I went to India in 1989 for a few months travelling around, with my friend Andy Reynolds. We arrived at Bombay on Sept 5th, and had a real culture shock! On arriving in midnight, we were greeted by the sight of thousands of people sleeping rough. We had a hotel booked near the airport, which was very baisc, it had no hot water at all, which Andy tried to explain to the manager to get some money off, but it fell on deaf ears. We checked out and had a 2 hour taxi journey down to the City Centre. It was hot and we had the windows open, which soon were shut when we stopped at the first traffic lights. Beggars would reach in and try to get money off you, the only way to stop them was to do up the window. In an Ambassador, the main stay of Indian taxis, there is no air conditioning, so the heat was too much to bear, but better than being molested!
We got out in the centre, to be accosted by a large group of Indians, who offered us every drug under the sun, and more. We did the runner, and sat in a park, next to the large arch on the sea front. We decided we would leave, and went to the train station, where we were accosted by yet more beggars. One guy had no legs and chased after us on his trolley. we had no option, but to run up some stairs, and I still remember seeing him at the bottom, with his arm out stretched. This was to become a feature in India, where there are so many beggars, you just have to ignore the majority of them.
The ancient Budhist caves at Ajanta
We travelled from Bombay by train to Ajanta, sveral hundred miles away, arriving the next day. The budhist caves at Ajanta, were incredible, 2000 year old caves with fabulous pictures inside. We stayed for quite a while here, as it was nice and relaxed, and gave us time to adjust to India. We stayed at the Youth hostel, which was pleasant, and there were many other travellers there. One day we all went to a local resturaunt for a large meal and beer, and had a good night, though the waiters were very interested in buying my trainers!
There are dry days in many states, days which Alchohol cannot be bought. these vary greatly from being once a week, to once a month. One of the days we were in Ajanta was a dry day, howver a group of us were not sure about this, and went to a hotel bar to buy some beer. The staff siad it was a dry day, but they would sell it to us if we went in a room for a couple of hours, which we did, and played cards. when the two hours were up, a couple of the group took their beer back to the youth hostel, where all hell broke lose, as it was agaisnt the rules to drink at any time. They got kicked out, and returned to the hotel, i was allowed to stay as Andy was with me (who didn't have any beer), and we were leaving the next day anyway.
There was an indian guy called Bupesh staying in the hostel, and we asked him about the Sasan National park, which is the only place outside Africa with wild lions. he assured us that it would definitely be open. So we booked up and left for Sasan Gir, the small town near the park. It toook us two days of Bus rides and train journeys to get there but the park was shut due to the Monsoon!!! En route, we had to stop off at Ahmedabad. This was the worst place I had been in my lifer, and had the two worst days of my life. It was Ghandi's birthpalce, but we were robbed, humiliated by having to load our bags on top of a bus in front of a large excited crowd!, and were ripped off by everyone we met, but it added to the excitement.
It was made up for by an incident on a bus in Gir, when a young girl sitting in front of us, turned round and offered us some of her snack, no doubt something that she had infrequently. It was a true act of human kindness, committed by someone very young, and humbled us both. We had a very pleasant stay in Gir, it was a very rural town, there were no tourists around, but lots of wildlife. Monkeys roamed the streets freely, and the railway was steam powered, and still in use. We stayed in a lodge, which was empty, and were able to relax again, though did feel a bit patronised when they especially put on a Madonna tape for us during the evening meal. We prefered the Indian music to her manufactured pap!!
After a few days here, where I had found the enojoyment of going to char stalls, and sitting down and drinking char (tea) with the locals, we had another 2 day journey across the desert to get to Jaipur. We had to stop off in Ahmedabad again sadly, where we had some hassle in the train station again. This place was just the pits. We got a train later that evening and carried onto Jaipur.
The Palace of the winds, in Jaipur
Our first class accomadation in Delhi!!
Jaipur had the Amber Fort, which was also shut! and the world famous Palace of the Winds. It was a pleasant time, where i had a haircut and a shave in a local barber, and we got acosted by a guy called Arif who decided he was going to be our guide. he showed us some hotels, which we didn't like, though i did go for one of them, Andy wanted to go to the youth hostel, so we stayed in separate places for a couple of nights. I got bored of my hotel as Arif kept coming round, taking us to variuos places where they would try and sell us stuff. When I moved into the hostel, we didn't se him again!!
After Jaipur, it was a 17 hour train journey to Agra to see the Taj Mahal, which was inspiring, and worth seeing in any lifetime! We had an arguement about where we would stay, me wanting a room with a bathroom, and Andy looking for somewhere cheap. 32.50 was even too dear, so we went our spearate ways. i booked itno a 5 star hotel over looking the taj, and Andy tried the Youth Hostel, which was full. My hotel cost me £15 a night, with all food and beer, and it was excellent to have nice surroundings for 3 days, and a bit of pampering. Its worth doing on any trip, now and again, book into Luxury, and all your troubles go. I went to the taj by Bycyle rickshaw, which are known all over India as Helicopters, (some fantastic practical joke)!, and got shown a gust book which Prince charles had signed when he used it, another great practical joke I think!!
I went to the Taj a few times, it was worth it. They sold apple juice everywhere for some reason, which was very refreshing. Watching the sun go down over the Taj was very rememberable, as was having a meal in a resturaunt outside, when the power failed and I had to sit in the dark for an hour!
The Taj Mahal (as if you didn't know!)
After a few days in Agra, I finally went to Delhi, where I met up with Andy in a guest house we had agreed to stay in. He had had a rotten time, as the hostel was shut, and even slept for a night on a train station platform. We stayed in Delhi for a few days, sorting out Visa's etc to go to Nepal. While i was walking around the main concourse in Delhi, I noticed a guy writing a parcel out to an address in Plymouth. I sat down and talked to him for a while, he was 33 and almost a professional traveller! (I would bump into him again in Khao San Road in Bangkok). We also met up with some American students who we would meet again in Kathmandu.
The View from our hotel in Delhi
Ere, This guy won't haggle!!
We toured Delhi a bit, visiting a Wimpy resturaunt, as it was a reminder of homw, and had an amusing incident in another resturaunt. We wanted the fish on the menu, and were trying to find out what type of fish it was, however the waiter thought we were asking what fish was, and started to do an impression of a fish swimming, explaining that it was something that lived in a lake. After 10 minutes we gave up and ordered it anyway! we also made a big mistake in Delhi, broke a golden rule for travelling in India. We were making calls home, in the phone centre and it was very hot. there was nothing to drink and we were gasping. There was an Ice cream seller outside, and we bought a couple of ice blocks of him, with out thinking that they may have been made with unpure water! We felt the effect 2 days later in Kathmandu, when our bodies threw wverything we had in us, out!
We were going to go to Kashmir, but the trouble that is still going on flared up then, and all domestic flights were cancelled, so tried for an Assam permit instead, but they wouldn't issue us with one as we were going to Nepal first, we would get one on our return.
We spent over a month in India, most of the time being spent on Trains, as the country is so vast, but worth the visit. In the airport we had a 4 hour wait, and we had lunch with a Kiwi guy who was quite interesting. He worked for 6 months as an accountant, and spent the other 6 months travelling, each year, it sounded like a cool way to live. we flew out on the dreaded Indian Airlines, but they were OK!
We had planned to go to Nepal, because we were told you could trek to Mount Everest, which was beyond my wildest dreams.Nepal is a fantastic country, friendly, with lots of history, and lots of pubs in Kathmandu. We arrived in kathmandu to a bit of a culture shock again, it was more westernised than India, and had the most luxurious airport i have been in. We noticed one thing immediately, Coca-cola signs everywhere. Coke was banned in India, as they wouldn't tell the government what was in it, ironic when Limca was sold there, whcih was banned everywhere else in the world as it had too much Aluminium, and had health risks. but they had told the government, and they were happy and let them sell it. Not coke though!
Kathmandu was superb, we got a nice clean and cheap room in the Mandela guest house in Thamel, with an en-suite bathroom, (which we were to need when eruptions started happening!). We spent the first night in the Tom and Jerry bar, where there was a huge mix of westerners and locals. We got talking to two guys from the UK with Viz t-shirts on amonsgt other people.
Exploring the city ws fun, we hired mountain bikes most days and cycled round the city, which was fairly easy as it was not that big. We visited a large temple, to the east of the city, and witnessed cremations occuring by the side of the river, which was a first. Looking around the shops was great as it is by far the most interesting city I have been, all geared up to ourdoor pursuits. We ate in various bars and cafes when we were there, Rum Doodles, and Spams Spot being the two that stick out the most. When we were ill, the local cafe would feed us lassis, a yoghurty drink with banana and soda water, which would settle our stomachs a lot. they saw this sort of thing a lot.
We also bumped into the American students again, in the Tom and Jerry bar, finding out that they were medical students on a placement in Madras. We spent many a day cycling into the hills around Kathmandu, and visiting places such as Durbar Square, the old part of the city, featured in many a film. One night in Tom and Jerrys we got talking to some Americans, who turned out to be the medical staff for the Himalayan Rescue team in Phereche. they offered us a lift to Jiri, and the chance to hike up with them, sadly we hadn't got our permits, so had to turn them down.
Our main aim was to get into the mountains, so we tried a few trekking agencies to find out the cost to get to Everest, and discovered that $50 a day was the going rate, very expensive to sleep in tents. So we decided to go it alone, carrying what we needed, and sleeping in lodges on the way. This proved to be a winner, as it was very cheap to do, got me very fit, and we made a lot of good friends on the way. When we booked the bus, we chose the 7:30 one as 6:30 was a bit too early, a guy came up and asked if we spoke english, "of course, we're British" I replied. he was Argentinian, but became a walking companion of ours, and the "hand of god" was only broached once! Before I left, I popped into the rescue team's office in Kathmandu for any advice, and came out with a letter to deliver for one of the doctors in Phereche! It was normal to get trekkers to carry mail up, and I considered it an honour!
Is a bear or a dog? The cheese factory after Day 1.
A normal bridge on the route
We started off from Jiri, after a twelve hour bus ride, which was going to be uncomfortable of we rode in the seats designed for the smaller Nepalese, so after two hours we got on top of the bus, which was more comfortable, had fantastic views and was safer - you could jump off if the bus plunged over the side of one of the mountains!. there were 3 candian mountain bikers riding up with us, who were intending to be the first people to cycle the route to Everest, we never saw them again after the journey, so never knew if they made it, but the path would have been very tough for them initially. our first view of the high himalaya would stick with us for a long time. the bus stopped as the early bus had broken down in front, and we just sat there looking up at the most incredible angle to see these mountains which were standing out above the cloud line. The only time you could truly appreciate the height of them, as when you are amonsgt them, you are high up anyway!
We stayed in Jiri for the night, and there were a group of people there who were going the same way, and with whom we would end up walking the route, all nationalities, Canadian, Danish, Argentinian, German, and Brits.
The first day took us over a small hill at first, when one of the group, an american went storming past us at high speed. Coming down the hill, he came past us the other way saying he had lost his camera and had to go back and get it. We never saw him again either, which was odd as there was only 1 way to go. we stopped for lunch after crossing a small river and a very ricketty covered bridge. It was then a very long climb to our first night's stop, at Charikot, which we arived at just before dark. we were very tired, this was by far the most tiring day as we weren't used to walking that far! the two danes, Torben and Christian were staying in the same lodge as us, and we had a meal with them, and walk the whole route with them. There was no light in the lodge, which was a wooden building, so we had to use our torches all night. the one thing that did stike us as amazing was the stars we saw, being so high up and with little pollution in the air from dust or light, you could see the galaxies and stars that are not normaly visible. It was stunning and we spent ages just laying down looking upwards.
Can you see me on this?
Our hiking companions.
The next day we got up early and walked up to a cheese factory, which was off the path but not too far away. It was guarded by a bear like dog, which thankfully was chained up! After a cheese breakfast we walked back down to get our bags, geting a little lost on the way and taking longer than we should have! We then bumped into the rest at the bottom who had stayed further down the mountain for the night. There was also an Israeli guy who had made the journey we had taken a day to do, before 11 am! We would see him many times! We had a downhill day, where we were heading for Kenja, a nice town by the sid of the river. It took about 5 hours to get down and travel along the river, before we crossed out first big suspension bridge, (in the pic above). We stayed in Kenja for the night, in a dorm above the kitchen in a lodge, so it was very warm. I popped to another lodge for a beer, where I got talking to a swiss guy called Peter, who would join our group.
We were up early again the next day, you tended to live by the light, ie going to sleep just after dark, and getting up at dawn. We wre heading up to the Lamjura La, a 3,000 metre pass. It was going to be a long climb all day with over 1,000 metre vertical climb, which with a 10Kg rucksack on, was no mean task. Myself and Jerome were the first to arrive at the lodge 20 mins from the top. this was going to be common place, as we were the fastest in the group. Jerome was amember of the Canadian modern pentathlon Olympic team, and would do 50 press ups every time we stopped. I always made do with a cup of tea and a cigarette, which baffled him as to how I was so fit! We had stopped for lunch about 1/2 way up, where the rest of the group had caught up, and all left at the same time, but we arrived at least 45 minutes before the last person. Andy was the second to arrive, having got extra speed from the cool mist we had to walk though at this height. We were now into the normal routine of ordering food, eating as a group then retiring after some banter. that night we discussed the hand of god briefly, and amusingly Jerome read out the last page of Julie Tullis's autobiography, (a British climber who had died on K2 in the 1986 disaster), which annoyed Phil (the scouser), as he was reading the book! It became a sort of in-joke to read out the last page of any book someone was reading!
The next day we clived over the Lamjura La, which was adorned with prayer flags, a sight we would see a lot. Prayer flags are placed on every cairn and summit, and prayer wheels, which you have to pass with them on your right, and spin clockwise, were also a sign of the local religious beliefs. We tarvelled down the mountain to Junbesi, which was a very pleasant water side town, with all stone buildings. It had a few small shops. there was a Buddhist Monastery about an hour away, which some chose to vist. I stayed behind, and trawled the shops for anything I could use to shave, but to no avail. On their return, they said the monastery was worth a visit, and the monks had especially liked Torben and Christian's shaved heads!
Jerome, (Canada),Me, Andy, Phil, (UK), Cristian and Torben (Denmark).
At over 3,000 m for the first time, prayer flags fluttering behind.
The next day we descended to a small river, then climbed up and over the Trak La, where we had lunch in another cheese factory! we then had a long climb down to the next town, through some Rhodedendron forests to the town of Jubing. it wa another long day, and we all settled for a slightly damp sleep after the meal.
It was down further to the Dudhi kosi river then next day. we stopped off for tea in a nice Gurka town where all the buildings were white, decorated with orange flowers.It was a undulating path, through Karikola, where we first experienced the children coming out and asking for pens, which they did their schoolwork with, and were in short supply. We then had a long climb up to Surke. We intended only to get lunch there, and myself and jermoe arrived at about 1:30, we ordered for everyone, hoping to speed things up. All the meals were cooked to order over a wooden stove so took a while to make. The idea of ordering ahead for everyone should have been a good plan, and allowed us to continue further along in the afternoon. However, as we had ordered about 14 meals, they took hours arriving, and we didn't get them till around 6 when it was too late to carry on. We met a Swedish guy who was descending, and enquired how much further the next twon was, adn it was several hours away anyway, so when the rest did finally arrive a few hours after us, it would have been too late to carry on. I spent a relaxing afternoon showing the local children pictures of my home, and tring chang, the local spirit. Jerome would take pictures of the local people, hoping to seel some to magazines such as National Geographic. We also discovered something about the culture too. There was a lone Japanese walker who we would see every day, but he had his own pace and walked alone. He ordered Sherpa Stew when he arrived, and he got it much quicker than the rest of us, (the japanese are very similar to the nepalese, and seemed to get preference!). We were all sat around very hungry now, in the dining room of the lodge, his order of Sherpa Stew came first which he squawked at in a high pitch voice, and started to slurp down very noisily. everyone in our group found this hilariuos and we were all falling around in fits of laughter, which also made us forget about the hunger!
We all had a good nights sleep, which we would need as the next day would be the longest, and we needed to make up the lost time waiting for food. We climbed upwards for a few hours, and arrived at our intended destination the day before, at around 9, so we would not have made it. On the way the path had given way several times, and looking at the map, it was over a mile drop to the valley, almost shear aswell, so was a bit daunting. After breakfast at Chutok, we carried along the valley top to our destination. We were now heading straight up the valley towards Everest, having been going at right angles beforehand. After a few hours we were all apart walking and I could not see anyone else. I came to the turning for Lukla, but decided to miss out the town and carry on around the path which seemed to be quikcer. only mysfl and andy took this route, with all the others passing through Lukla. I wish they had, as the path was awesome, with the scariest part of the walk by far! You have to traverse a horse shoe cliff, which had a shear drop of a mile to the river below, and believe me that was scary, the path was very narrow, and crumbled away in the middle! It was about 500 metres across, and I just stood there looking at it before I carried on. It took about half an hour to get round, and i had to crawl past the crumbled part, taking care my roll mat didn't knock against the cliff and send me hurtling down to the river and certain death!
I carried on, stopping for lunch in a lodge, where some of the others caught up. I tried to explain about the ridge, but sadly the missed it. we then carried onto our nights stop at Pakdingma. We met some climbers coming down from Everest on the way, and had been told about a Korean who was on his way by an American Journalist. We met him about 15 minutes later, and he had just soloed Everest without Oxygen. He came up to us, shook our hands asked where we were from and chatted for a bit. he was the happiest man in the world!!
Some of us stayed here, while Jerome and a couple of others pushed onto a town nearer Namche Bazaar. I remeber we spent the night with Peter telling us about the hideous National Service they have to do in Switzerland every year. It was from here onwards we started seeing the annoyinh shell-suited pay trekkers. These are the people who pay upwards of £3,000 to get to Everest, and are taken by guided trekking companies. They camp every night, ahev a strict itinary and have their luggage carried by porters. They looked so out of place in brightly coloured shell suits wandering around just carrying cameras! They all flew into Lukla where there trek started, 10 days after we had walked to there! Our way was far better and more of an achievement to do.
We then had a half a days walk to Namche Bazaar, a market town, and site of the Everest museum. It is also the first glimpse you get of the mountain! The walk was very irritating as you knew you had 2 days rest there to acclimatize, so wanted to get there as quick as possible, but it was a long climb, and every time you came round a ridge, you could see the town, but it was still far away. There was about an hour of being teased like this!!, but it was worth it in the end.
Namche Bazaar, the nearest thing to civilisation on the way to Everest!
Traversing one of the Bridges
The town was a metropolis for the area, we stayed in a lodge that had had Jimmy Carter the ex-president of the USA stay in 1985, and his was the first name in the guest book. The lodge even had a micorwave oven! Meals were taken upstairs in a nice eating area with windows all around, however you had to be careful opening beer as it was bottled in Kathmandu, some 8,000 feet lower, and the difference in pressure caused the beer to explode out of the bottle.
There were many English people there, including 3 guys who were doing the reverse travel to us, and had come from Australia, and Thailand, and were going to India next. They convinced me and Andy that it was worth going to Thailand next instead of back to India. I spent one day off gwalking up to the airstrip above the town, and walking round the Everest View Hotel which was just being built. I also visited the museum and watched Jerome be beaten at volleyball by some Sherpas, they were used to the altitude, but we weren't! We had a look into the Police post and were disturbed to see loads of posters looking for people who had gone missing on the trek.I wondered how many had falled off the horseshoe ridge to their death, never to be found and shuddered.
I bought a head torch here, an essential item I had forgotten, and some thermal clothes for the high altitudes we were now going to. From now on you could only climb 400 vertical metres a day, well that ws the recommended saftey limit for trekkers. you could go higher, but as long as you went lower to sleep. Jerome and Peter had decided to go to Gokyo Peak, where you get a better view of Everest, so they split from us here.
From Namche we went to Tengboche Monastery, where I started my 22nd Birthday by seeing my first avalanche, and a lot of yaks. The monastery had burnt down the previuos year so we couldn't visit it. The path was a long one, but with only a climb at the end. it can be seen in the background of the picture of Phil, me, Torben and Cristian. looking towards Everest. We bumped into Mick here,an Irish climber going to do Island peak. He had studied in Plymouth and was a member of the Mountaineering club when he was there. He had to have a sherpa, as the permit specified it. From here we went to Phereche, the walks were much shorter, but hard work as the altitude was conrtibuting.
We had a stop off in Phereche for a dayr, (to get used to the altitude- over 12,000 feet), which was nice as I could deliver the letter to the Mountain rescue team doctor. Also I could catch up with the nurse I met in a bar in Kathmandu! We met the team, they gave the group of us a lecture about mountain safety, and then they sang Happy Birthday to me.That night the team brought a bottle of brandy over to our lodge, and we had a big birthday bash, something that will always stay with me! Celebrating with a load of new friends, the Himalayan Mountain rescue team, drinking the night away!
It was here that I met Scott and Jodie, an American couple who had travelled all over the place, and were the coolest Amercians I had met, and really well educated about the world, even having been to Devon. There was also a very funny Canadian businessman who had been on the bus to Jiri with us. He had his wife/girlfriend with him, who looked so out of place when she got up each day and put all her makeup on. she did strike me as the ultimate blonde bimbo! Mick left us here, and went to Island peak for his climb.
Phil, me, Torben and Cristian. looking towards Everest
The Mountains at Pheriche
It would take a further two days to get to Everest, with the last part being very tough, High altitude, (over 18,000 feet, much higher tha anywhere in Europe), and over Glacier, but it was worth it to get to the Base Camp. We stopped the next day at Lobuje, which was a couple of huts really. It was really cramped and cold. There was a French base camp team based here, and they had their radio set up in the dorm, so we listened into them talking with their climbers on Everest all night. The thing about being at altitude also was that you dont sweat, and your body removes excess water by urination, so you used to wake each morning dying to go to the toliet. Lobuje was the one I remember very well, as it was still dark, when I had to go out in sub-zero temperatures very early in the morning.
From there it was a short half a day walk to Gorak shep, the last dwelling before Everest, which was only 1 hut! You had to walk over a tough glacier to get there, but the view was fantastic. This is where the group went completely different ways. I was the only one going to Base camp, the others went up Kala Patar, the peak nearby with a good view of Everest. The walk to base camp was the toughest day I had. it took nearly 9 hours to get there and back, over really tough terrain, with a route only marked out with small cairns. The base camp itself wasn't that interesting, though it was good to see the teams in action!
Everest is in the middle
I spent the night at Gorak shep, which was very cold, Phil had stayed behind too, and we were on a large cummunal bed with loads of sherpa women, in our sleeping bags, fully clothed and it was still freezing. The sound of avalanches kept me awake a lot of the night, but after a long hard day I did get some deep sleep. I set off the next day for the walk back to Jiri. I met a guy from Torquay on the glacier after Gorak Shep, then bumped into Mick who had done his climb, but said the technical stuff at altitude was hard. I then met Jerome and Peter after Lobuje, who had to camp on a snowy pass the night before, but said Gokyo was worth it.
Descending was much fatser than the walk up, and I was going very fast. I spent the first night at Tenboche, where I had dinner with a Norweigian couple. the guy mocked me for coming from a place with only a crappy 3rd division football team, and then proudly announced he supported Derby County!! There was also a mix up when across the room a European was searching on the floor, some Americans asked what she was looking for, as they would help. They looked at bit odd wehn she said a "rubber", but were releived when then saw it and exclaimed "oh an eraser". Different meanings for the same word can be funny!
I sped on past Namche Bazaar, where unknown to me, Andy and the rest of the group were, however when I was going down the steep climb, my foot started to hurt. i stopped and a North amercian woman stopped and talked. She told me she had never met an "Englishman" before, which I had never beeen called before! i checked my foot and had a blister the size of a golfball. I changed into my trainers, but wouldn't make it to Jiri. I limped into Pakdingma, where i stayed the night. There were a couple of English women there, one of whom lived in Cornwall. I agreed to post a load of mail for them in Kathmandu as they would be back a long time after me.
I made my way to Lukla, where I had made my mind up to fly back, as my foot was hurting too much. I arrived in the town just as a plane was landing, so had to walk around the airstrip. By the time I had got to the other side, the plane had turned around and was loading its next set of passengers. I went in asked about a flight, they said it was $50 US, which I had, i paid them, they took my bags and said "run" as the plane was almost ready to leave. I saw my bag chucked in the front and scrambled on just before it took off!
To take off the plane rolled down a really steep slope, and off a cliff where it gained anough speed to take off. it was a short flight, and I saw the high mountains for a last glmpse, but hopefully will see them again. It was the journey of a lifetime, but will be very different now, judging by the commercialisation of climbing the mountain, let alone getting there!
It was a bit of a shock to be back in Kathmandu. It seemed so noisy. First thing I did was to go to a barbers and get a shave. ihadn't shaved for over 4 weeks and had a beard! It was cheaper to use the barber shops than buy razors, and they gave you head massages too, which was very nice. I then ate a meal in a resturaunt. the food in the mountains was very good, but limited due to supplies. It was more varied higher up as climbing expeditions would leave behind unused supplies, but still fairly limited to potatoes and veg.It was nice to sit in a resturaunt and have a wide selection. The good thing about being on your own was that people would always join you. I met some interesting people this way, two american resturaunteers stick in my mind, as they were middle aged and had taken two months off to do this, leaving their wives to run the business.
The Mandela guest house had given me a double room at a special rate as they liked me, and I spent a lot of days just sitting round reading, (the book shop system worked on a part excahnge scheme, allowing you to get loads of books cheap, I read all of Joseph Heller's books), eating and sorting visas and flights out for Thailand. I would have 2 weeks here before my flight so took it easy. I spent a bit of time in Spams Spot, an englsih pub which sold pasties, and had a lot of interesting people. They used to post the football results each Sunday, and the day when Manchester City beat man U 5-1 was a great one, especially as there were 5 of us city fans in there for the results!
Andy arrived back a week later, he had walked to Jiri.By then my flight to Thailand was sorted and we agreed to meet up there. On my last day i popped into Spams Spot, and got talking to two guys from Jersey who were on their way to Thailand, and knew the country, so I would meet them there, also was an Irish guy called Patrick who would share my flight. there were a lots of climbers there too, Mick was there and an American who had failed Everest from the North, quite high up.
I said my goodbyes to Andy the next day, and got on a flight to Thailand.
I had no camera in Thailand, sadly as I had a great time there. i arrived in Bangkok and shared a room with Patrick for a couple fo days on Khao San road. it was nice to hear western music again, and it was very touristy. I did all the tourist things, had a look down Pat Pong road, saw the temples. I met up with the two Jersey guys who said they were going to an island called Koh Samui. this sounded like a good idea, so I booked a bus ticket and went down there.
After a 12 hour bus ride to Surithani, it was a 2 hour boat journey to the Island. There was no other way to get there then, sadly they have an airport now. I got a bus down to Lamai beach, and stayed in the White Sands resort for a couple of days. It was raining when I got there, sadly, but i didn't realise that a massive typhoon was about to hit, which killed 400 people on the mainland, and would have us trapped on the island for a week.
Anyway, the time was spent watching the daily videos they showed in the resturaunts, up to date films too, eating and lying on the beach. I moved to the nice resort after a couple of days as it was only £2 a night, £1.50 dearer than White Sands, but cleaner with a bathroom! It was still on the beach, in fact onyl 20 yards from my original hut! I learnt to paly backgammon, was taught by an Indian who explained it was 90% skill, and blamed begginers luck when I beat him! chess was palyed a lot, but mainly it was relaxing and having fun. There were a big group of English people there, Steve and Cath, who I ended up living with in Australia, Gordon and Jules who were very funny and the life of any party, Brian the irish volleyball player. we had fireworks on November 5th, hired jeeps and motorbikes out and jaunted round the Island. Spent many nights in the flamingo night club, not a nightclub by our standards. we used to watch many films, Aussies being beaten up by Thai boxers in a proper ring, and generally just drinking and relaxing.
I did manage to get off the Island for 4 days to go to the next island, Koh Phangan, but it was much the same as Koh Samui, but not as spoilt, if thats the word you can use about a place that at that time, was totally unspoilt!
I was convinced to go to Australia by the group I was hanging around with, they put it so temptingly, "you might aw well do, you only have to go back to the UK and do what you can do there"
I spent 6 weeks on the island, before retunrning to Bangkok to make my travel arrangements. A group of us hung around together, did pat pong again, tried to get to see Marcel marceau live, went to a few Thai concerts, had lunch in the Sheraton, which was cheaper than you'd think, however they all were gradually heading off to Australia, while I was still waiting. I did bump into Andy though. He had been on the other side of the country. He didn't fancy Australia, he wanted to see the Berlin wall coming down, and flew to East Berlin, where he was promptly kicked out inot the western side! i had 2 weeks in Bangkok before my flight was due, when I spent time sorting my Visa out, which couldn't be done in the Austrian Embassy even though the taxi drivers insisited on taking me there.
Theres lots that happened in Thailand, lots of good times I had, which are hard to convey, all of which, were "had to be there" incidents. Gordon and Jules did make sure that everyone who was going to Oz would meet up on the Sydney Opera House steps at midday on the 23rd December, so I would see a lot of people again. I left Thailand in December and flew to the Philippines.
I was intending to spend a week or so here as a stop off on the way to Australia. They were having a coup, flew in over burning buildings, the airport was chaos, and had no water or anything. I decided it was better to change my ticket and get out. I had a 12 hour wait in the airport which they advised was safer, which I spent in the bar mostly, drinking San Miguel at 20p a bottle. I was given a couple of maps of Australia by some guys in the bar who were on their way home. It was a shame that I didn't see more of the country!
Only spent 1 night in Kuala Lumpur, on way back from Australia. Didn't get to see much as had less then 24 hours, it looked OK though!
Just had 2 hours looking around the duty free shop!
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