Kathmandu, 30/3/73 (Mon)
Dear Father and Mother,

As I have only until 7 a.m. tomorrow left in Kathmandu and as I have two aerogrammes left, I shall have to do a Donald Leng and fill two at one go. Since I have just finished writing no fewer than nine (9) postcards, I am pretty well fed up before I start.

Kathmandu has an olde worlde, almost mediaeval charm about it and the nearby towns are distinctly mediaeval with overhanging buildings, cobbled streets and marketplaces in the old style. In K. there are fewer beggars (though still more than enough) and the people are more bearable than in India (which admittedly is not saying very much). The people themselves are only small. If they had been taller, their old buildings would probably have been more suitable for Westerners. As it is, I practically have to stoop to get about in my room. I begin to understand how the old cavemen got such funny-shaped heads.

Hashish shops abound and openly advertise their wares - I believe there is even a government store. There is a goodly representation of Western hippies and assorted freaks, but there are also many straight, clean-cut, well-dressed, classy tourists like me to balance the books. Westernised food is to be had everywhere. Buff (sic, = buffalo) steaks, pancakes and tea, milk and cheese, seem to constitute a reasonable diet. (Even found some lemon meringue pie!) The last two days, my breakfast has been porridge (first for 2 months!), eggs, toast and jam, tea.

I have suffered intermittent diarrhoea ever since Calcutta. However the affliction seems to be clearing up now. Hope it's not replaced with hepatitis, which is prevalent here and in Afghanistan (that should help you sleep!) They say gamma globulin shots are not very effective but are better than nothing. (Out of my price bracket.)

One of the most convenient forms of locomotion around here is the trusty and tried push-bike. I have hired these for several days now, pedalling down narrow streets, admiring the ornate carved façades and the primitive but captivating atmosphere, venturing as far afield as a "monkey temple" in one direction and the neighbouring village in the other. Nepalese are mostly Hindus and Tibetans mostly Buddhists, though they are both mixed up. The monkey temple had Hindu good luck symbols (swastikas) and also statues of Buddha. Also what looked like long Tibetan horns.

The weather has been abnormally hot (it came a few weeks too early) and this accounts for the thick haze which shrouds the Kathmandu Valley by day, rendering the surrounding mountains barely visible. Distressed by this fact, and determined to see what I could (having come this far), I resolved to walk to Nagarkot, a hilltop village some 22 miles away, famous for its views of the Himalayas at sunset and sunrise. So on Monday I took the bus half-way and, in company with an odd English couple (aren't they all?), took about 5 hours to clamber to the top. The views en route were disappointingly hazy, but there were beautiful green valleys, picturesque huts and villages and a dim backdrop of mountains. We stayed the night in a mountain-top lodge. The sunset was was almost non-existent, as was the sunrise, though a few snowy peaks were picked out by the rising ball of fire (brilliant red, as in most of SE Asia). There was nothing left but to wend my way down again, wondering whether it was worth two 10-hour bus trips to and from Pokhara (for which I have a trekking permit) for possibly a similar disappointment.

That was one consideration. Another was that time is getting on and there's still a long way to go. Another was that the officiousness and inefficiency of South Asians is getting to me. I find I'm losing my temper and berating them much more often. And, let it be said, they deserve every bit of it. Another consideration was that I have met up with my Swiss and French friends again, and the Swiss has been telling me Pied Piper stories about Switzerland and mountains and real Swiss fondues and fine wines and the best of cheeses. They are both taking the Crazy Bus as far as Tehran, then down to Isfahan and Persepolis, into Iraq to Ur and Baghdad, into Syria or Jordan, around (by air or sea) to Egypt, up the Nile to Aswan and then on to Europe.

The consequence of all this is that I have paid $10 deposit for my place on the Crazy Bus and have said I will go as far as Delhi ($12) and probably as far as Tehran ($40). The itinerary is as follows:

Sat 31/3 7 a.m depart Kathmandu for Raxaul (Indian border)

01/4 To Patna, taking ferry across the Ganges

02/4 To Benares (Varanasi) - evening and night

03/4 From B. at noon to Khajuraho

04-5/4 In K.

06/4 To Agra

07/4 In Agra or on to Jaipur

Sun 08/4 Delhi - camping site

Wed 11/4 To Amritsar (Pakistan border)

12/4 To Peshawar

13/4 Khyber Pass - Afghan border and Kabul at night

Tues 17/4 To Herat

18/4 From Iranian border to Mashed

20/4 Tehran via Caspian Sea

Sat 21/4 Turkish border

Tues 24/4 Istanbul via Black Sea

I'm hoping I will have time to get from Delhi up to the Kulu Valley (recommended to me as Utopia by Pat Grant) and then across to Amritsar to meet the bus at the border. I regret not having time to get right up into Kashmir - perhaps another time?? If I go with these other fellows from Tehran (and I think I will), I'll also regret missing the Black Sea and Istanbul. Obviously it's not possible to do everything on one trip - I'll just have to fill in the blanks at a later date.

My change in plans means Tehran will only be useful as poste restante for a couple of days after you receive this, probably. I suggest you should next write c/o Poste Restante, G.P.O. (??), Baghdad, then perhaps the same thing in Amman. I can only say I'll let you know.

The Rhodesian took off on Wed. morning to visit an uncle in Bombay and hopes to join the Crazy Bus in Delhi. The bus is said to hold 40, but Jacqueline (the French driver) won't take more than 28 (now fully subscribed, I believe). The said bus has been left at the border (that road spells ruination to anything) and she's hired a local bus to take us down tomorrow.

My souvenir purchases in K. were a Gurkha knife (pronounced "cookery" in the local lingo and spelt "khukuri" I think) – a wicked looking instrument - and large and small bags made in Tibetan refugee camps. The whole cost Rp 67.50 and would have cost nearly as much to send home, so I've decided to carry them – might come in useful! And I almost forgot my Rp 4.50 buffalo-horn pendant!

Since I'm pulling out so soon, and since it had been recommended to me by several confrères, and since it's cost me a good deal of money and effort already to get this far, and since it may be while before I get back here, I grudgingly shelled out - if you have tears, as Mark Antony said, prepare to shed them now - $US 20 for a "mountain flight" to view the Himalayas, which aren't visible through the haze from the ground. It was really a beautiful sight, though it would have been better value at ¼ the price (or even ½ the price).

If I don't get to Baghdad, I'll have somebody readdress the mail.