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, 30 January 2010

HOGMANAY IN DELHI - a ticket hunt that leads to mice at Ma Calaco's, 1976

[It's Hogmanay but Delhi is a long way from the Isle of Skye.  Nikki and I are on a search for tickets home, existing on coffee and toast and running out of money.  It's going to be a long last day of 1976 ...]

Nikki on the bus
FRIDAY 31ST DECEMBER, 1976 - Part One

"Both woke early and checked out.  Wandered around Place, nowhere open.  Found hotel so had toast and coffee there.  Then got rickshaw to Post Restante (one of million that we got that day!) 

At P.R. bombshell hit us - no chit saying we had registered mail.  (Got letters for Di and Rob).  I asked if could check reg mail - sent to a different building.  Asked again at big school where to go - nice priestly looking men; boys playing cricket.  Found place eventually.  Asked to see reg. mail - bloke wouldn't listen because we had no chit from the post office.  Both broke down and cried!  So he relented and took us up to nice middle-aged man in charge of the mail.  Let us look through the book.  Nothing come the whole of December for either of us (although Asian Greyhound had telexed Kathmandu that Nikki's had arrived and mine on its way 2 weeks ago).

Told to come back at 4.  Decided to check p. restante under name Asian Greyhound - wouldn't let us when got there.  Decided to go to British Airways and see if booked with them.  Nice [Sikh] man very helpful, sent telex to A.G. asking for details of tickets - we don't even know the company flying with, let alone the date!  Told to come back later.

Went to Ariana [Afghan Airways] - but they'd moved.  So trailed over to new building - asked if booked with them - had no record of it.  Went to Iraqui Airways - sent upstairs (like following clues to a riddle!)  Nice man but no record of our tickets, said would telex on Monday if not arrived.

Exhausted, fell into restaurant and had coffee and omelette.  Hardly spoke felt so miserable - both on verge of tears all day.  Set off again - tried Indian Airways and Syria-Arab Airways but no luck - tickets don't seem to exist!

Decided to find accommodation.  Shirley had given us address of Mrs Calaco's, Janpath Lane.  Booked in - she turfed 2 weird blokes out [of room] and gave us their beds.  Filthy bare room, dark, with 4 beds in and nothing else.  Beds made of huge frames and canvas strapping for mattress.  Given 2 grotty sleeping bags because had nothing.  Both lay down - Nikki had sore throat and headache.

Watched mouse running over opposite bed and onto window ledge by bloke's food etc.  Both burst into tears!  Never known such despair - and on Hogmanay too!  Funny Dutchman came in and brewed up some tea - said there were loads of mice and proudly showed us a trap he had made!"

Friday, 29 January 2010

DELHI RE-VISITED - without the security blanket of the Swaggie bus - or even a sleeping bag!

[The day which started with sunrise in Kathmandu and a jolly rickshaw ride around Patna, took a decided turn for the worse when we reached Delhi that evening.  Leaving luggage at the airport, believing we would be in the city for just a night, we searched for somewhere to stay ...]

THURSDAY 30TH DECEMBER, 1976 - Part Three

"At [Delhi] airport we rush for cases, managed to leave them at left luggage, then got bus into city.  Driver suicidal - didn't slow down at roundabouts - drove on 2 wheels most of the way!  Saw us, laughed and drove even worse. 

Dropped at Connaught Place - Nikki had addrss of Palace Heights just off C.P. - up lift, found it was full!  Directed us to Jivan Lodge down the street.  Really tired and desperate for place (after 8pm).  Up loads of stairs, men staring at us from dark corridors.  Manager showed us to double room up more stairs.  Filthy room, with one old thin blanket on the beds.  About £2.50 for this hole but took it for the night. 

Music blaring from next door; bloke kept peering through glass panel that stretched along the whole of one bedroom wall.  We sat down feeling depressed - both agreed it seemed more like a brothel!  Went out and sat in State Coffee House looking thoroughly cheesed off; tried to make coffee last, dreaded going back.

When got back, we locked ourselves in and went to sleep fully dressed because had no sleeping bags with us.  Nick-named the place "the black hole of Delhi"!"

Thursday, 28 January 2010

PATNA: RETURN TO INDIA - chilled beer and rickshaws but no Rolling Stones, 1976

[After the emotional farewell to Nepal, Nikki and I flew to Patna en route to Delhi.  A chilled beer, a rickshaw ride and pleasant people in Patna lulled us into a false sense of holiday.  We laughed at a mad American searching for the Rolling Stones and a cautionary tale that Swaggies had been left stranded in Delhi without tickets home ...]


"Soon left the hills and below was the Plain of India.  Air hostess in sari said, 'Namaste' as we boarded.  Given nice snack and free Carlsberg beer! (chilled!)
Landed at Patna.  Met up with driver of Encounter Overland - cheerful hot-tempered Aussie.
Nice middle-aged Indian man - well travelled, amusing and very polite treated us to coffee then put us on a rickshaw and told the driver to give us a tour of Patna and drop us off for lunch then back for next flight.

Lovely day - felt on holiday as jogged through wide streets lined with trees and attractive bungalowsStrange to be in India with no Swaggy bus in sight!  Familiar sights of men in loincloths; millions of bicycles and rickshaws pouring across traffic lights and mad drivers again.

Stopped and talked to funny American guy who'd missed the plane to Kathmandu because they had lost his luggage.  He asked our driver if the Stones were playing tonight in Patna!  He couldn't bear the idea of New Year in such a place! 

Went to bank then dropped at incredibly posh hotel - had a coffee!  Man was complaining behind me because he got cabbage and not carrots, just the limit because this morning he got orange instead of tomato juice!  What a fuss!

Back to airport - plane to leave at 2.55 - didn't leave until 4.30!  Talked with Encounter guy - he'd heard of Greyhound [Asian Greyhound] people having no tickets waiting at Delhi post restante!  Airport stood us sweet tea and gritty butties!

Air India flew us out - Indian music, bigger plane, hostesses in saris.  Gave revolting mango juice.  Landed at Lucknow then off again to Delhi.  Tiny snack and coffee."

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

LAST SUNRISE IN KATHMANDU - goodbye to Swaggies, KC, backstreets and friendly puppy, 1976

KC, restaurant owner, Thamel, Kathmandu

[Last sunrise in Kathmandu - goodbye to last of the Swaggie friends and final breakfast at KC's before Nikki and I flew away from the snow-clad Himalayas.  Chrispin waved us off - he was heading off to do more travelling around India, so I took his large suitcase home and leant him my backpack and sleeping bag not thinking I would have need of them again for a while ... bad call as it turned out!]


"Up very early because Heidi leaving at 6.  As she went I could lie and see the sunrise out of the door.  Lovely winter morning - dark clouds with orange-pink light seeping into sky behind.  Hils dark behind and trees in foreground full of the noise of birds.  Streets quiet for once but dogs already beginning to stir in hotel courtyard (big black one and little black puppy that looks like a baby bear and plays with my tatty jeans!)

Waved off Heidi, Pam and Mark - fresh cool air of early morning.  Met Chris and Nikki and went for breakfast at KC's - he was still asleep on the chairs!  OK and KC helped get us breakfast - fried eggs, toast and lovely milky KC coffee.  Back to hotel after KC wished us happy journey - amused when I said I'd see him in Scotland.  He has a saying that: Chinese food is best food, Japanese women best women, Nepalese dope best dope and Scotch whisky best whisky!

Taxi waiting for us.  Frances saw us off - Adrian still sick in bed.  Went to airport via narrow lanes - last glimpse of narrow streets inhabited by cows and dogs.  Our into fields then airport.  Chris organised us into right queues etc trying to cheer Nikki up.  Customs nosed around in cases - opened my souvenirs.  Body search - girl helped herself to coconuts and Nikki's cigs!  Walked out to small Nepalese plane - Chris waving us off from terrace.  From plane, Nikki noticed that he lit up cigarette (she was always trying to control his consumption).  Waved us off even when in the air. 

Circled over Kathmandu - saw terraced brown fields and houses for last time growing more distant - picked out the Boudhnath Stupa.  Great white range behind us, slightly clouded; then left Kathmandu Valley and on into smaller range of hills with roads winding through them."