky or someone has paid the huge bribe required to bail him out and shoot him back to the States.
The memory is still vivid in my head, of the shock that we all felt at how harsh the judge was to Stan. It really took away any victory we’d achieved by making our release (mine & Andy’s) a very hollow affair.
I believe that he’ll find the strength to survive this ordeal. Hopefully our mental support from a distance does some good although if Maria (his German girlfriend) is still around she will be a much greater help and provide him with some outside encouragement.
Looking back at my paltry three weeks in captivity I can see that it has altered my outlook a lot. Although I’m not bitter about the whole thing I still feel twinges of anger at the injustice of the whole situation.
I went back at 11-30 a.m. and sat around chatting to Brom for a while. She is so open and honest it is extremely refreshing having her sharing the room. We are having a very enjoyable time swapping stories and telling each other a lot about our past lives and the way we’ve been moulded by different events along the way.
Before Brom went out we had a couple of joints and I dropped two more tabs of speed. Half-an-hour later she went off to meet Danny who is staying nearby at the Astra lodge to go cycling with him for a while.
I did a lot of writing during the afternoon on an interesting project for Brom, which I found a real change and even a challenge. I wrote six sides on Ibitha and various things to do which I’ll complete tomorrow with some sketch-maps of the island and Es Cana especially.
Compiling the information has given me a little more confidence in my writing and organisation of ideas, which I’ve not really put to good use for a long time. I am having more & more ideas about the possibility of writing a book.
My confidence booms on speed although I really need an honest, professional opinion as to whether my style of writing is sufficiently fluent and readable. I think that it could be criticised in a lot of ways but the bones of the story would at least form a basis for an interesting plot and storyline with any polishing up of style to be finished when the general kernel of the book has been formed.
About 3-30 p.m. Kim & Geoff were shown into the room after getting the message Brom had left at American Express. They had arrived from Pokhara at 2-30 p.m. on one of the local buses (R28 for a quicker ride than the Swiss Bus seems able to provide).
We sat around chatting for a while and found out what we’d all been doing in the three days we’d been apart. Nothing spectacular had happened although we swapped stories of what had been going on.
Brom came back at 5-30 p.m. by which time we’d already smoked a few joints, a couple Geoff made up with some really powerful pollen were extremely good and gave me a really nice buzz. I also wanted to take some speed as we were meant to be going to a discotheque at the extremely flash ‘Yak & Yeti’ hotel.
It would cost us R65 each, including food and access to the disco although drinks were extra. A whole crowd of us were meant to be going to celebrate Margie’s last night in Nepal for a while.
We left our room at 7-30 p.m. and after some searching we found the ‘Yak & Yeti’. We went inside to one of the smoothest places I’ve seen for a long time, very plush, well designed and a sharp contrast to the poverty enjoyed by the locals compared with the luxuries of the rich businessmen and fancy tourists who use the place.
Unfortunately the disco had been cancelled so that we were uncertain of what to do as Margie had not yet arrived. We looked at the menu for one of the restaurants and things within it were outrageously expensive by our lowly travelling style but nothing to the people with plenty of money staying here.
Geoff then led us through some of the different areas inside the hotel which were fascinating and also the beautiful garden which beckoned one out to the back of the hotel. After walking around for fifteen minutes we left the hotel, only to meet Margie and her friends heading down the road towards the hotel.
The bad news was broken to them and as it was getting late (8-45 p.m.) we split up into several groups to go eating. Geoff & Kim, Brom and I headed back towards Kathmandu before finding a really clean and interesting looking restaurant.
We were all hungry and the food arrived very quickly. I had a Wiener Schnitzel with hash browns & vegetables which tasted great and was filling as well. I also had half a bottle of beer as Geoff and I were gasping for a cold beer. It was nicely chilled and really went down well although of course it went too quickly.
After that we headed towards Freak Street for a last drink before the restaurants closed. It was already 10-30 p.m. We went to the ‘Ol Stylest’ pie shop where we were allowed to stay drinking coffee and smoking a couple of joints provided by a Nepalese guy which were loaded with pollen and were an excellent smoke.
I forgot to mention that I dropped another four tabs earlier on and Kim & Brom joined me by taking two each. It gave me a really good buzz for the evening and we all had a great laugh during the meal, looking around the hotel, having some good smoke and also speeding and in a good mood generally.
We returned to the hotel at 11-45 p.m. and had to knock on the door loudly before we could get in. Once inside we all headed upstairs to our room, an extra bed was moved in earlier on so that four could fit into the room.
Geoff (who had taken some opium earlier on) was pretty out of it and went to sleep very quickly. Brom, Kim & I sat around talking for ages until they decided to go to bed and try to sleep at 2-00 a.m.
I lit a candle by my bed and wrote my diary for a long time.
Saturday May 30th
I didn’t wake up this morning because I didn’t even go to sleep last night.
When I started getting engrossed in the writing of my diary at 2-15 a.m., I still felt wide awake and didn’t feel like knocking myself out with valium so I took two more tabs of speed and stayed wide awake for the rest of the night.
It was quite amusing watching actions of the other three while they slept. Geoff was the noisiest with sundry snores and grunts. No-one talked in their sleep although there were a few groans from open throats, and sighs from contented souls.
It was possible to hear Kathmandu coming to life, starting as early as 4-00 a.m. with the many menial and important jobs that must be performed every day to keep the clockwork ticking over. Animal and human noises increased as the dawn chorus heralded in another new day and the sun shone over the valley at 5-00 a.m.
This bought out many assorted colours dotting the landscape and the cumulus clouds. The whole day remained fine with a lot of sun and a few cumulus but no rain clouds, ‘touch wood’. The storms seem to have abated for a while, perhaps a last lull before the monsoon storms start flooding in.
Kim & Brom woke up quite early because of outside noises, although all three had slept soundly through numerous occasions when the dogs of the neighbourhood started barking together and trying to raise the roof. Normally of course I would have been sleeping through the various noises as well.
I got up (although I didn’t even really go to bed) and had a wash at 8-00 a.m.
Then after sitting around doing some more writing I headed with Kim & Brom (Geoff’s still in bed) to a restaurant in Durbar Square called the ‘Himalayan’ pie shop where we arrived at 9-30 a.m. We sat there for ages drinking coffee and smoking more joints. It’s a terrible life, isn’t it?
They also played one of Geoff’s three tapes with some new Robert Palmer I’d never heard before and also some Paul Simon which I recognised. We had a good time most of the morning and didn’t leave the restaurant until nearly midday.
Today is Saturday and most of the shops are closed so that there weren’t too many people about in town except for the normal traders and merchants trying to sell their tourist-trap souvenirs to tourists who are willing to be trapped.
Decided to have a day in the room catching up on writing my diary, for which I seemed to find so many interesting snippets early this morning while speeding and doing a lot of thinking about what the future might hold (a futile pursuit or not?).
The afternoon was generally pretty quiet. Brom is over in Bhaktapur with Danny for the afternoon while Geoff & Kim (in between a couple of small shopping trips) kept me company most of the time and we all had a pleasant time chatting about everything and nothing.
At 5-30 p.m. I took the last three tabs to liven me up for the evening as I had come down a lot from the speed that had sustained me last night and this morning. The bottle has gone really quickly but at R3-60 for 25 tabs I have no complaints at all and both Kim & Brom also had the chance to try some, which they enjoyed.
I then wrote some more of the travelogue for Brom which seems to be becoming quite a project for me. I’ve done nearly ten pages of it at the moment and must do a few more plans & diagrams before I’m finished. What with the amount I have written in my diary as well, I seem to be really enjoying my writing at the moment.
Maybe having friends around has given me a little more inspiration to do things instead of just vegetating. Geoff played his guitar which was really nice to listen to, while we smoked a couple of joints with pollen which were excellent.
We didn’t get around to going out until nearly 9-00 p.m. because we got so lethargic after the joints we’d smoked. Eventually went to an Indian restaurant, also quite posh. We seem to be going for the flashier places recently, although the prices are still very reasonable.
I had a chicken masala, chapattis & coke which cost R20-50. The meal was very tasty but was not really that filling as the portions were too small. We’ve been spoilt by the Nepalese dish of rice & dahl which you can eat as much as you like for R5.
We then wandered around the streets for a while although all three of us seemed pretty moody for some reason. We ended up going into the ‘Ol Stylist’ where the other two had pies and I had a coffee. We were also offered some really nice pollen of which we had a smoke.
After returning to the hotel at 11-00 p.m. we sat around the room smoking another couple of joints with Geoff’s pollen which were really good and got me nicely stoned again.
Brom came back at 11-30 p.m. and shortly afterwards everybody went to bed. I took a couple of valium which got me to sleep very quickly.
Sunday May 31st
It is the last day of another month and my first month in Nepal. I must renew my visa for another week today.
Was awoken by the others from a very deep sleep, feeling refreshed although still a little dopey. Had a wash and after doing some more writing I went with Geoff, Brom & Kim to the town in search of breakfast.
We went to the Himalayan coffee shop where I breakfasted on fried eggs on buttered toast and a coffee. I left the others as I had a few things to get done and I wanted to get them done quickly.
To start with I headed off to the bank where I changed my precious R1000 note into 100’s before walking across to the immigration office which was twenty minutes away. Once there I filled out an extension form, putting my reason for staying was that I had to ‘wait for an important letter’.
That’s not strictly true, I mean I’m not exactly going to have a miserable time hanging around Kathmandu a few extra days. It just puts a big strain on the possibility of having to miss the Darjeeling side-trip.
Forgot to mention that just before we went to breakfast our hotel was visited by immigration officials who checked all our visas. Mine was alright as it runs out today but Geoff & Kim had a few problems as they have a visa issued to go trekking and are at the moment obviously in Kathmandu.
The guys were quite pleasant and said that they should go to the immigration office and pay the difference of R50 each. The officials promised to come back early on Tuesday morning to make sure everything had been done or that they had in fact gone trekking. Geoff & Kim are contemplating going but are not certain yet.
Anyway, I handed over the form, a photo, my passport and my fee of R101 (R100 for the visa and R1 stamp duty). I will have to return tomorrow and collect my passport which, if I receive any news telling me that I still have two or three week’s freedom, I’ll take to the Indian Embassy to get a special permit for Darjeeling.
After immigration I walked back towards the centre of town and the post office. There were already letters in the ‘F’ section that had arrived today but after another thorough search I couldn’t find anything. It gets like a daily ritual going there.
From there, I went round a couple of chemists (often called ‘Drug Shops’ in English on the signboards) asking if they had any Captagon but was informed that although it was manufactured in India it has never been imported to Nepal. In the end I bought another bottle of Dexedrine as I seem to be having good fun on them at the moment.
Lastly I went to the jewellers where they had my stones already set and they looked really good. I tried to bargain the guy down on the price but he only dropped R20 to R530.
He was interested in some of the other gems but the prices he offered were much too low and obviously on a wholesale level so I decided to keep them and if I can sell some of the set stones along the way then I’ll get the rest set in Sri Lanka which is also reputed to be cheap.
My investment of US$150 should reap at least a small profit in Europe (unless I get too soft-hearted and give them away as presents).
I went back to the room where Geoff was playing his guitar and the beds were covered in clothes as everybody tried sorting out their belongings. Kim & Brom are talking of moving out of this hotel to a lodge after this morning’s raid. Kim is also thinking of doing some more trekking although Geoff is keener to stay with his guitar.
Brom will probably be moving on in two or three days’ time towards India as her visa runs out on Wednesday. I’ve noticed a slight chilling of her attitude towards me in the last day or so, although it is probably all in my imagination.
She has certainly scotched any ideas she had of maybe moving onto Darjeeling but then again she must also make her decision on the basis of a letter that never seems to come.
Geoff, Kim & Brom went out at 2-00 p.m. to get various things done and I lay on my bed writing both my diary and Brom’s travelogue. Also dropped three more tabs to perk me up for the afternoon.
Kim & Brom returned at 4-30 p.m. and gave me the news about Brom’s letter, which had finally arrived. The guy cannot get out to meet her so at least she can plan now either on returning to Australia or carrying on her travels to Europe.
The weather today was beautiful and hot but shortly after Kim & Brom returned the rain started to come down in buckets. Geoff will get soaked as he’s out on a bike at the moment.
The other three got pretty knocked out by some opium they had taken and a few joints that we just happened to roll & smoke.
We all lay around reading and talking. Brom is quite down and very undecided about what to do while Kim & Geoff were also a little on edge so there was a lot of tension in the air.
At 8-30 a.m. I decided my stomach needed filling but I was the only one with any energy to make a move. I arranged a couple of places where we could meet up later in the evening.
First I went to the Paradise restaurant which was quite empty and I got served very promptly. I had cauliflower & cheese sauce + spaghetti (pretty tasteless but alright covered in tomato sauce) and a small pot of tea.
After the meal I went to the Himalayan café (where the music was much better) and sat in an almost deserted place eating my apple pie, drinking coffee and smoking a couple of joints listening to familiar music from the Police, Chicago and the Eagles (at which point I left).
My next & final port of call was the ‘Ol Stylist’ where there was again some good music and lots to smoke. I sat there drinking a coffee and was joined by the guy who works there who showed me some more pollen he had. We had a smoke of it and it certainly did the trick nicely. I bought a tola (10g) off him for R35, which was extremely reasonable.
Geoff & Brom came in at 10-00 p.m. after a short nap and dug into cakes & coffee. We sat around talking, smoking and thinking about the decisions that must be made in the next couple of days. There is a little tension between Geoff & Kim which I’d always put down to the fact that they had been together so long, but Geoff had told me another side of it earlier on.
Kim & Brom had started travelling together and after 3-4 months Geoff had gone to Sumatra to meet Kim. After two days Kim decided that she didn’t want to travel with Geoff after all and so when they left Indonesia they went their separate ways, which explains why only Geoff was in Chiang Mai when we were in prison.
Later on Kim changed her mind and they joined up again although a lot has gone out of their relationship. It has also left Brom as an outsider. It’s always difficult to travel in a mixed threesome. That is why she is now making her plans independently of the other two.
Went back to the room and sat up for a while talking and smoking. I was also sneezing a lot and a cold seemed to be creeping up on me. Brom has had one all day and is feeling pretty listless because of it.
We all went to bed at 11-30 p.m. although a couple of us were lying awake thinking for a while.