Sepia Saturday (or Tuesday): Kathmandu tales

Sepia Saturday 250Funny how things turn out isn’t it? All along my plan was to write my Sepia Saturday post on Kathmandu…after all my photos fitted the theme perfectly. Then I went off the idea, and life got in the way as I worked on photo books of our last holiday.

Vegetable and fruit sellars in a Kathmandu street.

Vegetable and fruit sellars in a Kathmandu street.

The universe had other plans though, because in my virtual mail box today was an unexpected Random Act of Kindness. Robert had retouched my old, faded Kathmandu photos so they were now punchy with colour just as they were back in the day. To say I was surprised and delighted was an understatement! So of course now I have to use them even if it is now Sepia Tuesday, but then they’re not really sepia anymore either. If you want to see what an amazing difference Robert’s skills have wrought, have a look at an old post I did on my Tropical Territory blog.

Although my children know the story of our trip to Kathmandu this seems an opportunity to preserve it for posterity.

We were living in Port Moresby in the 1970s when my colleague/boss moved to Kathmandu where her husband had gained a posting in charge of the electrical division of Kathmandu airport. Both Mr Cassmob and I had always had a virtual interest in India, Nepal and Mt Everest so it was very tempting when we were genuinely invited to come for a visit. Despite the temptation, I was adamant we couldn’t go because the children were only six and four and, I thought, vulnerable to all the potential illnesses.

One of the scenes when you wish you knew what was happening.

One of the scenes when you wish you knew what was happening.

In Papua New Guinea, as part of our employment conditions we got return airfares every two years to Australia (in our case Melbourne where my husband came from). Since it cost almost as much to spend months in Australia as it did to travel overseas, you might well guess which option we took.

So it was that in late 1976/early 1977 we were planning our next leave with a trip to Europe and the UK. Of course there was no internet, and no option for online bookings, so off to the travel agent in town we toddled.

Part way through the process DD2 took off up the street for a walkabout, with Mum in hot pursuit. We returned to hear “that’s …..Heathrow to Delhi, Delhi to Kathmandu, Kathmandu-Bangkok, Bangkok-Singapore, Singapore-Moresby”. Say what? Did she say Kathmandu? Indeed she did… the wily one had taken the chance of my disappearance to sneak in the diversion via Kathmandu!

One of our favourite photos of Kathmandu - what were they looking at?

One of our favourite photos of Kathmandu – what were they looking at?

And so we found ourselves landing in Kathmandu amidst a cracking electrical storm surrounded by mountains and being rather grateful for our friend’s role in ensuring the airport’s electrics were up to par.

We had a great time staying with them, being guided round the streets and byways of Kathmandu. So much to see and even by comparison with Papua New Guinea, so much poverty and illnesses like leprosy. It’s a bit daunting seeing people missing body parts like noses, fingers etc but the kids mostly took it all in their stride. They even coped with the cows’ “right of way” in all matters…well most of the time. They were even unfazed by witnessing a cremation ceremony on the banks of the river….I was ambivalent but my friend reckoned they’d be okay and they were. The Nepali people were so friendly and less importuning than we’d experienced in Delhi as well, so that helped our appreciation of the place too.

Tinsmiths or silversmiths working their craft.

Tinsmiths or silversmiths working their craft.

One day we were lucky enough to go for a drive with our friend up into the mountains while he completed some work. We drove through villages where the road was covered in grain and the passing vehicles threshed it as they drove over. We drove on steep roads with fierce drops on the edge of the road – much scarier than parts of the Highlands Highway in PNG. I remember being asked how close to the edge we were – not the best question for a person with a fear of heights, and especially edges. Sadly, when we went to take the film out of the camera that day we’d had a blooper – no film! Most distressing I can tell you.

We even managed an excursion flight out to Mount Everest which was a super thrill for all of us, and the kids still have their certificates from the flight. We were also lucky we were staying with our friends because it meant the water was triple filtered and the fruit and vegetables always cleaned in Condy’s-crystalled-water. Almost needless to say the kids didn’t get sick…that privilege was left for their mother. As we took that Kathmandu-Bangkok leg I was violently ill …hardly surprising I’ve avoided Bangkok airport ever since.

Sari making must be a time-consuming task, requiring lots of patience.

Sari making must be a time-consuming task, requiring lots of patience.

We duly arrived in Singapore and were met by family members of one of Mr Cassmob’s work colleagues. They really couldn’t do enough for us, guiding us around town and taking us out for special meals at places we’d never have found…though they were surprised we managed to get to Sentosa Island on our own <smile>.  And then, just as the piggy bank was nearing the bottom of its resources, along came the Australian baggage handler’s strike and the cessation of flights…but that’s a story for another day, along with the theft in Amsterdam of Mr Cassmob’s passport with all its visas, and his share of the money.

Thanks Robert for this wonderful and surprising Act of Kindness!

Why not pop over and see how other Sepians interpreted this week’s image?

Shall we have goat for dinner?

Shall we have goat for dinner?

 

K is captivated by Kathmandu, Kildare and Kavieng

I am participating in the A to Z 2012 blog challenge throughout April. My theme is a genealogical travelogue or a travel genealogue (I’m not sure which). Today’s “K” post mixes long-ago family history with recent family history and travelogue.

K is for Kathmandu (Nepal)

Kathmandu © P Cass 1977

Kathmandu was on my husband’s bucket list long before the expression had been invented. When friends and colleagues from Port Moresby got a posting to Kathmandu to work at the airport, he was quick to take advantage of their offer of a visit….something we’d have been unlikely to do otherwise with a six year old and a four year old in tow. We tacked the detour onto the kids’ first trip to Europe and as the plane came into land amidst lightning and murky wet season weather, we were very pleased to know our friend was in charge of the airport’s electrical systems.

What a fascinating place Kathmandu was, not on the 1970s hippie trail, but as parents with small children. Our friends made it so much easier being able to have good accommodation, safe food and triply-distilled water. All of us were overwhelmed by our couple of days in New Delhi with its crowds, begging and understandable confrontational style. Our main regret is that jet lag and culture shock meant we didn’t have the energy to do a day trip to Agra and the Taj Mahal as we’d hoped.

Kathmandu craftsmen -tinsmiths or silversmiths (I can't recall) © P Cass 1977.

Life tough for the Nepali people but they seemed somehow more happy and less aggressive, and mostly we enjoyed Kathmandu. Leprosy and deformities were rife: confronting sights even for those accustomed to life in Papua New Guinea and not a first world country.

Pashupatinath Kathmandu © P Cass 1977

The sights and memories are many: the little cubbyholes in which people worked at tin or silver smithing, or sari-making; Durba Square; the toothache shrine, the nearby smell unbelievable; a man reading the newspaper to a crowd of men sitting on the steps; the sacred cows everywhere on the road; the  monks and faithful spinning the prayer wheels at Boudhanath or Swayambunath; monkeys in Pashupatinatheven seeing a cremation by the river there. Our friends encouraged us to let the children watch and they seemed quite mesmerised and not at all traumatised by it.

The Himalaya from the air: meringue mountains. © P Cass 1977

Our friend’s work took him to various outstations and we were able to travel with him in the truck to sightsee. I clearly remember driving through a village where the grain was laid out in the street to be threshed by the passing vehicles running over it. Far too often for my liking the vehicle was far too close to the precipitous edge of a road due the narrowness, not the driving.

We even managed a tourist flight to Mt Everest despite bad weather cancelling our first planned flight. Special memories of a truly unusual place and one we were privileged to visit.

K is for County Kildare (Ireland)

Ballymore Eustace Catholic Church, Co Kildare © P Cass 1992

My Denis Gavin, who you’ve heard about lately, says he was from Ballymore Eustace, County Kildare. Mind you he’s also stated on his second marriage certificate that he was born in Dublin. On his immigration record[i] he said that his parents were Denis and Mary Gavin, that his father was dead but his mother was in Kildare. You can see there’s some ambiguity here for family history research.

Nearly 20 years ago I tried to resolve this problem by visiting the parish church at Ballymore Eustace looking for his baptism circa 1834 (his age maths tends to be a bit arbitrary), but got no results. I thought I’d struck it lucky when I found a Denis Gavin listed on the Griffith Valuations and with a probate entry, but apparently not. That particular Denis Gavin was a single man with no family other than a sister to whom he left his estate. I keep checking the indexes (IrishGenealogy.ie or RootsIreland.ie) but to no avail.

Where does this leave me? All these years later I’m still uncertain as to whether Denis came from Co Kildare or Co Dublin or where his family had lived. I’m not quite willing to call it a brick wall but it is something of a commando-standard challenge. Perhaps I’m too close to it and can no longer see the genealogical woods for the family history forest.

K is for Kavieng (Papua New Guinea)

Legur Beach, Kavieng © P Cass 1973

Kavieng, New Ireland Province, is where my husband’s parents lived in the early 1970s.  I’ve talked about how we swapped our fresh veg for their fresh crayfish, a winning exchange in my book. We visited them for a long weekend (possibly Easter) and enjoyed being able to swim in the sea after a few years in the Highlands, though it was a long walk out over the crushed coral to get far enough into the water to swim. Neither of us has many memories of the place, other than that it was quite flat, with a lot of coconut plantations and we saw war-time wreckage and bomb craters as we flew in. Mr Cassmob’s comment when asked for inspiration: Em tasol – sori long lusim tingting (Pidgin for that’s all, sorry I can’t remember).

K is for Korea

McDonald's Corner at the start of the Kokoda Track © P Cass 1976.

My father’s cousin went missing in action in Korea, aged 22. His family were devastated and over the years continued to try to learn more about what happened to him. I told his storylast year in an Anzac Day blog post. If anyone reading this post is related to his friends on his final patrol I’d love to hear from you.

K is for Kokoda Track or Trail (Papua New Guinea)

The Kokoda Track/Trail[ii]was a pivotal battleground of World War II in PNG and is now something of a pilgrimage site for Australians. When we went to Papua New Guinea soon after being married, my husband took me for a drive out of Port Moresby to Sogeri, where he’d lived for a while, and McDonald’s Corner, the southern gateway to the Track. I found it quite sobering to stand at a place which had become famous in Australian folklore.

A to Z Challenge suggestions:

You might fancy a dip into Italy with Lady Reader’s Bookstuff or Someone has to say it on intellectual property rights for books or a heartfelt post by A Common Sea.


[i] NSW Board Immigrant’s Lists for Fortune 1855, microfilm 2469.

[ii] The terminology has been hotly debated. The Australian War Memorial explains it here.