Welcome from Jan

Hi there!
This blog is for those who love both books and travel. I'm starting by travelling back in time to the 1970s and the overland trail to India which I took as an 18 year old. Have a look at my daily diary entries and photos. Some of these places are impossible to visit at the moment, but I can give you a flavour of what they were like in the golden age of the hippy trail.

The experience has inspired my new mystery novel, THE VANISHING OF RUTH, which is out now as an ebook. Find details and extracts at The Vanishing of Ruth

To buy: The Vanishing of Ruth

Also take a look at Facebook Page Overlanders for more memorabilia.

Cheers, Jan.

Saturday, 26 December 2009

INTO NEPAL - You say goodbye and I say hello ...1976

[We were nearing the end of the trip and our goal of Kathmandu, but running a few days late.  So two Swaggies who had planes to catch left us at this stage, though somehow we'd acquired a couple more passengers in India: Irish Mike and Norwegian Anders.  It was a time for photos and the first tearful goodbyes.]


"(Supposed to be arrival day in Kathmandu).
Janice [tent mate] and Ann left bus today - had "tent photos" - Jan, Jan, Jan and Di!  Changed places for different cameras.

Then new Norwegian took photos of the whole group in front of bus - great heap of dead cameras on ground as he worked way through them!  Janice in tears when we left! (Picked up Anders today - Norwegian - went to Amhurst Uni where Don cleaned loos! [Don is my eldest brother and did a holiday job at Amhurst, MS as a student]

Pleasant fields and trees.  Stopped near school for lunch - nice salad.  Cay stop at busy small town.

Border late afternon - coffee at cay shop where chickens wandering around - then fella picked them up and took them squawking behind a curtain - more squawking - the mind boggled as to what was happening!

Across border into Nepal without paying extra for visa.  Camped by road - 10 o'clock curfew so road closed - very quiet.

Di, Jan and me had hysterics in tent talking bout Pen Overland princess on foamies with driver's pea under them - or something insane like that!"

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

RAT ABOARD THE BUS! - Stowaways nesting under the seats: mouse, rat, ants ...?! Varanasi, 1976

[We've been on the Ganges and explored the labyrinths of Benares - and it's still only 11 o'clock!  Time for a big clear out of the bus before the last stretch of the trip to Nepal - and to track down our stowaways - A MOUSE AND A RAT!  Or is it 2 rats? And a few ants ...]

Jan and Janice amid the bus clear-out

MONDAY 13TH DECEMBER, 1976 - Part Three

"Had lazy morning washing and lying in the sun reading 2 pages of a book!  Bus turned upside down - all things on grass so could hunt out mouse - now spotted and believed to be a rat!  (Didn't find it - though nest was cleared from under a seat.  There was also an ants' nest under one of the seats!)

Afternoon, had coffee at restaurant on campsite outside in garden (very slow service).  Then me, Di, Frances and Sally went to look round nearby shops - sat round looking at lovely t-shirts.  Di and I went on to another - I traded sun specs for silk (80%) top.  Di wanted to change money so we went to posh Hotel de Paris (Encounter were booked in there).

Had coffee and paratha (stuffed) before supper!  Chapati type stuff with veg in.

Went out to Singh's Emporium after meal and loads of us were in there rifling through shirts, lamp shades (of string and beads) - really good time!  Back for coffee and toast before bed.

In tent Di and I had hysterics listening to sudden cries from this man [nightwatchman] on one side, and thuds and screams on the other coming from the bus where Hans and Adrian were hunting down the rats!  (It's now established that there's a big rat and a little one!  Apparently Paul thought he saw one on the bus in Turkey - but everyone thought he was drunk and didn't take any notice!)  Tried to stifle snorts - not with much success!"

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

DARK BAZAAR OF OLD BENARES - temple and mosque side by side, 1976

[A fascinating meander through the streets of old Varanasi (Benares) followed our dawn boat trip on the Ganges.  The bazaar was so dark and narrow that my one photo makes it impossible to distinguish the buildings where Hindus and Moslems prayed side by side - a temple and a mosque rubbing neighbourly shoulders together.  The guide's attempt to get us to buy silks and saris was hampered by our grumbling stomachs - it was five and a half hours since getting out of our sleeping bags and all we could think of was breakfast and porridge!]

MONDAY 13TH DECEMBER, 1976 - Part Two

"After boat trip, taken on bus into heart of old Benares.  Guide led us up small ally and into maze of very narrow dark alleys with dark shops on either side, full of cross-legged shopkeepers, and streets full of filthy kids and holy cows.  Man followed us with a range of pipes.

Taken to a balcony that looked over copper-plated Hindu temple - cow came out amid a stream of people - we were not allowed in.  Down small ally by the side - through a grate we saw flower-strewn floor been ground by feet.

Pursued by kids selling joss sticks.  Right next to temple was brilliant white mosque with silver topped minarets - only place in world to find a temple and mosque side by side.

Then taken to silk factory and sat round while they threw yards of silk scarves, saris etc at us.  Tied a sari on Heidi and Fran.  Prices high.  All impatient for breakfast.  Guide finally led us out of bazaar again.

Had porridge finally at 10.30!"

Monday, 21 December 2009

RED SUNRISE ON THE HOLY GANGES - singing, cymbals and wringing of loincloths, 1976

[Up before the dawn, "zomby-like", to see the sunrise over the Ganges - but worth every cold yawning minute.  The sights and sounds on the river bank - from the slapping of jeans being washed against rocks to a young yogi standing on his head - were a wonderful mix of the spiritual and prosaic.  As someone who associated getting up in the morning with school rising bells or a mad nautical father who woke us in the holidays with a bosun's whistle and raucous shouting, I had no idea that early mornings could be this exciting or fun.  I've saluted the sunrise ever since - if not every day!]

MONDAY 13TH DECEMBER, 1976 - Part One

"Up at 5 - Jan's alarm got us up - really dark.  20 to 6 we were in bus after zomby-like confusion and off to River Ganges. Saw dawn over the river - fantastic pink sky reflected perfectly in wide river with blanket of light violet mist dividing sky and water.  Fishing boats sihouetted at water's edge.

Young lads exercising on first storey of open building.  Piled into 2 rowing boats (creaking madly we moved off!)  Passed boys beating washing vigorously in the shallow water - lots of jeans and probably Swagman t-shirts!

Still darkish and we kept being enveloped by waves of mist.  Lots of semi rundown buildings all along left bank; Maharajahs' palaces, Hindu temples, Buddhist prayer house with great noise of chanting and cymbals coming from it.

Series of steps down to the river, many big colourless umbrellas on the steps with people sitting underneath.  Quite a few people bathing at water's edge and washing and wringing their loincloths.  Priests singing, holy men with long black unkempt hair and orange cloths about them; man on veranda in white, clapping and singing while young fella beside him stood on his head.

Then a brilliant red ball of fire rose above the bank of cloud to the right as we passed a funeral pyre - one of the places "the untouchables" burn dead bodies 24 hours a day.

Boys on a punt collecting firewood off another boat.  On way back saw more clearly as the sun rose and changed to yellow then a brilliant white. 

Lots of noise and oriental music.  Monkeys swinging about roof and ledges of a big house; little boy trying to pull baby donkey away from Mum - who wasn't having it and kept pulling it back!  All sorts of animals down by water. 

Women bathing - one deathly skinny, praying by the river."

Sunday, 20 December 2009


[After Kahjuraho we headed east for Varanasi (Benares) through white tiger country.  Little did I know that a former pupil of my father's had been looking after white tigers for the Maharajah of Rewa since the 1960s.  As Equerry to Maharajah Martand Singh, Terry Walton (old boy of Durham School) helped create a wildlife sanctuary - Bandhavgarh - in the forests of Tala in Central India.  There's a fabulous book about the tigers and Bandhavgarh: Tiger Jungle by Iain Green (published by Tiger Books) with stunning photos.  http://www.tiger-books.co.uk/]


"Scenery pleasant - irrigated fields, lots of trees - through jungle area where white tigers are supposed to roam!  (Had a loo stop there!)

Interesting villages - mud huts with straw or tiles on roof - potter at work, loads of kids - (yesterday, bus surrounded and they simply roared when someone came near - one shouted after me "you my darling!")

Wild pigs running around near road - lots of road barriers at villages as usual.

At lunch, Pam, Jan and me walked on before bus caught us up - super walk in the sunshine along tree-lined road - lots of cows wandering around.

Arrived in Benares this evening."