Dear Father and Mother,
Manali, Kulu Valley, Friday 13th (!) April 1973
It is now a week since the last instalment of the travelogue and, although a fair bit has happened, I haven't found the time and energy to write. Since my last letter, however, I sincerely hope you have received a registered envelope from New Delhi containing without comment a brocade cloth, woven and purchased in Varanasi. In case there should be any doubt about the matter, it was in honour of the important (may I say very important?) occasion on April 5. The brocade trade in the Holy City dates back to the days of the silk routes to ancient Greece and Rome. The pieces I was shown were exceptionally beautiful but I'm afraid my pocket didn't run to one of the larger items. I know it is a risk to post from India, but it was all I could do. Hope it arrived in reasonable condition. Indeed, I hope it arrived. It was presented as a coffee-tablecloth.
Agra's second tourist attraction - not nearly so famous, but just as fascinating to me - is the Red Fort, a genuine C16 castle with moat, drawbridge and the whole works. I lost myself in it (both literally and figuratively) and was late back to the bus.
From Agra we drove about 25 miles to Fatehpur Sikri, the deserted and ruined C17 city of Akbar (who is worth reading about). The city took 20 years to build and was inhabited for only 16 years before the water supply failed. We spent one day there and two nights sleeping on the grass and enjoyed every minute of it. Even went swimming in Akbar's pool (very refreshing in intense heat) and bought an inferior-quality jade necklace in a weak moment for Rp2 plus an old pair of ultra-thin nylon socks I couldn't wear any more!
The bus developed a serious crankshaft knock and it took us a whole day to tow it to New Delhi with the truck - a day not without its share of breathtaking moments. We pulled into the camping area at dusk and I proceeded to dispense largesse to a restaurateur over the small matter of a Western-style meal. After sleeping it off on a concrete floor, I went to visit my friends at the Australian High Commission (I think it said Australian Embassy on the gate - sign of the times, I suppose). They gave me no fewer than 6 letters: two from you (17/3 and 26/3) and one each from RHC, SJC, Aunt Lena and Joan Grange. I'll get around to replying to them before long. I figure that anyone who's interested enough to take a few moments out to write is interested enough to receive another missive. As you know, to write on the run when you feel very little like it, is not all beer and skittles.
New Delhi is rather like Canberra, insofar as anything in India can be. It obviously has planned areas (particularly the diplomatic enclave) and its central circular layout and broad avenues are reminiscent of Canberra. It is much more bearable than most of what I have seen of the country: at least decent food is available - at a price. We spent 2½ days looking around and eating. It's no wonder I have trouble with my digestive system - I put intolerable strains on it - it gets starved most of the time and stuffed whenever possible. Can't be helped. Also it's frequently necessary to take risks with the water.
As the bus is having its engine reconditioned, our schedule has been set back a week - the Pakistani border (would you believe it?) is open only on Wed/Thur. This doesn't worry me unduly as it has given 20 of us a chance to bring our ancient ex-French Army truck over hideous roads to the most delightful of places. Manali (about 6000' above M.S.L.) was recommended to me by Pat Grant as Utopia. If it were the fruit season he would be very close to correct. From my lodge-window I can see and hear the rushing snow-swollen river and can look up- or downstream past beautiful pine forests and apple-blossoms to distant (and not-so-distant) snow-capped peaks. C'est magnifique!
S. has received 3 boxes of slides: I checked out the Kodak situation in Penang. I've sent two more from Kathmandu, this time for processing in England, as postage was the same. I've had to fight off Mongolian hordes trying to buy my watch. There's lots of money to be made by buying rubbish in Singapore.
In answer to your query, I am externally in good condition. Still no clear idea of travel plans - I suppose you'll have to call a moratorium on writing before long.