Camels, Curry and Chai

Camels, Curry, and Chai

The bus ride from New Delhi to Agra took four hours.  We easily found a hotel, not always the case in India, where lodging for overland travelers are unidentified and scarce.  But Agra is a destination.  The Taj Mahal is there.

Agra is a convenient departure site for journeys to Rajasthan and the Thar Desert.  There we rode camels, ate curry, and drank chai.

Travel from the Thar Desert to Nepal involved a myriad of measures.


The Overland

Some travelers called it the Great Road East.  But most travelers knew it simply as the Overland.  From Europe to the magic.

Although the route had been traveled for decades, the Overland came into popularity with the rise of the 1960’s counterculture.  The trail was heavily trekked until late 1977, when the unrest in Iran made travel through that part of the trail dangerous, and, by 1979, virtually impossible.  The route ended for good on Christmas Day in 1979 when the Russians invaded Afghanistan.

By 1975, Bob Weir, rhythm guitarist of the Grateful Dead, had formed the band Kingfish.  They began to play the song Asia Minor, originally done by the Horses in 1969.  This ballad became the de facto song of the Overland.

Asia Minor

Kilhonni Hotel for the first night,

Just below the Black Sea.

Istanbul left me cold turkey,

Better places to be.

Heading east from Asia Minor

Rendezvous in Kathmandu.

I’m humping a camel from Kabul,

Pakistan not very far.

My Afghani Brown is taking me down

Into Pesháwar.

I’m heading east from Asia Minor

Rendezvous in Kathmandu.

Not to be outdone, American rocker Bob Seger wrote and released Kathmandu in 1975.  The song is essentially wishful shouting.  Seger never went to the Nepali capital, nor did he journey on the Overland.  But his rock-and-roller became the anthem for many wannabes trying to get out of here.


Two Travelers in Kathmandu

For Karen and I, Kathmandu was not a destination, rather just a convenient sojourn on our way to Mount Everest, our primary interest.  We lodged at sprawling house Shakti, served by houseboys.  From there we explored Nepal.

Mt. Everest

The end of the road.  That’s what Everest represented to us.  Now we stood at the gateway to the top, the way to the end of the high road.

We learned from the locals about the walk into Khumbu, the region of Mt. Everest.  Along the way to Lobuche, the last hut before the rock shelter at Gorak Shep, are tea houses.  These are primitive huts where Sherpas, the ethnic people of Khumbu, provide Spartan lodging and modest food.  The huts enjoy the moniker hotel, but that is a deceptive exaggeration; sleep on the floor in a smoky room, eat local food cooked on a yak dung fire.  This information thrilled us because it meant that we could travel light, without our backpacks, with only a sleeping bag and personal items, no cooking gear or tent.  Never before had we enjoyed this amenity.

The anthology presented here begins with Mt. Everest.  In that account is found the telling of what happened during the days we spent in the area of Gorak Shep and Lobuche.  Also are photographs of Mt. Everest.

Sound Track

1. Asia Minor      

2. Katmandu


One thought on “Camels, Curry and Chai

  1. jmcelligottohswestcom December 22, 2020 / 11:45 pm

    I never made it that far east of Bangkok but I did go there two times to rest up from Nam. Loved the city and met a beautiful girl who’s father was the Fire Chief of the city. I spent 10 days with her eating the great Thai food and drinking beer. She called me “Big Marine” The food was the best and all you needed to do was hold out your hand and you were delivered a cold one!. My weight was 135 when I arrived in Bangkok for Danang Vietnam and after 10days of eating and bar hopping, I shot up to 150 lbs. Back in Nam I quickly lost it in the 110 degree heat in the DMZ area at Dong Ha.

    Sammy Squyres lives in the far east area somewhere and has like you become a very good writer. I still want to visit him but can’t get anyone to go with me. Now I am taking care of 23 employees and must be close by or reachable by phone. I do hope to visit you guys while I am still fit. Thanks for the posts and lets hope we raise enough money to put Odessa College Trade Schools on the Map!!! Maybe we could call it the “Juanito and Paco Fund” Bob Ittner is working on it now so we should get it done next year and help a lot of Midland residents in need!!

    Keep up the good work Paco. You did well my friend!!!


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