Memories of Shangri-la_Part 2

Tiksey Gompa (Monastery), Ladakh, Inida. Canon New F1 camea and Canon 50mm f1.8 lens with Agfachrome 100 film

Today’s post is the second of two articles on my first overseas trip. It’s a reasonably long article accompanied by 4 photos so, even if you don’t feel like reading it all, please make sure you click on the More symbol and scroll down to see the rest of the photos.

It was early August 1988 and I had crossed the border from Tibet into Nepal. After a difficult trip to Kathmandu, where the upper end of the highway to the capital had been washed away in a flood, I hiked for an afternoon and much of the next day until the state of the road improved and I was able to catch a bus the rest of the way to Kathmandu.

Nepal wasn’t a major part of my travel plans. I had originally planned to travel overland from Hong Kong through China into Nepal, around the top of India and then through Pakistan into Kashgar in far northwest China. Striking out from Kashgar I would journey across the country, via the fabled Silk Road, to Beijing. From there I would travel back to Hong Kong from where my return flight home was booked. The ticket included a special return trip to the Olympic Games in Soul. I wasn’t that excited by the event, but the opportunity to travel to another country was certainly enticing.

Anyway the dodgy meal I’d mentioned in my last post, on my journey from the Chinese border to Kathmandu, continued to cause me problems. I suffered from terrible stomach problems (I’II spare you the details) and, as a consequence, saw very little of the country. After around 10 days I took a flight to Varanasi, the famous city on the holy Ganges River. It is here where Hindu’s hope to be cremated and have their ashes cast onto the river. I remember reading at the time that, as the very poor couldn’t afford the cost of the ceremonial cremation, deceased babies from poorer families were often singed, rather than cremated, and their bodies thrown into the river. In an attempt to deal with the problems this practice was causing a species of crocodile had been introduced into the river to finish off the bodies. This policy wasn’t popular with local fisherman whose boats were little more than large canoes. They were, naturally, sacred of the crocodiles.

After a few interesting days, including a sunset boat trip on the Ganges, where my latest travelling companion was hasselled by our boatman causing me, once again, to swing the tripod, I took a night train to New Delhi.

Well, that train trip was certainly an adventure. I was robbed in my sleep. The next morning I was without my passport, plane ticket home, travelers cheques and all my cash, albeit for about 80 cents. There was no doubt that the eight or so seudo professionals, who bordered the train in the middle of the night, were suspicious characters. A guard approached with a 303 rifle pointed straight at them but, with a “now look here my good man” approach they embarrassed him and caused him to back away and leave the carriage. Outside of an old B-grade movie I doubt that I’d ever seen someone outside of a hospital or medical clinic wandering around with a stepascope around their neck.

Glenn Guy