STEPHEN PETTER'S TRAVEL JOURNAL. Round the World with Jennifer Kavanagh

(Note this consists of my views etc., not Jennifer's!)

10th March 2001, Camden, London. (We departed 18th April, 2001).

Yesterday and today I at last got around to doing some preparation! Yesterday I collected all relevant e-mail addresses into one list, prior to writing lots of e-mails. Today we had our SERVAS interview and in the evening I wrote out a personal statement on behalf of both of us, for SERVAS. JK (Jennifer - JK is the abbreviation I will use) has done quite a lot of work in the past few weeks, e.g. writing to all her contacts.

19th March, 2001 (One month to DAY 1!)

We have been doing much work recently, but the more one does, the more there seems to be to do! J. is packing up her flat, giving and lending stuff particularly to her two (adult) children. She is getting worried as the flat has not been let yet. (Mine is let.) We are relying on the incomes for our living expenses. We have joined Globetrotters (went to a meeting during which we met someone who has travelled in N. America as we plan to) and also SERVAS for which we had to be formally interviewed. Also we obtained as much Quaker info as possible. Then we have been v busy contacting people world wide to ensure we have contacts. We will be contacting individuals nearer the time of our visit. Then there have been medical considerations, mainly re innoculations.

Our Monthly Meeting wrote a Travelling Minute for us, taking greetings to the Meetings we hope to visit and 'comending us to their care'! Our PM organised a session which was attended by about 15 or 20 Friends in which we described our plans, and received more good wishes.

Today we sat down for our second rather businesslike planning meeting. I come away with my list of things to do further extended. Meanwhile I have been getting paid freelance work - much more than hitherto. I am having to say a firm no to any new requests - most of my current workload is clearing up and handing over. As well as my computer work I have a job for FWCC/EMES - updating the database that lists all Quaker Projects world wide.



5th April. Now it's really close! We've bought the tickets, the insurance, set up a joint bank account, got people to agree to see to the mail, above all, found tenants for Number 47. Unfortunately they move in on 15th so we will be homeless for a few days, as we dont leave England until 18th. Jennifer, with mixed feelings, has been packing up her house, going to our much loved corner store for all the boxes they have. Her two adult children came round to pick what they wanted to have or borrow for a year. Sad farewells have already started - for me a poignant one was my Spanish class, where my role as the dunce had been a source of amusement. Before we set off I am going to the annual meeting of the Europe and Middle East Section of the international Quaker organisation (I'm on the committee).

Tuesday 10 April, 2001. For me an awsome step. Today I pack up my computer, so I'll be offline for the first time for about 18 years. I normally spend a large part of my time here at a keyboard and screen - a good desk, a filing cabinet - I'm at home. Now withdrawal looms, and nothing but the methadone of cybercafes to console me! Today I take most of my stuff to Bristol. Tomorrow most of Jennifer's to her mother's - does she realise what will hit her? Next day I go to Stavangar for a Quaker (FWCC/EMES) annual meeting, where I will be released from my service on the Exec Committee. Sunday (that's Easter Sunday) to Wednesday when we fly off to Brasil we are being put up in friends' and relations' homes. We had to move out early as that was a condition of the tenants who are to occupy our home for the year we are to be away.

Our mail will be redirected to Jennifer's daughter Juliet as from 15th.

Jennifer sends greetings - says her journal will be on paper.


I had intended to keep this up as we traveled, but I found that I could not access this site to update it from internet cafes. So I set up another site. There one can read a journal covering the whole journey, written en route as a large number of separate .htm files. However I have now collated all those files onto this one large file.


26th May, 2001, La Paz, Bolivia jnl010526.rtf

Written 26 May 2001, rev 11 Aug. renamed and revised 19/7/01 j10526.rtf

20/11/01: BU as old1mmdd.rtf then this was revised.

What a lot to write about! Our three weeks in Peru were packed with adventures. We flew from Rio to Lima on a late plane, so we did not see the Andes properly, but I saw their snow capped peaks looming in the starlight as we flew over. The tourist police were exceptionally helpful in Lima, assigning us to an approved taxi for which we paid a ridiculously low fare. We arrived at the home of our host, Maria, very late, but she was up and waiting to greet us and ply us with a supper of melon and rum. She insisted we stay for more than the two days which is the norm for the hosting association – SERVAS – that we had joined. Next morning she took us to the local center, all very clean and modern (we were in a posh suburb – Miraflores) where we went to a bank. They only issue American dollars which seems extraordinary. We found many hotels, tour companies, and even Government agencies preferring dollars to their own currency – Soles. Outside the bank a large crowd of money changers compete to convert one’s dollars to Soles under the watchful eye of armed guards and police.

Despite Maria’s warmth I did not like Lima. The pollution – vast black clouds belching from the lorries and buses – and the noise – all drivers continually hooting, and buses and collectivos (minibus taxi/buses) hoot to attract attention and customers, with someone, often a boy, leaning out of the door shouting the destination and route. The architecture – for want of a better word – is mostly very grotty. Our few days were mostly occupied with practical issues.

After asking the British Consul we were allowed to visit Lima women’s prison to visit its only British inmate, a very strong charactered young woman from Greenwich. She was due out ‘any day now’ after some years and anxious to get back to England to see her son. She was moved and grateful for our visit. She said that other Britons, including representatives of ‘Prisoners Abroad’ had been to see her. She said that PA had been a life saver.

On our last evening Maria threw a small party for us. Lovely, very friendly people, one a tennis coach, and all involved with SERVAS.

We had booked a bus to Nasca, several hours ride. We choose whenever possible to use the economical buses, used mostly by local people, not the luxury ones used only by tourists. The buses are what in Britain we call coaches. So it was an eventful ride, as people and their astonishing large bundles – usually wrapped in large, colorful cloths, pushed on and off. At each stop crowds would try to sell all sorts of foods, fruits, sweets and drinks. Every two hours or so the bus would stop for a pee break, the toilets (banos) usually utterly disgusting, despite which one had to pay 50 centivos (about 5p). The route was along the Pacific coast which here was incredibly barren. Dry hills totally devoid of vegetation dropping to a stony shore.

At our destination, in the dark, tired and a bit worried, we went through the now familiar routine of watching while our luggage was dragged – filthy with dust and sometimes oil, from the hold. A crowd of porters, taxi drivers, and hotel touts cluster around all trying to push in front of the others. We had booked a hotel so we waited until its rep located us.

Nasca is famous for the strange lines that are found over an area of several sq miles of the nearby desert. We took a trip in a small 6 passenger aircraft which wheeled and banked so we could see the strange lines, pictures and shapes, often very like runways. There is no agreement as to why or when the lines were made. Some say they are space travelers’ landing strips, the pictures being a form of runway identification. A more plausible theory is that they a patterns that were walked as a form of religious ceremony. Another theory – since they are only visible from above – is that they were to be seen from hot air balloons.

When we landed I was very sick for about an hour, and felt miserable for the rest of the day. In fact my health has been a problem. I was severely bitten by mosquitos in Brasil, I have had a persistent cough and chest infection, I have a spur on a heel that gives me pain and I have other ailments. Despite this I have a good time most days but crash quite early most evenings.

Next day we took a bus a few km out of town to see a couple of the pictorial lines close up. A metal tower has been erected. It was rather vertiginous climbing the metal ladders. After we came down we had to wait hopefully for a lift back to town. The road, the Pacific Highway that runs the several thousand miles of South America, stretched as far as the eye could see from north to south, shimmering in the heat. There were very few vehicles, one saw them far in the distance minutes before they swept by, trucks or cars full to the brim with people and goods. We were beginning to worry when a collectivo came by, and as usual people squeezed up to give one a hard half seat to cling to.

That afternoon we paid (quite a lot) to use a nearby posh hotel’s swimming pool, which was lovely except that while over enthusiastically doing the back stoke I strained an odd muscle in my shoulder. It is giving me a lot of pain even now, three weeks later.

Also that afternoon I had a cheerful exchange of email messages with James in Bristol. Jennifer and I have been a little sad that few of our emails have had replies. I suppose it’s a case of out of sight, out of mind.

That evening we took a bus to Arequipa, the capital of the south of Peru, with a population that regards itself as rather superior to the rest of the country. Unlike Lima, it is a very beautiful city. Although the traffic behaves as badly there is much less of it. However it is very high, and to my complaints were added altitude sickness then a bad case of tummy bug that almost laid me out for about four days. Luckily our SERVAS host was a doctor and he prescribed an antibiotic primarily for my chest infection, but which also hastened the end of my gut rot. He wouldn’t accept a fee so I made a contribution to the hospital in which he worked. One can buy drugs across the counter, the doctor simply tells you what to ask for. Though our hosts were very kind and helpful the room in which we were staying ( a sort of hut on the flat roof) was very basic, but it had a stunning view of the two magnificent mountains that tower above the city. After two nights we moved to a hotel where we had use of a kitchen. The best attraction in Arequipa is the Franciscan convent, a small walled town that was hidden from the public gaze until a few years ago. The internal architecture was lovely, and the former nuns’ rooms with kitchens and maids’ rooms were very interesting. We also visited the Dominican monastery where our guide sang to us in a hall that had a super acoustic, prompting Jennifer to sing Handel’s "He was despis-ed".

From Arequipa we took a two day trip to the Colka canyon. This involved a long drive in a 4WD over a dirt road through reserves grazed by llamas and alpacas. We stayed overnight in a small town with a lovely plaza (town square). Very early next morning (in fact for several days we got up very early) we were roused for a sleepy breakfast in the dark then off to the canyon, described as deeper than the Grand Canyon. The reason for the earliness was to see the condors flying up and down the canyon. As one sat quietly at its edge the great birds swooped and wheeled very close by, searching the floor of the canyon a thousand meters below for their prey. (I do not remember the details but we were about 3000 m high and we were told the bottom of the canyon was more than half way to sea level. We had time for a walk and to sit very peacefully, watching the wild life (birds, butterflies, and long tailed rabbits) and listening to the hum of bees and the distant roar of the river.

A few days later we left Arequipa on a bus that took the same rough road past Colka to the town of Cusco. All these days we were at between 3000 and 4000 m above sea level and at one time reached 4900m. Altitude sickness is a constant problem, one gets breathless from even the slightest exertion, I see spots before my eyes, and one gets tired easily. The sun is very hot indeed, but the air never warms up. At night it is very cold, rooms are not heated but one has a heavy weight of several blankets. Bathrooms have only cold water except that some have a bizarre shower heater. Above the spout or sprayer of the shower is fitted an electric heater. One turns on the water, then throws a switch so that the water is heated, usually very inadequately. One must turn off the electricity (using a dry rag) before turning off the water, or the heater burns out. Often the wiring is bare!

We spent about a week in Cusco, again with a SERVAS host, a delightful family. One problem was that our host was so anxious for our happiness and security that he tended to organize us despite our protests. We made particular friends with the daughter, 18 year old Carol, who is studying to be a journalist and hopes one day to be a politician.

Cusco is the base for Peru’s main attraction the Inca city of Matthu Pichu, which the Spanish never discovered, but was found buried in jungle early in the C20. Our journey there and back was itself an adventure as we insisted on using public transport rather than buying a package. It involved two buses and a cronky old train. On the way back we traveled in a very crowded collective instead of the two buses. (Collectivos cost a little more, are quicker, bur very uncomfortable. What I dislike is that the locals hate to open any windows so they are always very stuffy and often smelly. One soon gets used to the latter.). Matthu P is utterly fascinating. Wonderful ruins in the most spectacular setting. They are on the peak of a steep hill with other taller hills nearby.

From Cusco we had our most exciting adventure, a two day trip to the jungle in the Amazon basin. For this we flew from Arequipa (about 3800 m) across the Andes and down over the vast jungle to Puerto Maldonado, which is at 250 m. There we were taken by boat ( a 30 m canoe only 1 m wide, with a 65 hp outboard motor) for an hour down river to a Lodge – the name for a rather basic hotel. It had no electricity, we were issued with a lantern and the covered boardwalks were lit by oil lamps with naked flames. Our room had two layers on mosquito netting, but quite large gaps in the floor. The first evening we met a somber chap from Brighton who besides food poisoning had had about six misadventures with animals ranging from spiders to rats. On the journey we had come across many very loud Americans and thought they were going to the same place but luckily they went to another Lodge. We had one quiet American (a doctor and Mormon missionary) and two very interesting Brits. Nick is a full time traveler and cookery writer.

In the afternoon we were ferried to ‘Monkey Island’ where we saw many species of monkey close up, attracted down from the tree tops by our guide’s calls and the large bag of bananas he had brought for them.

Next day (again, very early) after a bleary eyed breakfast we set off on a long trail – 13 km – through he forest, with a super guide who pointed out many interesting features including medicinal plants. If I have time I will write up a description from the copious notes I took. A highlight was a tree top viewing platform that we climbed to by 96 steps spiraling up, each a sort of angle propped and nailed to the trunk. It was about 50m high. Very scary. Another highlight was being paddled very quietly in a ‘hidden lagoon’ to see otters and alligators, as well as flocks of butterflies, so thick that as they settled on us we were reminded of Hitchcock’s "The Birds". Later in the day we were taken to a very poor farm where a small, friendly family scratched a living. Their home was simply a platform on stilts, with a thatched roof – no walls. As a sort of entrance fee I bought a rather poor bead necklace for 8 soles. I was rather surprised noone else in our group bought anything despite being shown round.

Next morning we had to get up earlier than ever, 4.30, for the long boat ride back to catch our plane back to Cusco. As it was upstream the boat took nearly twice as long to do the trip, which was delightful as the sun rose and a mist hung over the river. Back in Cusco we went on another trip this time only a few hours.

We then went to Puno where we had an invaluable day with two American Quaker missionaries as they went to the homes of Aymara Indians on the Alto Plano. The host punted us through the reed beds on the shore of Lake Titicaca. Later we had lunch in their tiny home, a concrete box half filled by three beds and with a few bits of furniture. Our host, Ruben, was a Quaker pastor and had been Clerk of his Yearly Meeting. We had met the missionary couple, Ken and Tanya Comfort, and their 8 yr old daughter Katy, when we went to Meeting in the Friends Church in Arequipa. They are from Oregon and are members of North West YM. Quakers here are of the Evangelical tradition, and Meeting lasted three hours. Ken is a man of many talents – he has played a significant part in the restoration of the engine of the famous steamer on Lake Titicaca. (It was built in Britain, dismantled, carried to its destination which took three years and cost many lives. It was intended to impress Bolivia in a border dispute but was so inefficient (as it relied on coal and there was none available) that in the end Peru had to accept a compromise.). Ken has also made himself an expert on the Aymara Indians (he has been here 13 years) and told us a lot about them, the beginnings of the Inca empire which was nearby, and the continuing pre-Christian beliefs and practices. He is sure that human sacrifice still takes place on an alter shaped mountain not far from Puno. Even the Friends still have many pagan beliefs and practices, in fact the day’s mission was a sort of exorcism. The farm of an elder of the Friends Church deep in the countryside had been hit by lightening which is considered a sign that the gods are angry. He had then found human bones on his land (not surprising I thought, as burials take place any and every where, not in cemeteries.) We had a short Meeting for Worship in his farm yard, followed to my surprise and horror with undeniable requests for us all to give them a sort of blessing. Unlike the other (competing) protestant churches, Friends have a policy of setting up local leaders then pulling out the missionaries.

From Cusco we traveled again by public transport to the border with Bolivia. The journey included a bus, a pedal cycle taxi, a motorized three wheeler, us hauling our gear on foot the 100 m uphill across the border, a collectivo, a ferry that was delayed 4 hours due to the Lake being too rough (the Bolivian Navy were on hand and issued us all with life jackets), and another collectivo into La Paz.

Now in La Paz we do not plan to do much sight seeing. We have offered ourselves to local Friends as volunteer workers and are waiting for our assignment. La Paz is also very high and very cold at night – we had a miserable time last night but I got an extra blanket for tonight. We hope they will send us to work in a Friends school some 100 km from here and what attracts us most, a thousand m lower, so the climate will be better.

Love from us both to all friends and readers.

Journal, File name j10719a.rtf, rename j10614.rtf 18/7/01

20/11/01: BU as old1mmdd.rtf then this was revised.

Written 19th July (approx) in

, Guatemala. Rev 11.8.01, 18/7/01

I have not written anything for this journal since 26th May! My motivation waned because I have not been able to update my website.

Jennifer is writing a very good journal, conveying graphically our impressions of the people and places we have visited, the moods of appreciation and wonder. A truly spiritual account. Probably she will write a book based on it.

She and I do not always get on well together. The irony is that we each accuse the other of the same intolerable faults! Despite this we are a good team as we encounter all the problems of travelling cheaply in continually changing environments - different countries, customs and climates.

On May 26 we were in La Paz, Bolivia. Our chief impression of it is the cold that oozes out of the walls as soon as the sun goes down. Though it shines hotly all day the thin air does not warm up and at sunset the cold comes up like an invisible fog, making it seem as if one were in a deep dungeon. J. bought a thick woollen Bolivian jacket that alleviated the cold for two evenings and now weighs down our luggage - probably not to be used again till we get to China.

Sunday May 27. In La PAZ

We went to the Evangelical Quaker Meeting. Much bigger that the one in Cusco - a large hall bursting with hundreds of people of all ages, mostly working class Bolivians of (Aymara) Indian extraction, the women thickly padded in many layers of wool but with intricate Sunday Best shawls. The hymnbooks were in Spanish and Aymara, the translations squeezed into tunes designed for shorter English wording. Lots of clapping - no doubting the joy and fellowship. As it was Mothers' Day there was a lot of speechifying and prize-giving for them. We'd contacted a Quaker missionary Gerry Clarkson and he came with his wife and children. After Meeting we went with them for lunch but the restaurants were full of families celebrating Mothers Day so we had a chicken and chips take-out in the fine central square.

Later in the day I was twice swindled by taxi drivers, which put me in a bad mood.

Monday 28 May 2001. TO COROICA

Only 100 km but wow! The road is justifiably described as the most dangerous in the world and it was certainly more thrilling, no, terrifying - than any roller coaster. The bus laboured up and up to cross the watershed of the Andes, the vegetation thinning until replaced by snow, splendid views, then down down down (one can pay 49 US dollars to hire a bike to coast 30 or 40 km down hill) as we descended to the edge of the Amazonian Basin. The narrow, often crumbling dirt road clings to the side of enormous precipices, one looks out of the bus window straight down maybe 500 meters. The vehicles drive on the 'wrong' side of the road, to enable the drivers better to see the short distance from the wheels to the edge or to the rock wall. As we dropped the vegetation was of varying climates until we reached the level © 1700 m) suitable for semi-tropical jungle. As hoped, the little town of Coroico was delightful, the view from the hotel where we spend one night utterly breathtaking. We found a delightful place (Sol y Luna) about 2 km out of town and up a steep hill and decided to stay for two weeks. S & L is a 6 ha 'garden' created by a German woman over the past 20 odd years. Dotted around it are about 8 cabins of different styles and prices. We took one that was perched on the hillside; three sided, the open side facing out across the valley. I have written a description elsewhere (see 9th June).

One reason for coming to Coroico was that Gerry had told us (when we said we wanted to do some voluntary work) that the Quaker school there could do with some English teaching. However we found the school was not operating though the janitorial staff (who were Indian, and Evangelical Quakers) were in residence. We joined a mid week meeting for worship which included all the participants engaging in maybe 20 minutes of very intense personal but non silent prayer. After meeting we discussed English teaching and a day or two later after consultation they asked us to give lessons every evening for 10 days.

So began an idyllic period. Each day we woke to the splendours of the scenery, cooked our meals, walked a little (it was soon very hot) read, swam in the pool, tended our insect bites! At about 5 we set off down the hill to the town. Here we shopped for next day's supplies then did our classes from 7 till 9. Then a taxi up through the dark lanes to our mountainside abode.

One day as a spiritual exercise we listed from memory all our Westminster Quaker Meeting members. We were able to name 65 of them. Since then we have used the list as an aid to our two person Meetings.

The idea was that I did the beginners' class (as I have done TEFL) and J did the more advanced, but due to the macho culture which prevails I had the girls who though they had some English were too modest to regard themselves as non beginners, while all the men gravitated to Jennifer's class being too proud to be regarded as beginners and even less willing to sit with the girls.

A negative was that once again I got badly bitten, dozens of bites. The itching literally 'drove me to distraction'. I got over it with the aid of Piriton. Much the same had happened when we were in Brazil and it was to happen again later in Managua.

Saturday 9th June. Return to La Paz.

Sadly our last morning in Coroico. I got up early and wrote e the following piece.

Last Morning Blues. 7 a.m.

I sit comfortably at this table looking out of the open side of our cabin at the fantastic view, listening t the various birds. Not a beautiful sound but a fantastic cacophony of whistles squawks and screeches especially from the parrots as they hurtle by in a flock of about 20 all screeching and squabbling madly. Cocks crow, distant buses or trucks grind up the long steep hills, thousands of bees hum in the masses of blossom in the tree tops, beloved also by huge butterflies and humming birds, the former sometimes bigger than the latter. It is still cold, but this is welcome as it lessens the itching of one's insect bites. The sense of smell at present is not excited; maybe my mug of strong hot tea laced with coca leaves has dulled that sense.

Without doubt the sense that is most delighted is that of sight. What a sight! I doubt our photographs will convey the scale. In the foreground beyond the handsome polished bamboo poles that support the thatched roof, and beyond the paving stones' sudden edge, the ground drops away precipitously. It is covered with trees, so that while one or two tower above us on each side, in front of us we have their tops, and as it is now autumn here, these are covered with their unpretentious blossom. The variety of vegetation is prodigious. Under the trees a carpet of other plants predominantly Busy Lizzies that grow wild to carpet the area with their red and pink bloom. Arum lilies sprout up here and there - whether wild or not I do not know since the whole area is regarded as her garden by Sigrid who has spent 20 years nurturing it. So nearby I see all possible shades of green, also yellows, reds and pinks, deep purple and the startling white of the lilies.

But all this is merely the picture's frame! What amazes one is the middle and far distance. The valley across which I gaze must be two miles wide. Distance is hard to judge but the dwellings opposite are tiny, a person the merest speck. In this valley, a hundred meters or so lower than I; a few fluffy clouds drift lazily by. Above the level of the small patches of cultivation opposite, the virgin jungle clothes the mountainside in a dark green mantle to their tops at about 3000 m. The hilltops are jagged not rounded as on more mature geological formations, since the Andes are relatively young, hence the steepness of the valleys and the ubiquitous landslides.

I am looking west. The sun rises over the mountain behind me, progressively lighting up the tops of those nearest, making dramatic their crevices and side valleys. The crowning glory is the most distant range rising to 5000 m or more, jagged, snow-capped, brilliant, splendid at all times but especially at dawn when the first rays of sun light their loftiest peaks.

High in the sky the near full moon asserts itself. At night it lit us as if it were a nearby street lamp, and lit the mountain peaks so that they seemed to float like weird white ships high above the horizon. Higher still, now, a clear blue sky with just a few orange clouds drifting slowly west.

Now the birds are settling down, adjusting to the increasing heat. We must get active, must pack for our return to the city, probably never to return to this idyllic location, where we have rested, and served, and grown spiritually these past two lovely weeks.


The return journey to La Paz was not as exciting as coming, as we were on the side not overlooking the precipices. In La Paz our taxi could not get very near our hotel because of the crowds watching the carnival. As soon as we could we joined them, finding a seat on one of the temporary grandstands to watch a continual procession of dozens of teams, each of scores or even hundreds of marchers. Dancers would perhaps be a better term, as often they would go through choreography that involved charging back and forth. The costumes were as fantastic as any one sees in the Rio carnival. There were many, many bands. How they kept it up all day I cannot imagine (though there was little complexity in the tunes!).

Sunday 10th June. In La Paz. We went for the second time to the Evangelical Quaker Meeting, or Friends Church as they call it. Afterwards we strolled in the main street, in the too hot sun. In the evening we found that tomorrow's taxi to the airport will cost far more than we had budgeted for, so we were very short of cash, unable to afford even the cheap type of meal we usually have. We walked in a decidedly insalubrious part of town near our hotel, made worse by people who had been in the carnival and were now very drunk. Jennifer was very nervous. We found some roadside food being cooked, it looked OK but when we tried to eat it found it disgusting. We tried to eat a bit, but went to bed still hungry and as usual here, very cold.

While walking down a narrow street we felt water splashing onto us apparently from a window above thge sidewalk. Then we noticed it was some rather disgusting stuff, maybe cocoa or curdled milk. Several nice looking men dashed forward to help us as we found tissues etc to wipe the mess off. Then I felt one of them put his hand in my pocket ostensibly and another putting his hand into my napsack. They still retained the air of helpfulness but I began to protest, no, thanks awfully (!), no, that's OK... An they went off. What nice people J said! Only later when she read in the guide book of this scam did I tell her what I'd seen.

Monday 11th June. To Costa Rica. When we got up very early Jennifer was quite ill. Clearly she had caught something from the bad food we ate last night. She looked too ill to travel - didn’t eat breakfast, and had an uncomfortable ride in the taxi. At the airport she looked so bad that two shopkeepers advised her to see the airport doctor, which we did. He gave her something but within 10 minutes she vomited it up. A second Dr gave an anti vomiting injection and we were shepherded aboard as a special case. She was able to lie on three seats and slept all the way to Lima. Here we had to change planes and had a less comfortable second leg. By the time we arrive in San Jose she was a bit better though weak and tired. Thank goodness we were met by our hostess to be - Jo Rienmiller, a member of the San Jose (SJ) Quaker Worship Group. She has a lovely house outside SJ, made us very welcome, and helped me sort out J's prescription.

Tuesday 12th June In San Jose.

We took a bus into town mainly to find the Quaker Peace Center which is also the Meeting House, and a hostel called Casa Ridgeway. We had some trouble understanding the street numbering system; in fact the first four people we asked didn’t understand it either. This led us to argue with each other rather bitterly. Eventually we got to the Peace Center where we met Diego Low, the President of the governing Board, and acting Director who we were to get to know well as he became a good friend and a superb helper, as will be seen later. W also met Wolf Guerdon who we would meet later at Monteverde and Ileanna, Diego's partner. These three told us many helpful things. As in previous countries we expressed a desire to do some useful work. Diego seemed to think that simply finding out about problems, showing supportive concern, and maybe later writing and publishing about them, might be enough and all we could do in the time. We arranged to stay at Casa Ridgeway.

I had been suffering from a painful shoulder since Nasca (7 May) and decided to see a Chiropractor. This we did in the late afternoon, resulting in us being late back to Jo's. This was not very considerate of me, the more so since JK was still weak. The Ch pummeled me very painfully and gave a plausible diagnosis (ruptured acromia clavical ligament) and suggested treatment. So for the next few days I had two sessions daily. JK was fed up with the prolonged stay in SJ though I quite liked the bustling town. She says she hates big cities (despite choosing to live in London) and has objected to the time we have spent in Rio, Lima and now San Jose.

Anyway we got back to Jo's (after waiting ages for a bus then giving up and getting a taxi). We had quite a festive evening meal and some good conversation w Jo, who unfortunately will be going to the States and so would not be at Meeting. (We were hoping to get them all together and maybe give a talk or lead a community-building discussion).

Wed 13/6. Transferred to Casa Ridgeway. The other guests here seem friendly and interesting, the staff less so. As with so many Quaker run places it is over priced and offers sub standard facilities.

P.S. Actually it was today not y'day we met Wolf and Ileanna.

Thurs 14/6. Diego took us to meet Hernan Hermosilla, Sec of Forno Emaus, a consortium of churches, academics, NGOs and Unions whose aim is to alleviate the bad employment and environmental activities of the banana companies. Diego acted as interpreter, and I took copious notes, hoping to write an article later. For lunch we went to the University where D happened to meet a cousin.

Next ... To Monteverde


Journal, File name j010719b, renamed j10629.rtf 18/7/01. Rev 18/07/01

20/11/01: BU as old1mmdd.rtf then this was revised.


Saturday 16/6. To Monteverde (MV). We had decided to change plans and go to MV now earlier than intended, so as to leave ourselves freer in our third week in Costa Rica. It was a slow bus up into the pretty, lush green hills of central Costa Rica. We stayed at a hotel called the Manakin where we were allowed to do self catering. We had a nice room, though the walls were very thin, but very snug against the howling gales that are almost normal up here. But the hotel itself was poorly run and the kitchen very dirty. The first evening we had an excellent but pricey supper at a restaurant called Paradise after its Quaker owner. CR is very much more expensive than Bolivia or Peru and we are having a problem getting used to it. Moreover it is all very American and everyone speaks English, even the locals. So we are in mild culture shock.

Sunday 17/6. We walked up the road about 2 km to the Meeting House, getting there early i.e. during the singing of Q songs that precedes their Meeting for Worship (MfW). It was a delight once again after about two months to be in an unprogrammed MfW. It was a large Meeting, about 50, but with little ministry. One was the clerk, 'Lucky', who is Wolf's wife ... one gathers that Lucky and Wolf and to a lesser extent their many sons and their families are the mainstays of the Meeting. I hope to do an article on MV Meeting.

In brief MV as a place was founded by around 30 Quaker families, which emigrated here from the USA during the Korean War as a form of protest or rejection of their country's warlike policies. They were very successful as farmers and with a cheese factory. They also were the prime force to preserve a vast tract of Cloud Forest. The latter has now become a major eco-tourism attraction, which has led to expansion of MV to an extent unwelcome by some of its founders.

After the refreshing MfW there was an 'After Thoughts' session then introductions of the many visitors including us. Our Travelling Minute was read and we offered our services. It was agreed we should lead a discussion on Wednesday at the MV Institute, another Quaker establishment.

Monday 18/6. We spent the am shopping in nearby St Elena. In the pm we were voluntary helpers in the Friends Library. In the evening we attended a lecture at the MV Institute on Women's progress in the political structures of Costa Rica.

Tues. Cloud Forest.

Up at 0530 to get the early bus to the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. We spent a delightful morning (despite not hiring a guide) in the lovely woods, a beautiful spiritual experience. As we were leaving we again met Wolf, and heard that the new trail we'd seen volunteers building was designed by him and was to be named after him. He was one of the original founders and became the leading activist after the founder, ( ? Powell, also a Quaker) died.

Wed, 20/6

This was the evening we gave our talk to Friends (and three drop ins) at the Monteverde Institute. J and I spoke alternately, the subject being "Quakers - Christians, Mystics, or Social Activists?". I presented arguments for and against accepting modern liberal Quakers as Christians, J argued it is essentially corporate mysticism, and we both drew on our recent experience to demonstrate the essential connection between Friends’ worship and their social action. The ensuing questions and discussion were lively.

Thurs 21/6/01. In the morning we went to another Reserve, called an eco-farm. Less sophisticated than Monteverde, e.g. rougher paths. Initially it rained heavily which was not too bad except it kept the wild life indoors. When the rain stopped we saw many birds and some small mammals. Also lovely views.

In the evening we had been invited to dinner at the home of Steve Abbott and Andrea and their three v nice kids, Chris, Cary and Kevin. Basically a Canadian family. Andrea a woman of many talents had done JK's hair - long overdue. Steve grew up in India and is very well traveled. He drove us back in his extremely old Land Rover, despite it containing an inhabited bird's nest. We had walked up and down the rough road many times in the few days, including in the dark, and enjoyed the exercise but were glad of the lift.

Fri 22/6. In the am we went to a butterfly farm, actually I found most interesting their well-stocked garden of medical plants and their glass-sided ants' nest. In the pm we went once again to the MVI this time for a seminar on problems mainly financial re conservation areas. On the way back I went to the 'Children's Eternal Rain Forest' which with the land of the MV Forest Conservation Association is one of the biggest. Here I talked with its director, Paul Englander.

During the week we took one walk off the established trails, in the deep woods. Our aim was to find the studio of Sarah Dowell who I had met at the 1991 World Conference (and coincidentally with whom we had a mutual friend, Eliz O'Berry). It was fun traipsing through the wood, finding hidden dwellings, but we failed to find the studio. That day we also visited the cheese factory, watched the processing, and I had one of their legendary milk shakes.


Saturday 23/6/01 Return to San Jose. We took the very slow bus back, descending from the cool to the hot and humid. Arriving quite late at a bus station infamous for crime we were met by charming Napoleon Escobar who was to be our SERVAS host for 2 nights. This was a delightful visit. In the small, basic but clean and comfortable home were his loving wife Clotilde, their son and his gf, a dog a cat and another Servas guest who they had insisted overstay, as he was ill with a huge abscess on his bum. A German, Martin, forestry engineer, v tall and handsome. It was a lovely warm generous extended family. We slept in the same room as N and C and the dog and cat. The son and gf occupied the other room, euphemistically described as working late for an exam. Both N and C are active Peace workers currently doing a form of AVP as often as they can raise sufficient funds. They only need about 200 dollars a time to present it to about 20 people, usually drug victims. They had built their home using materials supplied by the Govt.

Sunday 24/6. Delighted that N and C and even Martin agreed to accompany us to Meeting. We had arranged to get there an hour early to lead a discussion group but the message had not got out. Nevertheless we did it with agreement that MfW start late. There were 12 present about twice normal. N was there for the 1st time for months having dropped out due to dissention. Deeply gathered meeting and good ministry inc from a weighty Fr who had not done so for ages. Afterwards we had a lunch mainly provided by Diego (who in addition to other roles is the Clerk) and Illeanna, delicious and all very friendly sauf one member still bitter over claimed lack of recognition of her leading role in the AVP movement here. We were assured later and it seemed true that it had all been a very healing and encouraging experience. Later Clotilde said she intended to apply for membership.

In pm we did banking and internet and shopped, as JK is to do supper. It was a huge fish pie and very good too, welcomed. Recovering Martin had the lion's share, to my chagrin.

Monday 25th. Atlantic (Caribbean) Coast

Diego took us on a trip to stay a few nights in SE tip of Costa Rica, the Atlantic i.e. Caribbean coast, to visit banana plantations etc and anti oil rig protesters. I hope to write it all up. It was very lush, with tropical forests down to the silver shore. It was hot and humid with many biting insects. We stayed in the grand weekend home of Illeanna's boss. It had large verandahs so we were able to watch the wildlife in the forest only 30 yards away. In the course of the three days we talked with Baptist minister (called Henrique de la O), two TU officials, a women's rights worker, two anti oil drilling campaign leaders, several bosses including the Chiquita area manager who came over from his (nearby) office in Panama, and visited a banana packing station , a workers' families' camp (they are mostly indigenous Indians or Nicuraguan immigrants), and a co-op of independent farmers who grow organic bananas to be made into a famous brand of baby food. We walked across the terrifying bridge into Panama and back.

We had some good swims in the warm Caribbean, off a long empty silver beach, a few yards from our temporary home. One of the places we visited was Puerto Limon, a dirty, dangerous city but very colorful and bustling, very Carib. In this area many speak English, as they are descendants of Jamaicans. Diego is a keen bird watcher, has a lovely bird book and powerful binoculars - by the end of the trip JK was near to being a real otwitcher.

Thur 28th. Back to San Jose.

It had rained torrentially and due to a blocked bridge we had to take to a back road through banana plantations and sleepy hamlets, which we would not have been able to navigate had it not been for Diego's 4WD. We were also held up for a few hours by a Campasinos' demo.

We had accepted Diego's invitation to stay at his home. Again a delight, with his extended family on a small farm in the hills outside San Jose - he had not warned us of his 7 dogs. Grandpa who does the farming and I got on very well.

Fri 29th. Into SJ for business inc booking a bus. We had decided instead of flying to Honduras as planned (and paid!) to go overland in order not to miss out Nicaragua. However the only available bus leaves at 0430!

Next: Nicaragua and Honduras.



Journal to 14th July, 2001.

File renamed name j10714.rtf and revised 18/7/01.


We got to the bus station in San Jose, Costa Rica, before 0400 and spent most of the day on the bus, except for a hectic two hours or so at the border, the most chaotic we had met. The day was fraught with problems and setbacks, compounded by heat and humidity, and J and I not in a good mood with each other. We got to our hotel in dreary, dangerous, sad Managua, very hungry and got caught in torrential rain while searching for a restaurant after having changed into our less unfresh clothes. In the evening I foolishly traipsed around looking for an ATM. (We keep running out of cash, and the ATMs (other than VISA which we don’t have) are getting more and more scarce. Later in the evening I had a sort of brief depression, J was supportive and I got over it by the ritual of sorting and folding my clothes, and went to bed with a Piriton tablet.

Sunday 1st July. To Grenada.

Bad times continue! Unable to find breakfast, hot and sweaty by 9 a.m., lugging our bags, we found the Quaker Peace Centre where we had understood there to be a Meeting for Worship but found there was none. We traipsed through hot streets (I with backache, but very glad I have hardly been troubled by this so far - there was a time when I had it often) to find a ghastly breakfast then returned to the Peace Centre for a two-person MfW.

I had been unable to get all my ‘essential’ stuff into one rucksack and so I have to carry another bag, in fact a US Army kitbag (one third full) wherever we go. As well as being heavy it is awkward, and a real nuisance when carried in the heat. I usually keep less wanted things in it, also our bundle of presents to give people, and a winter coat, bought in La Paz and not to be needed again until we reach Mongolia. But now I was so hot and depressed I resolved to give it all away. However reason prevailed and, leaving it at the Centre we set off on the next stage of our journey.

We took a taxi to the dreadful bus station where we witnessed a punch-up of a sub-normal-looking peasant, and some sexual harassment as we waited on the uncomfortable bus to Grenada.

However, Granada, an old colonial town, was as pleasant as we had been told and after booking in to a nice hotel we enjoyed strolling around the handsome town, and sitting in the cool square watching people, and parrots flocking like pigeons in Trafalgar Square.

Monday 2nd TO ALTA GRACIA, OMETEPE ISLAND. We had a most interesting breakfast. We went to the nearby market but found the eating area apparently not yet functioning - women were fanning open fires and loading great vats. I saw one stall open but we took bad advice as to where we might go. We wandered around in the heat arguing as to which way we should go and eventually ended up where we had started and at the place I had seen. I had what looked like a very appetizing thick soup which we were told was beef. I tasted some of the juice. It tasted acceptable but had a slimy texture. Then I looked closely at one of the irregular great lumps of meat and observed the lattice of stomach. It was tripe, which is my most disliked of all foods. So rather embarrassed I took it back and chose rice and beans, as J had sensibly done.

We had planned to stay two nights in G but while taking a pleasant walk by the lake (L. NICARAGUA) we found that the boat only goes on Mondays and Fridays so we quickly changed plans, packed, told our nice hotelier lady it was a great place but ... and soon were trailing our wheeled rucksacks along a long jetty to a rather decrepit looking medium sized ferry. Here we had a very pleasant journey, sitting on the deck with other backpackers - mainly a group of recent Oxford graduates - for the 5 hour passage to Ometepe Is. The boat stopped at a small pier, with no town visible, just a track into the vegetation, and were told this was not our destination. But most of our fellow travellers got off, and only when people started coming aboard on the single plank did we find this was it, so had a flap getting ashore, by which time the bus (actually a truck) had gone and we had to accept a lift from a hotel tout, not the hotel we had planned to use. It was exhilarating to stand on the back of the open pickup, enjoying the cooling wind as it drove though the evening air, 2 km along a bumpy track with jungle and occasional little dwellings on each side. This was J's first experience of travelling like this and she loved it. (As indeed she had loved the boat ride.) It reminded me of coming home by tractor with a load of hay after a hot dusty day tiring of haymaking. The hotel (in Alta Gracia) was OK though overpriced but J used her negotiating skills to get it reduced a bit (to about 7 pounds).

Tues 3/7/01. To FINCA MAGDALENA. We liked Alta G but took the very slow bus along the rough road to BLAGUES. Here we had to back pack seriously for the first time, i.e. convert our wheely bags to rucksacks and walk 2 km up a 125 m hill along a stony track. I almost thought I could not do it, my bag is very heavy. The Finca or farm is a co-op, having been expropriated from its absentee owner by the Sandanista regime and granted to its employees. They grow coffee, which is sold to supporters in British Columbia and Oregon, and raise cattle and horses. The farm workers and even very young boys seem totally at home on horseback. (Also all the men carry machetes and even the boys have them, fixed to their belts and trailing almost to the ground.) As a hostel the farm is very relaxed, with a large turnover as it is the base for the many young people who only come to climb the adjoining extinct volcano, from which they return covered in mud. We met Sue, a management consultant from London, who took us to see the petroglyphs (patterns etched onto rocks by prehistoric people) and adventurous Judith Magono, a German with whom we became very friendly.

Wed 4th In the morning we climbed part way up the mountain until we lost the path. It was very hot and humid. We came back slowly, into the cooling breeze, and stopped for a long time to watch the butterflies and ants. In the afternoon I had a short dizzy spell but soon recovered. Later at last my muse returned and I was able to write, mainly this journal but also a piece intended for submission to The Friend.

Thur 5th July. JK and Judith and I went down to the lake where JK and I had a refreshing swim. It was surprisingly rough, and because the shore was slippery stones it was not easy to get in and out. Also being fresh water the shore was infested with flies - luckily non-biting ones. We walked the length of the straggling village, stopping at one or two f the small, impoverished shops, and at a café that sold only Coca Cola products. In one place we saw a very old Petter engine being used to drive a rice mill.

Friday, July 6th. Back to Managua.

We were sad to leave Finca Magdalena, as we loved its relaxed, friendly atmosphere and had got to know several members of the co-op. We had a long talk with one, a fine old lady who now serves as the elected person I/c finance and marketing. I later wrote an article about it.

Judith insisted on helping us carry our luggage down the hill where we caught a morning bus that we had been told went to the jetty. However we found it did not, but then saw another which did. In rushing off on onto the other Jennifer left her beloved hat behind. The ferry was much smaller than the previous one, and again we sat on the deck. We had good conversation with two young Irish graduates. When we reached the shore we were inundated with touts, in fact some leapt aboard as we were mooring. (In fact it was a complex operation due to rocks and wind. The boat nosed up to the jetty at an odd angle, one mooring rope was secured, then ropes were used laboriously to swivel her around.) We charged through the bevy of touts and just managed to catch the express bus. In fact one of the touts, having realised we were self sufficient, changed his approach and simply helped us, as a friendly local assisting visitors. Not the first time this had happened.

Back in Managua we took a taxi (having at last come to understand their unusual system, in which one negotiates a price, per person!) To the Peace Centre hoping to pick up our bag. However when we got there it was closed and deserted. Very tired I went off to find a phone, and a phone card, but the only two numbers I had were not answering. However when I got back the staff had reappeared. As it was now late, and we tired, we decided to stay at the Centre for the night. It was very comfortable.

(The journal for the next 7 days was lost. The following will be a brief overview.)

July 7th TO LEON

After giving a talk over breakfast on Quakerism to 8 American students and their lecturer (who when asked if they were Quakers had replied no, they were Americans!) We set off again by taxi to yet another ghastly bus station to get a bus to Leon. We got to a hotel in a bad mood with each other and agreed to part but met up within a couple of hours, I think quite relieved to be back together. I had trudged around trying to find a bank that would give us some cash, to no avail. We had a busy evening, seeing a pro-Sandanista demo, talking to some of the participants, looking at the town, and having a pizza supper. When we got back to the hotel at 9.30 we found it locked up and everyone except a poor waif of a skivvy asleep.

Sunday July 8th. TO HONDURAS.

We took a bus to the border then hired a tricycle taxi to take us and our luggage across. One chap insisted on taking both of us but was unable to push us up the slightest slopes so I walked much of the way. Not far but very hot. When it was time to pay him off he and some mates demanded vastly more than we had agreed. J said I had been too soft as I had already tipped him for an extra service. I insisted we just walk away. Then another two buses, with a very difficult interchange, and we were at last in the cool upland town of San Marcos de Colon. A beautiful place but odd in several ways, including a notice in the hotel room saying do not spit on the walls. In the night we were woken by a strange noise repeated several times. It turned out to be a night watchman blowing a strange whistle as he did his rounds.

Monday, 9th July. TO TELA.

Got an early bus to the capital, Tegulcigulpa, where I dashed around and eventually found a bank that would give some cash. Then we caught a 2 pm bus to Tela on the N coast. During the journey J left her knapsack at a wayside cafe. When we arrived in the dark as she was reporting this, I, having said I would see to her luggage (we usually watch our own) neglected to get her red bag. How foolish I felt when I had to tell the staff I too had lost a bag! They were charming and next day we were able to collect both.

We stayed with a SERVAS hostess who runs a run-down, once splendid boarding house right on the sea shore, though at the ‘wrong’ end of town. We went out for an excellent though pricy meal - very slow service.


I lost my temper in the morning. We had not had breakfast and were traipsing around town buying a toy for our hosts child and looking for a bank, and for various reasons rejecting each place where we might have had some food. The last straw was when I realised I had left my passport behind and would have to fetch it to get money. So we were in a bad mood for about 24 hours. After getting my PP I tried five banks without success.

In the pm we went (on a hot noisy local bus) to a Garufina village, Triumf de la Cruz. Here we had an excellent fish lunch on the beach (under a thatched roof) and enjoyed it so much we decided to stay there. In the evening back in Tela we had a Pizza supper. Bad night again.

Wednesday. To Triumf de la Cruz.

Leaving the accursed kitbag with We took the bus to Triumf and settled into a cabin on the beach, after a swim. We had a long walk on the beach, still frosty. We had another good meal on the beach, the rather severe madam beginning to soften a little. Her husband had gone to sea for three days fishing. Despite having a good bed we had another bad night, arguing over the fan.

Thursday 12th. J’s bad mood continued. She became very depressed when she found she could not phone her son whose birthday it was, from this village. So I suggested we take the bus into Tela, which we did, and she spoke with Guy, which cheered her up a lot. While in town we arranged to go on a trip tomorrow, agreeing to pay then using travellers cheques.

Friday 13th. DAY TRIP.

We got the earliest bus to Tela, and waited till the tour shop opened only to find that as we (well, I) had forgotten to bring a passport they said they could not accept the cheques. But I located the boss and pleaded with him. He relented and we were off. First we all had to help launch the motor boat through the breakers. Then we all © 10 people) clung to our slippery seats as it bounced across the bay. It was very uncomfortable, literally spine breaking. We were taken on a jungle walk of about 45 minutes, interesting but very tame compared with the one we had done in Peru. Then off again to a place for snorkeling. This was great! I had not done it for decades. Then off again to a beach side hamlet for the usual grilled fish lunch. On our return I studied their Garifni Museum and learned a lot. I later wrote an article on it. Bus back to Triumf.

Saturday, 14th July. TO OMOA.

For the umpteenth time we found ourselves on the very hot, very distinctive local bus that plies between Triumf and Tela.. We picked up the kitbag , took J’s passport to the tour operator as promised, and plodded to where we had been told a train departed. But we found it did not run on Saturdays, so we had to get a taxi to the bus stop and get a bus to San Pedro Sula. Here we transferred to another bus station only a few hot hundred yards away, for a bus to Omoa. Here I took bad advice causing us to get off the bus too soon. We set off walking the 1 or two km but I saw a tricycle taxi which we took, not realising it was a free one for hotel guests. It took us to the unusual hotel our guide book had recommended, Rolli’s. He was full up but then said we could sleep in hammocks on his raised (i.e. first floor height) hammock platform. This we did but I soon found it impossible to sleep and found cushions to sleep on, on the floor, under my mosquito net. Prior to that, in the evening, we had a swim in the too warm sea and yet another grilled fish supper.


Journal, File name j010719d.rtf renamed and rev 19/8/01 j10721.rtf

20/11/01: BU as old1mmdd.rtf then this was NOT revised.


Awful Sunday, 15th July 2001 From Honduras to Antigua, Guatemala.

Jennifer had slept in a hammock all night and looked very comfortable in her mauve silk sheet sleeping bag, one of the gifts she'd received in England. I had soon found a hammock too uncomfortable and had found two mattress like things (unfortunately studded - I think they were actually setee seat-backs) which I put on the floor. I erected my mosquito net and slept faily well in a nice tent. (Recently I have been very careful with insect avoidance, applying DEET several times a day and when I wake up at night. Jennifer, more stoical than I, has had many more bites.)

We had to walk up the road carrying all our bags and even though it was before 8 it was unbearably hot, so we thumbed a lift in a pickup. We got a bus quite easily, taking us along dirt roads to a tiny crossroads village. Here we waited an hour or so for another bus that went along an interesting road to near the border. Here we had to get a pickup to take us just through the border, for which we were overcharged. The border guard also charged us several US dollars which we later learnt was unjustified. We then had to take a collectivo to take us further. It destination was Pueto Cortez but when we got to the road from P C to Guatemala City we got off as advised to save going into P C and back again. However this is where our problems started. After half an hour or more we found that all buses to Guat City swept by, full up, and were told we had no chance without having booked. So we had to cross the road to get a local bus to P C. Then a hot walk to another bus station where we found the bus would not leave until 2.30, i.e. over three hours after we had first waited for it. We had very small meals for lunch, one at a time, the other watching the luggage. We were down to the last of our money. At last we set off in the bus with a travelling friend who had been through the same process as we. A young born again Christian called Edgar. It was a very uncomfortable bus, with awful seats that gave both back and bum aches. We had travelled for about an hour when there was a loud hiss - a puncture. I took the opportunity while they changed a wheel to use a servicio of the hole in the ground with seat type. After a long struggle they got the overheated wheel off and the bald replacement on, and we all piled back. Only 100 yards later there was aloud explosion as the spare burst. So we all had to get out and sit by the dangerously fast road for what was to be an hour but turned out to be two, till a replacement bus arrived. Thankfully it was very comfortable and we slept most of the way to Guatemala City. When awake we were amazed by a fantastic electric storm that lit up the sky almost continuously for over an hour. It was beyond the horizon, and the sky was mainly clear but with a few low clouds that were lit up very dramatically by the sheet and fork lightening.

Arriving in G City around 10 pm, was not just depressing but frightening. It palpitated with a sense of crime - street after street ill it and deserted except for occasional loafers and prostitutes. We were told the streets near the bus terminal were extremely dangerous. The last buses to our destination Antigua, had gone and we did not have enough money for a taxi. There were no phones to be seen. We considered going to a seedy 'hotel' nearby, but then with the help of Edgar and another travelling companion we were able to use the latter's mobile to phone Christie, our host in Antigua, who said she would lend us the taxi fare. We were able to take both companions to or near their destinations on the 20 km drive. So at last, very tired hot and dirty we were suddenly in the most splendid house I have ever had the privilege to be in, and were sipping tea and talking with Jennifer's daughter Juliet, her mother, Genia, and the latter's cousin, our hostess, Christie. We both enjoyed a long hot bath, the first for months, before tumbling into fresh linen sheets on good firm beds.

Monday to Saturday, 16 to 21 July 2001 In Antigua.

The first morning Christie took us around her gardens which includes in effect a park or arboretum. She has four whole blocks of this very beautiful colonial town. The house is not over large. It forms two sides of a quadrangle facing into lawns and plants. The style is colonial, with many arches and pillars and a brightly polished red tiled floor to the passage-way open on one side to the courtyard, the other to the rooms, all with lovely old furniture and excellent paintings and sculptures, and adorned with many luscious plants particularly orchids, which are Christie's hobby. We were introduced to the staff who were to look after us, cook, housekeeper, Mario whose exact job title alludes me Catalina who helps in the kitchen and impeccably cleans and irons anything one happens to leave lying around, plus a gardener and several assistant keeping the plants and lawns and enormous grounds in order.

We have spent the days very lazily, a welcome break from our three months of interesting but often very irksome travelling. I have spent three or four half days typing up this journal at an internet café. I have also read a delightful, profound book by Bertrand Russell, called 'The Pursuit of Happiness'. On Saturdays Christie has guests for dinner and bridge - I shall try to look respectable in the only semi posh clothes I have brought, one of the reasons my baggage is so heavy, but not, luckily, one of the things I sent back to lighten the load.

Now I shall try to upload this journal to my web site...

SP, 21st July, 2001-06-19

Journal, from 22 July 2001. Still in Antigua, Guatemala.

(Written 19/8/01) 20/11/01: BU as old1mmdd.rtf then this was revised.

28/5/02 Minor Rev

Sunday 22nd. We took a bus into Guat City (having failed to locate any Quaker meeting in Antigua). It was evangelical but very liberal in many ways including the hour long sermon. Afterwards we joined the congregation for a lunch of home made tortillas. And talked with them especially a young trainee pastor

All week (except Thursday). The weekdays had quickly fallen into a pattern. About 8 the staff seemed ready for us so we indicated we were ready for breakfast. Like all meals this was formally served in the fine dining room by Tomasa, laboriously carrying large trays, and always serving me first unless specifically asked otherwise. After breakfast I usually went to the internet cafe. In the first week I was typing my journal. The second week I typed some essays for The Friend, one on the co-op in Nicaragua, the other on Quakers in Costa Rica. Later in the week I worked at opening a new email facility ( <>) and a new web site ( and uploading the journal to it. It was all much more difficult then I would have expected, partly because one was seldom on the same PC as previously. The back for lunch at 1, served as above, and a rest. In the late afternoon I might return to the computer. Dinner was at around 7 then Jennifer and I sat in the sitting room either reading, or playing cards, or watching TV. And so to bed.

On Thursday Mario drove us including a young couple, Christie’s step grandson Alexandre to an interesting town (?Chichitenango?) Where we bought many presents and J bought for me a red bag to replace my kitbag. We the drove to a lakeside for lunch. Alex and friend agreed with us on the type of lunch but we realized later Mario was disappointed we did not go somewhere more grand.

Sunday 29th July. We had breakfast with last night’s bridge guests and I had a long conversation with one of them, a chemist of Peruvian origin. We had heard rumours that there was after all an unprogrammed Q meeting in this town but had not tracked it down, so I decided to go to a Lutheran church nearby. J and Christies went to a concert. I found the service to be ecumenical, with a long period of silence and spontaneous vocal ministry. It was a small bright church and lovely people. I was very much uplifted by it.

Monday 30th July. TO MIAMI.

We had ordered a shared taxi which called promptly at 0725, then laboured around the town for half and hour, before being flogged up and down hills and through much of Guat City before getting us to the airport only a little late. We were greeted by a large notice requiring us to deposit guns before joining long queues. The plane left late, 1130. Air travel involves so much waiting. We had been 4 hours doing what would have taken a VIP three quarters of an hour.

Once in Miami and through the much improved immigration we had much hassle trying to phone - getting cash, and cards, and a phone line. The we rented a car - not from one of the more expensive, front line companies, (but it was a fine modern car) and at last drove off into the sunset. This was across the northern part of the Everglades to Naples, to book in to a Holiday Inn (amazingly cheap compared to its normal price) and had made contact and visited Jennifer’s friends, Leslie Waller and Pat. LW is a crime writer, but was ill having been knocked down by a car a few days before.

31st July. After an illicit swim and a very poor free breakfast we drove over to pick up Leslie who directed us around Naples to show it off to us. It was dripping with wealth. I went into the Post Office - always a pleasure in the US. We had an excellent lunch at a sort of Marina. In the evening we returned to their flat and Pat drove us to another excellent restaurant also situated on a marina. We had much good conversation, and watched a wild storm approach us over the water, before it lashed the building and set the outdoors guests and their tables and chairs flying.

Wednesday 1st July. TO ST PETE AND ORLANDO.

Pat rang to say Leslie was not up to what we had planned, so J and I set off. We tried driving on the old road but it was too slow so we had to use the Interstate (i.e.motorway). These are fine roads landscaped with trees, but the effect of these trees is to hide whatever one is passing, so using the Interstates is very boring. We got to St Petersberg and soon found the Dali Museum which we enjoyed. Then back onto a complex of Interstates through Tampa and on to Orlando where we arrived around 5. We had made arrangements to stay in Webster Cottage, which adjoins the Meeting House, but we had not been able to confirm this. However we found it open and after a few phone calls had it confirmed. So we settled in to this place which proved very comfortable and convenient.

The next few days were almost entirely occupied with arrangements to find and buy a car, and insurance and registration. It was all very irksome and bureaucratic and much more expensive than we had expected. We had almost no time to see the sights I had wanted to show Jennifer. However the car we obtained with the aid of Mary and Dean Engstom (and her Fleet Manager) is excellent. Extraordinarily pristine considering its age (1989). Also we did meet and spend delightful time with several Friends. Paul Davis came for a meal on Thursday. We had lunch with Dean and Mary and Martha Morris on Thursday, and had Vicki and her family (Bill and Amy) and Cathy and Martha round for a meal that evening.

On Sunday we attended Meeting where there was a good turnout. Orlando Meeting is far more active, and happier, than in the past. After Meeting, at the regular Meeting for Learning, J and I told a circle of about 12 about our journey, its purpose and what we were learning.

Sunday afternoon I took J to one of my favorite spots, Wekiva Springs. She was not over impressed by the swimming but we then hired a canoe and she loved paddling down the river between the densely forested banks. We saw much wild life including otters at play, but no alligators. On the way back we capsized. I swallowed some water and was occupied coughing for a while, she was in shock. We clung to the upturned canoe, and watched a paddle float away. A passing canoeist dived out to help us and together we got the canoe to the bank, which involved wading in 4 foot deep soft mud in which there were many sunken branches. At last we managed to empty the canoe and get back in, then go and retrieve the paddle. We were very grateful to the young man, who seemed of Greek extraction. During the afternoon I got very badly bitten by mosquitoes, mainly on my back. As we got back to the car there was a torrential thunderstorm and rather than wet the car seats I stood out in the rain in my swimming shorts, a delightful experience. On the way back I showed J where I used to live in Maitland.

Monday 6th July.

We had hoped to get away early but collecting the Volvo, registering it ($445!) and delivering the hired car took almost all day, a very irksome, tiring day for me, but involving a local bus journey which was refreshing, so we did not set off until about 6 p.m.. We were given a splendid send-off by Cathy and Martha. Then fast driving north up the turnpike then the interstate, and the now familiar search for a cheap motel. We have (I write on 19/7/01) become very impressed by the quality of these. We usually pay below $40 for which one gets plenty of space, usually a queen sized bed, soap and towels, air conditioning, free coffee, etc all very clean, though sterile and characterless.


We drove on country roads to the isolated home of Bob Allenson. J had commented on a book he’d written that we found in the meeting house in Orlando, and Cathy had arranged this meeting. He is a lovely man, and we had some deep conversation with him and Dorothy, over a spicy lunch he prepared. He showed us his collection of over 250,000 books.

Then more pleasant country roads to P where we found a nice motel (Knights Inn).

Thursday 9th July. TO NEW ORLEANS via MOBILE.

A lovely day (one forgets the bad bits, the boring driving, the ill humour) the guide book persuaded us to divert to Mobile where we drove to the historic quarter and visited an old ("ante-bellum") house and were shown round by delightfully old fashioned DAR ladies (Daughters of the Republic - an elitist ladies’ club open only to those who can prove descent from revolutionary families). This included polite conversation and spiced tea from elegant bone china cups.

Then on to N.O. which proved even better than expected. The whole town seems charming. We stayed with Donna and David in their large house full of exciting and beautiful works of art, and with a large gorgeous pool. We did a drive and walk to see the Mississippi River and Magazine Street, where we stopped at a bookshop and for tea. In the evening we had a meal cooked by David.

Friday. In New Orleans.

We were only able to spend one night with D & D. Today we looked around the town, I went to the PO to arrange to have SERVAS books sent post restante to Santa Fe, and had a ride on the free ferry while J explored the French Quarter and found a Jazz Museum. Then we had lunch at the original Po Boys (not very good) and heard some good live Blues, before retrieving the car and searching for a hotel. We looked over one that was too rough, but then found another that is quite good though run in an odd way. In the evening we went out again, to hear trad jazz at Preservation Hall (played by some pitifully old musicians) and two other places where we heard some not very good modern jazz then some very good blues.

Saturday 11th August. TO BATON ROUGE.

Up early, and an excellent breakfast at a nearby family run diner. Around midday we arrived at April m’s in BR where I soon got into conversation with Meph, an occultist, and saw his dark macabre consulting room. April had other ms Rose and Ashley, we had a splendid over rich tea then they had a session together. In the evening April and Meph took us to a brilliant little Blues place (Roscos Blues Box, run by Tabby Thomas "King of the red hot blues") where we heard some fantastic music inc Kenny Neil.

Sunday. North, stopping at New Providence.

April came to MfW with us. It was a good meeting and afterwards very friendly.

Then we set off again, on country roads, including the Trace, though a state park where we saw a large Indian mound. At the time we were looking for a motel we found ourselves miles from anywhere but at last found a place. We had been told NP was a dangerous town so we were fearful as we drove around looking for somewhere to eat. We found a ghastly place, of the Sonic chain.


In the daylight NP seemed a delightful place, and we only drove a little way before we stopped at the Louisiana Cotton Museum, interesting but with a very poor guide.

More pleasant driving on country roads, eventually arriving at the home of Scottie, a man my age, SERVAS, who lives in a super place in the woods, has his own lake and woods and well equipped workshop, makes wine, beer, and is interested in quiet country living and spirituality. We had a good walk with him through the woods and saw ugly great homes.

Tuesday. To TAHLAQUAH.

We had another good walk with Scottie, visiting the cabin of an eccentric retired priest, before setting off, again on good blue roads. We stopped in woods for our lunch and a sleep. We were now in a hilly part of Oklahoma. We have noticed how the various States differ geographically. Our aim in diverting here (on the advice of April) was to study the Cherokee Indian culture. We arrived at the Heritage Center as it was closing but were able to have a long talk with a Cherokee staff member (he acts in the daily drama about the Trail of Tears) and see the rather badly made reconstruction of a Cherokee village. Later we had another long informative talk with another Cherokee, who runs a specialist book shop. We found a motel with a nice pool.


Me up early, do the exercises I’ve now been doing religiously for 2 weeks, then a vigorous swim. I feel much fitter than for many years, and have lost a lot of weight in the past four months of travel, though I think I have put some on in the past week or two in the US.

We went to the Cherokee Nation offices and had another long informative talk with two Cherokee women officers, plus many handouts, then drove to an old antebellum house the home of the Chief and were shown round by a very keen energetic guide, also a Cherokee and related to the former owners and so to the Chief. She told us much including that the better off Cherokees driven out in the Removal had wealth and even slaves! Then we went to the Museum at the Heritage Center where we saw an excellent display about the Removal and the Trail of Tears. Seems they were driven ut not because they were savages, on the contrary they had ‘westernised’ as we’d say now and were an economic threat to the whites. Some were very wealthy, owning large plantations and slaves. They were removed but were able to travel separately and with less discomfort. The Removal was when all the five civilised tribes were forcibly removed from the eastern states e.g.the Carolinas and Georgia and forced to settle in the Indian Territory, now called Oklahoma, which they were promised would be theirs. This was around 1838. Later in the century much/most of the Territory was allocated to white settlers (by lottery or by Land Rushes).

In the evening our attempt to find a particular restaurant where there was to be live music was thwarted by yet another torrential thunderstorm, vast volumes of water and simultaneous lightening and thunder, so we settled for a scruffy looking ‘café’ in the old downtown are where we had the best steaks of our entire journey.

Much of our time especially J’s is spent trying to arrange accommodation for the next few nights. We have had mega problems getting SERVAS handbooks, and an up to date Quaker Travellers’ handbook, and great problems phoning with an expensive phone card. Often phones do not work, and are answered by machines.

Thursday August 16th On ROUTE 66.

We have decided to go by byways or blue routes as much as possible, and have been caught up in the Route 66 scene. So we have insignia, and stop at historic R 66 diners and museums and art deco buildings. However we whizzed through Oklahoma city on Interstates, at one time going round one bit three times trying to find our way. Often R66 disappears, literally under Interstate 40. We travelled in the right direction on a gravel road for some miles. We ended up at McLean, TX , and were delighted to find the nearby restaurant had live C & W music.

As we drove thu the northern tip of Texas we were delighted by the scenery, vast wide open space.

Friday 17th. To SANTA FE, New Mexico.

Again a thrilling drive, as the space of TX gave way to the flat topped hills of NM. We took a lonely road with fantastic views but no gas stations, so were worried we’d run out (plus it was very expensive). At last arrived in delightful Santa Fe, where (like few places, inc N.O and New York) people actually walk around town. We are staying with Lynne in her lovely art filled home. She is letting me use her computer where I have revised and corrected all my journal and written it up to date.

Saturday 18th August. Four months into our journey, in santa Fe.

We visited friends of Lynne’s, and went on a hike through woods along a mountain stream to a cold delicious waterfall. In the evening Lynne gave a dinner party for us and David and Natilie, (French American and English). And David gave us an excellent map highlighting Indian territory and advised us on a route through NM and Arizona.

End. j10818.rtf

Journal - j10824.rtf. Started 12.9.01, cont Fri 14

20/11/01: BU as old1mmdd.rtf then this was revised.

24/5/02 Minor amends

19th August, 2001. In Santa Fe.

I got up very early to work on this journal on Lynne’s PC. As it was an Apple there were some things I couldn’t do. At one stage I dashed down to the town’s public library to use MS Word to convert a text file into HTML code.

After breakfast we walked through part of the town to Meeting. It was such a pleasure to walk, instead of using the car, and such a lovely town. There were many others on foot, mostly going to the Plaza area for the big annual Indian Fair, which is on this weekend. MfW was quite full, and there was some good ministry. The Meeting House was donated by its former resident owner, the meeting room itself being L shaped so not all of us were visible to each other. After Meeting there was a long session in which all introduced themselves and made any announcements or pleas. Our Minute was endorsed by the busy Clerk. She then went on to hold a Meeting for Business with very few others, out in the garden. We had some long one-to-one talks, one with a young elder who was concerned about the lack of other young attenders, another with an interesting couple from Texas who invited us to their home and meeting in California. Eventually we left, to walk to the Indian market. The standard of the art and crafts was very high, and the prices the same. I was impatient to go the Art Gallery which we did to discover to our delight a free master-class being given by Pinchas Zuckerman, which we listened to in a magnificent old hall for about an hour. The content of the art gallery itself we found disappointing but the architecture was fine. We wandered around the bright busy streets and had a so called Indian meal, sitting at a picnic table with a range of local people, Indians, Mexicans and a black man (a worker in the nearby hospital). They expressed amazement at my ability to eat Mexican peppers without much sign of stress. (Actually these peppers were very mild.)

In the evening we went to the Santa Fe Opera House, an amazing piece of architecture. It was an extraordinary long way out of town. The performers were ‘apprentices’ of the Opera School. They did about 10 excerpts from various Operas. The quality of singing was very good (even by Jennifer’s standards), and we both enjoyed it immensely. (We were early and at the bar I rashly asked for a whiskey. The portion size was enormous, about four or five English measures. With great reluctance I felt I had to hide most of it in the shrubbery.)

Monday, August 20th To New Mexico.

David had given us much advice on where to go, what to see, which included leaving the Route 66. We went north to Ghost Ranch near Abique (?) where I had attended the 1994 triennial meeting of FWCC (the Quaker international organization). (On the way we stopped to get the car services at a ‘Quik - Lube’. They were indeed quick and inexpensive, and did a very thorough servicing. I felt it necessary to do this before the next stages of our journey when we would be far from services.) Ghost Ranch (a conference center run by Presbyterians, located miles from anywhere in magnificent scenery) was very pleasant. The staff very relaxed, the place very open and welcoming. We were able to wander around without any guides and without payments, and to help ourselves to tea or coffee, being trusted to donate. We went on a hike towards the famous sugar loaf peak, but only went about a mile up the hill before stopping to meditate etc, then return. Late in the afternoon we left. We were too late to get to our planned destination so stopped in a motel in a little town called Cuba.

Tuesday, 21st. We did not get up as early as hoped, and then fell for an American breakfast, so we did not get to Chaco Canyon as early as hoped - the object being to see it before the air became too hot. Despite this we parked and set off on the trail, which started with a very steep scary climb up the side of the mesa which overlooks the site. This was almost rock-climbing, J was quite affronted that we had not been warned how strenuous it would be. Once onto the mesa (the name for a flat topped hill) we enjoyed the walk, often being near the edge where we could look out at the magnificent scenery and down at the ruins of the ancient civilization for which the area is famous. Until about 1100 AD this was a major center of the inhabitants of central North America. The ruins are very splendid, extensive, the remains of large buildings some with fine brickwork. It was reminiscent of Pompeii.

Our walk took about three hours and though we had two half liter bottles of water each this was not enough, and Jennifer got the symptoms of dehydration (in my opinion; she refuted this and said it was just ‘the sun’).

Our next objective was Cibola National Forest which lay about 30 miles south. We had to choose, either a dirt road going direct south or a very long route with mostly better roads. We chose the direct route but it was indeed very rough. Not really bad, dirt road does it an injustice, it was gravel covered and had once been level. (There are several grades of unpaved road. Some gravel roads can be surprisingly level, one drives in comfort at about 40 mph. The only problem is dust.) By the time we got to the campsite in the forest it was getting a bit late. Moreover there was a rumble of thunder, and there we extra notices pinned to the notice boards warning of bears (and the day’s local papers were full of the report of a woman having been killed by one in her home). The only other campers were a tough local couple, hunters, who insisted on sharing their baked potatoes and sweet corn, and who advised us in no uncertain terms not to sleep under the stars as planned. (We had very good sleeping bags. They are winter thickness and have a built in firm base. But we did not have a tent.) So we had to sleep in the car with the windows up. Very uncomfortable, and a disappointing first time camping.

Wednesday, 22nd August. I was up early walking in the dawn hoping to see some wild life. We keep seeing signs warning drivers of elk, but never see any. Eventually I just stood or sat in a shaft of sunlight to get warm, and watched the birds. It was a lovely site, deep in pine woods. J got up quite early and we set off onto Route 53, and were lucky to find a good breakfast place, where we had a good meal and took advantage of their ‘bathroom’ to do our morning washing and shaving. We drove a long way this day (well, I drove - J had lost her driving permit and so had not been included in the insurance). Some of the way was on the Interstate (I40) but these have not been so bad since we left Florida as they do not have trees on each side obscuring any view. But part of the journey on I40 was right into the setting sun, which was scary. South of Flagstaff we found the R89A which took us south into our destination area, Sedona. By the time we got there it was dark, and we could not find the campsite we wanted, so, very tired, we decided to use a ‘Travel Lodge’ which differed from a motel in being quite a lot more expensive, with a better level of design but with fewer amenities, no TV (which we did not mind), no phone, and a lot of steps from car to room.

Thurs 23rd Aug. We left quite early next morning, not in agreement with each other over what to do or rather where to walk. I favoured a path we had been told existed nearby, along the river, with a chance to swim. J has been increasingly desperate to achieve one of her main aims of this journey, to get into ‘the desert’. She wanted to walk into the hills. Not that I didn’t, but I didn’t think we were in that sort of country. Anyway we needed breakfast, so tempers cooled as we found an excellent place, with healthy cereals, yogurt and fresh fruit. It was a lovely day, the air was delicious, and the scenery stupendous. Our second attempt at a walk also failed. We found a place where we had to pay for a permit to walk the local trails, and it displayed a map so we picked a likely looking trail, different from the one we had chosen from the poor map provided by the hotel. We couldn’t find it, but followed signs for another, but we could not even find the trail head. There was lots of building works going on and I thought it possible the trail had been deliberately obscured, so after an abortive trek of about 15 minutes I was for reverting to our original plan while J was for continuing to search for the latest. Eventually she stormed off into the bush and I settled into the car, with the air conditioning on (it was already very hot) expecting a long wait and looking forward to a chance to get my journal up to date. However I was already beginning to worry about her getting lost. "You mean you just let her walk alone into the forest!?", I imagined ‘them’ saying. My main point in the argument was that I would not be blamed when things go wrong. On the whole I see myself as facilitating and trying to support her, doing what she wants and going where she says. She very seldom accepts any advice, let alone any hint of leadership, from me. She was very anxious to find desert but she had accepted David’s advice to come here to Sedona, which is very beautiful but is not desert. I had advised a route north of the Grand Canyon, where I was pretty sure there is plenty of desert.

Anyway she returned quite soon and we set off she saying let’s leave this area. However we both wanted to see a chapel designed by Frank Lloyd Wright for which the area is famous. We looked around it separately. I found it very beautiful, striking, built into and out of the rock, and though small and full of other tourists I found it a place of deep peace. We got back into the car but as we drove out of the town I liked the look of the rough country so I stopped and we walked into it, i.e. not on an established trail, just around bushes and boulders and up dry streams, sitting in the shade of a desert tree for a period of reflection.

Then around midday back onto interstate roads as we headed north for the Grand Canyon. We arrived late in the GC area and had a few brief looks at it from various parking places on the rim. I was, as I had expected, very under whelmed.

We had more disagreement as to what to do esp where to sleep. J wanted to be under the stars but we were not sure of the legality of this in a National Park nor were we sure of the dangers (e.g. bears). We had a meal in a great canteen of a restaurant in the GC Visitors Centre (I complaining about the slow service - J was in a checkout queue for almost 12 minutes).

In the end J. accepted my idea of simply sleeping rough, but outside the Park. So we drove south about 10 miles then turned off onto a gravel road, and stopped in the middle of nowhere. There were no fences, just rough grass and scrub. It was dusk. After a while a pickup came along, towing a horse box, and we had a chat with the man who turned out to be the owner. He told us he too was English, as his mother was Scottish and his father Welsh! Then he asked us about the relation between these countries and I simplified the answer by saying Scotland and Wales were partially self governing, like the Indian Nations in the USA. He told us there were no bears in the area, maybe a few coyote. Then he said he must get home, it was another 20 miles (presumably all his land). We felt reassured to that he knew we were there. So we did get to sleep under the stars once again, and with a fair degree of confidence. The sleeping bags are very comfortable, having a built in sort of mattress. If anything they are too warm.

Friday 24th Aug.

Up very early, watched the sunrise, and drove to a National Forest where we stopped and walked into the woods for a good picnic breakfast. Then much driving, including more of Route 66, including a scary pass over the Black Mountains (?) to a town called Oatman, famous (and very full of tourists) for the wild burros that roam the street. All very like a traditional western. I bt several souvenirs. Then we again diverted (much farther than expected) to see London Bridge. It was transplanted into the desert but now a town has grown round it, called Lake Havasu City. All pretty ghastly. I think the lake is the result of a dam on the Colorado River. We continued along the C River, where still pristine it was beautiful, the more so since the country is barren and was very hot. At one small town we stopped for me to have a swim in it, but it is spoilt by many very powerful, very noisy motor boats rushing back and forth, often driven by rather drunk-looking very young looking people. When we stopped for gas I was rather sickened by the hugeness of their rigs, massive camper vans towing enormous glossy motor boats, all brand new and dripping with wasted wealth. Talk about conspicuous consumption! We stayed in a motel in Parker, still just inside Arizona. Tomorrow, California!

Journal - j10831.rtf and .htm. Written 12.9.01 to 20.9.01

20/11/01: BU as old1mmdd.rtf then this was revised.

24/5/02 Minor amendmnts.

Saturday, 25th August. To California.

We crossed the river on a messy bridge in the fag end of the town. Here the Oakies had been checked by vigilantes, and many brutally refused entry, while the police turned a blind eye. Only those with enough money were allowed into California. A mile or two down the road we were stopped, but only by friendly Dept of Agriculture staff. Now we were on a road straight as a die for about 50 miles, with scrubby desert on each side, and low hills in the distance. Eventually we came to a straggly town called 29 Palms, where we stopped and I had my first good Chef Salad. Suddenly the two track road became a 4 lane highway, there was much traffic and we realized we were in the outer fringes of the Los Angeles conurbation. Eventually we found Riverside and Corona, our destination for the day, but not before getting lost a couple of times.

People will tell one how to get somewhere rather than simply where it is. I find it very difficult to explain unambiguously how to get to a place and we have found again and again others also can seldom do so.

Our hosts were the lovely couple we had met in Santa Fe, Bill Hayner and Jane O’Sheilds. Both artists, both from Texas, both kind and interesting. They made us very welcome in their condo with its great view over the valley.

Sunday 26th August.

J and I got up early to have a swim in the nearby pool. Delicious! Later we all went to Meeting in Riverside (the Meeting is called Inner Valley Meeting.) This was unprogrammed worship, with some challenging ministry. Afterwards they had quite a long discussion period, and later J and I gave the shortened version of our talk, followed by a very lively question and answer period. We felt we had helped some of them and at least interested all of them. They also had a special Monthly Meeting so it was well into the afternoon before we returned. We did some work on Jane’s snazzy Apple computer. In the evening we all went for a meal at a Vietnamese restaurant.

Monday, 27th August. Going North at Last!

We had a horrendous drive on the network of freeways as we drove through the north west of greater LA. The speed limit is 70 or 80 mph and many drivers break it, so instead of the old way of driving, with several lanes all cruising along side by side, it is more like a British motorway on a massive scale, with trucks and sports cars careering along all at different but always breakneck speeds. Or maybe it is just that I am older?

The good things were that I had Jennifer as a navigator, and that the climate cooled surprisingly rapidly as we traveled north.

We stayed the night with a delightful elderly Quaker couple, Murray and Ernest Louser in the little town of Los Osos. He resigned from (but still attends) Quakers, because he considers them (us?) too elitist. M is a former school teacher and is an archetypal liberal weighty Friend. She is a great conversationalist. Their home is full of works of art, many of them humorous, sometimes a very dark humour. They live yards from a quiet bay leading to the sea. Many boats lay around with no apparent protection from theft. J and I had a lovely walk on the shoreline in the cool evening air.

Tuesday 28th. To Monterey

We drove north along the very beautiful Route 1, a road I have longed to travel for many years. (Freudian ambiguity - yes I would like to travel along it for many years, as does a man we met, a mature backpacker and beachcomber.) We had a good coffee break at Rugged Point, where we spent time planning. J left her jacket behind and we had to drive back 20 miles to retrieve it - maybe deep inside she too did not want to leave the area. However we had to hurry as we were to meet another of her new friends, Cynthia, at Big Sur. Hers was a delightful place, the sort one sees on movies, a pine sheltered lodge on a promontory looking out over the Pacific. While J and Cynthia communed I read and had a nap in their lovely but very expensive guest house. I had become engrossed in a book on how to relax when they finished. We were now ahead of schedule so I suggested we push on to Monterey for the evening rather than leave it till next day. J was not happy with this, she was spaced out from her time with C. and just wanted to have a peaceful reflective time. Eventually she agreed to 'do' Monterey, except that she was so negative about it that I could not enjoy it. However we found a market (despite it being evening) which cheered her up, as did a lovely clam chowder served in a hollowed-out sour dough loaf which was excellent. We then had a cheap Mexican meal which took its revenge on me next day. We also had a problem finding a cheap motel and eventually took one in the neighboring town of Seaside.

Wednesday 29th. Aquarium and to San Francisco.

Another thing I had wanted to do for years was to visit the famous aquarium. We were among the first in when it opened. (I had to go off searching for change for a parking meter, which though irritating at the time at least meant I was able to walk along the famous Cannery Row, and read a bit about it and Doc Ricketts, the famous marine biologist who was a model for Doc in Stienbeck’s novel.) The aquarium lived up to expectations. Though built much earlier it is even better than the new one in County Hall in London. The displays of jelly fish were particularly beautiful. They hold them in circular tanks with a gently swirling current and clever lighting that illuminates their long tails. There were many other gorgeous tanks and also a seashore habitat with real birds (and no apparent fencing) as well as an auditorium. Sadly we could only spend two hours there before pressing on.

Unfortunately we had gone too far north before checking our map and finding that our destination, Walnut Creek, is way over to the south east of San Francisco itself, so had to drive through the outer suburbs in the late afternoon rush, so we arrived at Nancy and Previn’s house late. It is a very large house by British standards. They were welcoming and we had a very large barbecue supper and much conversation about the old days, former colleagues, and the current job market for Contractors. (Nancy Gorman and Previn Mistry and I worked together at AT&T in Florida in the mid 80s.) The talk of computer programming work made me rather sad, the work was always a pleasure, I still miss it.

Thurs, 30th.

I did my exercises and had a swim in their pool before breakfast. It seemed strange to enter water that felt cold, though in fact it was not. We had a long slow breakfast with plenty of conversation, it seemed that Previn had no need to go to work early, and Nancy stays at home. Eventually we set off planning to drive to a BART station, park and go in and later return by public transport, but at each station we found the car park full, apparently because one of the highways had been blocked earlier. So we drove into SF and parked free at the Golden Gate national monument where a friendly park policeman told us it was OK to leave the car. After exploring the bridge (I walked half way across it and back while J waited impatiently) we had a good long walk along the shoreline which has been turned into a park all the way to Fisherman’s Wharf and to the street car terminus. The queue for this was one and a half hours but while we were consulting our guidebook a man insisted on telling us of another streetcar nearby, then as we thanked him he persuaded us to give him a tip. After such encounters one feels annoyed not so much by the tout as by oneself for falling for his game. The car ride noisily going up and down the incredibly steep hills was a great pleasure. In town we did a little shopping and had a cup of tea by which time it was getting too late to find the buses back to our car so we took a taxi. To our dismay the driver seemed not to have a clue and I had to guide him all the way to the Golden Gate using my detailed map. (To be fair we were not sure if the main road that goes over the Bridge was OK, as we wanted the car park served by a smaller road.) With Jennifer’s navigation we found our way back to what we thought was our destination in good time, but then found we were in the wrong township. Often one town can have the postal address of its larger neighbour.) It was a worrying struggle to find the right place, so we were again late for our hosts. As we did not know them well but they seemed rather formal, I was very worried.

Our hosts this night were my distant cousin Francoise nee Petter, now married to Alvin Buchignani. When we at last arrived at their long low home in the grand suburb of Moraga, they were very welcoming and seemed not a bit put out by our lateness. We had great conversation. We heard a lot about F’s family and her difficulty life after being evacuated in the war. Her father was the very brilliant and famous aircraft designer, but he was to put it mildly a difficult father. He eventually joined and gave all he possessed to an obscure religious sect, and rejected F and her sister. We also saw a very different type of parent - I have never witnessed a father so proud of his son than Alvin (with Francoise almost equally proud). Anthony is a young successful and apparently pretty rich lawyer who recently took up the design of and competition with robots, and has won almost all his matches. Alvin showed us recordings of TV shows in which his son competed, his radio controlled robot (a shallow box on wheels) drove competitors to their destruction under great hammers.

Friday 31st August. North from San Francisco.

I had been worried by our car’s brakes which made an odd noise, so we stopped at a garage to have them checked. The front ones were worn out so we had to wait a couple of hours for them to be fixed. Once again we had a mega row, this time apparently triggered by me getting cross with the gas pump attendant, who did not seem to understand "fill up". I do not know if he was troubled by my apparent exasperation as I went back and forth from pump to office trying to get the tank filled but J took exception to it and we remained on non speaking terms for a few bitter hours.

When we did get off at last, around 1 p.m. we found ourselves in horrendous tail backs as everyone was pouring out of SF for the start of Labor Day weekend. So we had several hours of crawling traffic, with occasional mad bursts of high speed. By late afternoon traffic had thinned and we were cruising through lovely forests of redwood trees. We found a campsite (run rather officiously by a Brit) where we hired a cabin - bare except for two beds and a table and chairs. We ate our picnic supper outside at a picnic table, to the sound of the many campers and their children. We walked a hundred yards or so away from the glare of their gas lights into the quiet forest, where the bright moon found occasional gaps between the trees, and sat at the foot of a giant redwood for a very peaceful half hour before turning in.

End of this section. To be called j10831.rtf and .htm

Journal - to September 3 2001.

20/11/01: BU as old1mmdd.rtf then this was revised.

24/5/02 Minor amends

Sat, 1st September, TO OREGON

We got up early, before anyone else as far as we could see, and found a path that led steeply down to a river. It was very beautiful, a real picture of river, forest and sky. Though the water was shallow we swam - I’d brought my swimming things but J and not so she swam nude. It was very refreshing.

Instead of staying on the main road (itself not the freeway but the old road north (Rte 1) we took the so called Redwood Trail, winding through superb forests, in which we stopped a few times for a brief walk. Later the road took us along the shore, so we also stopped at one of the many Beach Parks - in effect no more than a car park and a few notices asking us to respect the flora. The one we spent most time on was empty except for a distant man fishing, and we watched what I thought was a school of seals. That night after searching for somewhere to camp we eventually lay our super sleeping bags with their built-in mattresses on the gravelly space beside a minor road, and by a creek. There were many interesting sounds in the night, mainly the wildfowl. We were not sure of the legality of camping wild so were horrified when a police car drew up, but it was stopping a motorist and eventually went off having only briefly shone his torch at us, on the ground beside the car.

Sunday, 2nd September.

We had only a few miles to drive to the home of Jean Kemball near Florence. She was the only member of the tiny Worship Group able to attend Meeting, so we three held it in her sitting room. Afterwards we added our supplies to hers to make a good salad lunch. Then we had a long fast drive inland to Portland, where we found a motel for the night.

Monday 3 Sept. To Port Angeles, Washington.

We had seen signs pointing to George Fox University so after breakfast we decided to have a quick look. It was an impressive campus, and as we studied a map of it we were approached by a friendly man who sent us to a place from which a daily tour was about to depart. We joined it as were shown many impressive buildings, labs, etc. The tour ended outside a large hall into which hundreds of students were going, apparently to morning chapel, to which we were invited. We were surprised to see that each student was having his or her ID tag scanned, and found that it is compulsory to attend at least 22 sessions per semester. In our Quaker tradition the idea of compulsory worship is rather shocking. The service started with a young (but adult) pastor trying unsuccessfully to ingratiate himself with the crowd of about a thousand with jokes about the local football team. He then delivered a homily part of which was to deplore the lack of integrity of those who get their ID scanned then immediately leave by a side door. He said "I know many of you do not wish to be here … and that’s OK". Jennifer and I felt like saying "No, it certainly is not OK!". Then there were some incredibly simplistic sentimental hymn singing, to the accompaniment of a swinging band (the guide had described as awesome - her reason for being enthusiastic about going to chapel). It was all so awful the J and I left after half an hour. We found a student outside with whom we struck up a conversation and he confirmed that it was compulsory - exemption could be had on grounds clash of schedule, but not belief.

Then we did some fast driving along the beautiful coast road out of Oregon and into Washington state, along a beautiful Sound, eventually to Port Angeles. Again we looked for somewhere to camp. We drove inland up the lower slopes of Mount Olympia to a State Forest office which was closed but where there were signs about the danger from bears. They said one should only use campsites with bear fences. So we drove up into the forest and found a site deep in the woods, with several other campers but we had very little contact with them. We lit a lovely blazing fire, initially from wood we collected, but then using chopped wood brought around for sale. (This was the only commercial venture here.) Once again we lay our sleeping bags on the ground under the stars, or at least those stars that could peep through the tall treetops. It rained in the night but not enough to persuade us to retreat into the car.

Next - To Canada.

Journal - Started 13/10/01. file name j10915.rtf and htm

20/11/01: BU as old1mmdd.rtf then this was revised.

24/5/02 Minor amends.

This section will cover 4th to 21st September, 2001, the period we were in Canada.

Tuesday Sept 4.

We had slept well under the trees in a basic camp site in Olympic National Park, in Washington State, USA. We got up as quietly as possible, stowed the sleeping bags in the back of the car and drove off quietly so as not to wake people. We drove down through the forest towards the sea, stopping at a viewing point to eat our picnic breakfast. (Mine was a delicious though cold fish dish from a doggy bag, the remains of a fantastic but too large fish dinner.) Down at the still unopened office we used the loos for a wash and to clean our teeth, the drove on down into town (Port Angeles) to the ferry. It was a simple and delightful border crossing, with a very friendly welcome at Canadian customs, at the small, homely port at Victoria.

We had a busy, tiring day in Victoria, such a pleasant town. We found the huge library where J did lots of emailing while I sussed out the newspapers with a view to advertising the car. Then to visit Gordon and Lisl for tea, such a warm reception, and a chance for a rest. In fact we stretched out on their sofas for a brief nap! Throughout our stay G & L were to be such great helps. They have been our post point, so we had several very welcome packages to collect. Then we went off looking for a motel and soon found one that was good tho not cheap. We went for a meal at a nearby family restaurant. The food was good and the waitress very friendly. Canada definitely differs from the USA in its friendliness; it seems so much more genuine here.

Weds, Sep 5

We had a good brkfst at the same rest. We’d used for supper, enjoying the walk there in the fresh morning air. Then into town by bus. After weeks of resisting it we finally agreed to buy a mobile phone, as it is obvious we need a phone number for use in selling the car. We shopped around for it, enjoying Victoria’s shopping streets, and stopping at a good health food restaurant for lunch - so good to find fresh wholesome food! We put an ad in several papers, asking 4800 US dollars or 7000 Canadian (we had paid 4500 USD for it, and had done 5000 miles).

We went to the museum in the afternoon, enjoying the historic British Columbia galleries. Then a short distance to G & L’s for a supper party with Christopher their son and his partner Linda. We felt we got on very well with them all.

Thurs 6 Sept. To Sidney.

Jennifer rushed me in the morning, and anyway I do not like moves, so we set off in a bad temper. We had a glum breakfast, then went to collect the hub cap to find they’d let us down, it would not be available till mid afternoon. (I forgot to mention that hours after we left the garage in Morona (?) CA where we’d stayed with Francoise and Alvin, we found they had left off one of the hub caps.)

We went to collect Lisl and took her to two shops including a co-op that imports goods from the third world, where we had good discussion with the staff including one who J particularly want ed to meet. After dropping Lisl J and I had a good walk in Beacon Park where we talked with a First Nation artisan who was restoring the totem pole that normally stands on the hill, apparently (one of) the tallest. We went down to the beach for our picnic lunch (this is not nec. In chron sequence!) where I was thrilled to see kite boarding for the first time. L9ike water-skiing but propelled by a kite as big as a microlite, enabling high speeds, and often lifting the skier way up over the water.) After collecting the hub cap we drove on the old road to Sidney where we found the super home of John Marko and Susan Astill. Here we were to spend several very happy days. The house is completely surrounded by trees, i.e. set into the forest. The building is fairly large, and full of interesting books. I had great conversation with John mainly based on his hobby, history.

Fri 7 Sept. I had a long walk with the dogs quite early in the morning, setting off before the others were up. After breakfast she and Susan went off for a meeting of a women’s group, John had gone to his job (and engineering consultancy) I stayed home and did a bit of housework then went to the local library to do some internet work, and had the car cleaned. I had lunch on the beach overlooking the harbour and the sea towards the mainland, where Mt St Helen’s was visible in the distance. I was on my own until I got into a chat with an ex-pat from Yorkshire. At supper there was less conversation, I wondered if I had been rude. At night I lay awake worrying about selling the car, so far we have had only 3 tentative enquiries.

Sat 8 Sep.

I walked the dogs again, this time with Jennifer. We went through the forest, up a hill (Horth Hill) from where there was a superb view over fields and forest, sea, bays and inlets, islands and the mainland, boats and ships. I find it all very evocative, delightful. J has a theory that it appeals to me specially because it is the scenery of my childhood. Later I did some gardening in sweltering heat. In the evening there was a supper party with extraordinary Miles and witty Belinda as the other guests. The repartee between John and Miles very clever and amusing though horrifyingly savage. B egged them on brilliantly. Miles has an exceptionally ugly bulldog that he adores, but was the object of John’s scorn.

Sunday 9th September.

We drove into Victoria (on the new motorway) and picked up Lisl and Gordon, dropping L to pick her up later. With G we went to the Meeting in which his grand-daughter (Chris’s dau.) is i/c the small children G is a revered elder of the meeting. We had good conversation with several members, one of whom knew me from reports in The Friend when I was on Sufferings. However we had to leave quickly as we had a lunch date with Andrew and Maureen. Andrew was a bit harassed as he is taking over as Dean (?) of the Laws Dept of the University, having completed several years as a leading member of the Govt of BC, ending as Attorney General. However he was very attentive and charming, even when accosted as we left by someone trying to use him as if he were still a politician. We took G & L home and took advantage of their offer to swim in their apartments’ pool. We had a quiet evening, John and Susan being out.

Mon 10th Sept.

Again I had the pleasure of taking the dogs for a walk in the woods. My scheme for training them is not working. (It is based on operant conditioning that I learnt about in my Intro to Psychology course with the OU back in the e 70s, and have been waiting for an opportunity to put into practice.) I took the car into town for an inspection required before importing it into Canada, and to show it to two prospective customers. The MVI took all morning during which I did several jobs around town including finding about transport and visiting Customs.

Tuesday 11th September. The day of the attacks on USA.

I got up early to do this journal on John and Susan’s computer. I was quite pleased as at last I got our site on up to a state where I can publicise it amongst my friends. I heard their phone ring a couple of times. Eventually John bustled down and turned on the TV next to me. As I continued to work I saw these unbelievable pictures. Eventually I stopped to watch and saw the awful sight of the plane flying into and seeming to be absorbed by the second tower of the World Trade Centre, then a huge flame bursting from the other side. My first thoughts (after intense concern for the individuals affected) was to hope that this act would at last wake the Americans up to the degree of hate and anger they generate by their clumsy, selfish foreign policies. In the following days I was heartened by what I heard on the Canadian media most of which was similar, i.e. that the atrocity must cause us to think deeply about why it happened, but unfortunately the American media seemed obsessed with talk of retaliation. It was good to see the New York Times a week or so later express what I would call an intelligent response, but I had not realised until more recently (I am writing this on 127th October) what a minority the NYT represents.

Jennifer was also very shaken by the TV (she usually refuses to watch it) and to regain our equilibrium we went for a walk though the forest and up the hill, sitting in the sun in the cool morning air, looking at the lovely view, and meditating or trying Quaker worship. However we had another disageement on the way down as I suggested I go to Comox on my own while she is busy here with her women’s groups. So I had another glum day. I went into town to show the car to our prospective purchaser, a woman artist called Dar Churcher and accepted her offer of 6500 Canadian dollars. This would be after I have formally imported it into Canada.

Wed Sept 12.

Once again I had a great walk with the dogs through the woods, then J and I drove into the local town, Sidney, to do some shopping, post some parcels to UK, but mainly to import the car which we found we could do at the airport, saving a journey into Victoria. We planned our tour of Br Columbia, including a decision to change our plane tickets to have more time here at the expense of time in Hawaii. In the evening I brought in a Greek meal as a celebratory last meal, but when I got it home we found it too little, so J knocked up a nice dish based on a large tine of mixed beans. It was quite a festive meal, followed by a pleasant evening.

There, 13th Sept.

I got up early to write a long letter to Rosemary and another shorter one to Helen, enclosing her a cheque for 21,000. This is the third time I have written a cheque for this money to her, she simply lost the previous two, or kept them so long they went out of date. I have been holding the money for her since c March 2000. I do not remember what we did today, except that we ended up at Gordon and Lisl’s for a supper party with Chris and Lynda. Very nice both of them, and a good evening. I am only sad Gordon seems inhibited in company. During these visits I have got to know Lisl much better, but Gordon seems shy and self effacing. I remember when I visited them in 1994 and he took me on a drive he was very forthcoming, especially about he life which has been full of the most interesting experiences and acquaintances. We drove back late.

Friday, 14th Sept. Goodbye to the Volvo.

I had a final dawn walk with the dogs of whom I have grown very fond. Am I the townie I usually consider myself to be, or am I at heart a countryman, happiest walking with my Labradors through the forests and fields? Then sad farewells and we drove into Victoria for final shopping and for a lunch party at G & L’s. This was with their Bridge group, so the 8 of us had a lively discussion over the excellent meal. Then we went off to hand over the car. This took longer than expected, for one thing Dar’s mother is to be the official owner, and secondly we had to take her and it to a place to fix registration and insurance. Dar’s boyfriend drove us, cramped with all our luggage, back into Victoria, to Chris’s house. J and I after settling in and exploring their fab garden (and eating a lot of windfall plums) went to the nearby centre and had a good meal in a replica of an English pub. (Pretty accurate copy except that we were served by pretty waitresses rather than having to join a scrum at the bar.) I had a celebratory one and a half pints of Guiness. Chris and Lynda returned quite late and we had good conversation then and over breakfast.

Saturday, 15th Sept. TO COMOX.

Chris took us to the railway station, one of the least impressive I have ever seen. After an interminable wait we were at last aboard under the eye of a very controlling conductor, and set off to trundle north along a very pretty line. We got to Courteney station where a hire car firm was to meet us, but had to wait ages. Once they arrived they were very efficient and we were soon driving off in a good car with a few faults (the hire firm was a concessionaire of Rent-A-Wreck).

We drove to Comox, only a few miles, and located the area where The Fort was said to be, but could not find it. Then we drove on into Comox and stopped at a travel agent to book a flight from St George to Vancouver, and to have our tickets to Hawaii changed. This was all much more difficult than it should have been, and we were very grateful for all the effort the agent took on our behalf. Then we found a museum and archive, dived in and found quite a lot about The Fort and Sir Ernest Petter. Now it was time to drive to meet Cathy Talbot at Kye Bay. We had contacts with Cathy through her being a Servas host (but unable to put us up as she already has a Br couple), and also because when I phoned a number given to me as Nora Idiens’s I got through to her. In fact I was quite confused. Moreover she told us her mother might have had us but she was away this weekend, as were all the local Quakers, to attend the Quaker wedding in Victoria that we’d heard about when we attended last Sunday. It turned out that Cathy is a close friend of both Nora Idiens (with whom she lived for a while, hence the phone numbers) and with the Petters, particularly Chris. She is also a lovely, very interesting, well travelled woman and we had a great tho all too short time with her. Kye Bay is where we used to go in the summer when I was aged 3 to 7, and for the first time I started to recognise places. (Also I remembered the distinctive smell of the place, mainly that of rotting seaweed.) Cathy lent us their canoe and J and I paddled up and down the bay, nervously remembering that last time we canoed we capsized. Soon we had to dash off, to find accommodation and have a meal before our appointment with Nora. We couldn’t agree on a very rough looking old motel even though it was cheap. We also wasted too much time looking for somewhere to eat, so we were not too happy as we dashed off again to Nora Idiens’s house, which thank goodness we found without much difficulty. She wanted to see me and have a talk but was preoccupied as her son (John, with whom I played as a boy) was on one of his rare visits. Despite this Nora told me about the ship on which she brought me to Canada in ?1940 and we discussed how parents such as my mother could have let their children go. With hindsight we see that the experience was disastrous e.g. for me and Rosemary, Francoise and Marion. Apparently Nora had Rosemary thrust into her arms without any warning (and without any spare nappies, etc)

We then drove back to Courteney, stopping at one or two places re accommodation but they were either full or too expensive. In town we drove up and down for over half an hour searching for a motel and at last found an expensive one were we stayed.

Sunday, 16th Sept TO PORT HARDY.

File name j10915

15 Sept continued j10921.rtf

20/11/01: BU as old1mmdd.rtf then this was revised.

Minor revisions 25/5/02

Sunday 16th September. TO PORT HARDY.

I had wanted to wake early and go on my own to The

Fort and to Lilac and Rose Cottages, so was grumpy

when I found I had overslept. J wanted breakfast

first so we had it near the bus station then drove

back to Comox to see The Fort. It looked as I

remembered it except that it was now hemmed in by

other houses including two on what was the magnificent

lawn. To my surprise there was someone in the place,

doing some carpentry, and on getting into conversation

with him I found he had recently bought it and planned

to use it for professional offices. He was removing

ugly additions that the previous occupants, a

Government department (Social Services?) had

installed. I was able to look around. The dining room

was as I remembered, beautifully pannelled, as was the

hall, but both seemed very small compared to what I

remembered. I took a few photos, inside and out, then

rejoined J waiting tin the car. We decided there was

not time to go over to Lilac and Rose Cottages, so

headed back (faster than the very slow speed limits)

to drop her and our luggage at the bus station while I

returned the car and came back by taxi.

We then had a pleasant bus journey of many hours north

up Vancouver Island to Port Hardy, and after J had

been to the visitor centre we decided to go to a hotel

or hostel nearby. We got into a bad mood with each

other yet again, I forget why, so I went off on my own

for a long walk around the small town. J cooked a good

steak supper and we went to bed early, as we had to

rise early and also we expected to be wakened around 2

a.m. by another occupant of our room who was due to

come in on the ferry.


Additional notes.

Nora told us about the ship we (She, her son, Rosemary and I) sailed across the Atlantic. Apparetly a frigate with a strong escort of destroyers - this was before the use of convoys. They wondered why such a powerful fleet. Well after the war she learned that beside carrying me the ship carried Britain’s entire wealth - all the gold reserves and all valuable securities, which were stored in Montreal during the war. Churchill intended to conduct the war from Canada should Britain fall.

Nora also told us exactly where Lilac and Rose Cottages were located (very near where she now lives) and also how to find The Fort. I stopped to try to see the Cottages but it was dark and there were new houses in front of them (I remember they lay well back from the road) so we could not see them.

Nora told us exactly where The Fort is to be found,

and also the location of Lilac and Rose Cottages where

I lived c 1940-44. I stopped to look at the latter

but as it was dark, and it appeared new houses had

been built in front of them (I remember they were set

well back from the road) I was unable to see them.

So we drove back etc as above.


We then drove back to Courteney, stopping at one or two places re accommodation but they were either full or too expensive. In town we drove up and down for over half an hour searching for a motel and at last found an expensive one (a Best Western) were we stayed in unaccostomed (and unused/unwanted) luxury.

Sunday, 16th Sept TO PORT HARDY.

I had wanted to wake up early and drive alone to The Fort, but overslept. J insisted we have breakfast, which we did near the bus station (in order to be sure where it was) then drove back to the edge of Comox to look at The Fort. Incidentally so called not to describe it but a nearby First Nation fort, the scene of many bloody battles between warring tribes. We found it and J sat in the car while I walked round it and took photos. To my surprise despite the early hour there was someone inside doing repair work and on getting into conversation I found he had recently bought the place and was restoring it to its former glory. I took some photos of him and also the interior, including the dining room (scene of large, semi formal dinners, with Uncle Ernest playing up to the many children) and the hall (scene of the huge Christmas trees), both of which seemed very much smaller than I remembered.

Then a dash at above the very low speed limits to drop J and the luggage at the bus station, and to take the car back to the garage, and an agonising wait for a taxi, back to the bus just in time. Thew journey all day north up Vancouver Island was mostly beautiful, but I must admit we had had so much staggering scenery recently that it has not made a great impression on my memory.

We got in to the small port town at about 5, and Jennifer spent time at the Tourist Office deciding on a hotel while I minded the luggage. We decided to use the one that is practically on top of the bus stop, a hostel where we were to share a room with another guest due in from the ferry at about 1 a.m. We had a walk around the town and bought steak etc to cook for our supper. I walked out of town, hoping to stroll in some of the forest that surrounds the town, but instead found myself in an area of low income apartments.

Monday 17 Sept. TO PRINCE RUPERT

The purpose of this journey was to see the magnificent

British Columbia coast from the deck of the ferry

which goes north along the Inner Passage between the

islands and the mainland. It was still dark, and

drizzling, when the shuttle bus collected us at 5 a.m.

While it was wending its way to different hotels I

realised I had left our mobile phone at the hostel, so

when we arrived at the port after some shilly

shallying a message got to the hostel and a taxi was

hired to bring the phone to me.

Once aboard, J and I differed as to where to station

ourselves. Silly as we both agreed, unlike 99% of the

passengers, that we wanted to stay on the open deck,

but I wanted to be able to face forward but she

firmly ensconced herself facing the stern and buried

herself deep in a book.

The voyage was something of a disappointment as there

was low cloud all day and rain much of the time.

However we did see whales for our first time. Also it

was impressive to be sailing very close to the steep

sides of islands.

It was dark as we berthed in Pr Rupert, and silly

rules made us stay aboard for half an hour after the

cars started unloading (we had also been required to

embark an hour before sailing).

We found a reasonable, cheap hotel.

Tuesday 18th. To Houston, British Columbia.

Breakfast was standard stodge, but I found the other

guests interesting. Then we had to lug our heavy

cases about three quarters of a mile to the bus

station. Once there I dashed off to visit a bank,

post letters and buy a newspaper. I was told there

had been none since Sep 11. All the mags were

pre-attack, another era, it was interesting to see

what had concerned them then - mostly anti-Bush.

The bus set off (1115) at a crawl, speed limits are

very low in BC and apparently firmly enforced. Much of

the journey was very beautiful, with mountains and

great rivers and lakes. Quite a lot of people

fishing. At last (1700) we arrived at Houston. Marion

was there to meet us, seeming very pleased. She

showed us around the small town before taking us up to

their house in what in UK we call an estate. In the

evening we went with her as she took her dog for a

walk around a small lake. She did a splendid dinner

each evening. We had much conversation about our

family, and she and J found much to discuss re

spiritual and religious beliefs and practices.

Wed 19th. to Friday 21st September.


J and I accompanied Marion to help her in the local

high school where she prepares and serves snack food

at lunch time. The kids were interesting, boisterous

but essentially well behaved. In the evening J and I

went with Jim to a Bible Study class. There was not

much BS (just a talk on Jesus' use of hyperbole) but

it was a very friendly affair, with 12 or so of the

keenest members of his congregation.

In my diary of first record I seem to have got the

days here confused. What we did in Houston was: one

day there were guests for lunch, Deb and Charlotte,

two sort of area Superintendents of Jim's (United)

church. That was interesting, I compared some of

their organizational problems with those of Quakers

in Britain. Another day we went for a walk but J was

disappointed as we never got out of earshot of

Houston's (mainly timber yard) industry. Another day

we did manage to go on a really good long walk, the

guide being re the trails as ski-hiking. I spent quite

a time on Jim's and later on Marion's computers. I am

always trying to snatch time in a desperate attempt to

get up to date (as I write this it is Oct 17). J gets

very angry about it, seeing it not only as cutting her

out but as negating our aim to achieve a simpler life

style. We also find we need to spend a lot of time

doing e-mail, mainly re arrangements for the next week

or two. J handles most of that to my great relief -

she is much better at it than I.

At 1700 on Friday we got back onto the bus from Pr

Rupert and drove through less spectacular country to

Prince George, arriving around 10 pm.

end this section j10921.htm and .rtf


JOURNAL Saturday, September 22, 2001. TO HONOLULU.

20/11/01: BU as old1mmdd.rtf then this was revised.

26/5/02 Minor amendts

Saturday, September 22, 2001. TO HONOLULU.

We had stayed at a grotty motel, clean enough but

very down at heel, and apparently used by hookers.

However we found a good breakfast place nearby and

then I had a little time to do some shopping before we

got the shuttle to the airport. Though only a small

regional port we found security much stiffer, due to

Sept 11. I found the notices about the crime of

joking (about terrorism) rather hard to take.

In Vancouver airport we found that our change of

ticket did not cause the problems anticipated by the

travel agent, so we soon found ourselves checked in

and with about 5 hours to spare. We had some

disagreement as to what to do in this time but I

succeeded in persuading J to come with me by town bus

into the city. Once there we looked around, had a

trip across the harbour and back in a ferry and spent

some time in a nice cafe with live music, before

traipsing back to the airport in good time.

Security, especially the X ray area, was chaotic and

very tense. I was closely frisked. The out side of

the X ray machine was piled up with luggage - I picked

up my knapsack as usual and went off to the gate

trailing far behind J who had dashed off in anxiety.

Only later did I realise I had left my bum-bag,

containing all my most valuable documents, in the X

Ray area. This was very foolish of me, especially as I

did not notice its absence until we got to HNL.

The Air Canada fight was OK, except the film was

rubbish. We arrived around 1 a.m. I went off to

report my loss and an Air Canada woman took all details and

promised to do what she could. I neglected to note her

name. We then got a taxi, there being no buses, to

the Quaker Centre. (Actually the taxi was a stretch

limo, my first experience of one.)

Sunday 23rd September.

We had breakfast with the very affable resident

Friends, Verne and Shirley. Then a busy MfW followed

by a long period of introductions and notices, mostly

about terrorism and peace demonstrations. In the

afternoon J and I took the bus to the Ala Moana Beach

Park for a swim and later found a Korean Restaurant

where we had an interesting meal, before walking

through dimly lit streets to wait ages for a bus back.

Monday 24th.

We did some shopping and internet in the Ala Moana

Shopping Center then went to the airport re my bum

bag. (I had and was to have very frustrating times

trying to phone about it. Seems noone answers phones

nowadays, just automated messages and options. It was

extremely difficult phoning from an outdoor payphone,

in a strong wind, using up two phone cards,

desperately trying to get some sense.) Another person

promised to do what they could, and advised us to

start on replacing all my lost tickets.

Then we took a bus (for ages) to Ewa Beach Park where

we did some swimming from a near deserted beach, but

as there was no reef it was rather rough.

Tuesday 25th.

On the phone again, I had given up on Air Canada or

Air NZ but by a very roundabout route managed to leave

a message at Lost and Found in Vancouver airport. But

then I got a message from AC that nothing had been

found so I reluctantly rang UK to have my credit cards

cancelled. Half an hour later I got the message that

L & F had the bag, and I was soon able to get AC to

collect it and send it to the Air New Zealand desk in HNL. What

a relief!

I wanted to go to Hanauma bay and we had got much of

the way by buses when we saw a notice that it is

closed on Tuesdays. So we went over the mountain to

another very beaut beach, Kailau, on the East coast

near Waimaluo.

In the evening we went to a very crowded meeting re

terrorism, with a distinguished panel. Most of their

initial speeches were militaristic but the very

controlled audience (the only interruption was when I

shouted out Hear Hear) asked questions that showed

them to me almost entirely anti war. We got a lift

home with Marjorie, Clerk of the Meeting, and her


Wed Sept 26.

In the morning we went to a meeting for healing. It

did not seem to affect me much but others were deeply

moved. A woman called Jennifer spoke afterwards to JK

with such penetrating and powerful spiritual authority

and prescience that it shook JK. Later she rang her

and they had an insightful conversation. After yet

more shopping at the AMSC we took the round the island

bus, amazing value for a dollar fifty. We got off it

several times, catching the same route half and hour

or an hour later. We stopped for lunch at a

delightful, new age sort of town. We ended up at

Waikiki (but not at the Beach, which was another of

my objectives missed) and saw a free Hula Show (not at

all bad, non commercial, paid for by a cultural

preservation fund) and had an extremely cheap Asian

meal. I treated J to a taxi back, and we spent the

evening packing once more.

J had struck up a friendship with Alison.






j10930.rtf and htm.

20/11/01: BU as old1mmdd.rtf then this was revised.

26/5/02 Minor amendts.


8 am we departed from Honolulu.

Shortly after we crossed the International Date Line,

hence lost most of this day!


We arrived c 1 p.m. at a small, third world airport.

We took a taxi to Toni's Guest House, despite the taxi

driver's dire (and we found later, biased/corrupted)

warnings. I admit I did not like Toni's initially, the

thin wall were painted a ghastly green, and the shower

was broken (but soon fixed). However I soon began to

like it a lot. There was a friendly crowd, not all

young, and a boy also called Tony who was very bright

and full of fun, entertained tirelessly by an Italian

called Daniel, a former Sax player who had achieved

his ambition of retiring in his early 40s to spend his

life travelling slowly around the South Seas.

We were persuaded to go to a Lua in the evening, even

tho at 25 dollars (around 8 pounds) it seemed

expensive. After a slow start we had a great evening,

a huge feast followed by dancing more expressive and

restrained than the hula we'd seen the evening before.

Sat Sept 29.

We explored the market and the rest of this end of the

very straggling town. We took a long walk to the

harbour. JK is X with me again mainly because I am

unenthusiastic about a ferry to a distant island that

most but not all people say is extremely unpleasant (the ferry, not the island),

(cold, much sickness and diesel fumes) departs at 5 pm

arrives 3 am.

I am reading "Mr Stone and the Knights Companion" by

VS Naipal. A week or two later I found he had just won

the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Sunday, 30th. Again we gave in to persuasion, this

time to take the round the island tour. It turned out

to be excellent and later we found that one of the

reasons Toni is unpopular with his peers is that he

gives too good value. It included several ancient

ruins, clifftops, blowholes, a bird sanctuary, and an

amazing swim in a pitch dark cave. We did not stay for

the finale, watching the sunset, as a group of us

wanted to go to church, but we could not find the

evening services we had been told of. Later we heard

the fantastic singing from one nearby.






Journal 1st October 2001. To Uiha Island in the Hapai Group. Written 24/10/01

20/11/01: BU as old1mmdd.rtf then this was revised.

26/5/02 Minor amendts



J is very fed up and feels put upon because I and pretty well everyone else says if we are going to this distant island we should go by plane; the ferry being very bad - overnight, cold, wet, smelly due to many people being sick, and if one stays on deck, smothered in diesel fumes. Her attitude is that to go by plane denies our principles AND costs a lot more. Anyway she did acquiesce and we went to the Tongan Airlines office and bought tickets. (Later we learned that the ferries had not been running due to the rough seas.)

Toni and Tony took us to the airport (the latter as usual sucking a huge sweet - his teeth all gunged up discoloured and bad - I was dying to remark on it - he has already been taken to UK for dental surgery but still continually eats sweets).

Soon we were on a small aircraft (a Twin Otter) where we sat almost with the pilots (both women, apparently indigenous) (there was no other crew) for the 45 minute flight along the incredibly beautiful string of islands and coral atolls. We arrived at the delightfully laid back, hassle free little airport (Pangai, capital of the Happai group) to be met by a shy taxi driver who left us on a beach, near huts and small buildings. After a while we were transferred into a motor boat with a single outboard motor along with boxes and various women and children, apparently all of the same family. Then off for what turned out to be an hour's journey. The skipper (seems too grand a word for a motor boat driver) had to keep raising the motor almost out of the water whenever we passed over reefs, and had to drive fast and slow to cope with the great swell we encountered in the brief periods when we were out of the lee of islands. At one stage it was quite alarming as he drove up and down this huge side swell.

We drew up to a silver beach backed by huts and other low simple buildings. This was our guest house (called Esi-o-Ma'afu Homestay) , the only visitor accommodation on the island (Uiha). We were in a village of 100 inhabitants. A mile or so away there was a larger one with 700. We were shown our quarters, a hut of woven palm leaves, thatched with leaves, and lined inside with a beautiful form of printed cloth, cream with light and dark brown patterns. We found later it is called tapa and is made of bark, carefully cured and hammered, and decorated with lovely bold patterns.

We found our hostess is a local woman called Koloni. Her husband with whom she has been running this place (with much praise in the Guide and in their visitors' book) is Hesse, who is now very ill. Hesse's brother Assa is helping her, he was our impassive skipper. In the evening K cooked us a delicious meal of a local white fish in batter, with breadfruit chips and a delicious seafood salad. However we will be paying to share the kitchen so will be doing most of our own food. At the time we were the only guests, i.e. the only ones on the island! We settled into our (broken) double bed after a bit of an argument about whether to leave the oil lamp on low all night.

Tues October 2.

We walked to the next, larger village along the one dirt road that goes from south to north along the island, passing the school and the prison like Mormon Church. There were no shops or cafes, etc. Later we realised there are quite a few abandoned shops and the two or so that were still functioning are only opened up on request. First one has to find the owner, who is probably away tending their vegetable patch. We found the jetty and were enchanted by the brightly coloured fish swimming in the crystal clear water. We were joined by a man with a little English, John the Town Officer, which role seemed to combine mayor, policeman and local government official. He had a battered old truck, one of only half a dozen vehicles (no tractors) on the island. He told us he had come to meet some lawyers but seemed unsure when or even where they would land, and said if they did not turn up in the next hour or so he might telephone. (I found later there are only two phones on the island, linked by radio to Pangai.) (Actually they turned up a day or two later, not in his village but in ours, and stayed at our guest house. They were some of Tonga's few women lawyers, on a grant from UNESCO teaching local women their legal rights.)

J and I walked along the beach, and later I walked off round the north end of the island, to see the totally different eastern, windward side, with great rollers smashing themselves onto the reef, making a roar one hears continuously throughout the island. Inside the reef the water is calm and an incredible turquoise colour. The island is almost entirely surrounded by a silver sand beach, backed by luxuriant vegetation, mostly breadfruit and palm trees. In the evening J and I listened to a Beethoven Quartet together, using the T junction I had bought so that we could both plug our headphones into her CD player.

Wed Oct 3.

I went for a long walk before breakfast, going south along our (leeward) side of the island and finding a track back through the palm plantations to our village. The huts are scattered around a large green, which our guest house backs onto. Small amusing pigs wander freely. In the evenings they are chased off and the men play tennis, to loud whoops of laughter and derision. After a some discussion about whether I need go, Jennifer went off in the boat to Pangai to do some shopping. I tried some snorkeling using the equipment available for guests.

Most of the time these first few days I spent thinking and writing. Thinking about my basic beliefs ("Life, the Universe, and all that".) At one stage I concluded I am an atheist. At another I became convinced we are controlled by selfish genes, and hence competition, greed and war are all natural and possibly inevitable (as opposed to the belief that we are fundamentally good). All this involved writing and twice rewriting an essay that eventually was abandoned. This activity was inspired originally by a preface by Douglas Steere to a biography of Thomas Kelly, in which he spoke of 'the adequate life' being one 'which has grasped intuitively the whole nature of things'. So my contemplation started with the whole universe and time and eventually narrowed down to that which I felt was relevant to me, that what can be called God is the force or power that impels us to rise above the leadings of those selfish genes to act for our species' long term good.

In the evening I cooked a chicken stew. We again listened to classical music on the CD, and played cards. We had a very happy evening together in our cozy grass hut, the mellow glow of the paraffin lamp reflected from the gentle cloth covered walls.

Thurs, 4th October.

J and I went for a long, slow walk a mile or so along our beach. It rained from time to time, in fact the weather has been unusually dull. We sheltered under trees and read our books. In the evening we played cards with another couple. (Dutch and Danish, the woman was called Heidi?)

Fri 5th Oct.

We were awakened at 5 to 5 a.m. by an extraordinary cacophony of bells and booms. I got up - it was still dark - to see what was up. Perhaps a ship in distress, or the village on fire. It turned out that all four of the churches - yes four in a village of only 100 people -were calling their faithful to prayer. Soon there was the sound of singing, very loud from a very few people, sounding at first discordant but on closer listening one heard lovely tunes and incredible multi-part harmonies, They sang, as J said, with their whole bodies, like opera singers.

Today was the first with plenty of sun. We spent the morning on the beach until it started to rain. I finished reading JM Coetzee's "Waiting for the Barbarians" which I have found gripping and very insightful. We had another long walk. In the evening we had another of Kolini's meals, this time a huge lobster. It was a case of lobster steaks. Later we again played cards with our fellow guests.

Sat 6th.

We arranged for Assa to drop us on a deserted island on his way to Pangai (taking our fellow guests away and to collect another couple), and he agreed to pick us up three hours later. We swam and for the first time Jennifer saw a coral reef through a snorkel mask. She cannot bear to have it fastened on her face, nor to use the tube to breathe, so she stands up in deep water and holds the mask to her face. She was so overwhelmed by the tranquillity and beauty of it, the coral itself and the myriad of brightly coloured fish, she came ashore and just sat on the beach and wept. At last she felt she understood why one of her best friends goes diving so often.

The boat was about four hours late, and after it picked us up the motor kept failing and eventually broke. Assa tried to repair it but had too few tools. He tried to radio for help but noone was listening out on the emergency channel. It turned out one could wade from this island to the next at low tide, which he did. About an hour later another boat came with a tool kit and he was able to fix it, but not completely and we kept breaking down, limping to our beach just as the sun was setting. Throughout this Assa was very quiet and calm, as were the passengers, a grandmother, a mother and two babies. Only the newest guests, being brought in on this trip, seemed perturbed. These were Julia and Mitchell. She is a very bright (and pretty) German intellectual ("I had to learn Greek and Latin in order to complete my medieval studies") he a self centred, handsome boor from Canada. They had started travelling together a month or so ago, and were to part a few days later. She was cut up about it.

Sunday, 7 October.

J and I went to church. We had a choice of Wesleyan, Tongan, and another, possibly Congregational. None of them have boards saying what they are. We chose the Tongan, as it was nearest. It turned out to be the one Koloni goes to, she sat in front of us. It was all in Tongan, a long sort of sermon, prayers in which they knelt down facing the back of the church, but mostly this very powerful multi part singing or bellowing, at times beautiful and deeply stirring.

We had a umu (pit roasted feast) for lunch, expecting all the family to attend, but Koloni having prepared it since dawn went off taking part of it to her sick husband in Pangai, leaving it for us four guests, but the other two refused it when they found it would cost 15 rather than the usual 10 or perhaps free. We thought that very mean. (10 Tongan dollars is about 5 UK pounds.)

Monday 8th October, 2001.

We did little all day, except we had a walk, me dragging my feet, feeling very lethargic. (With hindsight - I write this on 24th - it was probably the start of blood poisoning that later caused me to come out in several sores. J got p'ed off with my lack of interest, falling very silent.

Tuesday Before brkfst I went with Assa to help him get in his fish nets. He sets them overnight about a mile away from our beach. They are about 200 meters long and with weights and floaters they hang just above the sea floor. Starting at one end he hauls them into the boat. A good catch is about one or two washing up bowls full, often he only gets half a dozen, especially when the moon is full as now, but today it was a good catch. I was determined to write some letters, feeling I had not done enough while here, so wrote quite long ones to Sarah, Agnes and Bide. J was fed up with me for my continued lack of attention and general lethargy bordering on depression. She says I get irritated when we are continually moving, but depressed when we stay for long in one place. I didn't swim all day.

Weds. 10th Oct.

We went for a long hot walk to a good swimming place near the south end of the island, and had some delightful swimming and snorkelling. J was pleased I had encouraged her to try to use the mask and tube, and saw a lot more colourful fish. We argued about what to do and eventually we agreed to part for a few hours. I then went for a long walk round the end of the island to the windward side which I loved. Some of the time there was no beach and one had to walk over rugged sharp rocks. It was interesting and challenging. I kept stopping to gaze and meditate. A blissful experience. I got back for a very late lunch, dog tired. In the evening we had a meal cooked by Assa and his wife Agnes (Koloni having gone to tend her husband permanently. It was very good.

Thurs 11th October. Return to Tonga’s capital (I never did learn its name!)

We had a good final swim and I tried to phone Sarah, it being her birthday yesterday, i.e. now due to the 12 hours time difference. We then boarded the motor boat for the journey to Pangai, dropping Julia on another island on the way. In town we had time for to go to the bank and have a coffee before being picked up in the taxi Sa had hired to take us to the airport. However at our request we called at Hesse and Kolini’s house where we said hello/goodbye to him, lying on a couch looking very ill (Hepatitis?) and we made sad farewells with Koloni who was near to tears.

I got seat 1B in the light aircraft which meant I was nearly in the pilots' laps, very interesting. At the airport we were met by young Toni (deep into a huge ice cream) and Tony who acts as his father. He drove us very slowly back into town, the speed limit being very low and well enforced.

In town I found to my horror my bank debit card would not work, and eventually sent a fax to my bank. (They do not use email.) As I did not have their fax I sent it with a cover note to my accountant who is nearby. The I met J (mad at me for having 'disappeared') and we saw an email which included messages saying I must contact my bank re an 18,000 pound overdraft!

In the evening we traipsed around the dark streets till we found a "BBQ" a cheap meal. Later I joined Tony's nightly kava party. Kava is a foul tasting evil looking drink that is mildly narcotic. It is passed round ceremoniously in a hollowed out gourd. Tony is fun in conversation, being very knowledgeable, very lugubrious and cynical, but seemingly a sheep in wolf's clothing. J was mad at me coming to bed late.

End of this section to be called j11011 rtf and htm

Journal Fri 12 October to 5 November, 2001. New Zealand and Australia.

20/11/01: BU as old1mmdd.rtf then this was revised.

28/4/02. Revised, added 4/11/01

26/5/02 Minor amendts

Friday October 12th.

We were almost first to check in at the airport but there was a computer failure making the plane late. The flight itself was OK, we did not bother with the movie. Once we got to Auckland we were continually surprised and delighted by the useful facilities and friendly people, such as an ATM, a free phone, and pleasant immigration and customs staff - despite the most thorough checks to avoid insects getting in. Our boots were washed! Then there was a good shuttle bus to our doorstep, with a friendly driver.

So we arrived at the Quaker guest house next door to the Meeting House, to be met by the very friendly temporary Resident Friends, Alan Shapley and John Goodey. (Actually they are RFs of Melbourne, on a swap with Auckland’s RFs.) A.S. is from east London and looks like my Uncle Bert. He was a head master in East Ham for many years. He and John have been partners for 25 years, retired early and now are virtually professional RFs. A good life!

Sat 13th October.

After breakfast with John and Alan they took us to the local beauty spot, a hill (presumably Mt Eden) with a fine view. It is a volcanic crater and I decided to go into it, not appreciating the steepness of the climb out. In the afternoon we went on a Peace Rally and march from central Aukland to a park. Quakers were well in evidence.

Sunday 14th

Instead of going to MfW next door we went to a smaller meeting that gets fewer visitors, on the North Shore. It was a good meeting and they were indeed pleased to see us. One called Lawrence Carter (an academic electrical engineer, doing research on sensors for detecting land mines) took us to a ferry on which we had a pleasant ride to get the bus back to Mount Eden Road FMH. However the sore on my foot was now so bad I had to walk through town barefoot. Back at the FMH there was a shared lunch - they were having a special business meeting to decide on new property they had acquired.

While J and I waited for a bus to town to do some emailing we noticed that the casino opposite had a cybercafe. Inside we found a good, fast setup and helpful staff.

We heard there was to be a fundraising supper and talk by the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, men invited. So J and I went with Claire Gregory. A good spread and interesting company, many old stalwarts of the successful campaign for a nuclear free NZ. The talk was by Anna McHardy and was on her work in East Timor, where it appeared there is a tremendous need for all sorts of skills to augment the work of the UN and NGOs (most of which attracted Anna's scorn for their wastefulness and ineffectuality). We found it moving and inspiring, so much so that we began to think we might do some voluntary work there instead of going to Thailand. We have spent the next week or more getting more info on this and making quite a few contacts.

Monday 15th. To Thames.

After some shopping, etc, we got a bus for a 2 hour journey to Thames, on the Coromandel Peninsular. The countryside was improbably like an over-coloured picture, distant mountains, vivid green fields bursting with huge herds of cows, little hills and woods and bijou houses, the road verges sown with bright wild flowers. At Thames we were met by Phoebe and Phil McDermitt, he a former YM Clerk, she the Clerk of her MM. They first took us a long way into the bush for a short, interesting walk including crossing a river by what they call a swing bridge - a very wobbly foot bridge suspended from cables. We were impressed by the flora and even more by the birdsong which has been strangely absent in most of the countries we have visited. Then to their interesting home, very simple without mains electricity - lit by solar power stored in batteries, water heated by solar panels augmented by a wood stove that also warms the sitting room. They use propane gas for cooking, and Phoebe soon produced a delicious fish dinner. I would have liked to visit their near neighbour, a Green Party MP, whose home is even more simple, e.g. earth lavatories.

Tuesday 16th. TO WAIHI

I got up early to read The Friend, the edition about the YM at Exeter. Good to see so many familiar faces! Then Phil showed us their land - too wild and extensive to call a garden, including a waterfall. They took us into town where Phoebe works in an organic co-op shop and Phil gives legal advice in the CAB.

We had thought of taking the local bus which goes round the peninsular but found it too expensive, so decided to do a bush walk. However first we had to trudge far through the town. The walk itself was exceptionally steep and so exhausting that rather than risk continuing on it (it was circular) we retraced our steps. We tried to hitch back to the bus station but got no takers, people just laughed as if it were a joke for people of our age to try to hitch hike. So we were very exhausted by the time we got the bus.

Again it was a beautiful journey. We arrived in the small (gold and silver) mining town with time to spare but my sore foot was hurting so much that I just sat outside the closed Museum (everything closes very early in NZ) while J explored the town. Quite by chance our Servas hostess saw us and guessed we must be the visitors she was expecting. Thank goodness for this as it was much farther to her home than we had expected, and we had intended to walk.

Christine Scothern was a super hostess, very relaxed. It seems she has been thinking of attending a Quaker meeting and we hope that after talking with us, mainly Jennifer, about it she might. She would make an ideal Friend.

Weds 17th Oct.

J went off for a hike on her own (along a famous canyon) while I limped into town to see a doctor about my sore which had now spread from my foot to several other parts of my body. (Chest, right eyebrow, two on top of head, other foot.) However I found I had to wait till 4, so instead of returning to the house I went to the library where I was able to type many days of my journal. (However their local rule - every library has its own unique set - was no floppies, so I emailed my text to myself, and later collated it all, making an error that resulted in several days getting repeated.)

The Dr gave me antibiotic pills and ointment and now a week later the sores are practically cured.

Christine then took us on a nice trip, first to see a lovely bay and some Maori ruins, then she and J went for a swim in a hot bath, then we collected fish and chips and with salads C had brought we dined in the dark on a beach. A very good way to spend an evening.

(While J and C were swimming I wrote a piece about my rel. w J, but made no use of it.)

Thurs 18th. Back to Auckland.

We had a good breakfast by which I mean good conversation with Christine, following a deep talk she'd had with J yesterday, also about her daughter who is teaching in Palestine - there was another big killing there last night.

She had given us freedom of the house so we took our time, reading, going for a stroll, and packing, before leaving around midday to visit the mining museum, do more internetting then getting the bus around 2. On the bus I had a conversation that turned into a fairly well controlled argument with a young Maori born-again Christian.

I am now reading a book by Leslie Waller (who we visited in Naples, Florida) called Havana Tango - a fictionalised account of the involvement of the Mafia, and Edgar J Hoover, and Kim Philby, in the Bay of Pigs invasion.

Back in Auckland we were greeted by the permanent Resident Friends, Margaret and Laura. We just had time to wash and change before a super shared meal then we gave much the same talk as we had done at Monteverde. But this time it did not go down so well, some frowns, and no emphatic thanks, though the ensuing discussion was lively and relevant. Perhaps it is just that they group are far more sophisticated (especially Linley Gregory).

We had more conversations about our idea of going to East Timor. No one has poured any cold water.

Friday October 19. TO SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA

Horrors! I left it a bit late to reconfirm our air tickets and when I did so this morning for our 3 p.m. flight they could find no record of our names. I checked the tickets and saw that they were for Monday past! Jennifer and I had argued about how long to stay in New Zealand and she had booked Monday which would have meant only three days. I had argued for two weeks but eventually settled for one, but had forgotten to change the tickets. We ignored the advice the airline person gave over the phone and set off for the airport immediately. Here we told our sorry tale to an impassive middle aged male clerk, still hoping to get this afternoon's flight and accepting we would have to pay the 75 US dollars fee. But to our delight he not only gave us the flight we wanted, with no fee at all, but also gave us fast-track status which later saved us ages in queues. Yet another example of the extreme friendliness we had found so often in NZ. There was a place for complaints and suggestions and I wrote a rather overblown peon of praise.

We took the shuttle bus into Sydney and after a wearisome struggle with the heavy luggage at last arrived at the Quaker guest house in the Meeting House in Devonshire Street. This we found to be rather an unfriendly place, with Byzantine architecture, though all very well and recently appointed. One of the best showers I have seen, though it routinely flooded the bathroom.

J and I were by now so mad with each other we calmly discussed separating after Australia, and commenced to go our own ways this evening. However we only had one key and could not agree how to share it, so were forced to go and get food for supper together. By the time we had brought it back, cooked and eaten it we were back on good terms in fact it was the beginning of a (still current 24/10/01) period of loving co-operation between us! (In retrospect I realise this was when the antibiotic started having significant effect.)

Saturday Oct 20. We had a long very pleasant walk north through downtown Sydney, along Pitt Street and through the delightful Botanical Gardens to the superb harbour side and stupendous Opera House. Here we bought tickets for a concert that evening, then wandered to the Central Quays and took a short ferry ride across the harbour and back. It was all so bright, breezy, fresh, clean and active. The ferry seemed to plough though a mass of large racing yachts, there were boats and ships of all sizes. It really was quite exhilarating. We went back on the very convenient train to our place near central station, then later returned for a meal on the quayside then the concert. This was a Mozart Piano Concerto, very well played, and a stupendous Tchaikovsky Symphony (No 6). The conductor was a showman, totally OTT but good and very popular with the audience.

Sunday, 21st October

Ministry at MfW was mostly about Justice. Afterwards there was much good discussion then we went with Cathy Davies to a nearby café for lunch. We told her about our dislike of the guest house (about which she knew well as Clerk of the Regional Meeting) and our failure so far to find a suitable alternative. (The backpackers' hostels we had seen were too small e.g. a twin was a room so small one could only just climb into the bunk beds, and all the Servas people we had contacted were unable to have us.) She invited us to stay with her! We were very glad to accept. We went off to do more sight seeing, visiting the Convict Museum and the fine Art Gallery where we were very impressed by the aboriginal art. We bought supplies having said we would do supper then collected our heavy bags and took the train out to Waroonga, where we were met at the station. Cathy took us to her fine home a former Austrian Embassy where we met Barry her husband. I cooked a pepper steak supper which was not bad but a bit meagre.

Monday 22nd

I went to a Dr to get my Hepatitis jab boosts, he also gave me polio (free) and prescribed anti-malarial tablets. I discussed having jabs for Japanese Encephalitis and on hearing the low risk and high cost (400 dollars) decided against it. In the pm we went into Sydney with Cathy, to the Meeting House where, after a shared supper, J gave a talk on microcredit, which went well.

Tuesday 23rd

J and I went into Sydney and talked with Thai Airlines and with Trailfinders, deciding that if we go to East Timor we need not return to Sydney but could pick up Thai Air in Jakarta or better still in Bali. We found that the cost of the bus from Melbourne to Darwin where we would emplane for Dili was over 400 dollars. Later J found how we could reduce this, but the extra travel costs would be 1300 dollars (i.e. about 550 pounds) each. I then did about 3 hrs on the internet, mainly tidying up, while J tired herself trying to see more of the city. We shopped at Woolworths again and in the evening she did supper for the three of us.

Weds 24th Oct

Barry drove us by a scenic route via a lookout over the city to a park where we had a walk and saw wild kangaroos and emus. We all had lunch in a shopping centre. In the pm I again worked on a computer (this time Cathy’s) and got my journal up to 21st. The best I have managed for months.

Not sure which day - probably this - we were taken to Manly and then after doing some shopping (J bought me an Australian style hat on condition I got rid of my brown peaked American style one) we got the ferry for the interesting ride to Sydney. (I followed the signs to the forward end of the ship, and obtained excellent seats, only to find it was double fronted and we were facing backwards.)

Thursdays October 25th. To Canberra.

We went into town yet again, this time with all our luggage, after a fond farewell at Waroonga station. The bus was comfortable but boring, going very slowly, i.e. about 50 mph all the way. It was the first time we’d been told to wear seat belts on a bus. Some of the scenery was of bush - scrub or trees over rough ground, but much of it was over very fertile looking farmland, mostly given to cattle and sheep. At Canberra bus station we were met by both Katherine Purnell and her partner Glyn (must get his surname!). They drove us around on a long tour to show us the town, built on a very grand scale, and with several town centres rather than just one. All very spacious, with wide roads, wider verges, many trees, a huge lake and some very grand architecture. In the afternoon another outing, this time to a botanical garden, and in the evening we joined them to attend an ecumenical meeting on the subject of asylum seekers. Recently Australia’s policy has become very cruel to them, e.g. a boat was turned back by the navy, which then capsised with the loss of 130 lives, mostly women and children and most of whom had been declared genuine refugees by the UN. J helped with preparing the buffet supper and I did most of the washing up for the 2 or 3 hundred people.


Another tour, this time many miles through the countryside surrounding Canberra. In the pm J and I went to the Australian Parliament building, built on a very grand scale, and then walked to the Art Galley where we were impressed by some examples of aboriginal art, particularly a forest of thin cylinders standing on end, each beautifully and painstakingly decorated with patterns of lines and dots. Apparently each tube is a coffin. There was much other stuff of interest, including an exhibition of Mexican art. We had to a taxi back or we would have been late for the next event, a shared meal at their Meeting House followed by J giving her talk on microcredit again.

Sat 27th.

J and I went to the shops then for a walk to a nurses’ memorial. In the evening we took Katherine and Glyn to the movies, to see an Australian production called Lantana. J and I were now getting on well in fact had been for several days.

Sunday 28th

We all went to both the early silent Meeting for Worship then the normal one. We met David Purnell (actually he had been at J’s talk) and Harold Wilkinson. After MfW J and I once again gave our three in one talk, this time with much more success than at Sydney. In the pm we went to the Indonesian Embassy for a meeting about Islam / Christian relations, followed by tea etc. In the evening J and I took them for a meal at a local restaurant. We had a pleasant walk back in the late evening. Yet again I was not able to identify the Southern Cross.

Monday 29th October. TO MELBOURNE.

We had got on very well with K and G, and it was quite a sad farewell at the bus station. We had had a very busy, intensive stay, so it seemed ages since we had arrived there. The bus journey was much longer than from Sydney to Canberra, and much more boring. However we at last arrived, quite late in the evening, to be met by James Nevien, who drove us along an expressway (with automatic toll charging) to his home in Camberwell, where we met his niece Melissa. J and I spent time in the bus discussing whether or not to go to East Timor.

Tuesday 30th.

I had reached the conclusion that on balance we had best not go to East Timor. However this seemed to make J more inclined to feel we should go. Even though I stated my preference quite mildly she seems as usual to object to me making any decisions. I decided to do whatever she wanted (as usual).

She had also decided we should go off into the country (actually a guest house in a former prison in a state park reachable by train from the city centre) for the next couple or three days but I having thought about tit said I did not wish to, I felt I needed to do several things now during these last few days we are in the first world. Next we will be going back to third world countries for four or more months. We argued over this and agreed that she would go on her own. However later she realised we had far too much to do before going away, whether to East Timor or to Thailand. We went into town by tram, and out to Coburg not realising what a long way it was, and how slow the trams are. This was to go to the Indian Consulate for visas - they were not answering their phone. But when we reached their office at about 1.30 it was closed. A woman reluctantly came to the door and let us have the forms to fill out and indicated that next day we would get our visas. We went back into town by train which was much faster. I spent much of the evening drafting a letter to Rosemary about my bank account. We bought a pizza supper with wine for James and Melissa.

31st October.

J and I went to town separately. I spent some time St Paul’s Cathedral near the central station. We then went out of town to have lunch with Bev Polzin, the Secretary to Australia YM. A very energetic and extremely likeable person. In the evening J cooked an excellent stir fry. A colleague of James’s, Sue, came round to discuss microcredit with J.

November 1st.

We went to the Indian Consulate but found that it would take about a week to get a visa. We should have thought of this earlier, e.g. when in Sydney, but we were also cross with them for not having their phone working last Monday, and later for indicating they could do it in a day. J broke down at this news, since it meant we would have to get the visas in Bali or Bangkok, where we would have to wait a week or more, thus taking yet another week off any time we could spend in East Timor. I.e. the time we could spend there was not worth the extra costs. One reason she was pissed off was that she had grown more and more keen on the journey to Darwin, via Alice Springs (which would take about a week). We went back into town on the train and straight to the bus station to book our tickets to Sydney, as was our original plan. We then went to the Botanical Gardens, though had not much time. We had to get back to change. We were picked up by a friend of James’s, Des Cole, who drove us to a function, the AGM of James’s organisation, where J was one of the two guest speakers. She did very well at this her first time doing this subject at a large formal gathering. At the buffet supper afterwards she made several good contacts. At least two of her audience seemed seriously interested in starting it here.

November 2nd.

Frances Nall came over to take us out to some lovely country, including Sherbrooke (?) Forest where there were huge gum trees with 300 feet long straight trunks. There were great flocks of brightly coloured lorikeets, as thick as pigeons in Trafalgar Square. Frances had brought excellent picnics. Later she took us to a place in the woods where a sculptor had carved figures into the rocks, depicting fine featured aboriginal people. Frances had a lot of interesting things to say about her travels and her time in London and at Westminster Meeting. In the evening J and I again gave our talk but with the Christian but cut down to about five minutes and with the Social Action part dwelling on microcredit. Unfortunately it once again seemed not to go well. Thank goodness it is the last time we are likely to be asked to do it.

Saturday November 3rd.

We were picked up early to be taken to spend the day at the Regional Meeting’s annual summer camp. We had a walk round the beautiful lake then shared lunch. In the pm I went off on my own and met a bloke on the road through the woods. He unburdened himself on me for about three quarters of an hour, about his wife leaving him, depriving him of his share of their property, not letting him see their kids, etc. I was sorry for and was glad I had both the opportunity and the time to be of use. Then at 4 J and I gave a mainly unstructured talk about our travels, me on the where, J on the why, and both on what achievements we feel we have made. It seemed to go very well, stimulating thought and inspiring some of them. Afterwards I again went off by myself, into deep pine woods, and past old gold mine workings, to meditate with some success. I felt at peace for the first ime since the first few days at Tonga, in some deep way even more so.

Sunday, 4th November. LEAVING AUSTRALIA

We went to MfW with James. J ministered, and there was some other very good ministry. Afterwards we attended their PM called Local Meeting. It started with a period on ‘News of Friends’ which I thought was an idea that might be taken up by our meeting. J and I bought lunch for James, who has been a super host. We slept for much of the afternoon then went for an un-energetic walk. Then back for a final meal, cooked by James, delicious lamb done Greek style. Then he kindly drove us to the bus station and off to Sydney - a 12 hour journey through the night.


Monday November 5 2001

We had travelled overnight on the bus from Melbourne. We had no plans, except perhaps to sleep in the botanical gardens. So we deposited our luggage at the bus station and after a good breakfast at the nearby YHA we took the train the two stops to Circular Quays and walked to the opera house, and beyond into the park. We had lunch at the café and bought some things at the excellent shop. Then we lay on the grass for a good long post-prandial. About 3.30 we had to set off getting the airport bus from near the bus station, where we had alighted a mere 17 days ago. What a lot we'd done in that short time!

The plane got to Bangkok late. We took a taxi to the hotel we'd phoned, and found the traffic congestion even worse than we'd expected. It must be the worst in the world, certainly far worse than any we've encountered so far. Often one progresses no more than ten yards in as many minutes. The taxi-driver had a job finding the hotel, but people standing around were helpful. The hotel was down an interesting L shaped passage free of traffic, onto which several hotels (or were they brothels?) faced. Ours was very much a family business run by a rather magnificent woman and a large extended family, but no man other than an old chap, possibly a tenant. We were to come and go from this place several times.

We went out for a meal, finding the nearby narrow but busy street very hazardous and irksome. There was no good place to eat, just cheap but pretentious places. Later I went out alone for a drink and found myself joined by a youngish woman. I immediately told her that I was not going to pay for company. She agreed and we held a desultory conversation. She was Chinese, not at all good-looking, and rather sad.

END OF THIS SECTION. To be called j11104 (despite being to 5th) htm and rtf

Nov 6 to 8 - Thailand


27/5/02 minor amendts

Monday November 5 2001: First day in Bangkok.

We found our way by bus to the main railway station to buy tickets to go north to Chaing Mai on Thursday, Then we map read ourselves fairly efficiently to visit a Buddhist temple famous for its ginormous SOLID gold statue. People buy tiny squares of gold leaf and press them onto other statues but not all of them stick on so there ar many fragments of gold leaf blowing around. One finds gold in the litter even outside the temple. I collected some intending to keep it but then my conscience made me take it and try to stick it onto a statue. Then we walked through lanes (using my compass to maintain direction) to a river-bus stop on the river. It was fearsomely fast flowing, dark brown and with a lot of flotsom, mainly weed. The river buses are long narrow boats, like enormous canoes, with a huge engine (looking like a truck engine) mounted on a swivel in with the propellor on the end of a long transmission hanging way out over the stern, thus acting as a rudder and easily lifted out of the water to avoid flotsom. Once aboard it raced along, sending great showers of spray that splashed the passengers, especially those on other boats that came too close. We took a long trip way up river. It was cheaper than a tourist trip as it was a working bus, stopping frequently to pick up and put down passengers, many of them children returning from school. There were shops and bars, homes and temples facing the river, often with no access from the land.


I went off using a motor cycle taxi to find the Br Consulate, to get information in prison visiting. The bike was much more expensive than I'd expected (I later realised I had been grossly overcharged) so I returned by bus but had a problem finding the right one; then it was caught in horrendous traffic jams. I got back too late to go to the Emerald Palace. This is not the only time I have done a 'chore' that took so long I was unable to go to one of the places I'd hoped to see.)

Thursday, 8th. Train to Chaing Mai.

The journey took all day and it was not until late afternoon the scenery became worth seeing. Until then it was endless miles of rice paddies. Thailand is the the world's largest exporter of rice. The train was excessively noisy, and the other tourists (Americans of about our age) were slightly offensive. The seats were plastic, so hot and sweaty. Thus I hated the journey. Only towards the end did the scenery improve, rugged jungle covered hills. We carefully kept our rubbish rather than throw it out of the windows, but when the cleaner came round he threw it all out. We arrived late and went to two hotels before the third could take us. It was a grotty, noisy place with surly staff.

End of this section, to be called j11108 htm and rtf.

20/11/01 Named j11116.rtf

27/5/02 minor amendments and one passage ‘mended’.

Journal, Friday 9th November 2001 TO CHAING MAI

We got up very early but spent too much time shopping

for travel food near the bus stop so had to get a taxi

to the station. Just as well because by the time we'd

gobbled a delicious breakfast of noodle soup the train

was about to go. We were in second class, no air

conditioning and for the first hour or two it all

seemed very interesting as we trundled through the

interminable suburbs and industrial zones of Bangkok

with the cool morning breeze in our faces. Soon we

were in rice paddy land, which went on and on for

hours. It grew very hot, exacerbated by the plastic

seat covering, and the seats seemed to get harder and

harder. Worse, the train was extremely noisy, each

tiddly-pang being enough to deafen. After 13 hours,

by which time it was dark, I was nearly frantic with

the actual pain in my ears. We were worried as we had

not had time to book a hotel. At last we drew into

Chaing Mai station. On the phone we found our first

three choices of hotel were full. But the fourth (the

Happy House Hotel) had a room. We took a red "see

lor" which is a cross between a bus and a taxi but

really a truck in disguise. One sits in the back

facing inwards. It is very cheap. Soon we were at our

hotel and after a quick look at the room agreed to

stay. It was very stark with a dingy hallway. The

bed creaked very loudly at the slightest movement.

Sat 10th.

We found the staff unfriendly and offhand, and the

hotel dreary so decided to see if one of the places we

had tried might now have a room. So we moved to a

second place. This looked very pleasant, handsome

wooden bungalows around a grassed area, remarkable for

a town centre place. We moved into our very large

room, again after a cursory look round. However after

settling in we began to notice how dirty it was.

Moreover it was in the heart of tourist land, in fact

the two nearby bars were virtually red light. So next

day we again decided to move again.


Meanwhile we found a good place for a meusli and fruit

breakfast (a charming teashop that is home to a daily

breakfast party of loquacious local businessmen who

noisily put the world to rights for an hour or two

while their women folk, and the kids before going to

school, rush around seeing to the cafe and fulfilling

orders for dozens of packed lunches.

We had hired bikes - I was delighted and amazed that J

was willing to do so, she had not cycled since having

an accident about two years ago. We wobbled our way

through the town, with an inadequate map, to find the

Indian Consulate, as one of our aims here is to get

visas, which takes 5 days. J reckoned rather than wait

around in Bangkok it would be better here which she

thought would be a pleasant country town. She was

quickly finding she disliked this town as much as any

as she finds it to be teeming with tourists.

What later turned out to be a major problem happened about this time. J’s bike did not fit her properly, it was too small for her so her legs were not straight enough. In trying to accellerate she strained something in her knee. Despite the seeminly minor pain she carried on cycling for a day or two, but then felt she needed to stop. In the following weeks and months (I write this passage in 2002) this bad knee was to become one of our main problems.

In the evening we went to the night market were J was

looking for some clothes, while I felt I needed

nothing. However I saw a tailor and remembered my

'best' blue silk jacket needs replacing, so I was soon

persuaded to order one. Then I remembered my best

trousers are worn through, so ordered some. Then got

carried away when I remembered I needed a better best

shirt. So I ordered all three, at a cost of 66

pounds. (M & S prices would be about 170.)

Sunday 11th

Early in the day Jennifer suggested yet another move,

a few days in a monastery. I groaned and moaned,

feeling I needed a break after different hotels four

nights running, but said I suppose so, I'll try to be

cheerful. We'd had previous rows about what she calls

my negative approach. I'd say it just takes me a

while to warm to her suggestions. However she flew off

the handle, said I ruined everything. I pointed out

that she should rest her knee but she was just furious

that I should seek excuses. She said she'd go on her

own. "Suits me", was my reply and suddenly there she

was gone, saying, see you here on Thursday! I went

back to sleep for a while then started on what turned

out to be five very pleasant days.

I read a paper and saw there was to be a ecumenical

Remberance Day service at the Foreign Cemetery, so got

on my bike and set off to find it. Again my

inadequate map was little help and I arrived a bit

late. The Presbyterian minister read a very good

address, asking all the sorts of questions a Quaker

would, about the futility of war and our part in

causing it, and emphasising the need to consider the

extent we live our lives as they imply. Afterwards I

sat in a garden overlooking the river and meditated

for an hour or so. I then did some shopping in a

hradware district, and explored a very smelly market.

Later I found a lovely Wat (Budhist temple) where I

spent a couple of hours. In a libray there I found a

Thai textbook on English 17th century literature which

I found rivetting. Donne, Herbert, Bacon, and many

others. It made a great impression on me, and I

determined to read more. I have previously said that

if ever I get time I'd like to study C17 history.

I also had a long talk with the verger chap who was

looking after the Wat, partly about a project led by

the King for a new approach to small scale


Then I had a long ride to find the bus station, and

establish that there was somewhere safe to leave a

bike (10 baht a day), then returned to the hotel where

I watched TV, talked with a young British woman, a

psychology graduate taking a few months off before

starting a career, and wrote 30 Christmas cards. I

spent most of the evening reading ("The Strange Last

Voyage of Donald Crowhurst") then late I went out to

explore the bars, looking for one with good rock

music. The many bars each have a gaggle of young

women who entreat one to come in, sometimes grabbing

one. Very seductive. I went to a bar and asked a young

chap about the girls' role. Were thay simply working

for the bar owners, touting for business, or were they

prostitutes? He said it was primarily the former but

any of them would give you a xxxx for a thousand baht

(about 15 pounds). He told me many of them were "lady

boys". I kept sending them away but eventually felt

sorry for a very plain Chinese woman who tried to

engage me in conversation but her accent was so bad I

couldn't understand her. She didn't seem to mind that

I didn't buy her a drink. I quickly finished mine and

scuttled back to Crowhurst.


I did not get up as early as hoped. I breakfasted on

the remains of my supper mainly beans, peas and sweet

corn, very dull, then cycled to the bus station and

got a bus to a place about an hour from town. Here I

walked down the hot main street and up a lane that led

to the fields. I walked about a mile stopping to

greet farmers, and sat for an hour in deep meditation

on a log in the shade of some trees, by a babbnling

irrigation brook. Then I walked another couple of

miles in the heat, to look at a rather dull Wat, and

waited for three quarters of an hour for the bus which

was supposed to come every 20 minutes.

Back at the bus station I went to the supermarket

where I'd bought stuff for my supper yesterday, to buy

the knife I'd seen. In the evening I went to the

tailors where I was disappointed to find the jacket

was not ready and the shirt and trousers fitted very



This time I got to the bus station befort 8 but not

with enough time to take care in selecting a bus. I

found myself on one going to Om Koi which I found was

a 4 hour journey. I was tempted to get off and get the

only bus back after an hour or so but slowly the

country became more and more beautiful as we climbed

into the hills. Eventually I decided to stay for 24

hours, but I had a problem trying to find a hotel of

any sort. A chap at a place where I went to hire a

bike invited me to what he called his place, only 300

Baht (which is more than we usually pay for a double)

It was in a delightful situation, a cabin built out

over the side of a vally, the wide river far below and

hills stretching away to the west. I cycled around and

found a home for Karen (hill tribe) children run by

Korean Presbyterian missionaries who invited me to

stay with them.

Later I had a meal at a restaurant with mine host who

turned out to be the town's Mr Big. He was a devout

Budhist which is probably the reason he did not eat.

At the time I couldn't understand why. Also his talk

of us going to a Kareoke failed to materialise, to my

surprise but relief.


Having gone to bed early I was up at dawn and set off

on the excellent mountain bike I had hired as part of

the deal in taking this chalet. I went up into the

hills and sat on a log to meditate for about an hour.

Then back into town for some breakfast. By now it was

too hot to continue cycling in this very hilly terrain

so I returned to the cabin and had a lazy, reflective

morning. When I went to return the keys I asked to

retain the bike for another 24 hours but was refused,

to my surprise and disappointment. I had to walk to

the childrens'e in blistering heat, up and down hill,

with my right knee giving me a lot of trouble. It and

my right foot have been hurting a lot lately. I was a

couple of hours earlier than expected so spent an hour

sitting in a cafe near the home, watching the Karen

women who were apparently doing their weekly shopping.

All in bright dirty clothes, and some smoking their

distinctive pipes. They have square, hard mannish

faces, and are very small. The shop keepers seem

mostly to be of Chines extraction.

When I went to the home I was greeted by Rev Moon Soo

Park, a slight, earnest, intelligent man in his 40s.

We watched the kids doing many jobs, cleaning and

feeding pigs, ducks, hens and chicks, and fishing in

the fish pond - a feature of many small farms. In a

shed a group were preparing vegetables (using

machetes) to be cooked in a huge cauldron on a blazing

open wood fire. Elsewhere kids were doing other jobs,

mostly cleaning, including a few in the minister's

house, where I was welcomed by his wife Sun Ja Park

Kim. She repeated the joke, of hers and her husband's

names, Sun and Moon. She insisted I gave her my

clothes to be washed (she had a machine) and lent me

some of Moon's.

I was invited to the evening service, attended by all

the 80 or so children aged 7 to 16. Boys one side,

girls the other, all now in clean bright clothes. It

seemed very long, the more so since I had to sit on

the floor which is not my custom. The sermon took ages

but was deliverd in a lively style and seemed to hold

most of the kids' attention. Then I had to say a few

words, which Moon had great trouble understanding, let

alone translating. All I could think of to say were

some pompous platitudes. (I had thought of using some

basic Quaker Advices, but it did not seem suitable,

esp as it was hard to convert to simple English and

would probably lose all meaning in translation)

Then I was told they would dance and sing in my

honour. The dances were simple, touching, but rather

stiffly done. Then the kids obtained a musical

instrument each and launched into a long selection of

the refrains of well known hymns. It was remarkable to

have been able to teach them all. About 15 had good

guitars, and others recorders and flutes. Then they

sang. The service had taken about one and a half

hours and the welcome another half.

After this the kids went to their rooms and halls to

do homework. They go to the local state school, and

stay at the home most of the year, getting back to

their families in the hills twice a year. They

looked very well and energetic, and (or but) very well


We had our evening meal in the manse or rectory or

whatever. The food was Korean tho Sun kept

apologising it was not typical as she had a problem

getting proper supplies. I found most of it very

acceptable. At the table were Sun and Moon, also their

two interns, young Korean women missionaries, one a

trained child care specialist.

After supper we discussed at length the possibility

that Jennifer and I might come as teachers of English.

They said they had been praying for an English

teacher. However it bacame apparent to me we would not

be suitable. Also they were afraid we would not like

Korean food, and I was pretty sure J would not accept

the evangelical style setup, including the male female relationships in the famliy. However nothing was decided, theyn said they’d pray about it overnight. I went off to sleep on the thin matress laid out for me on the floor of his study.

(Data missing)

Next morning I got up at about 5 for the morning service, which is when Moon had said it started, but it was not until 6. It was

much like the evening service, less singing, but all

the kids. One big difference was a time for vocal

private prayer, for which the lights were switched off

and they all (except the two young Korean women)

scuttled forward to form a tight cluster, like so many

bees. There was a loud chatter of these 80 or so

voices all praying aloud which went on for at least

ten minutes, after which the kids started drifting off

in ones and twos, some running across the dimly lit

floor to the exit. Meanwhile the three Koreans (Sun

had not come) were getting more and more ecstatic and

loud in their prayers which I did not understand at

the time but later was told was speaking in tongues.

Moon was sort of moaning or baying. One of the women

was singing an undistinguishable tune, and later

seemed to be crying. The other was calling out as if

admitting to some terrible sins, or bewailing some

extreme loss. To my surprise the kids drifted back

into the room, ignoring the three, and started

individually practicing their instruments. Rev Moon

ceased his prayers and organised the groups. Seemingly

spontaneously they started playing all together the

same medley of hymn themes they'd performed last

night. Rev Moon made some announcements (shouting

above his colleagues' incantations). After a while the

kids stopped in ones and twos and left, except for a

few who were helping each other practice difficult

pieces of music. I left, the women still doing their

loud and heart rending prayers. Shortly they appeared perfectly calmly for breakfast.


After breakfast I helped with a few jobs and at his request

gave Rev Moon some English coaching. Then I went for a

long walk up and down hills, through a Karen village

where everyone was surprised to see me, but friendly.

Deep in some woods I again took the opportunity to

meditate sitting on a log.

They insisted I had lunch with them though I was still

satisfied from breakfast. Then the took me into town

in good time for the bus. As we made our goodbyes Sun

invited me and Jennifer to come and stay for a few

days. Not a month or so, i.e. she was gently telling

me they had decided it they did not need us as English

teachers. I assume this was because I'd said we could

only do four weeks, as we had to be in India for


I slept for much of the return journey. I have had a

slight headache for severasl days and now it turned

into a mild migraine type.

The bus was late into town despite criminally

dangerous driving (he overtook everything, beeping and

flashing the lights, forcing vehicles coming the other

way onto their verge) and I was furious when it

terminated far from the bus station where I'd left the

bike. I had to pay almost as much for a ten minute

taxi ride as for the four plus hours bus.

When I got home I found J in great pain from her knee.

She had spent four days as a novice nun in a strict order,

involving many hours of sitting cross legged. When I

told her a bit of what I'd done she got very upset,

seeing it as pure perversity on my part that I had

done the sort of things she would have liked. Why had

I not done it with her? I did not have an opportunity

to explain.

We went to get my tailoring which all fitted well,

thank goodness.

Friday 16th November.

In brief. I returned J's bike, then cycled to the

Indian Consulate to collect the visas. There I read

some Indian papers before returning to town where I

stopped to browse in a bookshop and buy some maps. I

enjoy Chaing Mai and cycling around. Went to the

station but found no suitable train seats available

for days! Cycled to the bus station (a different, more

distant one) and booked an overnight "VIP" class bus

to Korat. (This is the commonly used short name for

Makornrajsima.) We had a nice lunch at a pavement

place and a quiet afternoon, before getting a see-lor

to the bus. All was OK except the a/c was far too cold

- they adjusted it if several people complained - and

there was a really stupid video feature film. J was

having a lot of pain from her knee despite a full dose

of painkiller/dis-inflammation. (At pharmacies one can

buy drugs that would need a prescription in Western

countries) In the night we had two burst tyres. We

arrived at about 7.30 a.m. having slept better than


END OF THIS SECTION to be called j11116.txt and htm



STEPHEN PETTER’S JOURNAL (More a Travel Log than a true Journal)

27/5/02 minor amendments

Saturday, November 17th, 2001. In KHORAT, Thailand.

We had travelled by overnight bus (described as a VIP bus – a grade better than luxury) from Chaing Mai. During the night there had been two burst tyres, but unlike our experience when the same happened in Guatemala, we were one of a convoy so the crews helped each other out and shared spares. However it meant we arrived late, which was not a bad thing as it was 7.30 a.m. We rang Karol who told us what to tell the Phut-phut driver, so that we met her at the gates of the large school where she teaches English.

(A Phut-phut is a three wheeled vehicle with the controls of a motor cycle, and a rickshaw like rear end big enough for two or three people – though one often sees them carrying 6 or more and luggage or goods. We two and our two rucksacks and two holdalls and two knapsacks pretty well fill them up.)

It is taking me far too long to type this journal; I am going to have to be more brief.

We had a delightful 36 or so hours with Karol Kamenka. Marion (Massey nee Petter) had told us of her which is why we paid the visit. We had some very deep discussions (some of it about the need, or lack thereof, to have a home base) and we also found her to be very inspiring in her selflessness and devotion. We were horrified by what she told us of the conditions of work of the other – non-volunteer – teachers in her Catholic super-school.

18th November - Return to Bangkok.

On Sunday we had a three person Meeting for Worship that was very deep and helpful. Later in the day J and I took a bus (going to another bus station in order to get the cheapest type – ‘fair deals’ in return for J having suffered to come here on the VIP bus) so had a miserable ride into Bangkok, uncomfortable seats for hours and hours of heat, noise, dust, and – not the fault of the bus, endless delays. BKK’s traffic congestion is said to be the worst in the world and I can well believe it.

Monday 19th November To Trat

After discussions on where to go – J very much wanted to see the south of Thailand and to have some time on a beach - we had agreed to go to some islands off the south coast of the main part of the country (i.e. not too far from BKK). As we woke up we now disagreed on whether to leave very early to get there by evening, or to go to Trat which is most of the way. So we agreed to do this and were able to leave at a reasonable hour. It was a dreary bus ride, but we liked Trat very much, a small busy town where tourism had not yet had too great an impact. The hostel we chose was full but the charming prop (Nick, a Brit) helped us find an alternative – and negotiated a lower price, and told us of a better, more unspoiled island.

Tuesday 20th.

I was glad to find there was no boat to it the next day so was able to do some internet work. I went through all my journal, removing most of the negativities and doing other tidying. I also found the P.O. (some way from the town centre) and posted my Christmas cards.

Wed 21st To Koh Mai.

We were taken on a two hour boat journey on a pink ferry rather similar to Accordance (the 60 foot, 60 tone MV James and I once owned) to this small almost uninhabited island, to a '‘resort'’ i.e. hotel on the beach, similar to those we had stayed at in Tonga and Honduras. We had our own fairly crude cabin (but with good mosquito screens, and own loo) a few paces from the beach. Only one other tourist and he a miserable unsociable chap who kept well out of our way – he comes annually and clearly regards it all as his. Most of the staff were transvestites, beautiful young men wearing colourful women’s clothes spending a lot of time doing each others’ hair and trying to speak with high voices. The cook was straight, but not much good as a cook.

Thursday, Friday.

Lovely time! We borrowed (turned out to be ‘hired’) snorkel equipment and spent hours swimming around gazing at the not very remarkable fish life. We had one walk, across the island to a hamlet of about five fishermens’ huts, and I had a tough hike around the headland to find another resort on this so called uninhabited island.

Saturday, 24th November. Return again to Bangkok.

We got the boat at 8 and (after arguing about the fare) the bus to Trat. Then 6 hours to get back to BKK later in the evening. I have an ache under my right arm, assume it is due to excessive swimming. Also a sore throat, assumed due to breathing through the snorkel tube – maybe I have caught a bug from a previous user.

Sunday. Meeting for Worship at Don Beckerman’s

We had organised this MfW, however most of the Quakers listed had moved and there was only one other couple, AFSC workers (but Canadian). Karol had sent a message, she could not come as the car that was to bring her had broken down. This was very sad, we feel she is a natural Quaker. She has attended meetings e.g. in Pennsylvania and may apply for International membership. The MfW was very good, clearly it meant a lot to Don – his first for many years.

In the afternoon we explored and came across a street closed as a promotion (and where I bought stuff from Boots the Chemist!) and where we came across a big parade with several bands inc a string orchestra, scores of senior officers, and hundreds of children. This was to honour the anniversary of the death of a former King by laying dozens of wreaths at the foot of his great statue. All very friendly.

However the pain on my back was worsening and when I undressed J saw a great rash on my chest under my right arm and extending round to the middle of my back. Shingles! She said. We found a Dr – a 24 hour clinic, nearby and were seen to immediately, but the young Dr diagnosed the pain to be strain form all my swimming, the rash to be food allergy, and the sore throat to be a common cold. His advice and for prescriptions came to about 20 pounds.

Monday 26th November

Despite the pain under my arm and Jennifer’s continued painful left knee, we kept to our plan to visit the two prisoners that Lindley had told us about – both have been contacting Quakers. We went most of the way on the super SkyTrain – very fast, smooth, clean – utterly untypical of BKK. J of course sees our use of it as some sort of betrayal of our principles. It cost about 35 B whereas a bus might be about 10 or 15. We had to take a taxi from the tube to the prison – that cost 75B and left us at the wrong place. So a hot walk. But the administration was very good (no prior appointments or notice was required, nor any authorisation – in Peru we had to get a letter from the British Consul’s) and soon we were talking to a Jue Burma through a grill. Then we returned to the office to apply to see the second chap, luckily there had been a change of staff. The second was Iyke Ebele a Nigerian. We had met a y woman who works as a prison visitor for a charity and she implored us to see another, who had been mentally ill due to the privations and beating up, and who was still depressed, so we stayed for lunch (very difficult tin the prison visitors; canteen where they had a complex system for ordering and paying for food). Then applied a third time to be told the rule was only one per day! However the chap relented when we promised not to do it again so we saw Djellaili Tewfik in the afternoon. Then the trek back by taxi and SkyTrain and bus and walking till at last we were near the hotel. I went straight back to the Clinic as by now I was sure it was shingles – the pain and the rash in the same area could not be co-incidence. It was a different Dr, older, wiser, (Chinese) and he immediately said Herpes Zoster (the correct name for ‘shingles’) – and a prognosis of much intense pain – worse than toothache, for many weeks, perhaps months. He recommended an expensive drug,?Zoinlax? made by Welcome costing 50 pounds. I went to another clinic for a third opinion which confirmed shingles and so got the 50 pound drug (from the 2nd Dr) – there was no charge for the consultation.

Tuesday 27th November. TO INDIA.

We spent most of the day lazily – I resting and trying to be brave re my rash and pain – deep muscular like pain and intensely sensitive skin. Around 4 pm we set off by taxi to the airport. We arrived in Delhi late. We had not been able to book a hotel due to having an out of date guide book so we were relieved to find an official tourist office inside the airport arrivals hall where we were given good advice on how to get a reliable taxi, and where the woman kindly booked a hotel for us – the same one we had been trying to contact. However she did not hide her disgust at the cheapness of the place we had chosen. We got a taxi (though the official, safe channel) but he could not find our hotel. The address seemed wrong –it was supposed to be cheap but the address was a very prestigious avenue. We found a tourist office open (assumed it was official, i.e. non-profit) where a chap spent a lot of time and effort locating our hotel. Bur t they now said we were too late, the were full, we had not obtained a registration number when the tourist office at the airport had booked it, tough luck. So the only option seemed to be a much more expensive place that we finally reached around 2 a.m. (Later we heard this whole rigmarole is a scam, connived at by the official tourist office person at the airport.)

End of this section, to be called j11127.txt and .htm

STEPHEN PETTER’S JOURNAL (More a Travel Log than a true Journal)Minor revisions

18/5/02: Wednesday, 28th November, 2001

Delhi to Sohna.

I need to be brief, the more so since I have just lost about an hour’s work on this, due to MS Word crashing. How I hate being enslaved to Bill Gates!

Taken back to Tourist Office – the firm which had been so helpful last night when the hotel we had booked would not take us. We found it was not the official Government service that they had claimed to be, however they were fairly helpful and made no direct charge. (Possibly they had a commission from our expensive hotel.)

It’s a pity I do not have time to describe all the bad advice we received from the hotel, this Information Service (a travel agent in disguise) and various touts and taxi drivers. Charming and interesting people, but all lying through their teeth. In the end we found ourselves in a taxi at what we thought was a bargain rate (later found it was about 50% higher than a local would pay) driving out of Delhi through flat scruffy countryside on crowded roads where the drivers all seemed to be deaf and to have a death wish. It seems quite normal to overtake in such a way as to force drivers coming the other way onto the verge! The reason we were in a taxi was that pretty well everyone assured us there was no bus service, which we later found was also not true.

(This problem of being mislead by apparently official people continues to plague us. (I am writing this on 9th December.) For instance a few days later we walked into the main railway station to be met by an important looking chap at a desk who informed us the booking hall was temporarily closed and we would have to go to another office across the road. We were doubtful but other staff were around to help bewildered tourists like us, all with the same story. One even warned us we must not listen to touts posing as railway staff. We went to the office (crossing the road itself could warrant a long description) to find it clearly was not official. Eventually we ignored all advice and found the correct office fully open. (But incredibly slow – one has to apply on forms for tickets, and queue three or more times, and pay with cash backed up by proof one has not stolen it, e.g. an ATM slip, plus showing one’s passport… Incredible!) But to give credit, the fare for the 48 hour 1700 km journey in a second class sleeper train (two nights) was 15 pounds each.)

Anyway we arrived in Sohna by mid afternoon to be welcomed by Kamla Sawney, founder and head of Sangam School in the nearby village of Indri. A charming highly educated and totally dedicated person who has devoted her life to this work, and to the Sangam Foundation. Her aim is to provide quality education in rural areas where state and private schools give a very poor education or none at all. Private schools run for profit. I read recently that state schools do not even spend all the money they get from the central government, but ‘save’ it for other uses.

The room in her house was not ready so we spent the first two nights at a posh ‘resort;’ hotel, away from the town, where the service was mediocre and the price about three times what we usually pay. Apparently there was no other hotel in the town.

It’s an ugly town, mainly truck and bus repair yards lining the two main roads that cross each other. It is unbelievably dirty and noisy with all the vehicles screaming their horns at each other and any poor pedestrians who venture off the rough litter strewn verges inches deep in a fine dust. Men spit and piss into the churned up soil, children crap in it, animals die in it, or their bodies are thrown there after being run over, pigs snuff about, cows mooch around, eating what they can, vendors empty all their rubbish and scraps, junk metal and rusting cars litter the scene. It is just horrible but at the same time fascinating, vibrant, colourful, an assault on all senses. Drivers (when driving) apart people are friendly though often embarrassingly curious – there being no other non-Indians in the town.

November 29 to December 6. In Sohna, Haryan Province, India.

Kamla’s driver, Rattan Singh, picked us up at 7.30 and with several others packing like sardines in the tiny van we were driven the 7km to the school along a very interesting country road. Often the surface had perished and we bumped painfully along (my shingles gave me a lot of pain). Rattan blows the horn whenever he sees anyone else on the road, which is most of the time, and continually as he overtakes or tries to overtake. Other traffic is trucks, buses, a few cars, bicycles, cycle rickshaws, bullock carts, camel carts, tractors with carts, jeeps used as buses with people clinging to the side or sitting on the small roof. Sometimes vast loads of hay or straw as wide as the road, bound in enormous clothes or tarpaulins. And a few brave pedestrians.

The school is in a magnificent setting. 10 acres were given by the nearby village. There is a large playing field, one end of which is terraced to give a large open air stage. The original (c 1987) school buildings are in a horseshoe and are a pleasant design; across the dusty yard newer classrooms are starker and less imaginative. We were introduced to each class and its teacher. All were very friendly. Soon we were in front of a class, the teacher having invited us to take the English lesson. Initially we had the pupils reading from their readers, but later we were able to plan varied lessons, mixing grammar with conversation and fun, such as singing or learning tongue twisters.

Except for Friday, see below, and Sunday, we taught at the school every day from 29th to 6th December. It was a lovely experience. I realised I had missed my vocation. (I did a year teacher training, PGCE, in 1980, but went back into industry.) We were heartwarmingly popular. I suppose it is not hard to stimulate children when there are two or three teachers for a class of 10 to 20. We taught Classes 5 to 8 i.e. 10 to 13 year olds.. (After Grade 8 they go, if anywhere to Secondary school.) Not least the teachers seemed to welcome our help, giving them ideas for their teaching which I imagine is mainly by rote and grammar based, is supported by very basic text books and no other teaching aids. At first J and I found working together irksome but we soon settled into a good double-act.

We had a few walks in the town. We visited two Hindu temples at different times, each time being made very welcome and invited to tea. At one place we accepted and had a chat with the benefactor and his bright young graduate niece (she had done Political Science and declared that all India’s politicians are corrupt!) We met a Sadhu with whom we tried to converse, but mainly we mutually enjoyed simply sitting with each other.



Friday, 30th. National holiday for birthday of Guru Nanek (Sikh).

J and I, Kamla, Rattan Singh and Deepak, one of the teachers, also Rajeev a young man who lives with Kamla as her son, all went to a country park by a lake for a picnic.

Sunday, 1st December

J and I set off for what we hoped would be a quiet walk in the fields, and a chance to have another two-person Meeting for Worship. However we were severely pestered by some young men, mainly one, trying to be helpful, but incapable of accepting that they were not. We eventually gave up. As we retreated he started asking for dollars. When refused he moderated, said he could accept rupees!

Health. The progress of the shingles seems to have been stopped, by the course of anti-viral pills. The spots only extend half way round my chest, and they did not develop into boils and scabs as predicted. However quite a lot of pain comes and goes under where the spots appear, and the skin there and at other parts of my body becomes so sensitive that even my shirt brushing it seems unbearable. So it is not nearly as bad as predicted, and I do not often have to take pain killers. However the pain in my right side at the level of my waist seems to be getting worse. This is probably to do with the shingles (also on the right side but higher) though the type of pain, and how it is triggered, is quite different. Jennifer continues to have a lot of pain from her left knee.

December 6th. Last day at Sangam School.

Classes went well. Kids sad we are going. In the break I climbed the ‘mountain’ behind the school – steep and covered by thorn bushes despite which one boy seemed OK though wearing only flip flops. I as usual in boots. The view on the other side was grand. Then the whole school did a concert for us on their open air stage, plus J and I led the top classes in "There’s a hole in my bucket". After school we walked through the village (which we had not done before) with two teachers who live there as guides and a crowd of children. The village head came out to meet us, a sick man. We had to decline two pressing invitations to take tea.

December 7th - Friday. Return to Delhi.

Rattan Singh and Kamla took us to the bus station. I was dreading the journey, esp. as we have a lot of luggage. There were well over 50 people waiting but Rattan took the initiative and got us onto the bus while it was in effect still garaged. So after a very long wait we were off. Incidentally the fare was 25 Rupees each as opposed to the 1200 R the taxi had charged. The bus drove as badly as everyone else, frequently forcing opposing vehicles off the road. There seems to be no rancour – much horn blowing but this is more "Watch out, I’m going too fast to stop", rather than an angry "Get out of the way" or "You b******!" which would be the message between British drivers. Progress was very slow once we got to Delhi. At the bus station we took a taxi to our new hotel, called the Anloop, which is in a fascinating part of town near the New Delhi railway station. The hotel has very steep stairs which exacerbates J’s bad knee, but we are on the first floor. It has a good hot water system but is very noisy, both from the road and from the chattering of the all night staff.

Saturday 8th. In Delhi.

This morning we went to the main station to get our tickets to Kerela. What a business! First we had problems with touts ‘disguised’ as officials who all told us very firmly that the main booking office was temporarily closed for refurbishment and one had to go to an office over the road. We were doubtful but other ‘officials’ came and told the same story, one even warning us to be on our guard against unscrupulous touts, and offering to help us over the busy road to the temporary office. We fell for it insofar as going into the office which clearly was a private outfit. So ignoring the touts we went back and I found a uniformed official who told me where the official tourists’ ticket office was located. Here we found long patient queues waiting for officials with various languages, French, Spanish, German, Israeli, etc. We had to fill out forms then queue again to get the tickets. The tickets themselves were remarkably cheap; we were getting 2nd class, no a/c, sleepers. (Having suffered hours on the incredibly noisy open windowed train in Thailand, I would have prefered a higher standard, for instance air conditioned - not for the temperature but for the noise reduction.)

J and I had a row over how to deal with taxi drivers, so we parted for a few hours, meeting as arranged for lunch with Hari Khurana, a lovely man. He very much wants to strengthen Delhi Worship Group, which is now down to a handful of members. I think he wishes I or we could come to live here to work on this, and at Sangam. J found the post office.

Sunday 9th.

We went for MfW at the YWCA, and afterwards walked to Connaught Place with Tara Chand Mor (longest membership of the Group, farmer, part time worker at an international Peace organisation, an Union leader of its staff.) We had also met Dilwas Chetsingh. In the pm J and I went to the Red Fort and the central mosque. Both of us in best clothes and shoes unsuitable for much walking. Very tiring because of huge crowds and cheating taxi drivers. In evening we had a (second) Hindi lesson. Later I spent (am spending) much time on computer.

End of this section, to be called j11209.txt and .htm

STEPHEN PETTER’S JOURNAL (More a Travel Log than a true Journal)

29/5/02 Minor amendments

Monday, 10th December, 2001 - In Delhi

At last my ability to meditate deeply seems to be returning. Twice recently I have sat up in bed in the early morning while Jennifer is still asleep, and have done the Transcendental Meditation (T.M.) technique taught to me over 30 years ago. In the ‘70s I found it very empowering and claimed it got me through my Open University courses.

We had expected this morning to be difficult, as we were to see to getting visas for Mongolia, China and Russia. But when we phoned (from one of the ubiquitous STD/ISD/PCO offices) we found that the first two can be obtained easily and quickly and the Russian one we cannot order so far in advance. So suddenly we found ourselves with a free morning. I went on my own to the main GPO where I found some mail poste restante from Katherine Purnell who had forwarded it from Australia. It included several letters that Juliet had sent on from UK. I then walked for ages, along a wide street full of great churches and religious centres (including HQ of the Communist Marxist Party!) and then round a market and the area of many travel agents. I was seriously pestered by dozens of touts, getting really angry about their persistence.

I got back to the hotel where Guy joined us for lunch.

In the evening we walked a long way along the street that goes from our hotel to the station, which is rightly called Main Bazar, looking for a south Indian restaurant. It was crowded and at one time I found myself oddly hemmed in by several youths. Later I found my (or rather our) wallet missing. Not by chance it did not contain any credit cards, only money over 500 rupees i.e. over 10 pounds. Also our train tickets. I felt very upset by it, foolish and angry, but J and G were reassuring. This is the first time we have been robbed (not counting when we have been cheated by taxi drivers!). Not too bad a record after 8 months travelling mostly in insalubrious places.

Tuesday 11 December. To Warangal.

We had to leave quite early so as to give plenty of time at the station to get replacement tickets. This took quite a while and would have taken much longer but for the help of the woman on the information/help desk. The staff was very bureaucratic and argued with each other about the percentage surcharge we had to pay.

The train compartment was not too bad, with room under the seat and on the top bunk for all our luggage. Reserved seats though people think nothing of joining one and making one shove up to make room. Vendors continually come along the train, shouting out, each selling one thing - tea, coffee, a wide variety of eats, toys, tin openers, all sorts. Also there is a continual stream of beggars who come aboard, mutely prodding one or shoving their handless arms or whatever into one’s face. From time to time entertainers give a brief performance, a girl doing acrobatics, or a boy singing piercingly to the sound of a small drum. One reads, plays word games, dozes, gazes out of the window, takes a trip to the loo, stops to stand at the open door to gaze out at the passing scenery. Time melts away.

The journey to Kerela is about 24 hours but we were breaking it to spend 24 hours about half way. In the evening about 9 everyone moves around to erect the middle bunk (which had served as the seat-back) and so lie down, no blankets etc – most people had their own, J and G had sleeping bags as did I but didn’t use it. I slept fairly well, it was not too uncomfortable but very noisy especially at stations where vendors continued to come on and shout out their wares deliberately waking us up. People without reserved seats slept on the floor, in the corridors especially at the end of the carriage, and one slept in the floor space between our bunks.

Wed 12 Dec. Warangal.

On the train I had a good conversation with a travelling companion, Gordon Parker, about his Buddhism and travels, about his personal life and even about sailing.

At about 1130 we arrived. We had chosen to stop here only because it is about half way. We lugged our luggage along the hot street (refusing taxis) to the (Vijaya Lodge) hotel which turned out to be gaunt and very unfriendly. In the pm we took a taxi (I use the term to refer to auto rickshaws as we almost always use them rather than motor car taxis) to a 12th Century temple at the edge of town. We had a delicious supper at a very dirty looking but friendly place. The meals cost about 20 pence each. We played cards, our favorite game is Balboa which I kept winning, and Hearts, at which I lose massively every time.

Thur 13th. Back to the train.

We breakfasted (rice, and/or chapati, sloppy dahl, pickles, chillis) and bought some fruit, then packed up and trudged back to the station. This time our fellow traveller was a tall American hippie, also an Indian Army Warrant Officer. Much of the evening I was in a bad mood, luckily J had Guy – they were both cheerful. Again we slept fairly well. Next morning besides all the usual coming and going there were many more beggars, many horribly maimed, also young women with drugged babies. Sometimes I give to them, feeling I have been had, other times I refuse and feel guilty.

Fri 14th TO FORT COCHIN part of Ernaculam (?), Kerela.

This morning the scenery viewed from the train improved greatly, as we travels through what the Kerelans modestly call God’s Own Country! I spent a lot of time standing at the open carriage door looking at the houses and villages, and enjoying the lovely, varied scenery, wood, hillocks, paddy fields, rushes, rivers and rock. Each view is full of variety.

We arrived in Ern and I was horrified by J and G’s exercise of the art of meanness as they screw the hapless taxi drivers down, then we all pile in with massive luggage. In their opinion I am soft and unrealistic. We took the taxi to the ferry were I bought the tickets for a mere 2 rupees. The crowds wanting to get onto the boat press forward so as to block those trying to get off. I hated all the pushing and shoving. Still we found a nice spot, in the bow of the boat, so had a splendid view of the great harbour. At Ft Kochin we walked to the nearby hotel – rather more expensive than our norm, this is Guy’s influence. This hotel (The Fort House) is remarkable for its wonderful collection of temple statues that fill the yard, under trees and amongst bushes. (I took several photos.) Also it has a jetty on which one can sit, watching the harbour traffic. In the evening a huge fleet of fishing vessels came home, literally hundreds, like an armada.

Guy led us at a cracking pace through a network of tiny alleys. I could tell it was not towards any eating places, which was what we sought. I get very fed up with having my opinion ignored or worse, while J always accepts everything G proposes. So we walked for ages in the heat, very hungry, until at last we ate in a most disgusting place – with more flies than I have every seen. In the evening J and I went to an excellent concert of Sitar and Tabla music in a local arts centre – very good. One of the few really delightful things we have done together. Spoilt by her insistence we go to Jew Town to eat even though there is no mention in the guidebook of any suitable place there. We walk along dreary shuttered streets, finding nowhere. So back to eat at the hotel which is good and not too expensive, but J hates it, and marches off. G goes and persuades her to return.

Saturday 15th. In Cochin.

J was in a bad mood because I had disturbed her around 5 am by getting up to fight mosquitoes. I also stepped out, to go onto the jetty and watch the boats going out to sea, enjoying their lights. I was as quiet as possible (no noisier than getting up for a pee) but she was outraged I should do such a thing. (I see I am getting back into the habit of mentioning our continuous rows. Fact is they do dominate all we do. Immensely depressing and disturbing to any spiritual peacefulness or enjoyment of our travels.) In the morning we moved to a less expensive hotel. In the pm we went to Jew Town but the famous synagogue was closed for the Sabbath. We visited several gift shops, plagued by touts.

Sunday 16th. Another row so I got up and went out at about 7 am and spent all morning on my own, walking a long way in the delicious cool, seeing many good sights, talking with people, going to a church service, eating beef curry (first meat for ages), and buying presents in Jew Town. I have a great time when on my own. In the eve we ate at the Seagull after much vacillation re where to go. Again a hotel. J dislikes using these touristy, westernised places, but here it seems we have no alternative. .

Monday 17th.

We were to have left today but put it off so as to go on an afternoon outing to the famous ‘Back Waters’. This was very pleasant and interesting.

Tuesday 18th December. To Kanur in north of Kerela.

We caught the express, a very slow train! Wooden seats but not too crowded. We stayed at a Government Rest House, all on a grand scale but very inefficient with bossy, inflexible management. Great style but nothing works! We enjoyed the meal served rather formally by (contractor) staff anxious to please.

Round here they eat with their bare (right) hand, messily getting food pretty well all over the hand even the back of the fingers! I find it impossible, so I carry a teaspoon. J and Guy go local. There is always a wash basin in the restaurant.


It had been agreed I would spend a day on my own while J and G went to see a Fort and go swimming. I wanted to do some shopping (mainly for a present for J) and perhaps internet. However after we had parted fairly amicably she rushed back to say a famous Swami had invited us to spend the day with him. He personally knows Genia (J’s mother) and they are full of mutual admiration. (When she and G decided to stay in this town she had not realised his ashram was near here but when she did she rang him.) I agreed. We had a worrisome time meeting up but eventually he in his chauffeur driven car appeared and we piled in. It was difficult to understand him, I let J do most of the talking. His driver drove very dangerously and arrogantly. We at last arrived at his lovely ashram and he showed us to ‘our room’ (a typical hotel ensuite bedroom) – we repeated we could not stay the night but he assured us he understood. He showed us round the extensive grounds pointing out the great variety of fruit trees and vegetables he cultivated, and we visited the homeopathic clinic he had established. In return for a small annual fee all medicine and consultations are free.

Thurs 20 Dec

The plan was to go to Bangalore as Guy and Jennifer very much wanted to see the Test Match between England and India. They also wanted to have a swim, so therefore they could not take the daytime bus that leaves before 8. So they decided to go to Bangalore on the overnight bus, which takes about 10 hours, the train service taking over 20 hours. I eventually decided to follow in daylight. We had to book out early, the Manager was adamant about it. So we parted, J very angry with me for ‘walking out on us’. I went into town to ascertain the travel options, and eventually booked to go by bus tomorrow, I had also booked into a small hotel right near the station. Then I set off for the beach, there unexpectedly to find J & G. So we spent the afternoon together and they came back to my hotel for a shower before setting off. I had a pleasant time reading and writing.

Fri 21st December. 2001 To Bangalore.

It was a long but lovely journey on the bus, which was not crowded. We drove through small towns and villages, then to open country that soon became forest as we climbed the hills of the Western Ghats. There were birds and monkeys and much varied vegetation. The underpowered bus crawled painfully up and up, getting round hairpin bends with difficulty. At the top it was a different State and the scenery changed to open prairie type country, with many very English looking cottages and small farms. Being high it was quite cool. The negatives were noise. The blare of awful music as tapes were played. I got it turned down twice, and there were some blessed periods when a tape was not immediately replaced, but it kept intruding back again. The other was the driver’s horn blowing. I timed it and estimate he blew the horn 1000 times on the journey.

It was a good journey for another reason. I was studying a booklet on Hinduism and had plenty of time to ponder much of it, comparing what was written with my ideas, about the existence and nature of God, about reincarnation and karma, both of which I reject. But if karma does not control what happens in our lives, what does? I was also able to meditate, so the journey left me very refreshed and even quite excited spiritually.

When we arrived in Bangalore it was raining and the ground was very muddy. I just managed to save my cloth bag being dumped in a shallow puddle – in fact it had been rolling around in the dirty trunk of the bus and was filthy.

I soon got a taxi to our hotel, where I found the staff rather unfriendly. I had a rather miserable evening with Guy and Jennifer.

Saturday 22 December, 2001

J and I shopped; I bought her some leather slippers – I wanted to get a bust but they were not nearly so good here as in Cochin. Then I went off to the station to see about tickets to Mysore – we had decided to go there as this best suited Guy. I went to the GPO – no letters – then had a long and pleasant walk back through a large park. In the pm J and I went to the Test Match. This was my first ever experience of first class cricket! I enjoyed it very much. The crowd were vociferous and very partisan. However it started to rain and eventually we left. In the evening we traipsed around the rough pavements and noisy, busy streets looking for a restaurant. J was very upset as she has again set her knees hurting (they had been getting better) with all the walking and the big steps in the cricket stadium.

I was shattered to hear we would have to sign out by 0630 next morning, as that was the time they checked in after their overnight journey. They had enjoyed the cricket.

Sunday 23rd December. To MYSORE.

We checked out early, leaving our luggage at the hotel despite their negativity. We intended to complain and will tell the guidebook not to recommend them. We have seldom or never had such an unfriendly place. After a while we parted again as I wanted very much to go to church – there being no Quaker meeting. I spent several hours in St Mark’s Cathedral, hearing most of three Holy Communion services, reading the prayer book, meditating and thinking about God, wondering whether I am an atheist, and I had a powerful ‘insight’ regarding prayer. Despite several problems recently I really have been making progress at last with my spiritual development.

When I got back to our rendezvous – an Internet place – a very few words passed between me and J that put me into a bad mood. However we overcame it as we set off for the station. I felt low and objected to wandering about the place in the rain with all our luggage to go to a specific eating place, in fact I balked, but Guy came back to assure me it was only a few yards more. In fact it was very crowded because very good.

The train was crowded with many very noisy rumbustious children, but luckily was a mere three hours. I had pleasure standing at the open door of the carriage looking at the ever changing, lovely scenery and into houses and villages.

In Mysore we took two taxis to our hotel, The Green Hotel, which we knew was more expensive than we usually pay, and which turns out to be excellent. (Later I saw that it was selected by The Independent as one of the 50 best budget hotels in the world! We ate in the main part, a former palace.

Monday 24th December In Mysore.

We went to see the famous Palace of the Rajas of Mysore. It is huge, like a massive Brighton Pavilion from the outside, and grossly kitsch inside. Ghastly colour schemes, grossly overblown.

In the evening we and other guests ate in the formal garden, under the stars and half moon, the trees and the palace outlined with thousands of lights. Magic!

End of this section, to be called j11224.rtf and htm.


STEPHEN PETTER’S JOURNAL (More a Travel Log than a true Journal)

Amended and with additions 29/5/02

25th December, 2001 - Still at the Green Hotel, on the outskirts of Mysore in India.

A pretty awful day – Jennifer was upset with me all day. I have written about it elsewhere. (For the record she says it was all my fault.) I retreated to the hotel’s computer and did this journal up to December 24th.

We exchanged gifts. Guy had brought me some very good, unusual and expensive Scotch, a present from him and Juliet. Jennifer had brought me a very fine Indian picture. I gave Guy an Indian statuette and another for Juliet, and Jennifer, as a temporary present, a nice pair of leather slippers bought in Bangalore. I want to get her a really good ‘face’ – e.g. a bust of a Buddhist or Hindu God.

In the afternoon we played word games with Guy, sitting at a table on the raised lawn in the centre of the hotel area. As dusk falls they switch on myriads of small lights attached to the trees and silhouetting the buildings making it all seem magical. What with the stars and moon and the balmy evening air it is quite wonderful. In the evening Guy took us to a good restaurant (part of the major hotel in town) where we had tandoori chicken – J’s and my first non-vegetarian for several weeks – to the sound of live (not very good) music.

Wednesday 26th December.

Much recrimination etc re yesterday and the firm decision to end our relationship. J and Guy went off sightseeing while I went to town mainly to get our train tickets. I then went to a rather poor Natural History Museum.

Thur, 27th. We saw Guy off then we took a bus to a bird sanctuary some miles out of town. This involved quite a long walk through Indian countryside, something we have both been wanting to do. However we had a problem finding a bus back to town, and in the event separated not on good terms, coming home individually, but amicable when we re-met.

Friday, 28th December 2001. Depart for Trichy.

We had pleasant morning packing slowly, me writing some brief letters. We had a long chat with Hilary Blume, one of the Directors of the Green Hotel which is one of the projects of several ‘green’ ventures aiming to support rural and minority and disadvantaged people. For instance the water here is heated by solar panels, there is no a/c nor even a standby generator, all the crockery and linen are locally produced by traditional methods, the staff are locally recruited, many are single parents or otherwise disadvantaged and the employment policies are enlightened.

They gave us a lovely send-off ritual, involving gift including a small coconut.

We then caught the 1530 so called express train for Trichy via Bangalore. (It probably would have been quicker and certainly shorter to go by road.)

Saturday 29th December 2001. via TRICHY to TANNIRPALLI

We had to get off the train at around 0500 and there was some doubt as to whether we were at the correct station there being three with similar names. We took a bicycle rickshaw to the central bus station then a one hour bumpy ride though the dawning countryside to the village of Tannirpalli which is near Kulithalli in Tamil Nadu. I noticed as we passed through each village though it was still dark there were many people about. Women were drawing their intricate ‘welcome’ patterns on the hard packed newly swept earth in front of their homes, and from loud speakers strung from trees or utility poles loud distorted music was blaring out at an ear-shattering volume.

We were put off at the village and easily found the Ashram, 100 yards down a sandy track, and were shown to the dining hall for breakfast. This was taken in silence, sitting cross-legged on the floor in two rows facing each other. It consisted of idlies and samba, also milky sweet coffee and a small banana. There were about 8 people who looked like monks (one nun) and about 12 others who were presumably visitors like us.

After breakfast we were shown to our room by a beautiful but very stern faced woman. The floor had just been washed and there were several pools which took several hours to dry in the humid atmosphere. It was a rather dark double room with two rather hard beds and minimal furniture. No glass or mesh in the small windows, but shutters. Shared loos (a choice of squat or Western) (no toilet paper, just a jug and a tap) and shared unheated showers. All very basic but adequate and not uncomfortable. Our room was one of a dozen or so forming three sides of a square, in the middle of which was a covered area with tables and chairs for reading and writing, all facing a grove of bushes and magnificent palm trees reaching far above us. Elsewhere small huts were to be found dotted amongst the vegetation and a few days later our request to be transferred to one of these was granted.

The ashram is called Saccivananda but is usually refered to as Shantivanam meaning Sacred Mangro grove which is the area it occupies. (P.S. 8/8/05: The ashram is just outside the village of ??? on the road from Tiruchirappalli (aka Trichy) and Erode, on the banks of the River Cauvery / Kavery / Kaveri. One goes by train to Trichy, cycle-rickshaw to the bus station, and bus to Shantivanam.) However I have always referred to it as the Bede Griffiths ashram. Here we stayed for two delightful weeks. There was an excellent library, lovely walks within and outside the ashram, many interesting people with whom to hold quiet discussions one was expected to maintain quiet but not total silence.

I started a Spiritual Journal in which I have recorded much of my reading and my thinking and conclusions about religious and spiritual matters. (I thus have four journals! I record daily events and travels in my pocket diary which I use to do this more detailed log, padding it out from memory. Then I have notes and essays re my rel w J, and now fourthly a Spiritual Journal.

PS actually there is another, that is my several notebooks which I am keeping.)

(PPS It seems all my early notebooks have been lost in the post. 29/5/02)

29/5/02 Addition: The very tall palm trees shaded most of the ashram. Beneath them hard packed dirt paths curved between beds of lower vegetation, amongst the many small buildings, and over the irrigation channels. The larger buildings (all single floor) were the kitchen/dining area which also included a small office, and the block of rooms we first stayed in. Dispersed widely over the several-acre site were small huts occupied by monks, novices, and visitors. Near the centre was a circular library building surrounded by a verandah, and near the dirt road was the chapel. This was highly decorated and looked just like a Hindu temple, except that on closer inspection one found that the many staues were of Christian saints rather than local Gods. The monks wore the same style of clothes as do Hindu monks, and sat on the ground during worship and during meals. There were a few stools and chairs for the few visitors who like me usually needed them. (End of later addition.)

The daily routine was Meditation at dawn and dusk. Services at 7 am, midday and around 6.30 p.m, with meals immediately after the services. The first service was Eucharist. These were conducted mainly in Tamil, with Tamil or Sanskrit hymns. Bible and Gita readings and sermons were in English. There were several very Indian (Hindu) rituals such as a flaming torch being passed around. One held one’s hands briefly in or near the flame then touched one’s face with one’s warmed, pleasant smelling palms. Towards the end of our time there I was going to only one a day. Jennifer kept up the meditation most of the time, as did I, but after a while we found a better place in which to do it than the chapel. The great problem was mosquitoes, the place was alive with them and they were voracious and very persistent. They could bite through a thick shirt. The only (partial) solution was to apply repellant to hands, feet and neck up, then to envelop oneself in one or two thick blankets (which I begged from Miss Sternface) or wear a thick jersey.

The food was good but very same-y. I enjoyed the quick, unfussy way it was served, eaten and over. We took the stainless steel utensils out to an area where there was water for a four stage washing up process.

Nearby was the River Chauvey (?) very broad and shallow at this time of year, with innumerable islands to which one could walk and wade, and tall lush vegetation so one could soon get out of sight of the people washing themselves and their clothes, and the cattle herders. It was very good to go to the river’s edge in the dark under the bright stars.

The hut to which we moved after a few days had a lovely view over a small vivid green field then over the river. On the nearby bank there was an odd looking wall-less shed, just a roof on poles. One day we saw a brightly decorated bundle being carried by several men, followed by a noisy procession. We recognised it as a funeral as by chance we had seen a video (mostly of Bede Griffiths talking) the previous evening and it had included close-ups of a Hindu funeral pyre. After a long time in preparation (we were impatient as we were late for an appointment) the men all fell silent and the deceased person’s relatives lit it. The downside was that when we returned later in the day it was still smouldering and emitting the unpleasant smell of burning flash which lingered for about 12 hours.

I hired a bike for almost the whole time we were here 100 rupees per week! No deposit! Problem was that J has a bad knee, probably caused by her agreeing to hire a bike in Chaing Mai (but much exacerbated by her refusal to treat it or rest it, or use porters to carry our very heavy luggage up and down stairs and steep steps) so she cannot cycle so regards me having one as a bit of an affront.

Sunday 30th. Up early. Long meditation at dawn. We had a Meeting for Worship with a German couple who seemed very much in tune with it and enquired about Quakers in Germany. Later we did a few sessions of Yoga with them.

I had the privilege of a long interview with Brother Martin, not realising till later a. that he is the best person for spiritual guidance and b. he is on sabattical and not normally doing it now. I wanted to discuss two subjects, first how to deepen my meditation I am now seldom reaching the blissful depths which I often used to reach in the 70s. Secondly to discuss Hindu and Christian concepts of God and ultimate reality. I asked whether I should continue reading many often conflicting theories about God and rather to my surprise he urged me to do so. He did not wish to discuss meditation but we had a good talk on other topics. More details in my spiritual journal.

Monday 31st.

I went into town (Trichy) by bus. Quite an adventure. I bought Malaria pills, went to the internet, spent ages seeking out a few rupees worth of dye, had a delicious omlette, found fab computer books the same as in shops in UK but about a tenth of the UK price, hunted for a shirt and ended up with some shirt material, so hunted for a tailor who accepted the job for the amazing sum of 60 rupees (less than one pound), found the bus back but had to walk about a kilometer, had a row with J. about me wanting to go to midnight mass, washed my trousers, started my spiritual journal and in the evening stood alone on the river bank gazing at the stars for a long delicious time, went to mass. It was just about the dullest celebratory service I have ever attended!

Tuesday January 1st, 2002.

Quiet day mostly reading and meditation. Got bitten on my instep, it swelled up and itched abominably for several days. Reading or have just finished booklet on Sri Aurobindo (hasty conclusion: same as other modern Hindus but different jargon), Swami Vivikenanda (very powerful, practical, much like Quakers), and a booklet by Bro Martin’s analysing the Lord’s Prayer. Also a very good R.C. Theological Journal that is teaching me a lot about Vatican II.


Moved to Hut 2, Great facing river and having a cool breeze.


J bt over me being too domestic. The hut esp its loo was very dirty and I had a good time sloshing it out with lots of water, scrubbing and cleaning the WC, and a stool (wooden thing to sit on!!!) which was thick with black accretion.

I am very excited by Bede Griffiths’s biography "The Golden String". In the pm I cycled to Sis Stephanie’s simple abode which she calls a hermitage to find out where it is as I am to take J on the back of the bike and do not want to have to hunt for it. But Sis S saw me so I had to go in. Got bitten a dozen times while talking to her. Made me frantic. She showed me to a tap and I cooled down under it. In the evening after supper by popular request they showed a video: The Life of B.G. .

Friday 4 Jan.

Meditation went well. Seems that comfort and no distracting mosquitoes are more important than traditional posture (e.g. X-legged) and various Techniques. As usual now after breakfast J and I volunteered to do vegetables, then I did domestics but J got even more bt about it than yesterday despite my trying to do it quietly so as not to disturb her. She was cross all day. I went off and cleared out the cowshed which worked off some anger.

We went to visit Sister Agnes a social campaigner who lives in the village.

In the afternoon there was a cremation which we watched, making us late for our visit to Sis Stephanie. She calls herself a hermit though she lives in a complex (which she owns) where she has a lodger (Bro Martin) and staff. I asked what’s the difference between living alone and being a hermit – she said the latter is having peace in one’s heart.

In the evening J and I had a mega row and she (once again) said she would definitely leave me. She would leave here early tomorrow and continue the journey alone. I felt quite relieved but as before feared she would back track.

Saturday 5 January, 2002.

I went into Trichy on the bus a second time, mainly to get my shirt from the tailors. I bought myself four computer books for the equiv of 10 pounds. Bro Augustin invited us to visit him next day. J said yes which surprised me as I thought she was to leave. In the evening J was still negative.

Sunday 6

Cleaned cowshed again. We had a talk with Bro Augustin, our next hut neighbour. He has been here for several decades. Kindly, wise old man, uses stories of Jesus to illustrate most of his points. J had a long walk with Ghian, a pleasant English chap who has spent ages in India (also a member of a co-op with a place in Tuscany) and dresses like a sadhu.

Monday 7

Ordination ceremony. Bro Paul become Father Paul. Couldn’t happen to a nicer chap! Ably supported by Jeremy. J still determined to leave me here, to go on to Pondicherry alone tomorrow. But she has not told anyone she is leaving (except Gyian).

Tuesday 8.

J packed to leave this p.m. F Augustin asks to see each of us separately, not sure if it is really because he wants to talk to each of us without interference, or whether he has heard our row and hopes to fix it. He said nothing of this ilk to me, but later J decided not to go after all.

We decided to leave on Friday, J went off on her own to telephone Mary Aldridge in Pondicherry. (This was some distance and into the unknown and I could have done it easily on my bike, but one of her complaints is that I do all the challenging things making her feel helpless.)

In the late evening J and I walked to the river bank to see the stars etc.

Wed 9th

I did the cowshed a 4th (?) time. J and I getting on well; in the pm we had a MfW selecting an A & Q at random and it turned out to be No 32 – very apposite.

Thur 10th January 2002

Last full day at Ashram.

As for the past few days I get up v early, go to other toilets where I apply mosq repel first of all, then go to meditation room to do some exercises and yoga then meditate wrapped in a jersey and blankets. I reached good levels of meditation. After brkfst we went for a walk in the woods along the river bank. Sadly J’s peace of mind was spoilt by some threatening dogs. I cleaned the cowshed for the last time. Then a wash, coffee, read the newspaper, had a long chat with Gyian, then with Augustin, then I went off alone to think and pray and write in my Sp journal during which I had a powerful "opening" (details in the journal) and felt the need to mark it by having a ceremonial dip so I went to the river and sort of cleansed myself. This made me late for lunch – later I apologised to Father Roger (?) (the boss) and told him of my experience.


End of this section, to be called j20110 .rtf and htm.


Friday 11th January 2002. TO PONDICHERRY – see next section.




Rev 29/5/02

Friday 11th January 2002. TO PONDICHERRY (aka PONDY)

After a peaceful morning in the ashram and an early lunch we left after many sad farewells. The auto taxi was late so we took another. This was to take us to a village about 2 km away from which we caught the bus to Trichy, then the 1530 train for the 3 hour journey to P. We bought ordinary 2nd class unreserved tickets and soon regretted the saving – it was totally full up. (We could have bought 2nd class sleeper seats which are reserved). So we sat on the floor by the open door, watching the scenery. Problem was that space was very limited and by sitting for so long with insufficient legroom J caused her bad knee to flare up again. Actually the train does not go to P but to another town Villampur from which we had said we would get another train but we found that a bus would get us there much more quickly. It was a crowded bus and we had a job loading and stowing our luggage. (‘Loading’ because these buses have a very high step up.) The conductor took our fares and indicated we’d get the tickets but never gave me them despite me asking twice. In P we went straight to Mary Aldridge’s house. She seemed quite worried by our not having been met! Also she thought she had found us some lodging nearby and we started walking down the dark street to it but she was very frail, unable to walk unaided, and unable to see in the dark. So I insisted we take her back to her flat and go off on our own to find a place. By now I was quite hot and bothered – we were plagued by taxi touts who would not use their meters and of course we could not state our destination. While looking for one place we found another or rather an anxiously helpful young man found us and led us to it. It was dark and dirty with crummy shared loo and shower, and hard mattresses. However we were grateful for shelter and soon settled down to sleep. We were disturbed by what seemed staff talking – one telling a long and amazing tale. Then there was a knock. I got up to find a tall, thin, kind man, clearly a very good, spiritual person, anxious to talk. He seemed to know us! We invited him in so as not to disturb other residents. It turned out he had been persuaded by Mary to meet us at Pondicherry Station. He felt guilty because the train had been early, which was not unusual, so when he could not find us he thought it to be his fault. His name was Vimelananda and he had then spent all evening looking for us in various hotels, to tell us that another friend of Mary’s (who we later met by sheer coincidence) had booked us into a posh hotel and possibly already paid. He had given up his search and returned to his own digs – this place! Only when he told his tale did the reception person tell him we were here. He wanted to take us to the posh place but I was not sure it would still be available (in Delhi we’d lost a booking by taking longer to get to it than anticipated) and anyway we just wanted sleep!

Saturday 12 January 2002. IN PONDY.

As we were near the main post office I posted the books to myself at Rosemary’s in Bristol. That reduced my luggage by over 5 kg. Actually this was quite complex as one has to have parcels wrapped in a certain way before the PO will accept them, and I had to get a rickshaw to take me to a place that did wrapping, and he did not even know the street though it was one of the town’s main streets. I also found a wonderful French bakery, selling real French baguettes and delicious tartes.

We had arranged to visit Mary at 10 and this we did and had a delightful interview. She is a member of the Aurobindo ashram which dominates this section of the town; her flat is owned by them and she gets her meals delivered from the canteen. She also values her membership of our (Westminster) Quaker Meeting even though she has not attended it for decades. In the pm we transferred to one of the Ashram’s many Guest Houses. This entitled us to meals in their canteen.

I forgot to mention that at Shandivanam I had had my boots stolen, and in them were the expensive foot supports I had had made in London to relieve pressure on the bone spur in my right heel. So this was the first time I had traveled or done much walking in sandals. My feet were aching and so was my back. So I decided to get one of the many cobblers to make me an insert. This took two hours or more. I was much helped by an extraordinary man who refused any reward greater than a soft drink. A keen reader and talker and listener to BBC. Late in the evening I got back to the Guest House but J was not there, so I set off to find some food and found her surprisingly cheerful in the restaurant.

(P.S. 29/5/02: During this day we moved from the really grotty hotel to one of the Aurobino Ashram’s guest houses. Very good standard, very reasonable charge, includes meals at the central canteen.)

Sunday, 13 January 2002. Pondy and Auroville.

The GH room was excellent and we enjoyed the Ashram breakfast. Similar to Shantivanam but with tables and benches to sit on. However I soon found the new inserts caused blisters, and my backache got worse, so my spirits were low as we waited for 10.

We had arranged to have a MfW with Mary and had invited Joss the Quaker that Lindley had told us of, and his wife, Anita. We settled down and they joined us. Afterwards we had good conversation and learned about the SNAFU yesterday over meeting us and our hotel booking. Joss told us Mary had been eagerly looking forward to our visit for months and had gone to much trouble to ensure we were well looked after when we arrived. She had sent Vimelananda (who works in the ashram canteen) to meet us at P railway station, but we had done the final leg by bus. And she had got another person to book us into a hotel.

We had some logistic problem which involved me having to go to the GH to check out and take all our bags out of our room, but they would not keep the luggage so I had to get an auto-rickshaw, and unload it temporarily at Mary’s. It was insisted that I brought it all upstairs.

We had lunch in the Ashram canteen then walked back to Mary’s to collect the bags and take them to a taxi firm Joss had organized. All this time my feet were aching and my backache getting worse with all the luggage removals and the uncomfortable bumpy taxi ride, and the new inserts in my shoes were causing blistering.

This taxi was to take us to Auroville about 10 km away, where Joss and Anita live. We had heard much about it; designed as a model town of the future under the inspiration of The Mother, Sri Aurobindo’s companion who outlived him.

We were booked into the Central Guest House, and this turned out to be a few huts around a good central office and dining area, supervised by a Dutch woman who greeted us warmly and helped us lug our bags up the steep stairs to our attic room. Other guests sat under a huge banyan tree, but were not very friendly. We went to the Matrimandir nearby, an extraordinary huge structure in a fine park. There were tremendous queues, but they moved quite fast, marshaled bossily by dozens of volunteer officials, past many signs saying SILENCE and WALK ON THE LEFT. As one approached thru the park one saw this huge golden sphere. Eventually after removing shoes and placing them very carefully in a well designed array and walking some way on stony ground we went into the base of the great sphere then up and up a huge spiral ramp. Construction was in progress, cladding the reinforced structure with polished marble. At last we reached the holy of holies – one looks into a great circular white marble hall with slender pillars and mysterious lighting. There was not time to work out whether shapes were shadows or long diaphanous curtains. In the center, lit by a shaft of light reflected through lenses in the apex, was a large glass ball. Within seconds a nice looking lady marshal was prodding me to hurry on. I was quite peeved that after so much queuing etc there was nothing much to see. (But it was free.) They had talked of a great crystal but it was ‘only’ glass. Later I read that it was made by the famous lens make Leiss(?) and was in the G book of records as the largest crystal glass globe.

The system is that everyone has to do the trip we had just completed as a sort of apprenticeship. Now we were entitled to apply for a permit to sit inside the sphere which is a meditation hall. Only one hour a day is available for the masses to view it, and Auroville residents and guests such as we are able to meditate there for a couple of hours early in the morning and late evening.

Monday 14 January 2002 THE HEALER

I had read about a British chap called Bob Neal who practiced in Auroville specializing in back problems, and decided to see him as my back ache was not getting better. (Actually I was immensely grateful I had had 9 months with virtually no back problems despite all the luggage lifting, and prolonged sitting on uncomfortable seats.) Jennifer has been greatly troubled by her right knee for several weeks. The pain often wakes her at night and is sometimes very intense. So we decided to go and soon found he would see us this morning. The only way to get there was by taxi or scooter. Here at the GH good bicycles are available on loan without even a need to ask, and scooters are only 60 rupees (less than a pound) per day! So I hired one (no formalities, no nonsense such as tests or licences or insurance!) Off we went with only a verbal description of how to get there, J experiencing her first time on a pillion. Eventually we found Bob’s magnificent house. He gave me very thorough treatment, finding I had four displaced disks and a faulty joint in my pelvis. Then he treated Jennifer, finding her cartilage was ‘out’. He would not state a charge but invited us to make a contribution to Auroville. I had read that this is typical of the place. Bob’s method is called Samalin and is very rare.

Then we scootered to Joss’s place where we were shown round. He and Anita and another person run a farm and a herbal plants research and conservation project. It was fascinating and very admirable. We had a delicious lunch in a large communal kitchen, and great conversation. Joss has been at Auroville since its inception (?30 years?) and had planted most of the trees that now covered the area. When I asked about having had their large, interesting home built they laughed and pointed out that here one seldom ‘has’ such jobs done, Anita had built much of it herself.

We returned on the moped. Later in the day I took a bike and explored a bit, finding the solar kitchen where dozens (hundreds?) of meals are cooked each day using only solar energy. (The sun is focused onto a boiler to produce superheated steam which is used for the cooking.)

Tuesday 15 Jan.

I got up early and cycled in the dawn to the matrimander where I was let in despite not having the correct paperwork. Meditating inside was very pleasant. All extraneous noise was eliminated and of course no mosquitoes! There were about a dozen other meditators. We had masses of space each, but every slightest noise echoed around the globe.

We spent a very lazy morning nursing our hurts, part of the treatment is to talk to our bodies! In the afternoon we went again to the matrimindar but first obtained Guests Passes so as to be allowed inside to meditate after the crowds had had their turn. While waiting we saw Gyian with whom J had a good talk – I went by bike as it hurts my back less to cycle than to walk.

In the night we were awakened five times by the dogs – it reduced J to tears of frustration.

Wed 16 January. TO TIRUVANAMALAI (aka by me Tiru)

Again I got up early for meditation.

J was upset as her knee is certainly no better. My back and right hip hurt. We packed and left at 9.30, going to Pondy where we briefly visited Mary again (mainly because we had forgotten to take her photo) then got the train to Tiru. Our destination was the Ashram of Ramana but we had not been able to book so arrived in some trepidation. However we were accepted as genuine whatevers and shown to a very good room some few hundred meters from the main ashram complex.

End of this section, to be called j20116 .rtf and htm.






Rev 29/5/02

Wed January 16 2002 TO TIRUVANNAMALAI ("Tiru")

Our last morning in Auroville: Again I got up early to go to the Matrimendir to meditate. Again my documents were not in order but I was charmingly let in – there are several security stages.

My back was still bad and so was J’s knee; she was in very low spirits as a consequence. Our taxi arrived as ordered and we were off back to Pondy. Then to the bus station to get the bus to Tiru. We had to wait an hour or two during which we went for a walk passing along a side street part of which was used as a toilet – we saw a couple of children picking their way through the little heaps of drying faeces to find a spot to squat. We tried to find the botanical gardens but failed. All in hot weather, with back and knee aches, so not in the best of moods.

As we arrived in Tiru we saw the famous huge temple dominating the town. An auto-rickshaw took us to the Ramana Ashram. We had not been able to book so were worried we might not be admitted, but we were dealt with swiftly, courteously and efficiently, sized up by an obviously well experienced official, and soon shown to an excellent room some distance from the main complex. In fact it adjoined a post office – J said that this should make me happy.

We explored the ashram. Very much bigger than Shantivannam, with proportionatley few sahdus or monks and more guests, mostly westerners, many of whom seemed very much into the ashram life-style. There was a large gloomy temple with several chambers and many statues. Then there were two large shrines, one the tomb of Ramana and the other of his mother. There was a lot of to-ing and fro-ing, people kneeling, walking round and round the tombs, singing and chanting. The site was strikingly beautiful, fine buildings and magnificent trees, and with peacocks calling and strutting, and monkey dashing around. At meal time we were rather bossily marshalled in the dining hall and made to sit where told, in rows on the ground, where the food was brought to us as at the other ashram, in buckets. But here they used disposable plates made of leaves stitched together rather than stainless steel bowls. The food was good.

Thur 17 Jan 2002

After breakfast, while the air was still cool, we climbed the mountainside to the cave where Sri Ramana spent many years. It was an easy climb and a lovely walk. The cave consists of three small rooms. Three or four people were meditating, we were able to sit in the tiny room that had been his bedroom and I meditated gazing at a photo of Ramana and in the dim light I began to get a sense of his presence. He had very penetrating eyes and a fine very lean face. After a while I moved to the main room and meditated there. It was a good experience; I felt very much at peace. We walked down about an hour after climbing and by now it was getting quite hot. This is the middle of winter! Summer must be utterly unbearable.

After lunch I hired a bike (3 rupees an hour) and went into town looking without success for an ATM. I went to an internet place and … bought a dhoti!! Cost all of 37 rupees!

Then back to the ashram’s excellent library where I struggled with Ramana’s idea of God.

In the evening I wore my dhoti for the first time! J was very impressed. I must say it felt fine, very comfortable and sensible. (Also very adaptable – towel, bandage and sheet.) Just before sunset we went out of the compound a short way up the mountain path (towards the cave) and sat on the rocks to watch the sun go down over the plain below. Then we went to a concert but the music was awful so we returned to our nice digs and played cards. J is getting quite desperate about her knee; it gives her a lot of pain. My back seems to be improving.

Fri 18 Jan 2002

J had a bad night, so felt low.

I had a lovely period of meditation (again on the rocks on the hillside) after breakfast. J went to the great temple in town while I preferred to study in the library, desperately trying to rapid read a pile of books. In the evening we again went to meditate on the holy hill. (The mountain is one of the holiest Hindu places, which is why the temple was built at its foot, and why Ramana came here.)

Sat 19th January 2002 RETURN TO PONDY

I had another good meditation on the hillside. After breakfast we checked out i.e. waited ages while they got J’s valuables out of the safe, and then gave our contribution (it is entirely up to the guest to decide what to give). Then to town by auto rickshaw and as we had a while waiting for a bus we had breakfast and I took a few photos.

The bus to Pondy was awful, reckless driver blowing his earsplitting horn continually. We’d left our bags (for an exorbitant fee) at a hotel (the Elite) so we booked in there. I did several repair jobs – had hems stitched on my dhotis (later I learnt that Hindus have a thing about wearing unstitched cloth) and the handle of my nice red bag repaired.

I also sat in the RC Cathedral for a pleasant while. We’d found a good restaurant (actually it called itself a coffee house, v cheap very fast and very delicious.

SUNDAY 20th January 2002 TO CHENNAI

We had breakfast at the Coffee House then a cake at the lovely French patisserie. We still had some time to kill so took a walk towards the seafront. I stopped to visit an exhibition about the school founded by The Mother – much like many modern enlightened schools – Montessori,

We then went to Mary’s for another Meeting for Worship but after a lively conversation the meeting itself was a flop as Mary fell fast asleep and Jennifer took the opportunity to dip out and go across the room to lie down. We had returned primarily as we’d forgotten to taker Mary’s photo, which we now did. Then back to the Coffee House for a fast, cheap, excellent lunch and by auto-rickshaw (with a charming driver) to the bus station. He ran out of petrol a hundred yards from our destination, and exclaimed, "Oh, SHIT!" which was the first time I heard an Indian swear.

We’d been hurrying but the bus was very late leaving. It was OK – we’d booked front seats – and the drive up the excellent new coast road very interesting. However when we reached the outskirts of Chennai (previously called Madras) the traffic was heavy and progress was painfully slow. We were in doubt as to where to get off, our flexibility hampered by our luggage (how often this cripples us!) but eventually alighted in a ghastly district near the railway station, from whence we got an auto to the hotel we’d booked. A very grand looking place with a posh porter’s lodge and a smart all night guard, but the room itself was poor – dirty, ill-lit and with inadequate defences against mosquitoes, giving us a bad night. Many times while travelling I've found the slightly more expensive hotels worse than the cheaper ones.

We had arranged to meet two Quakers, Paul Henry and his partner Martin, one Australian, the other a New Zealander, about whom Lindley Gregory had informed us. They called on us at the hotel and we shared a meal with them in a nearby "Hotel" (cheap eating house). We were impressed with them. They described themselves first as Gandians, and later said their group called themselves Jesus Christians. (This sounds rather evangelical but they clearly were not fundamentalists.) They and their colleagues have devoted their lives to good works here, starting with a project to cover an open sewer, going on to establish medical facilities. They now help people learn English at very low cost by selling text books that teach a simplified English of their own design, and also selling literature re-written in this basic English.

Monday – to Kolkota.

End of this section, to be called j20120 .rtf and htm.


29/5/02 Amended

Monday 21st January 2002 – to Kolkota.

My diary simply says "Train from Chennai. Sat in a grumpy trance all day long, plus reading papers, etc."

Tues 22 Jan KOLKATA (Formerly Calcutta)

We were met in Howrah, the station for K., by Viswanath Singha Roy (who I shall call Vissy or V) He is an immensely cheerful man, as well as being spiritual, very honest, generous, hard working, and several other lovely attributes. He took us in a crowded suburban train to his town, Chandannaga aka Chandan Nagar, an uncomfortable journey of about an hour. There we transferred to two cycle rickshaws and had a very pleasurable journey through this charming town, formerly French then independent. It was eerie being in busy streets that were quiet except for the little tootings of the many cycle rickshaws, plus unfortunately the occasional cars or motor bikes ruining the peace with their arrogant driving and shrill horn blasting. Mostly we glided along in silence. After a while we were going along a tree-lined promenade beside a wide river, which we were told was the Ganga (Ganges) though here is called the Hoogley. After about 20 minutes ride (but only 10 rupees!) we arrived at V's house in a narrow street. Up narrow winding stairs to a cosy sitting room. (Later we found the family of four were to sleep in it, as we were given the parents bedroom.) We were ushered up to the flat roof for tea. In my diary I said we were treated like royalty - little did I know what was to come! In the evening J and I treated the family to chicken byriani in a restaurant - to reach it we walked along the promenade which is called The Strand. People strolled under the dark trees, cycles and cycle rickshaws glided by, the river glinted with reflected lights, the air was balmy, altogether a gorgeous experience.

Wed 23rd January.

I went to Kolkata on my own to get money from an ATM there being none in Chandanaga, and also to book train tickets. In the evening we entertained the two children (well, teenagers) and were thoroughly beaten by them at their game, a variant of tuppenny halfpenny football. (Later J had acquired enough skill, or luck, to beat Subesh.)

Thur 24.

V took me on his pillion in a fruitless search for slide film. Afterwards I borrowed his push bike and found some.

We had a nice supper at the same restaurant as before, then from there by rickshaw to the station to go to Howrah and catch the 2330 express back south to Berhampur. This was Vs first time in a non-ac sleeper. He came well prepared with a new blanket. We felt like old hands. We slept well despite noisy young lads in the next compartment. I used my silver emergency blanket for the second time it is very effective.


Friday 25 Jan. BERHAMPUR, Orissa.

The train arrived around 1400 and we were met and taken to a hotel that was rather too posh-looking for my and J's taste. (In fact for a while J thought we were to be put in an a/c room and she was getting ready to protest and insist on one which was not a/c.)

J was pretty fed up most of the day over me, saying I had been ignoring her. We were hardly on speaking terms so after supper I said I'd go to a computer place to do my journal. This made her extremely angry, once again saying it was all over between us and we should part. This mood lasted a few days.

Saturday 26th January. TO RAMAGIRI.

We were driven in one of those ubiquitous white "Ambassador" cars for several hours inland and uphill to the field head quarters of the NGO called ISARA ("social action and research…??).

We were installed in what was called the Circuit Guest House, rooms reserved for visiting senior officials and dignitaries. It was basically OK but very poorly maintained and cleaned. All the lights in both our and Vissy's rooms were controlled by one light switch, the wiring a temporary looking amateurish tangle, several lights not working. The plumbing was rudimentary and leaked. The WC was very filthy.

However these problems did not bother us. We were being treated so kindly by the ISARA staff. In fact too well. They insisted on serving us our meals separately and obviously better than the others. We kept thinking we'd persuaded them to let us eat with and like them, but come the next meal and we found ourselves once again getting special treatment. The only consolation was that V had the same grand privileges.

In the afternoon we were taken on a visit to one of the many women's self help groups (SHGs) that they had established in the tiny, remote "Tribal" villages. We were to visit several in the next few days. The only transport was motorcycles, so we went as pillion passengers, of course no-one wore helmets. In this as in most villages we walked the last bit, sometimes only 50 meters but often a kilometer. As we arrived in the village there would be a welcoming party of a few women and a crowd of children. The women - usually including the SHG Secretary, would put garlands round our necks, or give us posies, then would start to ululate i.e. emit a high wailing note waggling the tongue oo-lu-lu-lu-lu… They would often stoop to touch our feet but we resisted this. We were ushered to a covered place, usually the porch or verandah of one of the huts, were we would sit on rush mats. Most of the people would be on the hard mud floor. We, Jennifer and I, Vissy, and two or three of the ISARA staff, would sit facing the 15 or 20 members of the SHG. Then we would have a discussion. Welcome and introductory speeches, then J and I asking questions. All had to be interpreted into O??? the language of the district (of Orissa?) and as the villagers often did not know this, there had to be a second interpretation into their tribal tongue. All was done with great pleasure and warmth. I kept a lot of notes and hope to write something about our visits to tribal peoples elsewhere.

Sunday 27th January 2002.

Today we were taken on visits to three village SHGs again going by motor bike which Jennifer finds terrifying, though she did have a calmer driver today. The first group were very subdued, we felt the women were subjugated by the menfolk, the village headman sat himself in a prominent position and tried to dominate the meeting. Only when we brought up the subject of herbal medicine did the intelligent looking but apparently apathetic women come to life. The second two villages were much more lively. The welcomes were quite embarrassing in the fulsomeness, foot touching (when we couldn’t avoid it) ululation, gifts of flowers, and sprinklings of rice and other seeds. (They are so poor they eat a very poor grass seed as a substitute for rice.)

In the evening we were taken to an evening school for children who have to work during the day. The small concrete room with bare dull walls was dimly lit by the warm glow of three hurricane lamps, and the room was full of lively children’s faces. We had a great time, teaching them "Head and Shoulders, Knees and Toes" which has become our most popular act. The walk back in the moonless dark along a rough track was nothing compared with my motor bike ride – the chap had no headlights – the road had piles of stones for repairs, and many other hazards. We passed some colleagues cycling, holding a torch, which was handed to me to shine a few yards ahead.

Mon 28th

We visited more villages in the morning. (Or was this the day we visited the village where they were doing several agricultural experiments? I really came to life on that visit, finding all the experiments interesting, and also enjoying being out in the gorgeous country, quiet and beautiful with wooded hills a mile or so away, and a quiet river meandering through the scrubland and tiny fields.)

In the pm we were driven by the NGO’s stately Ambassador car a long way down to a Tibetan Guest House, in a village of refugees. We were installed in a room across a hallway from one reserved for the Dalai Lama who visits occasionally. We were shown the room, overfull with old style mahogany furniture. The place was much better maintained than the Government Guest House we’d been in the past few nights, and even had hot water! The drawback was that food was not provided and the only place we could find in the nearby village (all of the shops being Indian, not Tibetan) was filthy. We had a noxious pasta dish and both got tummy bugs from it. Another negative was that it rained very heavily – the first we had been caught in for months.

In a gap in the rain we went for a walk through a lane of Tibetan style houses and got talking to a lovely woman who gave us hot milk. We talked of her exile from Tibet, her family, three boys, one now a monk, and their life in India, and hopes for a return to their homeland.

The ‘we’ was J, Vishy, and I. Plus the driver who had to be persuaded to eat with us, and not to sleep in his car but in Vishy’s room.


Tues 29th.

After many silly delays the car took us all the way back to Ramagiri where we were late for a special show put on for us by three villages. We were sat on posh white plastic chairs under a cloth canopy (it was still raining) and presented with what was called a Cultural Show. Mainly lots of young men and women doing simple but energetic dancing to sounds of three very simple instruments. We felt very much like royalty – it was just like one sees on film from a royal visit. J and I had been in a bad mood with each other for days and I could not help seeing a similarity with Charles and Diana on their Indian tour where they had to be charming to everyone but could not bring themselves to speak to each other.

Then we were taken back to the ISARA field HQ in Ramagitri. We had an hour or two in which to relax and were allowed back into the Government Guest House from which we had been ejected as it had been needed by an MP. It was a dimly lit place, and there was a power cut. I suddenly had a fit of diarrhea and rushed to the loo. It was a Euro pedestal style on, not one of the more common squat types and had a seat but the china pedestal was badly broken, with jagged edges, so one had to use the seat. After I had finished I discovered there was semi-dried crap on the seat. How disgusting to ‘put’ it there, and how typical that the cleaner had not removed it! I was very disgusted as I tried to clean myself up. This is not untypical – the shutters making it dark, the power cut, the filthy use of a toilet even by "an MP" and the refusal of cleaners to do anything they do not usually do. (When we came the loo was filthy and I had eventually found materials with which to clean it.)

I then had quite a pleasant walk, the only odd thing was that when I went to speak to some women and girls who were breaking stones (with broken sledge hammers, and no safety precautions such as goggles) – actually I wanted to give them some money – the girls were so terrified that they ran away! Not that I am so horrible, but that they simply do not see Europeans around here.

Later we went back for a meal and for very sad farewell speeches. In the few days we had become very impressed by the young workers, inspired by Sri Ramakrishna and Vivikenanda who taught that to serve people is to serve God, and who are living out their lives in this way.

Then we were driven once again back to the Tibetan GH. Very nice to have a hot shower, but again we had to eat disgusting food in a dirty "hotel".

I put in my diary "J v bt w me" actually she was incandescent, and totally determined to leave me.

MONDAY, January 30 – 31 GOPALPUR-ON-SEA.

In the morning we were driven for ages via the ISARA HQ in the capital city of Orissa (Berhampur) down to a very isolated part of the coast which entailed going along just about the worse road I have ever travelled in a car. This was to visit another ISARA project, among fishing people who had been totally devastated by the cyclone in 1999 and were still extremely poor. Again a very warm welcome, and we were taken out in a fishing boat, but not far. V was so terrified as the boat breasted the surf that it was decided to go straight back. We had time with the villagers in what is little more than an encampment on the beach. Then we walked across the dunes in a great procession to the newly built school were we were presented with a recitation by a very intelligent, severely crippled boy. It was an extremely moving visit. We felt that these people were in far more need than the hill tribes people.

Then back to a rather posh hotel near the beach at the above town. J and I had a walk along the beach, becoming upset by the sight of a huge stranded turtle that the kids seemed to be tormenting. Eventually I pushed my way through the crowd and got someone to help me lift it back into the water, but eventually everyone was telling me it was dead, and on looking closer I realised this was so.

We spent much of the pm watching the one day cricket match between England and India. England won by about three runs.

The above is a bit muddled. One day we got to G on sea and spent the night there. Next day we did the visit to the fishing village, then had the afternoon resting in the hotel.

In the evening we (three) got the 1855 sleeper to Kolkata.


End of this section, to be called j20131 htm and rtf.

Title: Chandanagar and Orissa.


Chandanagar Orissa, and West Bengal.

Revised 7/6/01

Friday 1s t February, 2002. Back to Chandanagar.

The overnight train arrived in Kolkata quite early in the morning, and Vishy left us to hurry home for breakfast. He had clearly been missing his family. Jennifer and I stayed in K. for an hour or so, to go to a bank, then to buy tickets for our train to Delhi. Then on the suburban train to Chandanagar, and ‘home’ to a fine welcome at Vishy’s. His wife and children seemed very pleased to have us back. We found we had taken the hotel’s key and I felt it was important to return it asap, so I decided to use speedpost. I borrowed a bike and first had problems finding an envelope, gum, etc. Then was told the main PO in C did not do speedpost, and was vaguely told where to go. I kept asking the way and how far – people kept saying 2 km. In all it must have been 5 or more. So I was late back for lunch and very tired. They were amazed that I had gone so far and that I had been able to find it. In the evening we went with V’s daughter to buy a book as a present to her brother, quite an interesting outing. Despite her youthful, indeed immature, appearance, Sharmistha is very imperious with shop staff. I was quite embarrassed by her making a flower seller run around for over five minutes, then threatening to walk off over 5 or 10 rupees. J was angry with me and said I was undermining her, just as I do, she says, when she is negotiating. In the eve we took the family out to dinner again.

Sat 2nd Feb

I spent most of the day in a good internet place doing this journal up to 16th January.

Sun. to Backcha in Midnapur, West Bengal.

We took the suburban train to Howrah, then another to Mechida, then a crazy bus to Nimtodi. Here we had some roadside food much to Vissy’s horror. Then we three set off on motorbike pillions, to J’s horror. But we made very plain they were to go slowly and on the whole they did so. It was a lovely ride first along pretty roads and across a bamboo bridge. Then into an area where the roads were only wide enough for two wheelers, again very pretty, riding between vivid green paddy fields.

The area is liable top flooding, by the River Aria. At last we came to our destination, a wonderful school with hostels which along with many other socially useful initiatives had been founded by a remarkable man, now quite old, but with a powerful booming voice. He was in the same Ramakrishna, Vivikenanda tradition as had been the ISARA people in Orissa. "Service to Man is Service to God". A whole life lived o out in difficult circumstances in the service of less fortunate people.

We were shown the boys’ and the girls’ hostels – all very basic, many of the kids had no blanket – and the school which included the only high school for many miles. It had 700 pupils (and 400 in the junior school. The hostels house 200.) Each year they get about 45 through the equivalent of matriculation. It was awfully sparse with bare walls, no charts or pictures, absolutely no equipment. Apparently science can be taught u to 10th grade without the students having even seen let alone done any experiments. We were also shown the weaving workshop, where we later bought some of the beautiful cloth. We had a good room, much better than the students. It was quite cool – we were glad not to be plagued by mosquitoes. We attended the girls prayer session after which we were introduced after which we did our "Head and shoulders, knees and toes" routine which went down very well indeed. I was a great hit especially with the girls!

Monday 4th

I had a long talk and walk with the founder / principal, Dhirendradath Bhanja (pron "Bunjo"). Late in the morning we went to a presentation which all the kids had to attend. We were on chairs and in the shade but many of them were suffering in the hot sun. The speeches went on for ages, about two hours. J gave a short speech on our behalf. The occasion was to further honour the founder. He of course gave full credit to his guru (Janaseva?, whose guru was Vivekenanda) whose recently erected statue was in the same square.

The square was partly formed of the long-unfinished, but used, extension of the high school which was totally without window frames or doors. The money to build it he had made by selling the thousands of sacks that had held emergency food supplies brought in by aid agencies after disastrous floods a few years ago.

However funds to complete it, and indeed monthly funds of 300 rupees per pupil that the central government has granted him fail to come through the local bureaucracy who are actively hostile to him. This because they are appointees of the local government which is dominated by very vicious party political infighting. It seems that his successes have put the LA to shame, and they retaliate with hostility that has recently included attempted extortion of several hundred thousand rupees, a very real threat to his life (so frightening it caused the schoolchildren who saw it cry), and a body being dumped on his land and an anonymous accusation that he had done the murder. He had particularly angered the local party bosses by giving medical attention to some of their opponents after they had beaten them up. Also he has upset them by making formal complaints about their corruption.

This will all be rather hard to believe by readers who have not seen Indian newspapers which frequently report gross criminality by politicians, particularly in this state, West Bengal, and neighbouring Bihar, where most of the state government representatives have criminal records and many are in protracted litigation.

I was shocked by what I heard, and kept asking naïve questions like what about the police (who it seems serve whoever pays most) or the courts (which obfusticate and whose findings are often unenforceable). I was also surprised I regret to say to find that WB is ruled by the communist party (CP-I). I had heard of the success of the communist govt in Kerela (though now their inefficiency and featherbedding of staff is being exposed). Kerela has some of the best statistics e.g. for illiteracy and child mortality, in all India.

In the evening we attended the boys’ prayers and afterwards I was invited to speak. What emerged was in effect Quakerly vocal ministry – I was inspired to say some quite moving words.

We had quite a bit of free time during the day. I have at last started reading V S Naipaul’s "India". Very good.

Tuesday. 5th Feb. Return to Chandannagar, nr Kolkata.

We had a sunny breakfast on the grass, which finished with a mini concert the highlight being J singing opera. Very fulsome farewells. Then departure by motor bike, bus and trains back to Vishy’s.

Wednesday 6th Feb 2002 RETURN TO DELHI

J and I went to the internet, and did some shopping per presents. My runs and backache returned!

After a nice lunch with the family we gave our presents, feeling they were rather inadequate. Subesh seemed pleased with his computer book and Lipika with her sari. Vishy already had what we had bought him, a small tranny radio, and Sharmistha had to do with a promise of a nice book to follow.


In the pm we set off to catch the 1845 so called express sleeper to Delhi. As we got off the local train at Howrah we were swept back into the carriage by the mass of shoving men rushing onto the train. I lost my cool, with some justification as sometimes the trains leave almost immediately, and I was afraid for J who was extremely upset when we had a similar experience in Cairo. I shouted and shoved very violently, somewhat shocking the mass who made way for us and our encumbrance of luggage.

For the record Vishy’s address is Viswanath Singh Roy, 45 Asutosh Neogy Lane, Chandannager, Hooghly, WB 712136.

The sleeper train was about the worse we have had – we’d gathered there was something odd about it – no one takes it if they can book another but we had not been able to. It was old stock, with few facilities, dirty, dark, and smelly. Many of our fellow travelers were disgusting, dirty and rude. The train was incredibly late – taking over 27 hours instead of the expected slow 23.

We went straight to Main Bazar, booking into the Hari Krishna hotel next door to the noisy one (the Anloop) we’d been at before. (Actually they share the same roof garden restaurant.) It was as hoped very quiet.

Friday Feb 8th

I went to the GPO hoping to get poste resante mail – but none! Then to the large Ramakrishna place near our hotel, where I was interested in an exhibition about Vivikenanda.

J and I went to the Chinese Embassy to get our visas, then to a Tibetan outlet to get warm clothes. We had trouble with swindling taxis, at one stage refused to pay them – said if they have a complaint go to the police! We met Hari for lunch.


Sat 10th No notes

Sunday 11th. Went to Meeting at the YWCA. Only four of us. Had great conversation with Hari and

In the evening we got the bus to Dharamsala. Thereby hangs more tales, e.g. J getting lost in the huge, dark, threatening bus station. The bus was pretty awful, getting colder and colder as we reached higher altitudes. I was next to a nice Tibetan chap, Karma Chundale, an education administrator, returning from a conference in Vienna. He told me it would be Tibetan New Year on Wednesday and we should try to get to the Dalai Lama’s temple where we might see him.





End of this section, to be called j20210 htm and rtf.



Rev 7/6/01

Monday 11th February. IN DARAMSHALA

We arrived at DS bus station very early in the morning, and feeling cold due to the altitude. The scenery from the bus had been staggering, absolutely magnificent, as we were in the foothills of the Himalayas, with their snow-capped peaks visible a few miles away.

We took a taxi to Sidhbari a small village about 8 km away, where we were to stay for two weeks, as volunteers at the Chinmaya Tapovan Trust (CTT) a big charity that operates scores of projects helping hundreds (prob. thousands) of people in the district. We went first to see the Director, Kshama, a magnificent, deeply spiritual, perceptive, pragmatic woman controlling a huge enterprise. Primarily a peadiatrician she had a sick baby brought to her during our interview. She sent us to get a wash and brush up in our quarters, an ashram about half a km away. Later we continued the interview. She had us write a bit about ourselves and from that decided what we are to do. J was to coach English, esp. to the y man who does her English letters, and also to run a daily English class for the staff, but mainly she is to work in some of the playgroups run for children of very poor families. I am to do a study as a sort of consultant into a Natural Resources Management Project. Wow! She had this idea from my write-up, which mentioned socio technical systems as my degree subject.

We met some nice CTT people e.g. Anab and his bro. Ankush. Jhoti. Rashid. The director is Dr Kshama Metre a.k.a. Dr Didi. There are 24 volunteers here and dozens of staff.

Tuesday 12/2/02 First full day at CTT.

We had been very cold in the night; the chill was a real shock after months of being in hot climates. We went to the staff meeting (actually one of about three such that start every morning) where we were introduced. After a while several of us inc. J were walking the km or two to the bus, for several miles, then a very tough indeed bit of fell-walking down a deep ravine and up the other side, at last to a tiny village on the mountain slopes where J joined the balwaddi (play group) while I went scrambling like a goat over the terrain observing whatever seemed relevant to my project.

Then a long hike along the land, i.e. up and down gullies, to another village and after a break a long walk down a rough road to get a bus back.

Quite a baptism of fire.

Weds 13th Feb. We had the day off (well, the morning!) to go to the town where the Dalai Lama lives along with the exiled Govt. of Tibet. It was all very fascinating, a town of Tibetans, many monks. A huge temple, where we and a few hundred others watched a rather dull ceremony that included much rhythmic chanting and drumming and blowing of massive horns. But no DL. J was quite peeved. Also with the taxi driver who had gone to the wrong place despite our trying several time to ensure his boss told him right.

In the afternoon we were bussed to a nearby village of rough, poor quarrying people, where there was a day long presentation with a popular singer and other shows mimes etc, all to hold their attention while an anti-alcohol message was drummed in. We got very cold sitting around, sans shoes, for about 7 hours!

Thur 14 Feb. Valentine's Day which I forgot, so still in the doghouse.

I was briefed for my job by the proj leader, Sandeep. In the p.m. he showed me an interesting film about villagers taking control of their natural resources – forest, grassland and water. I had a good afternoon with time to gaze at the mountains, and meditate. But J returned so shattered she was crying. She has not been sleeping well, and has been cold, and has a cold, and her work is difficult and very emotionally draining. I was able to be consoling, our first good time together for several days.


Fri 15th

Today and the next 6 or 7 days were very similar. We went to the bleak dining hall for a breakfast that was usually rather awful, though sometimes good, e.g. porridge or onion-chapatis. Sweet horrid tea or hot milk for which one paid an extra 2.5 rupees. Then we walked the km or so to 'the project' i.e. the large building where many activities were going on. A health clinic with the usual sad line of parents and children, a rehab clinic, lessons and workshops for staff brought in from the surrounding country, weaving, several people active in the computer room with its two overworked computers, and the offices of several managers, such as Sandeep, the chap for whom I am doing my study. Each day he told me he'd take me back to Kand, the area I am working on, and each day he let me down, I hung around then after a few hours told it was not possible today. After a few days I set off on my own, the first time getting very lost due to misdirection, only getting to my site at 4 p.m. after ignoring advice and trusting my own intuition. Many days I went into DS (Daramshala) either having a day off to see to business (getting money, internetting, booking trains, etc) and/or to do my Report. Most afternoons I had time to meditate. We had supper, pretty ghastly – the food uninspired and the dining hall cold and grim, then went to bed around 9.30.

Sunday 17th Jennifer’s birthday. She was unhappy all day, mainly at me, but cheered up when I took her out for a meal. It cost the princely sum of 2 pounds! But made a change, and at last we were able to get affectionate again.

Monday. I had the day off to go into DS to arrange paying for the trans Siberian train journey (900 US dollars each). This was quite complex.

In the evening I felt depressed, unusual for me. Not helped by being badly beaten at cards due to really troubling lack of short-term memory.

Tuesday. The day I spent being mis-directed on buses. Neither the Municipal offices not the tourist office had a map nor knew of my villages even though in their District. It's like people in London not knowing the name of the next street to theirs.

Thurs. The day I decided to give up any dependence on anyone else, and find my area myself, which I did and had a wonderful day, super meeting with a group of teachers, and a young farmer. Incredibly wonderful views, mountains on one side, vast extent of low hills to the south, one could see probably 50 miles and through well over 180 degrees. Lovely air. A super day.

Friday. I went to DS to finish off my Report which I gave Ksharma in the evening. I will store it on the same web site as this, but I do not know how to do a hyperlink using this 'technology', i.e. MS WORD and no access to a web page editor.

In the evening I rapid read a small book about Babaji, and could not help being impressed by accounts of encounters with him (or apparitions of him) many by people much like me - technocrats with some interest in spiritual matters.

Saturday 23rd Feb, I wrote a good piece in my Spiritual Journal about the past two months and the last weeks in particular. The 2 months have been what I wanted for years, and I have not been disappointed.

I had an appointment to present my report. K had read it thoroughly and she and Sandeep had lots of questions. Many of my findings simply confirmed what they had already discovered, and similarly many of my recommendations had already been tried, however there did seem to be several new ideas that interested them, and I was well praised.

Half an hour only for a conversation with Ankush about Hinduism, especially karma and karma yoga. Also J joined us and we tackled him on the very blatant harsh sexism in Hinduism especially his Guru Dev's writings.

Then appointed to attend a session where we found all the staff in the meeting room. We were asked to talk about our travels, then there were speeches by staff who had worked with us. Lots of compliments. Then pujas, and finally we were each given prettily wrapped presents which turned out to be excellently chosen books, each with a good inscription by Ksharma.

The final honour was to have a special, rather delicious lunch with her and the doctor and Lipica (?) then into the jeep for a half hour drive to where there were several buses going to Pathenkot which is where we were to get the train. It was a lovely drive, and the bus was super too, driving carefully and quietly over several mountain ranges with lovely views. However after a long stop the driver seemed to go mad, and threw the bus around, and blasted his horn continually so much so that when we were all thrown from our seats several of us shouted out. The conductor had a word and he went back to driving normally. I think he was competing with another bus. Then they dumped us in an obscure town where we had to get another bus, which was not the same company so we had to pay again. However the arrival at the station was pleasant, we had a leisurely meal before the train came in.

Sadly our t-companions were pretty awful - none we could be friendly with. Those nearest was what J later called a sad family, overbearing father in law, harassed young wife, nagged by mother in law, no husband with her, and two children, one crying all the time (the worst we had come across in India) the other nagging because neglected. Also very noisy young (Tibetan) people, and in the middle of the night a card school started up, in which the men made a lot of noise.

Sunday 24th February. Back in Delhi.

We arrived at dawn and took an auto rickshaw to the Sri Aurobindo Ashram way down in the south of the city. We were shown straight to our room, a large interesting room on the ground floor of a modern block. We had breakfast, then after a brief rest I set off for Meeting - J felt too shattered. Hari and Chetsingh were there, also a woman I did not know who was not very interested in talking to me.

In the p.m. I went to the National Museum which was excellent. Many super Hindu statues, the one with curvy bodies and large breasts, also a good area on the prehistoric civilization that predates any other including China or Egypt. Also very beautiful miniatures.

In the evening there was a bit of aggro when some youths pushed into the front of the long queue. I wouldn't have it, spoke to him firmly (only "Excuse me!" slightly angrily) and pushed him not hard as I entered in front of him. Someone accused me of not behaving as one should in an ashram, which was true, I felt quite ashamed.

Monday, 25th. We had a hard day first trying to find Singapore Airways or Air Canada, eventually finding the latter despite an error in our map and wrong phone numbers. Here we reconfirmed our tickets to Sing. Then to Beijing, and firmed up or our tickets from St Petersburg to Stockholm and on to London. Then we traipsed to the Emporium where I'd seen a Buddha bust that I was to give to J as her Christmas and Birthday present, but found it had been sold. However after searching all the emporia in the row (each run by a State Government) she chose a lovely statue of Sarasvata, goddess of music and learning and consort of Brahma. She was overcome with joy when we unwrapped it and placed it under the desk light. Said she's always wanted one and this was lovely.

End of this section, to be called j20225 htm and rtf.

JOURNAL 26 FEB to 3rd March (NB may be duplicate)

minor amends 19/6/02, 4/3/ added 19/6/02


Tues 26th February, 2002.

A good day! We were very relieved when we found we could get our Russian visas tomorrow. (Later we found we were being charged $50 each not $15 as expected.) Thence to the National Museum which J liked as much as I had. Many of the statues are superb! Puts Christian art to shame. And even makes Greek statuary seem wooden. Also the miniatures were delightful. Later in the day we went to the Ba’hai temple which was quite impressive architecture, with curved concrete verticals soaring 30 or 50 meters into the air, to form the shape of a gigantic lotus blossom. In the excellent library I had a long interesting conversation with the librarian. Most of what they proclaim as their main Principles are entirely the same as Quakers would espouse. (Only exception is their claim to advocate a universal language (? Esperanto?) which in fact they seem not to do.) But they are very hierarchical, with policy decided by elected 9 person committees (one per nation and one international, the final arbiter) and great emphasis on unity i.e. everyone toeing the line. Also one of their top demands is that followers must obey the laws of their country (even if, say, Burma!) and not engage in any political activity.

In the eve I wrote longish letters to Rosemary and to Laura. I told L a bit about uses of the right and left hands and later nearly chickened out by withdrawing the letter (which I enclosed with abt 70 photos to Sarah who had asked for photos of India). Also to Simon and Freya.

Jennifer discovered after several days of worry why Juliet had not responded to several emails – she is back in hospital with her "Crone’s" (that’s the pronunciation but the wrong spelling) Disease. But apparently in good hands, due for release tomorrow and Guy is taking her to family in Coventry.

J and I are getting on well at last, first good time since 17th.


Not much to report.

We continued staying at the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in the S. of New Delhi. Nice room, interesting organic architecture, good Meditation Room (but often with singing or discussions going on), pleasant staff, many students lodging there, not much feel of an ashram. I read interesting books re the founder, and eventually got one on Aurobindo’s philosophy. I’d found his writing obscure but so apparently have many others, but a chap called M.P.Pandit has written many books about it and I got a series of lectures by him called Spiritual Life.



One of my low priority aims was to look into the cost of the expensive type of hearing aid, and at last as all urgent work is dealt with I ventured out. Within an hour I had decided which to get if any and after some indecision with J’s urging I decided to buy it. Cost is 67,000 rupees, which is close to 1,000 pounds, but it would cost 5 or 7 times as much in Europe. (P.S. I later found it costs about £1800 in UK.) It is a Danish make. I had to go to town for the money, which was in the form of a huge thick wad. (Surprisingly easy to get with a Visa card and my passport for id.) [I have slightly confused the exact days I did this.]

So I did the enquiring in the morning, then got back by 10 or so to go with J to the do some final shopping at Main Bazar, where we stayed before. We took a load of stuff to send back to UK including the large wooden statue I had given her. All wrapped carefully and carried in my nice red cloth bag. So we did the shopping – tea as gifts, and other small things much of which we stuffed into the bag which we than took to the usual place for sending to UK. It weighed nearly 10 kg and cost about 1600 rupees. J and I were once again hardly speaking to each other, and she returned leaving me to do a few jobs such as buy another bag, get cash.

It was this day I then went into the center, Connaught Place, to a large bank to get the 67,000 rupees and take it back to Green Park to buy the hearing aid, which I found I could take then. (Only a lesser part, that fits snugly into the ear, needs a few days for customization.) So I walked out with renewed hearing in my left ear, now better than my right, and able to hear birdsong much better.

Friday 1st March. Our last day, we fly late this evening. In the a.m. I went for quite a long walk, trying to find a city bus to the airport and having a checkup re my hearing aid. I am very quickly getting used to it. Most of the remainder of the day we were very quiet, I wrote letters including one to Tim Peat who had given me some Spiritual Direction in 1999 at Woodbrooke.

In the evening we took an auto-rickshaw to the airport. I remember hearing the rush of air in my new hearing aid. Check-in was abominably slow, but at last we were in the departure lounge. I took off my jersey and tried to relax. Just as the plane was taking off J noticed my hearing aid was missing! Horror. A huge massive sinking feeling. I must have knocked it out when I took off my jersey. I wrote a note to the captain asking him to radio Delhi and ask that an announcement be made. I offered a reward that seems large but is only 10 percent of its Indian cost.

An interesting thing about the flight was we each had our own small screen and could choose one of many movies or sound channels. The flight took off at 11 p.m. and arrived at 7 a.m., which sounds OK, but in fact it was less than 5 hours. Dinner was served extremely slowly so we had very little sleep.

Saturday 2nd March 2002. IN SINGAPORE.

S. gives one a culture shock after India. It is not merely first world, but splendidly so. The airport was amongst the most swish we’ve been through. We were easily onto a fast quiet new metro system that whisked us into town past immaculate industrial and office buildings, neat high rise residential areas, all set carefully in well landscaped parkland. Our host’s apartment block was a couple of hundred meters from the metro station. Anne Backus is an American Quaker, an educationist specializing in ‘enhancement programs’ for gifted children. Her 12th floor apartment has staggering views across a lake with craggy cliffs cut into a wooded hill. On another side one looks down on their large swimming pool complex. After showers – the disadvantage of Singapore is its high humidity, especially in the mornings – J went straight to bed and slept most of the day, I took advantage of Anne’s offer, before she went out, and got myself a large breakfast, then spent an hour or more on the telephone trying to get through to the manager of Delhi airport, to try to motivate him to organise a search for my hearing aid. I offered an impressive reward.

Later in the morning I did some reading and watched the Discovery Channel, before having some sleep. Later in the day I explored the district and did some shopping, Quaker oats, tea, milk, marmite. Bliss to be able to get back to ‘normal’ food! Anne gave us a gorgeous gourmet lunch and also a delicious evening meal – she has her dinner delivered from a Chinese caterer several evenings a week. We are in a Chinese quarter – very middle class executive types.

I also did some long phone calls eventually getting through to the manager of Delhi Airport who was not hopeful about finding my hearing aid but said he’d have a search done.

Sunday 3rd March.

We went to the penthouse apartment of Lau Wai Har and her sister Wai Ping for Meeting for Worship, also attended by Bridget Groom (?) from Southampton and Mark Ehrke from Minnesota, plus of course J and Anne and I. It was a good MfW and excellent conversation for an hour or more afterwards. Wai Har is an educator, formerly s’thing big in Singapore’s administration, and now a columnist. Her sister was a Dr before she retired and was i/c Singapore’s TB eradication programme. Both are elderly but very lively. Their penthouse flat has a fantastic view over the city. Later Mark, Anne and we two walked into town and had lunch at one of the many food courts – large areas of tables surrounded by maybe 30 or 50 places serving food mostly Chinese or Japanese. Delicious!.

Then Mark left us and we three went to the National Museum which was very eclectic – I enjoyed the variety. History, natural history art, modern artifacts, galleries of paintings of Singapore’s independence heroes, a gallery of jade.

In the evening J and I set out to go by various public transport (all excellent) to a "Night Safari". At first we rode on a tram with a very silly commentary. It wound through woods lit by high lamps simulating moonlight, and we came very close to many large animals including rhino, tigers, leopard, and deer. Some were so still I suspected it was all a very good fake – a Disney world type of show. Those that moved seemed to do so on cue as we approached, and it was unbelievable how close and how active some were, not to mention no sign (unless one looked very carefully) of fencing. But then we got off and walked and were soon sure it was all genuine. I suppose the public is in dimmer light than the animals’ artificial moonlight, so they feel less inhibited than in traditional zoos. Also they are only on show for four hours a day, and are fed after the public leave, so are getting hungry and restless when we are there. Also the smell was certainly

not artificial, the big cats in particular emit a powerful pong if one gets to within a few feet of them as one does.

Monday 4th March. Last day in Singapore

Swim! Anne’s complex of flats has a marvellous pool, which I sampled this morning. Delicious. but the humidity is so high that one is soon back to feeling uncomfortable. I went one stop down the metro line to the nearest post office which was on the nth floor of a huge mall. I enjoyed looking at the wide variety of shops, esp a well stocked computer store. Then Jennifer and I went around our local shops looking for a flower seller, and had lunch in one of the many places. The custom is to have lots of different outlets, then to eat at one of the tables shared by them all. Sometimes called a food hall.

In the evening we went out for a meal with Anne, who took us to the harbour area, teeming with tourists, but after a long, pleasant walk and a ride on a ferry we found a quiet, fairly local sort of place, albeit claiming to being Turkish! Back home we packed late into the night. Also I used Anne’s computer to email Delhi Airport and to do some updating of this journal.

End of this section, to be called j20303 htm and rtf (Even tho to 4th).

JOURNAL 26 FEB to 3rd March (NB may be duplicate)

minor amends 19/6/02


Tues 26th February, 2002.

A good day! We were very relieved when we found we could get our Russian visas tomorrow. (Later we found we were being charged $50 each not $15 as expected.) Thence to the National Museum which J liked as much as I had. Many of the statues are superb! Puts Christian art to shame. And even makes Greek statuary seem wooden. Also the miniatures were delightful. Later in the day we went to the Ba’hai temple which was quite impressive architecture, with curved concrete verticals soaring 30 or 50 meters into the air, to form the shape of a gigantic lotus blossom. In the excellent library I had a long interesting conversation with the librarian. Most of what they proclaim as their main Principles are entirely the same as Quakers would espouse. (Only exception is their claim to advocate a universal language (? Esperanto?) which in fact they seem not to do.) But they are very hierarchical, with policy decided by elected 9 person committees (one per nation and one international, the final arbiter) and great emphasis on unity i.e. everyone toeing the line. Also one of their top demands is that followers must obey the laws of their country (even if, say, Burma!) and not engage in any political activity.

In the eve I wrote longish letters to Rosemary and to Laura. I told L a bit about uses of the right and left hands and later nearly chickened out by withdrawing the letter (which I enclosed with abt 70 photos to Sarah who had asked for photos of India). Also to Simon and Freya.

Jennifer discovered after several days of worry why Juliet had not responded to several emails – she is back in hospital with her "Crone’s" (that’s the pronunciation but the wrong spelling) Disease. But apparently in good hands, due for release tomorrow and Guy is taking her to family in Coventry.

J and I are getting on well at last, first good time since 17th.


Not much to report.

We continued staying at the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in the S. of New Delhi. Nice room, interesting organic architecture, good Meditation Room (but often with singing or discussions going on), pleasant staff, many students lodging there, not much feel of an ashram. I read interesting books re the founder, and eventually got one on Aurobindo’s philosophy. I’d found his writing obscure but so apparently have many others, but a chap called M.P.Pandit has written many books about it and I got a series of lectures by him called Spiritual Life.



One of my low priority aims was to look into the cost of the expensive type of hearing aid, and at last as all urgent work is dealt with I ventured out. Within an hour I had decided which to get if any and after some indecision with J’s urging I decided to buy it. Cost is 67,000 rupees, which is close to 1,000 pounds, but it would cost 5 or 7 times as much in Europe. (P.S. I later found it costs about £1800 in UK.) It is a Danish make. I had to go to town for the money, which was in the form of a huge thick wad. (Surprisingly easy to get with a Visa card and my passport for id.) [I have slightly confused the exact days I did this.]

So I did the enquiring in the morning, then got back by 10 or so to go with J to the do some final shopping at Main Bazar, where we stayed before. We took a load of stuff to send back to UK including the large wooden statue I had given her. All wrapped carefully and carried in my nice red cloth bag. So we did the shopping – tea as gifts, and other small things much of which we stuffed into the bag which we than took to the usual place for sending to UK. It weighed nearly 10 kg and cost about 1600 rupees. J and I were once again hardly speaking to each other, and she returned leaving me to do a few jobs such as buy another bag, get cash.

It was this day I then went into the center, Connaught Place, to a large bank to get the 67,000 rupees and take it back to Green Park to buy the hearing aid, which I found I could take then. (Only a lesser part, that fits snugly into the ear, needs a few days for customization.) So I walked out with renewed hearing in my left ear, now better than my right, and able to hear birdsong much better.

Friday 1st March. Our last day, we fly late this evening. In the a.m. I went for quite a long walk, trying to find a city bus to the airport and having a checkup re my hearing aid. I am very quickly getting used to it. Most of the remainder of the day we were very quiet, I wrote letters including one to Tim Peat who had given me some Spiritual Direction in 1999 at Woodbrooke.

In the evening we took an auto-rickshaw to the airport. I remember hearing the rush of air in my new hearing aid. Check-in was abominably slow, but at last we were in the departure lounge. I took off my jersey and tried to relax. Just as the plane was taking off J noticed my hearing aid was missing! Horror. A huge massive sinking feeling. I must have knocked it out when I took off my jersey. I wrote a note to the captain asking him to radio Delhi and ask that an announcement be made. I offered a reward that seems large but is only 10 percent of its Indian cost.

An interesting thing about the flight was we each had our own small screen and could choose one of many movies or sound channels. The flight took off at 11 p.m. and arrived at 7 a.m., which sounds OK, but in fact it was less than 5 hours. Dinner was served extremely slowly so we had very little sleep.

Saturday 2nd March 2002. IN SINGAPORE.

S. gives one a culture shock after India. It is not merely first world, but splendidly so. The airport was amongst the most swish we’ve been through. We were easily onto a fast quiet new metro system that whisked us into town past immaculate industrial and office buildings, neat high rise residential areas, all set carefully in well landscaped parkland. Our host’s apartment block was a couple of hundred meters from the metro station. Anne Backus is an American Quaker, an educationist specializing in ‘enhancement programs’ for gifted children. Her 12th floor apartment has staggering views across a lake with craggy cliffs cut into a wooded hill. On another side one looks down on their large swimming pool complex. After showers – the disadvantage of Singapore is its high humidity, especially in the mornings – J went straight to bed and slept most of the day, I took advantage of Anne’s offer, before she went out, and got myself a large breakfast, then spent an hour or more on the telephone trying to get through to the manager of Delhi airport, to try to motivate him to organise a search for my hearing aid. I offered an impressive reward.

Later in the morning I did some reading and watched the Discovery Channel, before having some sleep. Later in the day I explored the district and did some shopping, Quaker oats, tea, milk, marmite. Bliss to be able to get back to ‘normal’ food! Anne gave us a gorgeous gourmet lunch and also a delicious evening meal – she has her dinner delivered from a Chinese caterer several evenings a week. We are in a Chinese quarter – very middle class executive types.

I also did some long phone calls eventually getting through to the manager of Delhi Airport who was not hopeful about finding my hearing aid but said he’d have a search done.

Sunday 3rd March.

We went to the penthouse apartment of Lau Wai Har and her sister Wai Ping for Meeting for Worship, also attended by Bridget Groom (?) from Southampton and Mark Ehrke from Minnesota, plus of course J and Anne and I. It was a good MfW and excellent conversation for an hour or more afterwards. Wai Har is an educator, formerly s’thing big in Singapore’s administration, and now a columnist. Her sister was a Dr before she retired and was i/c Singapore’s TB eradication programme. Both are elderly but very lively. Their penthouse flat has a fantastic view over the city. Later Mark, Anne and we two walked into town and had lunch at one of the many food courts – large areas of tables surrounded by maybe 30 or 50 places serving food mostly Chinese or Japanese. Delicious!.

Then Mark left us and we three went to the National Museum which was very eclectic – I enjoyed the variety. History, natural history art, modern artifacts, galleries of paintings of Singapore’s independence heroes, a gallery of jade.

In the evening J and I set out to go by various public transport (all excellent) to a "Night Safari". At first we rode on a tram with a very silly commentary. It wound through woods lit by high lamps simulating moonlight, and we came very close to many large animals including rhino, tigers, leopard, and deer. Some were so still I suspected it was all a very good fake – a Disney world type of show. Those that moved seemed to do so on cue as we approached, and it was unbelievable how close and how active some were, not to mention no sign (unless one looked very carefully) of fencing. But then we got off and walked and were soon sure it was all genuine. I suppose the public is in dimmer light than the animals’ artificial moonlight, so they feel less inhibited than in traditional zoos. Also they are only on show for four hours a day, and are fed after the public leave, so are getting hungry and restless when we are there. Also the smell was certainly

not artificial, the big cats in particular emit a powerful pong if one gets to within a few feet of them as one does.



End of this section, to be called j2mmdd htm and rtf.

March 5 2002. TO BEIJING


The alarm woke us early and I rushed through my

morning routine, quite pleased I could do it all in

the half hour - shit, shave, shower and shampoo! Plus

cereal and tea for breakfast. It was horribly hot andd

humid as yesterday, so I was soon sweating buckets

into my nice clean clothes as we lugged our bags

across the housing estate to the metro. This after sad

farewells to Anne who obviously had gfot a lot from

our visit. The metro was lovely and cool, being air

conditioned. It was not deserted as Anne had

predicted, but was packed with children going to

school - at 0715! When we had to change trains we took

one going the wrong way, but this was a blessing as it

meant we got seats when it arrived back at the

junction and filled up. I was again impressed by the

appearance of Singapore, all very modern and verdant.


The check in was easy and in fact everything went very

smoothly, the plane was less than half full so we had

plenty of space, and I was well supplied with papers,

including a three day old Daily Telegraph, the first

British paper I'd read for about 6 months. Amazing to

see the old stories still running, e.g. Will Mandleson


Also the plane had individual TV screens (in the back

of the seat in front of one) with a choice of videos

including excellent comedies (50% British, and these

very good - Mr Bean plays all over the Far East, e.g.

at airports). I loved the journey and was very happy,

which made J p'd off - said I ignored her. (She always

ignores me - reads a novel or sleeps and gets furious

if woken.)

As we approached Beijing I moved to a window seat in

an empty row. It was a depressing sight - once thru

the clousd the ground below was uniformly brown, bare

and dry. It all seemed to be the same crop or stage of

cultivation. There were many villages, clearly

delineated but very close, each identical, with no

colour at all and no trees visible.

We were hardly speaking when we had landed, and J

insisted on taking a taxi whereas I suggested we look

for an airport bus - ussually it is she who complainsd

at my so called extravagance.

She insisted on directing the taxi, but I interuppted

when it was plain were goinf too far, then I guided

the driver according to the map which our host had

emailed to us. We argued about this and fortunately my

view prevailed, and was correct, but of course this

upset her more.

Our destination was in a network of lanes hardly wide

enough for a car, in fact we had to walk the last 50

meters. We ran the bell of a plain gate in a blank,

grey wall. This is the style in these areas called

hutongs. The gates lead to dwellings set around

courtyards. A very old gentleman opened the gate

remotely and welcomed us with an old world charm and

such an impeccable Oxford accent I thought maybe he

was British. We later found he is one of China's most

eminent scholars, still well known though now retired.

We were shown a British Museum book on modern China

that devotes a chapter to his amazing life and

world-renowned work as a professor of English (with

honorary degrees from many universities) a writer, a

poet , and a calligrapher. He has been in and out of

favour with the communist authorities and was in

prison for four years during the cultural revolution.

We also met his grandson, the same age as mine and

also called Ian, bi-lingual but being brought up as

Chinese. Like my Ian his only interest seems to be

computer war games. He did not deign to say more than

a couple of words to us. A maid was getting supper.

Later our host and hostess returned from work. J was

surprised they were no longer in the academic world,

but had given it up to start a business some years ago

and now employ over 60 people. They read and summarise

newspapers for clients including the big

multinationals. Supper was very good - we each had a

bowl of boiled rice, and picked what else we wanted

from a wide array of meats and greens.

We were horrified to find that they had given us their

beds; they were sleeping in the sitting room. We

protested to no avail. We went to bed early and slept

well, though still unfriendly!


We had a good breakfast, out hostess doing me a fried

egg. Soon we set off (armed with a sheet of paper

listing various words and destinations we might want,

in English, Chinese, and ?pityan? (Chinese spelt using

roman alphabet).

(Hostess is Yang Xian Yi ("Sienne yee") married to David Jacobson, that of her father, the old

scholar, is Yang Zhi. He was married to an English woman, Gladys,

who died a couple of years ago.)

We were anxious to get to to MonkeyBusiness, our

travel agents for the trans Siberian train) as soon as

possible. We found the right bus and had a minor

adventure working out how to pay and where to get off.

We found the street but none of the places were

numbered (at least not in arabic numerals) and we

could not get anyone to understand our questions, so

in the end we had to phone MonkeyBusiness to get

instructions. This is our first time in a country

where not only is the language and its script beyond

us, but where few people speak English.

It was nice to meet them - the one who had been so

friendly in our many email communications was less

forthcoming than the one whose written messages had

been more terse. But it is a very friendly company, as

well as efficient (so far!). They took our passports

to get our Mongolian visas (we had obtained out

Russian ones). And they gave us a massive book

compiled of information and advice, all in a very

jokey tone. We were to meet at the main railway

station at 7 a.m. next Tuesday. All very exciting.

Except we have found that Ulan Bator is going to be

far colder than we had expected, daytime max averages

minus 2 deg C and nighttime min avg is -20! We have

said we will arrange our own accommodation!

Then we trekked to a market reputed to be good for

clothing where we both bought warm things to augment

those we'd bought in the Tibetan shop in Delhi. Then

another trek to a department store for an incredibly

cheap utterly delicious chow min dinner. Then yet

another trek to a hotel where there is one of the only

two ATMs in Beijing, to get more cash.

I mention these treks because I am having trouble with

my feet or rather my left foot. It was the right one

which used to give me pain, but the insert I paid

about 50p to have a Pondicherry street cobbler cobble

up, has resolved that problem. (That was replace the

inserts stolen along with my boots at the first

ashram). Despite this we took a taxi to the south end

of a park and walked about 2 or 3 km north along

lakesides to our base.

Here we found they have another guest, an English

woman (living mostly near Montpellier) Sally Vernon an

old friend of Yang Zhi. We again

had a good supper, actually much the same as

yesterday. We praised it but David our host remarkerd

wryly that it palls after a few months! Again one sees

that having servants has its limitations. In the

evening we watched a video (actually a DVD - the first

time I've seen one) the film Billy Elliot. J walked

out saying it was too sentimental. She was angry that

I woke her when I came to bed around 10.30.

Thursday 7th March - In Beijing - Foribidden City

After a pleasant breakfast (hostess did a fried egg

for me every day, and often bacon!!!) J and I took a

taxi to the F.C. now called the Palace Museum. We

looked around outside first, in a square we thought

was Tienamen Sq. We were surprised it seemed merely

large not huge - later we found that T.S. is the next

area south and is indeed vaste but all out of bounds.

We watched some of the many soldiers doing their

strange marching often at the double, seeminly

pointless running round in circles. It was sunny, with

lots of vendors, and many visitors, few non-Chinese.

Clearly most were up from the country. Then we paid

and went throught the first great gateway with its

massive studded wooden gates into the first of a

series of great paved squares each with a palace set

in the middle and other habitations round the

perimeter. One could not go into the palaces (though

they were set up for visitors) but had to peer through

windows cut into the original walls to see the thrones

and beds and couches and other furniture inside. All

rather stark - it must have been cleared of all but

the larger pieces. There were several such palaces,

the scale growing smaller and more human the further

one proceeded through gate after gate into the

personal and domestic areas of the Emperors and their

wives and concubines. Much of the huge complex, indeed

a City, is still forbidden!

We had a cheap noodle lunch and a rest in the bright

sun, sheltered from the cold wind, and left early in

the afternoon.

Friday 8th March.

After a slow start I walked to the a place (The Bamboo

Garden hotel) to book a trip to the Great Wall. Later

in the day we went to a Lamasery and a Confucian

Temple. The former is Buddhist - we found it

surprising it is allowed to operate, but the small

museum had a display about the successive Dalai Lamas,

with no mention of the present one who is in exile in

India. I supposed the monks here have compromised with

the Chinese authorities. The Confucian Temple was also

v interesting, with info about Confucian Centres in

many cities, but none apparently in the UK.

Back with our hosts we again had a good supper, as

usual with wine, and good conversation including their

other visitor, Sally. Each of us gets a bowl of rice

then selects from about 8 dishes of vegetables and

meats. We spent the evening talking, and watching the

antics of their new kittens.

During the day I went to an internet place and checked

my shares, they are down even more - I thought the

stock market was supposed to be picking up. They cost

me 14K and are now worth 6K. Each one I had bought on

seemingly good and often expensive advice. This

depressed me.

Saturday 9th March. David lent me his excellent bike

and I spent much of the day cycling around, covering a

large distance. Primarily this was to visit the Temple

of Heaven, which J did not wish to see as she had been

there when she came to China 15 years ago. I am

becoming hard to impress, especially by buildings

whose main feature is their huge size - and little

else. What I loved was that the enormous grounds were

mostly pine woods, in which I walked for a long time,

stopping to meditate and to sleep. I also got lost,

and went to the wrong gate. It took nearly half an

hour to get to the one where I'd left the bike. On

this bike trip I also found a cheap shopping area

(just south of Tienamen Square) and bought a few odds

and ends including a compass to replace the one that

I'd had stolen.

I got back mid afternoon. J was p'd off with me again

-apparently I'd indicated I would be back by late

morning and she'd had a dull day waiting for me.



Sunday 10th March. In Beijing - The Great Wall and


We were up early to walk to the hotel where we were

picked up by a minivan. We met several interesting

people, a British husband, wife and son working in

China as a landscape architect, a couple of

adventurers from Ohio, or Idaho, or Iowa, I forget

which. One had recently graduated in International

Relations and had what I would call very positive

views about the September 11th incidents and his

country's reactions.

After about three hours rather dull journey we were

near the destination when we realised we had two

options - going to a place which the guide book had

said was best, as was our original intention, or

staying on the bus to be dropped 9 km from that place

and walking the wall to it. J chose to take the tough

option. Later she regretted it, she had not realised

(as I had) how very steep it is in places. (Both of us

have knee problems.) Neither of us realised it is also

in a poor state of repair in many sections. Actually

she was shown a short cut which enabled her to have an

idyllic walk in peaceful countryside. I took the

easier option. When dropped and after a cheap noodle

meal I set off 2 km or so up the hillside to the wall,

and then walked or rather climbed along it for about 1

km. It was very steep, each step higher than the flats

(i.e. steeper than 45 deg) and at the watch towers the

view was splendidid by virtiginous. It was a wonderful

experience. One wondered at the feat of its

construction. There were not too many visitors - some

rather noisy Americans who had come with far too much

heavy clothing. (But also some other very nice


After going down again I walked around a lake and had

a sleep in the warm sun. Back at the Centre the

vendors were very persistent but I found at the far

end of their area, obviously unofficial, some genuine

peasants selling their attractive produce. I bought

eggs and chestnuts (which I found later were roasted)

and a decorative gourd. (Later I regretted not buying

more nuts, they were inexpensive and make excellent

emergeny rations.)

I found the rest of our party - not too shattered by

their long hike, but we were kept waiting for over an

hour because one of them had got lost, or was very

slow. Apparently each group of their party had had a

'guide' who turned out to be more interested in

selling, but at least we knew she had a local person

with her. At last we set off without her but half an

hour later the driver had a message that she had

turned up and was being brought to us, so we had

another half hour wait. We explored the remote village

outside which we had happened to stop; the locals

seemed never to have seen so many 'big-noses' -

apparently that is what they call us.

Back with our hosts we had a bizarre evening as they

had a guest - a crazy chap of Australian origin called

Bruce - an academic and long term China resident,

bisexual and acting up very camp, enjoying saying

utterly outrageous and provocative things, much to our

amusement and occasional chagrin. He chatted up

Jennifer and me at different times during the amusing


Monday 11th. Beijing - Lunch and Springhall.

This was our last day in Beijing and for me perhaps

the most remarkable of the whole year.

J and I took a taxi to the fashionable shopping area

where we had been told there were several banks with

ATMs - previously we thought there were only two in

all B. We drew lots of money, enough to change into

Mongolian and Russian and/or dollars. Then by taxi to

the area where David and Yang-zhi have their office, a

former church now with many people each working with

one or two computers. Their business is studying

Chinese newspapers, magazines, etc. to compile reports

for clients including many of the big multinationals.

We went to lunch where we had complete lambs' legs,

one each. Delicious!

In the afternoon we traipsed around, J. posting a

parcel (the best parcel service we've found), I

searching for odds and ends in the many shops. China

or at least B. seems to be a shopper's and a

consumer's paradise.

In the evening a most remarkable thing happened. I

will cut and paste in parts of an email I wrote to

Sarah and James about it.

I should point out that until this evening, despite

much research, we knew almost nothing about DFS other

than that he was my biological father, a prominent

communist, active in the Spanish Civil War (where he

was wounded) and had died in Moscow, we knew not when.


First I must say I am very upset because I have just

spent about half an hour writing you a difficult,

rather emotional email message and then as I was


it an advert appeared and wiped it out. I am not

sure I can do it again so well.

I set the scene: our last evening in Beijing where we

were staying with a fairly wealthy family, the host a

Canadian now naturalised Chinese and his half Chinese

wife Yang Ji whose British mother died a couple of

years ago, and whose father lives with them. He is

Yang Xian Yi, a venerable old scholar, quite famous,

we were shown a chapter devoted to him in a British

Museum book. He speaks slowly and carefully in an

impeccable Oxford accent, having lectured there and

with several other prestigious honorary degrees.

Conversation was flowing freely, i.e. people were

listening to me and laughing with not at me (!) when I

told the tale of the derivation of the name Petter.

Another guest, a British woman who is writing the

biography of Yang Xian Yi, told us that there was a

French film whose title included 'petter' as a farter.

Then after some hesitation I told them that the man I

had several times referred to as my father was not

in fact that, and that my biological father's name

also had a rather interesting history. But the name

'Springhall' did not suggest it. Yang then said

quietly that he had

known someone called Springhall! For a while it seemed

impossible it was my father, especially as

they thought his name was David while I remembered it

as Douglas. However this was cleared up when I

remembered he was actually refered to as 'Springie'

which Yang than agreed. My heart was pounding and my

hair even stood on end as more and more details

emerged, and all the party were enthralled at this

real life drama being played out in front of them.

What emerged was that DFS was a hero to the Chinese.

He was sent out here by the British Communist Party

just after the Chinese Liberation in 1949 as one of


members to help with English. He had married and had

two adopted children. He got throat cancer and was

sent to Moscow for treatment but died there. His body

was brought back and given a fine funeral being buried

in a cemetery reserved for heros of the revolution.

Some days later Yang Ji sent me an email with even

more information, in fact a short biography of DFS,

which I will forward to you.

Yang-zhi phoned another British ex-pat who

knew him well and apparently much admired him. We had

a long phone conversation and she

has given me several addresses in the UK. Sadly all

his contemporaries are now dead but widows and

children will be able to tell us more.

I was very moved by all this and bouyed up having

never heard much good of my real father. Now I am

proud of him as one who certainly lived out his

convictions top the full (as indeed did Jim Petter).

End of this section.

To be called j20305.htm and rtf



Leaving Beijing for Mongolia.
Tuesday March 12, 2002.

Up early and a lovely send-off by Yang-Ji - great
though hurried breakfast, and help ordering and
boarding the taxi to the great station. Meeting the
MonkeyBusiness rep and the couple who were to be our
travelling companions. Boarding the hugely long train,
taking a photo of the massive engine, settling into
the spacious compartment, then slowly gliding out
through the environs of Beijing and into the
cold-scorched countryside.

The 24 or so hours passed quickly, in conversation
with our companions, a little reading, some sleeping,
visits to the (not bad) loo and the quite good
restaurant car. Supper was rubbery chicken, with the
only vegetable, garlic stems.

The main adventure was around midnight when we went to
see the amazing routine of changing the train's
bogeys! One has to choose either to be locked into the
carriage for two or more hours, or stay outside. We
chose the latter and after doing some exploring and
shopping outside the station (with the help of a
charming Mongolian y woman) we returned and trekked
through the dark along a rough track to the enormous
sheds where massive hydraulic lifts raise the
carriages from the bogeys, which are rolled away and
replaced by wider ones. Russia and its former
satellites uses a different gauge from that used by
the rest of Europe and Asia. This all involved a lot
of wandering around in the dark.

Wednesday 13th March.

We arrived in dreary looking Ulaan Baator. As I was
carrying the two heaviest bags to the carriage exit a
flurry of evil-looking men streamed aboard. I was
worried about our other smaller bags which we had put
in the corridor, and shouted to Jennifer to watch
them. As men pushed their way on, another was shoving
me hard from behind as if wanting to leave, as I did.
The platform seemed busy and very unsafe. I asked
someone to keep an eye on the two bags and went back
for the others. When I got back to our compartment I
realised I had been robbed - pick-pocketed of 1800
Chinese Yuen which is about 180 pounds. I had this in
a pocket to change to Mongolian currency as soon as we
arrived. I had obtained plenty of money as we had been
unsure how easily cash could be obtained here. I felt
very shocked and dismayed, also as so often victims
feel ashamed - why had I not kept the money in an inner
pocket or my money belt, as indeed I had advised J as
we approached the city.

We made contact with the proprietor (Nassan) of one of
the two Guest houses we had chosen from the guide
book. She was standing on the platform holding a sign.
She and her driver proved to be of enormous
assistance, helping us find the police and later
interpreting as I made a statement. However this all
took well over an hour.

The weather was shockingly cold, though bright.

At last we were in Nassan's Guest House, in a very
warm flat, whose larger room is a dormitory housing up
to six people and a smaller tho still quite large room
is a double. This we eventually took. We share a
kitchen and bathroom. All very warm and convenient.

We spent the afternoon at a money exchange, then the
post office, then by taxi to try to find the other
guest house, as its claim to fame is as a source of
info about safaris. J was keen to go to the Gobi
Desert. However we could not find the place and there
was no reply when we phoned, later we found the owner
was away. In the evening we had a cheap meal. We are
finding as predicted there are no vegetables and few
little choice besides chicken or mutton.

Thursday 14th March
We went shopping and internetting. Later in the day we
agreed to go on a set tour run by Nassan's Tour
Manager, Inge (his name means 'peace'). This would be
six days in the Gobi, staying for the five nights in
Gers (qv below). We would not have a guide but the
driver we were told was experienced and knew a little
English. This was dependent on mutual agreement to
share the costs with a two Danish young women. Once we
had met them and the driver we all agreed to go.

Friday 15th March.

We were in a 4WD van, like a heavy tough minibus, they
call it a jeep but it is much more comfortable. We
soon got to know our two companions, Agneat and Maria,
cheerful, young (20 and 22) adventurous girls. I had
objected to a plan which was to include endless
driving, but that is what we had. This first day we
drove for 10 hours. The landscape was incredibly flat
(though rough) and featureless. Dried up grassland
with occasional low ridges of rock, or low mountain
ranges. There were no real roads, (though the map
suggested otherwise) only the tracks of other vehicles
that had passed this way. We saw very little other
traffic, on days 3 and 4 we did not see any other
vehicle on the road for well over 24 hours, just 3 or
4 motorbikes.

Around dusk the driver pulled up at a ger but they had
just accepted another party so he followed their
helpful instructions to another ger, and headed off
into the trackless dark. By some magic at which I was
frequently to marvel he found it. It was a delightful
experience. A ger is a circular tent supported on a
wooden framework, with walls of two or more thick
layers of felt, and a canvas exterior layer secured
with ropes and held down with boulders and other
heavy objects such as old cylinder blocks. One enters
through a low door. The layout is always the same.
Chests decorated like Romany furniture, an elaborately
decorated bed, an alter (their religion is a mixture
of Buddhism and Shamanism) with a large iron stove in
the centre. An adjustable flat half covers an opening
at the apex. There are many rules of etiquette,
including that one only moves around in a clockwise
direction. Visitors are welcomed with tea and very
hard dried crusts of bread, and usually with hard very
strong goat cheese. Almost uneatable. One dunks them
into the tea. The latter is made by the woman of the
house. She takes off the covers of the stove, and
replaces them with a wide bowl which is used for all
the cooking. she wipes it out with a rag, then pours
in water and milk. As it comes to the boil she adds a
lot of salt and a little tea. After vigorous boiling
it is decanted into a large teapot and poured into
bowls. Initially it seems repulsive but one soon gets
used to it and within days it seems delicious. We all
sit round, holding the bowls in both hands, and
sipping noisily. Etiquette demands we tell them our
names and where we come from and are going. After a
while the wife starts preparing the evening meal. She
feeds a the fire with cattle and sheep dung. Soon the
room is unbearably hot. She wipes out the great
cooking bowl and while the water comes to the boil
prepares dough making dumplings or pasta like strips.
A very few vegetables, mainly potato and perhaps a
couple of carrots. Meanwhile the husband has sharpened
a knife and is cutting small pieces off a leg of
mutton. All this is well boiled then served in the
bowls, to be eaten with a spoon or fork, and much loud
sucking. Often the mutton has a very strong flavour,
which tended to grow wearisome after a few days, in
fact Maria usually left hers. There is absolutely no
provision for vegetarians. Breakfast consists of the
remains of supper, which by now has frozen, with tea
poured over it to thaw it. A couple of times for
breakfast we had boiled sweet rice pudding with
saltannas but on both occasions it tasted of mutton,
the second time (our last day) so strongly as to make
Agneat ill.

A while after supper we all went to bed. not much
room for privacy. Usually there were six to eight of
us in the one ger, on the beds and on the floor, with
sleeping bags augmented by many blankets, or if I was
lucky, with a massive heavy sheepskin. During the
night the fire soon went out and it grew very cold.
One usually could not go out for a pee as their dogs
are very ferocious, so one had to hang on till dawn.
One (i.e. both men and women) peed in the open a few
yards from the ger. Some distance away would be a
crude structure for defecating - a small hut, a hole
in the ground covered with planks one of which was as
it were missing. The crap would form a mountain in the
pit or two as a few people it seems prefer to face
inward. Often there was no door, but usually an
inadequate wooden screen in front of the open side. In
all places there was a shortage of water, so washing
was impossible except for the most essential i.e.
one's hands. To save water the technique is to take a
mouthful of the water then squirt a little onto one's
hands, soap them, then do several rinses perhaps
having a second mouthful.

We found all the gers we went to were very similar in
the above details. Where they differed was in the
friendliness of the nomads, which extended from quite
to very. The families would be continually coming and
going, to fetch food and fuel, to tend their animals,
and so on. After India and other countries (even
China) where one always removed shoes, I was surprised
to note they never removed their boots. Maybe lack of
washing facilities is the reason!

This first evening the family were utterly delightful.
A lovely old couple with wonderful weatherworn
bright-eyed faces. They had two shy adult sons aged 20
and 22, who reminded me much of Karl and Cynth's boys.
They were much taken by our two Danish companions.

In the morning when I got up for a pee the man called
me over to look at one of his camels which was giving
birth. The baby's head was half out. I went back and
told the others, who put on warm clothing as fast as
possible and came to look. By now the mother camel was
lying down, and the baby's head was out and was being
dragged across the sand, so was covered in it. Agneat
whose father is a dairy farmer was surprised they did
not help the camel at all, not even to put it out of
the strong wind. The temperature was about minus 10 or

They also gave us rides on their camels, my first
experience of this. Later I rode a pony using a
Mongolian saddle and it was far more uncomfortable
than the camel.

Saturday 16 March.
More hours driving across the featureless Gobi. The
only interest the wild life of which there is much,
including great herds of gazelle. Also many birds
including eagles and vultures. Many cattle skeletons,
great grinning skulls, evidence of the harshness of
the climate. I was very fed up with so many hours just
sitting, hoping for a break. I spent much time
fantacising or planning what to do in the future, how
to organise my projects, and imagining I was sailing.

We kept asking for a chance to have a walk but our
lack of ability to communicate with the driver (plus
very inadequate briefing as to what to expect) was a
serious problem. At last he indicated an opportunity
to walk. It was in a fascinating narrow valley or
gorge. The stream was iced over and soon extended from
one side of the gorge to the other. At this some of
the party got nervous - not believing my assurances
that it was solid, so we turned back. Only later did
we find that it was supposed to be one of the high
spots of the tour, we were to go further and see a
rare sight, an ice-gorge.

On the way back up this narrow valley we saw several
mountain goats then I spotted what I believe was a
snow leopard, which is rare. It was sitting catlike,
rather straight backed, way up at the top of the
cliffs. After a while it moved slowly away and I saw
it side on, but was not able to distinguish a tail,
which would have made me certain it was a leopard.

That night the ger owner, a woman, was much more
commercial than the first. She attended to us but only
in a professional, not a particularly friendly manner.
We had the ger to ourselves, the five of us, while she
and her family stayed next door.

I went out for a late night visit to the loo. It was
utterly dark, with no lights at all, and no moon, with
the result that I lost my sense of direction and got
lost. I must have wandered around (slowly so as not to
fall into one of the many pits, etc.) for 20 to 30
minutes. I was not too worried even though the
batteries in my torch were rapidly fading, as I
assumed they would notice my absence and wave torches
to show me the way. I kept calling out. In fact they
had all gone to bed, but Jennifer came out, even
though she had not got a light, and called so I was
able to stagger back.

Sunday 17th
It turned out our hostess was also the attendant of
the local museum, which I visited, the others
declining either because of the cost or because it
consisted mainly of stuffed animals to which they
objected. I found it very instructive, both for animal
and bird recognition and for the geological

Sunday 17th March.
I keep a small diary with the briefest of notes, which
I use as an aide memoir when I do this fuller log.
For this day it says:
"Great day! Museum. Walk to peak. Great drive.
Breakdown. Dunes. Search for a ger. Mutton and
stupid(?) Dog."
I do not remember what the last few words are about.
The breakdown was impressive insofar as the driver
demonstrated his excellence, first in identifying the
problem, the carb., then in stripping it and cleaning
out all the jets, calmly and unhurriedly. There was no
chance of anyone else helping - we saw only one
vehicle that day - and he had no phone or radio. The
search for a ger was rather worrying, we drove for
about an hour in the gathering gloom with never a ger
in sight, except one early in the search, which he
assessed would be NBG. (He assessed them on the basis
of the quality of the ger, and whether they were not
so poor as to not have any sheep or camels.)

We have a lot of respect for the driver. As obliging
as language will permit, solicitous, excellent at
driving in the most difficult terrain, quiet and
friendly. Luckily the radio is not working! And no
smoking - both the girls smoke but only outside the
van. J and I take turns to have the front seat, or the
whole of the three person bench seat, the girls assure
us they prefer to have the back bench seat.

Still in the Gobi.

Monday March 18th 2002.

It was a very cold night. J had had the only available bed. I was on the floor between it and Maria, with Agneat closest to the stove, which soon grew cold. Breakfast was the YMCA plus mutton flavoured sweet rice pudding. Ugh! The drive was to a red canyon which we later realised was supposed to be another of the highlights of the tour. We did not do it justice, partly because we did not know how long we could have there. Not that the driver (whose name is Gera, Jerrah) hurried us, but there is always a feeling that time is short. It is the site of many fossil finds, particularly some spectacular dinosaur remains. After some more hours of driving we came to some ruins which we explored in a more leisurely fashion. It was a ghost town, with lots of artifacts lying around, and a Buddhist shrine. Also a few trees, the first we had seen for days! At one time we drove at over 80 km per hr over the unmade desert surface, smooth as a runway, for over an hour. I was in the front seat, and found it enthralling. The sense of space is mind blowing, deeply moving. This is the spiritual experience Jennifer in particular but also I long for. How we regretted we could not simply walk in it (for a while!).

Jennifer cooked a spag cheese lunch for all of us. It was a blessed relief from the endless mutton. We had two walks of about 2 km each. We stayed in a house in a town, not a ger. The family were very dour, not very friendly. They and several friends and neighbours wandered in and out of the room we four were given to share, with unabashed curiosity. However we were delighted by the kids especially a very bright young girl took on the privilege of looking after us as much as her mother and elder sister let her. Being in a warm house and in beds was actually very comfortable and despite the shortage of water I had a bit of a wash, and was glad to be able to put on fresh underwear and socks. Despite being in a town all the water has to be carried in from some distance. It is ladled into a small container over a sink, and one presses a button to obtain a trickle with which to wash. The supper was pretty awful and the breakfast ghastly.

Tuesday 19th March

All day driving, very dull, with weather worsening, a blizzard with gale force wind, way below zero, and flurries of snow drifting across the track. Zero visibility at times. The only tourist attraction a Buddhist temple which was closed. Despite the blizzard the people in the first ger we stopped at would not have us, and we had a very worrying time batting slowly through the snowstorm hoping desperately to find somewhere to stay. However when we did find one it was with a lovely family, many children coming and going. This ger was in a town, inside its own fencing. J and I had a double bed for the first time for ages. The blankets went all awry but I was warm and comfortable.

Wednesday 20th.

Last day in the desert.

This was a horrendous day. We had to drive over a low range of mountains and the higher we went the deeper the snow drifts. Outside the warm van it all looked lovely, bright blue sky, warm sunlight, the light covering of snow picking out the hills and rocks. But step outside and away from the shelter of the van and the freezing wind cut through one's many layers of clothing within minutes. Then as feared we got stuck in a snow drift that covered a shallow dip. I forgot to mention we had picked up a young man who was setting off to make his fortune in Ulaan Baatur. We had rather resented his intrusion into our by now close little community, but now he was to prove his worth as he dug away for over half an hour with a little shovel trying and eventually succeeding in digging us out. I went out to help, and to push, but was soon driven back by the cold, and I think Gera would have had a problem as for all his qualities he is overweight and does not appear physically fit. At times the young man had to lie on his side to hack away at the snow packed under the vehicle. Then we came across another jeep that had been stuck in a drift all night. Its two men occupants did not look too bad but were very pleased when we gave them the last of our food, two hard boiled eggs and a large crust of bread. First we towed them, until the tow cable broke, then Gera got out and fixed their engine for them. He really is a wonder!

At one point the van went over a hidden hump so violently that we were all thrown up, hitting our heads on the roof. I was quite dazed for a minute or two. Maria was quite badly hurt in two places as she was thrown onto the floor. Jennifer's head was sore for days.

At last we reached the summit then it was downhill all the way back into dirty old UB. Phew! What an anti climax when we found his boss, our guest house prop. was out and would not be back for an hour.

However, this was not to be the end of the day's adventures. I went off to the State Department Store to buy some supplies and as I was leaving, heavily laden, through the narrow exit doors, I was again the victim of pick-pockets. As I was going through the door the man in front of me stopped, apparently because the man in front of him had dropped something. An apparently impatient woman behind me pushed and shoved and the next thing I knew there was a flurry and a man was holding out my wallet indicating "Is this yours?". He was holding the woman who had been pushing me, who was struggling. Another man was holding the chap who had been in front of me, and a third was racing down the road chasing and felling the third robber. It was then all a bit Kafkaesque, as I trailed along with my heavy bags behind two detectives and the three miscreants handcuffed together, first to an office, then to a police station, where we were referred to another station. It was with some satisfaction we showed the thieves how little was in the wallet, only 240 T i.e. about 35 pence. Here I was able to phone J to say I was delayed as a witness, but she got the wrong message and arrived very concerned for my well-being. Her concern quickly and typically turned to anger when she found what a lot I had spent.

SUMMARY OF THE TRIP 1st night. Place: Man 55 wife 50 sons 20, 22. Mutton supper and brkfst. Singing, shared vodka. Sheep, camels, camel rides, saw camel born. 2nd night. Place: Semi-commercial. Ger to ourselves. I got lost. Men (police?) barged in during night. Prop was also museum opener. 3rd night. near Bayanzag. 2 men 2 women 2 children. After worrying search. Owner called Sogotrah. Hostess young beaut, combed her long black hair. 4th night at Sayhan Ovoo. House in town. Boring but warm and spacious. Neutral adults but nice kids. Went for dull walk in sparse town. Loo stank of mutton, had dead animals and bits around, and rotting pond. Water scarce but had wash. Landlady overblown y wom, with glam friends who came to look at us. Brkfst: sweet rice pud with awful mutton taste. 5th nightBayan Onjuul, trad ger though in town. Man wears trad clothes, handsome, said no job but looked like succ. wrestler. Slim glam modern wife flaunting fine assets, her sister pregnant, no sign of spouse, slept w couple. Child with toothache, kept my clove oil, OK. Sang, played cards, had excellent supper of stuffed dumplings, shared my vodka, took group photo, room v full w 4 in sl bags, 3 in one bed, us in another, warm, nice sleep.


Thurs 21st March.

A quiet day in our GH apartment. We went shopping (I being kept outside!) and internetting. In the evening we went to a very good 'cultural' show, i.e. local music and dance, fantastic costumes, and an amazing contortionist. The most extraordinary turn was a large man doing throat singing, sometimes extremely base, a loud but still musical growl, sometimes as shrill as a bird. After that I treated us to an excellent Italian meal, and we went back to our cozy abode in good humour. And so to bed, as Pepys would say.

End, to be named j20321.htm and rtf.


JOURNAL: Ulaan Baatur.

Friday, 22 March 2002. (Revised 27 June)

A good day. We visited Tsog - newly appointed principle of a Cambridge Cert college. Brand new building, 30 plus new Dell computers, but so far only 6 students. He invited us to join him this weekend to visit some old friends living in a ger in the mountains about 50 km away. After lunch and the usual rest we went to the Natural History museum, justifiably famous for its extensive display of dinosaurs including some huge ones. When we returned to the GH we had a chat with Inke about the Gobi trip. Then we had a planned meeting with Mark ? in the nearby Jazz Cafe. He is a long time Peace Corps worker. Hails from Wisconsin and specialises in Environmentalism - e.g. saving endangered species in remote corners of Mongolia. In the evening we had a meal in the Chinese Restaurant I'd been to before, then spent some time packing for the weekend. Big (fruitless) search for my glasses; thank goodness I brought a spare pair.

Saturday 23rd March.

Tsog with his driver took us in his Land Rover 1.5 hrs drive east of UB into the mountains, up splendid, wide valleys, crossing a wide frozen river, to a remote hamlet of two gers. Lovely old couple who are sort of retired but still busy lovingly tending a few horses, plus their charming 20-ish grandson.

For lunch we were invited to the neighbouring ger where we were served by a seemingly 12 yr old girl while her father or grandfather consumed much vodka and plied us with it. It is rude to refuse to receive it but one need only sip a little. The host was as warned a non-stop talker, chattering endlessly to us in Mongolian, a small proportion of which Tsog translated for us. The geyser seemed to have an affinity or fascination for me and held my eyes wildly, in a most disconcerting way.

After a lunch we went on a hike up the wooded, partially snow covered hill opposite. It was very cold except where one could get out of the wind while still in the sun. In the evening the g'son saddled two horses to give us rides. I found the saddle and the position of the stirrups extremely uncomfortable. Give me a camel any time! Supper was cooked as usual but included beef rather than the usual mutton. After it had been boiled for quite a long time the beef bone was cooled then passed around for the meat and fat to be cut off with a big knife, mouthful by mouthful.

Six of us slept in the ger. The old couple tried to insist we sleep in their bed, they on the floor. We managed to refuse, then Tsog had their bed so they succeeded in sleeping rough. There was also our driver - the g'son went elsewhere. We were told the dogs were so dangerous we could not go out, e.g. for a pee, without one of the family.

Sunday 24th March.

I was keen to do something helpful so offered to get some water from the well which was about 500 meters distant. It was in a little hut. The floor was a sheet of ice. I was afraid I'd slip into the well. They'd given me a bucket with a handle and a rope which was simply a strip of cloth, which I tied to the bucket and lowered it into the dark, ice lined well. But it would not go into the water, way below, but would only float. Then I realised the long pole that stood in the well was for pushing the bucket into the water. So I did this and had the satisfaction of hearing the water gush into the bucket. But then, horrors, when I tried to lift it out it stuck on the icy edges. I dared not pull too hard for fear of breaking the cloth rope. Lift and release and jiggle as I might I just could not get the bucket past the bulging walls of ice. Eventually I had to give up, tying the cloth rope to the pole. I felt awful having to tell of my abject failure, like a small boy having to admit he'd broken the best porcelain set. (That happened to me once.) However they were very sanguine about it, saying the grandson would see to it later. But I do not see how it could be done other than by lowering a hot bucket to melt away some of the thick ice walls.

Jennifer and I set off for a long hike but she was not feeling very fit, so when we saw we had to go down and up an extra valley to reach our object she decided to turn back. I pressed on, to a large sacred feature, made out of long poles about 10 m high decorated with bright blue muslin streamers. I sat down in the warm sun, out of the wind, for a long time, meditating and having a one person meeting for worship. (Funny how one avoids saying one was praying!) Then I set off to go to a distant lake but it turned out to be too distant and I had to return before reaching it. I must have walked for about t three hours. It was a superb walk in a wide, fenceless valley with patches of snow. No people except one distant herdsman.

We were driven back to UB but on the way stopped to see a local attraction, a rock shaped like a huge turtle. Back at the GH we had a rather dull evening. Stupefied by all out journeys into the cold though splendid wastelands, and the extraordinary food.

Monday 25th.

I was on a computer for quite a long time, as usual trying to get up to date with this journal. J went off for a meeting about women's support groups and micro-credit.

Tuesday 26th. Last day in UB.

In the morning I took the remaining toys and $30 donation to an orphanage. It was quite an adventure as it was hard to find and eventually a rather nice young woman (Darri, a teacher of English and Russian) took me in hand! The staff were delighted with my gift. I was worried that it was rather a meagre amount, but later I realised it was not so small when I found that Darri's salary was $50 a month! I spent several more hours on the computer, getting the journal up to the end of the period in the Gobi. Late in the day I went to collect my new glasses (I forgot to mention I'd ordered a new pair, at a cost of £10, in UK they'd cost over £100) and I hunted around to phone a SERVAS person in Moscow to no avail, a very frustrating time, but bad of us to leave it to the last moment. Nassan had promised to have us taken to the station, but as none of her drivers were available she ordered a taxi for us. In the train we found our companions to be two nice looking unsophisticated Mongolian chaps, a lightweight wrestler and his manager. J found she'd lost her much loved coat and gloves, bought in Bolivia and laboriously carried through hot countries for use here. She was not sure whether she had left it at the GH or lost it on the way, e.g. in the taxi, or had it stolen in the train. She was very weepy about it.

Wednesday 27th March.

Hard to believe, but it took 11 hours to cross the border into China! 11 long boring hours! Well, nine plus two during which we were allowed to leave the train - I took a walk around the town. The money changers would not change Mongolian money! J continued to feel unwell most of the day but cheered up in the evening, especially after I massaged her.

END of this section, to be called j20327.rtf and htm.

JOURNAL 28 March to 1st April

Trans-Siberia Train to Irkutsk and Moscow.


(Revised 27 June.)

Thursday 28 March 2002. To Irkutsk

We arrived in Irkutsk at 0845 after a good night’s journey. The train (here called the Trans-Mongolian) from Ulaan Baatur was comfortable and our companions congenial and discrete. There was no restaurant car, and the third class part of the train was very crowded but we were snug and comfortable. We were very wary getting off the train having been victims of robbers last time. We were met by the rep, a young woman called Aleya, who took us to the car and driver who were waiting. Our first stop was to a bank to draw some cash then we were speeding out of the quite pleasant looking town into wooded countryside, nine-tenths covered in snow. It was a journey of about 70 km to the small village where we were to stay. Here we were warmly greeted at a sort of B&B cottage and sat down to a huge late breakfast – meats, cheeses, breads, red caviar, and excellent tea. In the next few days we were to be continually overfed, plied with platters of delicious food and implored not to disappoint our hostess by failing to finish it all.

After this huge breakfast we went for a walk, Aleya taking us along the lakeside to a very interesting museum about 2 km distant. This was all about the lake, Lake Baikal, which is famous for many reasons besides its great beauty. It is uniquely deep, such that though its surface area is less than the Great Lakes it holds far more water, in fact a fifth of all the fresh water in the world. It is also very much the oldest lake in the world, several millions of years c.f. other lakes which are only thousands of years old. Also it has many unique endemic species, from seals to crustaceans which consume all the detritus so that the lake is exceptionally clear.

We went back to an exceptionally large lunch then after a nap A. took us in the opposite direction along the lakeside road, to the small town and harbour where all the boats, some big enough to call ships, were gripped in the thick ice. I bought J a semi precious jewel ring of a stone which had the green translucent appearance of the ice on the edges of the lake.

In the evening we (Jennifer, Aleya and I) played cards with our hostess, Rita, and her mother, Valentina, a very lively, amusing old lady. The game they taught us was called ‘President’, a cruel game in which the winner of a round is promoted to ‘President’ and the loser demoted to ‘Arsehole’. The two runners up are named Deputy P and Deputy A. It is ‘unjust’ because the a. has to give their two best cards to the P, in return for the P’s two worse cards, and the deputies have to swap one card. After each round people move to the seats for their new status. Needless to say I soon became A. and seldom moved from this position.

Friday 29th March.

Elya took us to an art gallery. It was interesting but we managed not to buy anything other than a postcard. I had not realised we were to have had another outing, ski walking in winter or a boat ride and a mountain hike in the summer. But we fell between the two seasons and all we could have was cycling; they provided excellent mountain bikes. But J’s knee gave her a problem within minutes so they turned back and I rode on for a while. But off the paved roads the thawing snow just made the track so muddy one could hardly progress, so I soon returned. J realised this was to be the highspot of our time here, and was very disappointed.

Later A. took us to a service in the Russia Orthodox church. It was interesting, quite moving in its rustic simplicity. I bought an icon of St Nicholas after hearing he is the saint of sailors and navigators. There was singing, but it was not particularly fine. Nevertheless I found the place spiritually inspiring and stayed on for half an hour or so after J and A left. In the evening we played President again, and I was a little less unsuccessful.

Sat 30 March. Last day in Irk.

J and I dashed to the church as she wanted to buy icons, etc. then we were driven back to Irk, but not before tearful farewells with Rita and Valentina. We had quickly grown to be very fond of them. We had not quite realised what Aleya’s role was to be and at this stage resented the way she had controlled us, inhibiting the sort of activities we would have preferred had we been left to our own devices, yet not providing particularly good happenings. This brings home to me how sensible we are usually to avoid organised trips - though hitherto the few we have taken have been excellent, e.g. Kolka Canyon and the jungle trip in Peru … I cannot think of any others!

We did have the car stopped in order to photograph the lovely silver birch woods, looking fantastic in the snow.

In Irk the first stop was to a dentist for some emergency treatment – I had broken a tooth and the sharp jagged edge was grazing my cheek. This was done straight away for which the charge was the equivalent of £5.

Then A. took us on an excellent short tour of the city. Something which impressed me was the permanent guard of honour provided by schoolchildren at the war memorial. They do 15 minute stints and apparently all the schoolchildren over a certain age have to do it. However the sight of them goose-stepping was less pleasant, we grow up with a strong prejudice against this style of marching. We also went to an excellent market to buy some supplies for the train.

Then rather suddenly A was off duty, saying goodbye, and leaving the driver to take us to the station. Onto the train and we were again off, this time for three days.

In our compartment came a glamorous woman with a huge amount of luggage and two children, girls of about 10 or 12. She ensconced one of them in the next compartment. She was very assertive re taking space, but otherwise we got on well. In the same next compartment we found a lovely English couple, Andrew and Liz, who are doing a similar one year RTW trip as us, and also with Star Alliance. We had long conversations with them, and taught them President. I was reading "Siberia" by Colin Thurbron, and excellent description of the land through which we were travelling. We had a good attendant, a buxom blond woman who initially put on a very severe air, aided by her militaristic uniform, but later softened. Next to one’s compartment companions these attendants can enhance or ruin such a journey.

Monday 1st April, 2002.

My little diary just says "On train. Enjoying company of Liz and Andrew."

Two or three times a day we stop at a station for 20 minutes or so, and I take the opportunity to walk or run the length of the train. Usually the platform is covered in ice and snow. Always it is cold. One is very afraid the train will go without one, as they slip out very quietly, no whistles or hooters. One is very careful, and the attendant makes sure we are safely back in the train at least 5 minutes before we need be.

We had been told the scenery would be boring, but not a bit of it! I find it lovely, and it sets my imagination racing. Woods, clearings, rivers, fields, villages all set in snow, with many animals’ tracks.


END To be called j20401 htm and rtf.







End of this section, to be called j2mmdd htm and rtf.

JOURNAL: April 2nd to 7th. Moscow


(Revised 27 June)

April 2. 2002. Moscow

The train from Irkukst (I never did learn how to spell it!) slid into Moscow around 3 p.m. Again we were very much on guard against pick-pockets. We trudged down the long platform where we met the driver who was to take us to our hotel. As we whizzed through Moscow I found myself surprised at its bright, bustling modern appearance. We were left at a posh hotel, a snug standard double room and a fully modern bathroom. I immediately had a long hot shower. Meanwhile the agent from MonkeyBusiness had arrived and was briefing Jennifer, and giving her our tickets for St Petersburg.

Later we went out to do some telephoning and to find a meal. As has happened so often the phoning presented a major problem and in fact we did not succeed in doing what we wanted, which was to find Servas hosts here in Moscow and later in St Petersberg. I would say that telephoning has been just about our major problem throughout our journey, certainly the worst compared with our expectations.

However the food place we found was excellent and great fun. One selected a maximum of one bowlfull of raw food, fish, many meats, veg, then watched them being stir-fried. Then one topped the bowl up with salads.

After this I went to a nearby market that I had read about where one can buy CDs and CD-ROMs at discount prices, and was able to buy Dreamweaver 4 plus other software including Flash 5.

Wednesday 3rd April. We did some quick e-mailing and drew some money, both on the hotel's premises (though the money place involved a dash in the bitterly cold open air) then went to the station. In Moscow (and St Pete) one seldom uses official taxis - they are very expensive) but stands by the roadside and flags down any passing car. One says where one wants to go and if the driver is willing to take you a (low) fare is agreed. Actually, twice the driver left it to us to decide what to give. Thus we went to the station, but by a much longer route than that by which we had come, so much so that we began to worry. However we got the train with time to spare and were soon on our way to Kolamna, which is about 50 km SE of Moscow. This was to have one of the most important visits of the whole journey, to stay with Sasha and his mother. Jennifer had met them in Taize some years ago, had spent time with them 3 Years ago, and Sasha had stayed with us in London. By chance Sasha's mother, another Rita, found us in the train when she heard us asking how many more stops to Kolana. We had to drag our cases through mud and dust, the worst we had encountered ever. Had we known we would have converted them to rucksacks, which would have been only the second time we would have done so in the entire trip.

K. is a lovely small town. The station and Sasha's house are near the old central district or kremlin. Actually we found later there is a lot more building in the Soviet style i.e. serried ranks of tall apartment blocks, a mile or two distant. But a walk round the kremlin showed it to be very charming, with several churches and many interesting old buildings. We went to a chapel in a convent to observe the evening service and listened to the lovely singing. We were given a huge splendid supper by Rita and Sasha's wife Anita. J and I were given sole use of Sasha's flat, just across the road from the family home where we had all our meals.

Thursday 4th April.

We all had another walk round the town. Later S's brother turned up with his car and J and I with S were taken on a tour of the country around the town. This included a visit to a monastry where we were shown round by a keen young monk. J and he had a conversation (with Sasha interpreting - that happens to be his profession) in which she told him one can lead a spiritual life without cutting oneself off from the world. We also went to another church, the first we'd seen in which there was a large congregation. Then we joined Rita and Anita at a café where we had a fine 'BBQ' dinner. In the evening we entertained each other which included us all singing. I started the ball rolling with 'Wattzing Matilda' which I have developed into quite an act, and it ended with J singing several pieces including one from Carmen. We also exchanged a lot of jokes including very Russian ones, like that of the man whose parrot escaped. He put an advert in the paper saying the bird's views were no necessarily his own.

Friday 5th April. Return to Moscow.

We had a quiet morning, with another walk around the town, and this time over the extraordinary pontoon swing footbridge. We found the Old Believers' church open and a service going on inside, and we visited several artists' studios. We had a battle resisting a shower of presents. Then lunch and the whole family came to see us off on the bus, using the brother's car and a taxi. It was a very sad farewell.

In Moscow our first call was to Friends House where we met Martin and Nicholai, for tea and a good talk. Then we went by metro to the suburb where our Servas host lived. He, Michael, met us at his station and took us to his apartment in a typically Russian area of many high rise buildings. It was a small flat in which lived M and his wife Ina and two small children, Susannah and another Rita, and his parents. All four adults had jobs yet were clearly not wealthy. M was a pediatric surgeon but gave it up in disgust at the practice of using surgery in his opinion un-necessarily, and now practices as a homeopath. They gave us a modest but perfectly adequate meal, for which we were very grateful, but when the mother in law came home from work she more typically an old style Russian insisted we had some more sophisticated food.

Saturday 6th April.

The Servas co-ordinator came to see Micheal and his father, and then took us on a short tour of a few of the fantastic railway and subway stations. The tour ended at St ??? Cathederal. Recently rebuilt and even more recently restored, I thought it fine but J said it was ghastly. We then walked the short distance to the Pushkin museum. This is a very fine world class place, with superb paintings especially a huge collection of fine icons.

Sunday, 7th April, 2002..

J and I spent most of the day traipsing around. Actually my diary/notebook is muddled here and I do not remember the exact days we did various things. One day we had a long dull walk. Another? We spent ages trying to find an internet café near the Red Square, where we also visited the stunning Basilica, and the horrendous GUM department store (which has no book department!). At 5 on Sunday we found the Moscow MM meeting place where we had a good MfW with about 15 Friends and Attenders, plus 5 or so who sit out as if observers, but join in the tea and cakes after the meeting. We both ministered! We heard of the death of Elizabeth Morris's husband. We met Misha, Sasha, Galina, Patricia Cockcroft and several others.

After a long slow evening we caught the 2355 train to St Petersberg.

End of this section, to be called j220407 htm and rtf.

JOURNAL April 8 to 17 (end of journey) - St Petersburg and Stockholm.


(Minor revisions 27 June)

April 8th, 2002. St Petersburg.

We arrived on the overnight sleeper from Moscow quite early in the morning, worried as we had not been able to make contact with anyone about accommodation. As usual we had had a lot of trouble phoning, tho exacerbated by unwillingness to buy an expensive phone card just for one call. As usual we were now in the position of regretting our meanness. Jennifer had two Moscow phone cards kept from her last visit 3 or so years ago but there was a new phone system, in fact at least two new systems plus the old one. Anyway while I watched our pile of luggage in the cold morning air just outside the station, she phoned and with some help from a helpful passer-by (who looked very down at heel – I thought he might ask for some money and would gladly have given him some) Jennifer was able to get through at last to the Servas co-coordinator whose details had been provided by Lydia in St P. He was only a Day Host but warmly invited us to his home where we might store our luggage. We did not find the metro difficult and were soon at his station where we got instructions which we misunderstood, so lugged our cases much farther than needed. My spirits were low at this time, I was complaining saying we should have used a taxi.

Vladmir’s 14 yr old daughter Lisa, greeted us with warm dignity in excellent English. Soon V arrived; he’d had to go to his office but had returned to greet us. We were delighted by his warmth, his interests, and his air of deep spirituality despite being an atheist. He insisted on seeking out lodgings for us and told us to simply enjoy the city now and come back in the evening for a meal. He even told us which street to walk along in order to admire the fine architecture.

J and I found St P to be the finest city we had visited so far. The bright spring weather helped. It was rapidly melting the last of the snow. Ice on the rivers had broken up. I found the sight of the floes gliding downstream fascinating. The architecture of the city is magnificent, 19th century buildings set against the many rivers and canals it was much like Venice or Amsterdam with a touch of Paris. We did the standard walk along Nevsky Prospect and admired the superb Winter Palace. We had a lovely day just wandering around admiring so many beautiful buildings.

In the evening we had a mostly cheerful dinner with Vladmir, his wife Olga, and Lisa. Olga is very keen on a new form of personality analysis (Sociometrics) and ‘did’ Jennifer and me. J rejected what was said about her, and in fact the whole process. I found all the faults of which I am aware confirmed.

V had not been able to find a Servas host but arranged for us to stay in a Children’s Art Institute which lets some rooms intended for visiting artists. It was a comfortable pad. I went for a walk which I enjoyed greatly, the area had many fascinating bistros and bars, special shops, etc, and the last leg of the walk was along a beautiful canal or river.

Tuesday 9 April.

We went out for breakfast, then returned to pack and leave (l think to our hosts’ dismay) as we were to be picked up to go and stay elsewhere. Our hostess was Ekaterina who took us to her interesting flat only a few hundred yards from the ‘Kirov’ theatre. (It now has a different name.) The flat has not been altered since 1825.


J and I went to the Hermitage, which certainly lived up to its reputation as one of the greatest museums and art galleries in the world. We had a wonderful day, concentrating on European fine art but I also spent an hour or so admiring Etruscan pottery. We took a taxi to return as we were very footsore, but he cheated us so almost immediately we insisted on getting out, some distance further from our destination than when we’d got in, and 50 roubles worse off. Then we did the sensible thing and flagged down a car as is the custom. He charged us 60 roubles for the trip, which itself was more than it should be.

In the evening Peter Dyson, a Quaker and a composer, came round and we all went for a meal in an good, low cost so-called café, more a small restaurant, serving local dishes. We had some very good conversation.


Ekaterina took us in her car to Pushkin, a pretty, small town out of St P, where we looked around the Summer Palace and had a walk in the park. While I slept J and E had a long walk and a deep conversation. Again we ate in one of the cafes, the local equivalent of workers’ restaurants. On the way back I helped E do some shopping in a fascinating market. In the evening we went to a splendid production of the ballet ‘Romeo and Juliet’ with music by Prokokiev, at the Mariinsky (Kirov).


J and I were collected by ?Margarita? a teacher friend of Vladmir’s, to give a talk to her English class. Actually two classes and two or three teachers crowded into the room. It went well, with many god questions. We were impressed by the pupils’ English.

In the way back I spent an hour or more in the lovely Cathedral of St Nicholas, heard superb music, saw two bodies lying in state, and meditated on the icon of the patron saint. In the evening we had a small dinner party at a trendy version of a local restaurant, called The Idiot. There was E. and Vladmir, Andrew and Liz (who we’d met yet again at the Hermitage and the ballet).

Saturday 13th April 2002. TO STOCKHOLM.

While J was out doing some last minute sight-seeing I remembered we had not re-confirmed our flight. (In fact it is supposed to be unnecessary.) To my horror they said there was no flight – I assumed they meant there was none on Saturdays. I agreed we’d go next day. I was very disappointed as I wanted to go to Meeting with Swedish Friends. But J was no having this, and rang again insisting we went today. So they readily agreed to send us by another airline, Lot, which however would mean going via Warsaw and arriving about four hours later than planned. This we agreed to do. We were taken to the airport by Margarita(?), or rather a friend of hers. They would not accept any payment and seemed really pleased to do it. We have been quite bowled over by Russian generosity, sometime embarrassingly excessive, with a grim determination to ensure we accept it!

The two flights were quite good and we arrived in Stockholm after taking the excellent airport train.

However once again we had not been able to arrange accommodation and spent well over an hour before we made contact with the Servas host, Jerry Lanz, who offered to put us up for just one night. We got to his flat by the excellent metro, Jerry meeting us at his station. It was a very modern, trendy attic apartment. We went out for a meal, horrified tho not surprised at the high prices, but found very good value at a small Greek restaurant.

Sunday 14th April.

We had a pleasant breakfast with Jerry and his friend Ann, who is a curator of a museum within the Royal Palace. Then all four of us walked the mile or so to the Meeting House, where they left us. After a wait in the warm sun, in the courtyard of the pretty building, we went in, warmly welcomed by Friends particularly Julia Ryberg. It was one of their occasional all age meetings. The first 20 minutes or so involved the younger Friends. The theme was favorite animals and some moving stories were told. This inspired some vocal ministry. After Meeting there was a picnic lunch during which we mentioned we had to go off to seek accommodation for the next few nights, to be told there was sojourners accommodation in the Meeting House. We were introduced to the lovely Resident Friend, Margareta McKenna, and soon installed in a good room.

In the afternoon we explored some of the town then went to a music recital given by some of Ulla Blom’s pupils. Ulla is J’s singing teacher – she comes to London for a week each month. We had expected she would put us up while we were in Stockholm, hence the problems I have mentioned, but one of her pupils was now installed in her spare room. At the concert, which was accompanied by wine and cake, we found ourselves treated as her honoured guests. The music was superb; some of it brought tears to my eyes. Absolutely stupendous singing, mostly operatic. (P.S. 8/8/05: I should have mentioned that we had not expected what we found.We were in scruffy travelling clothes burt found ourselves in a very grand private hall, the other guests all very formally dressed.)

We had a long, pleasant walk back to the Meeting House. I made supper.

Monday, 15th April.

A good day. We went by ferry to Skansen a (or perhaps the original) theme park mostly of old buildings, farms, shops, factories, taken from all over Sweden and rebuilt. There is also a zoo and a collection of indigenous animals such as rein deer and elks.

During our stay at this Meeting House we did not do a lot of sight-seeing but spent much time in their excellent library.

Tuesday 16th.

The last full day of our journey! J and I had a heated discussion on our future together.

(P.S. 8/8/05: Originally in this journal I described more details of our arguements. J got feedback from friends in UK who read the journal and commented on this to her. I accepted that this was not right so I edited out most of those details. Hence where I wrote here "J and I had a heated discussion" read "...blazing searing hurtful desperate row". I said some things I'd intended to keep till we got back to England. I realised we expected opposite things from our relationship. I wanted much time to myself but a companion for 'events' such as going out, Christmas and holidays, Quaker meetings, conferences and courses. She said she had no need of (more) friends in the 'events' but needed someone at home she could rely on.)

We spent much of the day apart, doing our own thing, but in the evening had quite a cheerful celebratory (Thai) meal.

Wednesday 17th April, 2002. Return to LONDON.

We continued yesterday’s discussion, though more calmly, in the morning. We were sad to leave M and her partner. We took the metro to the central station where, as we were in good time, we decided to take the bus to the airport. The plane was late leaving so we did not clear Heathrow until around 5. Here we parted for a few days. I went straight to Bristol to stay with Rosemary and spend time with James and Flossie. J sought some peaceful time to collect herself but for various reasons, such as the state in which the tenants had left the flat, did not achieve it. Rosemary et al gave me a good welcome. I sank very gratefully into a soft bed with ultra fine sheets.

End of this section, to be called j20417 htm and rtf.


P.S. 8/8/05: J and I parted after a difficult time together back in her flat in Camden. But we never settled and eventually parted in August. I went to live in Bristol and rent out my London pad as a holiday let. J and I meet from time to time at various Quaker functions.

Jennifer wrote and eventually published an excellent book about our journey, and her spiritual search. It's called "Call of the Bell Bird" by Jennifer Kavanagh published by Quaker Books ISBN 0 85245 3655


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