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.
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.
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
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.
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.
1. Asia Minor