Chris De Bié - Storia Theurgica - The Hippie trail -
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Storia Theurgica
The Hippie trail


- _1. The escape
- _2. Gate to Asia
- _3. Persia
- _4. Afghanistan
- _5. Pakistan
- _6. India
- _7. Nepal
- _8. Back to Europe
7. Nepal

Pokhara - Kathmandu


How wonderfully comfortable and relaxed this journey was, after having had to travel on buses with damaged seats and windows. The road led mostly along the Trisuli river. Halfway along the trip I could look into gorges that fell into unfathomable depths to the right and the left of the road. Here the Trisuli and Kali Gandaki rivers joined, the latter originating in Mustang. It was a breathtaking moment which I interpreted and perceived as a greeting coming directly from Tibet. Not for the first time on my journey was I accompanied by the song "Do what you like" by Blind Faith.

"Do right use your head,
Everybody must be fed,
Get together break your bread,
Yes together that's what I said,
Don't fight use your head,
Open your eyes,
Realize you're not dead,
Take a look at an open book,
Do what you like, that's what I said."

An almost perfect fit, had it not been for Ginger Baker's confession.
"Deep away...ding dong ...ding dong...very long...".
A successful masterpiece created by a junkie.

Existential fear accompanied me and I knew that Kathmandu had become a paradise for addicts. But I was also certain that I would be taken care of; I was part of a story and with brains and the help of like-minded people I knew I was going to be successful .

Other than the local buses, the Swiss bus went straight up to Durbar Square with its famous Freak Street; the many multicoloured shops and restaurants reminded me of Chicken Street in Kabul. The restaurants offered a variety of foods, one could chose between local, Tibetan, Indian, Italian and even Swiss cuisine.


Freak Street

I took up my quarters at the Oriental Lodge and then proceeded to the Hungry Eye which was situated opposite from my lodgings. There was an abundance of different dishes on the menu card, trying to satisfy and please the Western palate. Whilst enjoying mashed potatoes with cheese and a peanut-butter-banana sandwich I discovered a few familiar faces. Kathmandu was a 'must' for all travellers to the Orient so many a path crossed here. Thus I was not overly surprised when Ian entered. We had shared some very special moments in Goa and he and his pretty Swiss companion joined me at my table. They had just left Dhulikhel which was 30 km away and were on their way to Bangkok. I knew that he could not have the financial means for this journey and that he should have returned to Jamaica but the puzzle was solved. I was told that his girlfriend would finance the rest of the trip. What a lucky man he was! I was happy for him and we exchanged our experiences. When we hugged in farewell he put a 10$ bill in my pocket.
"For the many chillums with your manikaran, it was a great honour; and thank you for the apple-pastry! It will not be forgotten in years to come!”.
This was balm for my soul!

Relaxed and freed of my self-doubts I proceeded to explore this melting pot of Hindu and Buddhist culture.

Amongst all the kitsch and curios on sale on Durbar Square, I discovered amulets made of tiger teeth. Many ignorant tourists were in for trouble at the customs; already in those days these wonderful and rare creatures were a protected species. Until today creams and powders made of tiger parts are available. Whiskers, blood, teeth ! The teeth supposedly safeguard the wearer from the evil eye whereas in powdered form they increase virility.

I explored the surroundings of this central place in Kathmandu, with its old King's Palace, the Golden Temple and the adjoining Bazaar. Some shops specialized in machine-embroidering garments; customers could chose from ready-made designs or could create their own. I bought a white cotton waistcoat and had a dragon embroidered on its back. In front of a temple two sadhus were posing for tourists. It must have been a lucrative business; their clothes appeared to be brand new and their bowls for food looked unused. On my journey I met several of these pseudo sadhus, some were locals but many were also from the Western hemisphere.
  Peter Engelhardt


Old King's Palace
Photos by Peter Engelhardt - 1977



Golden Temple

  Travelling didjeridoo


Golden Temple II



Golden Temple III
Photos by Ruff Libner (Trav. Didge.)

Back on Freak-Street I listened to the accounts of how things used to be in Kathmandu. In those early days the legendary Eden-Hashish-Center and other official vending places still existed. On the menu cards there were several dishes that were prepared with charas – mashed potatoes or tea. Pressurized by the USA Nepal forbid the sale of this drug towards the end of the year 1973 and over night these shops and smokers' cafés were shut down. The police were hunting down freaks who had invalid visas and many people were deported with lorries to the Indian border. Apparently King Birendra was royally rewarded by Nixon for making these drugs illegal. By now – 3 ½ years later – the situation had relaxed somewhat and there were some new 'unofficial' shops and such as the “Snow Man”, where chillums made the rounds whilst one was enjoying a milkshake. The government did not want to do without our strong currencies, Nepal was still a 'hot secret' amongst the 'all-inclusive-tourism' and the mountain climbers did not have high requirements.


Photo by RogerMcLassus

At 'Snow Man's I met one of the Manikaran Babas again. It was obvious that he bathed in the attention he got. He recognized me and invited me – to everyone's surprise – to share a chillum with him.
“No 'Manikaran' but 'Mustang'!”
We smiled at each other and reminisced about the Kullu sweets, the Baba in his wooden hut. Mustang Charas! It was a great honour! It was as highly valued in Kathmandu as my Manikaran had been in Goa. In an intimate circle we enjoyed this chillum and Lucy from New York was one of the chosen. We made friends but unfortunately these were also her last hours in Nepal. During an intoxicated night she showed me her favourite places in Patan.


Durbar Square of Patan



Birds over Patan


Bell of Patan
Photos by Peter Engelhardt - 1977


Guarding elephants




Carvings II

In the morning I accompanied her to the bus station. She had a long journey ahead of her. Over Bhairawa to India and then – over land – to Luxembourg from where she caught a flight home.
“Oh Chris, we should have met earlier. Perhaps we shall meet again”.

Shayambhu became my favourite place. At the foot of the hill there was a slab of stone with Buddha's footprints and after crossing the entry gate a staircase with 365 steps led up to the Stupa. According to legend the whole valley used to be one gigantic lake, with one beautiful lotus flower on its surface. The lake was then transformed into a hill and the lotus flower became the Stupa. It reflects the world axis that joins heaven and earth. The Buddhist Stupa is flanked by two Hindu Stupas and is exemplary for the synthesis of Buddhism and Hinduism.


The gate

The many steps symbolize the difficult road to Nirvana. Along the stairs hard-working masons chiselled 'Om mani padme hum' into pebbles. I purchased a stone and added it to the numerous others that adorned the hill.


365 Steps

Finally, upon reaching the top I was welcomed by a horde of aggressive monkeys. One of them was 'enthroned' on a Dorje (Hindi) or Vajra (Tibetan) – a thunderbolt or diamond sceptre. They were the guardians and were allowed complete freedom – this the reason why Shayambhu was also called the 'Monkey Temple'.



In a Chai shop I enjoyed the spectacular view and was promptly robbed of my bisquit. I ordered a new one, this one did not leave my hand - I ate it immediately. This was not a perfect protection as the monkeys would steal them from your hands or even search your pockets for the highly sought after delicacies. Buddha's eyes overviewed all four directions of the skies, thus the entire Kathmandu valley. To conclude my visit I rounded the Stupa and spun the prayer wheels with there innumerable 'Om mani padme hum' Mantras.



On my way back to the hotel a little boy offered me a Mani stone. “Where did you get this from?” I asked him and was not really surprised when he ran away. I doubted that he had been a Buddhist; stealing a sacrificial offering would have been foreign to him. Lets say this had been a youthful folly – who was I to judge! In the meantime darkness had fallen and the ever-seeing eyes were illuminated in the night skies.


Swayambhu by night
Photos by Ruff Libner (trav.didge.)

Whilst we were moving to the rhythm of Bob Marley's 'Slave Driver' and 'Kinky Reggae' the idyll in the "Snow Man" was tainted by shabby, run-down junkies. Dead eyes instead of shiny ones – and warnings were given across the room. Warnings of thefts and of being conned. I remembered this from my own junkie past; you are prepared to do anything for your next fix. In retrospect I do not regret my experiences as a junkie but I do regret my misdeeds. Having gone through hell you doubly appreciate heaven.

I remembered Ian's advice and went to Dhulikhel a couple of days later. It was a wonderful, one hour hike uphill from the bus station to the lodge that Ian had recommended. It was cheap and not very frequented. Situated on a hill it was the only building and the panorama was impressive; 20 snow covered Himalayan Peaks. When fog rose from the valley it seemed as if these mountains were floating in the air. One of the few living here was a Dutch man without a valid visa. He was not capable of paying his bills and helped building up the lodge. Frequently I would get on the roof early in the morning to witness Nature's spectacle. The Seats of the Gods would slowly light up to announce the 'resurrection' of the sun. At last the sun appeared and chased away the cold night. After one such joyful moment I started into the new day by taking a two hour hike to Namo Buddha.

Next to Lumbini, Swayambhu and Bodnath this was one of the most sacred shrines in Buddhism. According to legend the historical Buddha sacrificed his body to a starving female tiger so that she could use it to feed her young. It is believed that some hairs and bones of Buddha are in the Stupa which is called Namo Buddha. Here a monastery with an enclosure centre was about to be established. I watched the hard-working monks and workers for several hours. With great devotion and a talent for improvising they worked on this new Refugio. It was their tribute to Buddha's compassion and to this noteworthy place.

Late in the afternoon I started on my journey home. “I hope I can make it before sundown” I was thinking as a lorry appeared, loaded with goods and people. I now travelled a bit faster but a lot less comfortable. Every time the driver hit a pothole I jumped up and had to hold on tight to my neighbour. Finally freed of this torture I witnessed an argument between the Dutch lodger and the proprietors of the Lodge. They asked for the outstanding rent even though he had done so much for them. This was unjust. I felt very sorry for him. On the other hand I had to take care of my affairs; my visa was expiring shortly and my story should not end in such a dead-end situation.

After having renewed my staying permit by one month I headed for the post office to write a letter to my mother. As sender address I just added 'Poste Restante' same as all the others did that I encountered here. With happy or sad faces they would return from their post boxes; these were in alphabetic order but everybody had access to them.

My mother had stood by me so many times, had been there for me when I needed her, so I was sure that she would help me in this situation. She had been there for me, the black sheep of the family, when I quit my apprenticeships, my studies, during my junkie times and when I was admitted to a psychiatric hospital. I described my situation and asked her to have 300 DM transferred to the Nepal Rastra Bank. Two weeks later I received her reply in my post box. She had transferred the funds via the Sparkasse of the City of Cologne to Nepal. I took daily trips to the bank only to return disappointed – an experience I shared with many.

One week before my visa expired I met Hans-Georg Behr, a known Austrian author and journalist who had settled down in this area to do farming. He invited me to his house which he shared with his friend Eckhard and a handsome Nepalese boy. Proudly he showed me his "Hashish cookbook", "Nepal - present of the gods" and his "Sons of the desert - Caliphs, traders and scholars". Disappointed by trickery and jealousy he was dismantling his tents and donated his extensive library to the Goethe Institute as he did not have the funds to have it shipped back. Even though he was low on money he wanted to present his elegant and formidable mother with a dog chain made of silver, so I accompanied him to a silversmith. I don't remember the price but most probably he paid too much. Not surprising really, because not only I but also the Nepalese were astonished by this strange order. Afterwards we went to the Eden-Hotel and he introduced me to the owner. It was D.D. Sharma who had established this 'legal' hotel from the income of the Eden-Hashish-Center.


Map section of Kathmandu
with Freak Street and Eden Hotel - 1979

It was approx. 100 meters from the old center at the end of Freak Street and the office was decorated with calendars, posters and flyers from these legendary times.




Photo by John Bower - 1972

He was looking for a Western vegetarian cook to spoil his clientèle with a mix of Western and Eastern cuisine. I got the job and a room in the not yet opened hotel. One last night did I spend at Hans-Georg's place and he recounted his adventures with D.D. My new employer was slightly disappointed that he was not going to fly back with fresh ware. Ekkehard was not in possession of a valid residence permit and had to cross the Indian border illegally without an exit visa at Bhairawa. Probably he then reported his passport as being stolen in Delhi.

Gratefully I said farewell to my saviour; thanks to him I was given the hoped for, new perspective. As a long-time vegetarian and follower of the macrobiotic movement I was looking forward to this new challenge. The guest rooms were almost ready and it was my job to plan and furnish the kitchen; this with workers who barely spoke and understood a word of English. According to my instructions the carpenters made tables and wall boards and the electricians installed sockets. In the beginning communication was somewhat difficult but with the help of hands and feet and gestures we managed to get along brilliantly eventually.

The hotel was then one of the highest building in Kathmandu and above the kitchen was the open roof restaurant. Whilst enjoying the spectacular view from one of the most beautiful working places in town I was given French toast by the family.
  John Bower


View over Kathmandu
Photo by Peter Engelhardt - 1977

Apart from his family his secretary and his manager were living here too. Both were Indians and to my disappointment D.D. rented a room for the three of us. I did not get along well with the very attractive secretary; he constantly got calls from female admirers, thus blocking the only telephone line; and several times this created trouble with our boss. The relationship with the manager was different; after a while he started recounting intimate details about Mr. Sharma. A year ago he had been denounced and his arrest was based on the testimony from a german who had been cought red handed at the airport, carrying 5 kilo. With a lot of baksheesh he managed to buy himself free – but after that the construction work slowed down somewhat. Shortly before starting my job there he had offered the hotel with restautant for rent to Jonathan Benyon from England and his German friend Hans, an ex-cook from the German Navy. Both of them were running bus lines on the Hippie trail; from Amsterdam or London to India or Nepal. A competition to the often cited Magic Bus. I still rememberd Jonathan's Silver Express well from Goa. He parked his Mercedes-Bus on the hill of Vagator. D.D. insisted that all it needed was a pot with delicious content whose smell would attract guests, the rest would be simple. But they declined his offer, the risk was too high for them, even more so after they had seen the secret rooms in the cellar, which were crammed with hashish.

My monthly wages were 600 Rupees. This was a meagre salary and was equivalent to the income of the labourers. But for my monthly visa stamp my employer had to pay the official a baksheesh of 500 Rupees. Thus he ended up paying the same salary to me as he paid for the manager or the secretary. I had free food and lodging and was given charas as well. I could live pretty comfortably and even could enjoy some Rösti at the 'Swiss Restaurant', Banana Fritters at the 'Hungry Eye' or a Milkshake at the 'Snow Man' on my nightly outings.

Work was performed with Asian imperturbability. The painter painted the walls and wooden masks. The Demonfrights were attached to the railing of the restaurant to keep away evil spirits. He had previously worked at the 'Soaltee Oberoi' one of the best hotels in town and it was his greatest dream to spend one night there. The carpenter covered the tables with sheet metal and the electrician took care of the sockets. He was especially challenged by the technical side of the elevator, probably one of the first in town. One helper, an orphan who had been taken in by the family, stood on a narrow wooden plank above the elevator shaft; just watching him made me feel queasy even more so after I had been told that a few months earlier a worker had fallen whilst working on the outside facade.

My employer was more interested in his business than with the completion of the hotel. Almost daily Tibetans dropped by bringing carpets and his shop probably had the biggest assortment of these precious goods. But his main goal still was selling his 'illegal wares'. He saturated the carpets with hashish oil, created woodprint blocks and other pieces of art from this highly sought after drug. For the time being he was still protected by the Royal family who got a nice cut from this income.

One day he revealed the secrets of his altar to me. There was a statue of Ganesha, the 'patron saint' of merchants promising good business and prosperity. Hidden beneath this was porn from Europe, Scottish Whisky and Charas. He invited me to a glass of whisky and told me about the upcoming restaurant test. The Minister for Tourism and some other VIPs wanted to test the functionality of the place. Now things were getting serious for him and for me. But there were still a few weeks left for me which I used to collect recipes and to get useful hints from other Westerners.

Once a week I would go to the Nepal Rashtra Bank where each time I got to hear the same sentence week by week, given to me with a big smile:
“Sorry, but your money has not arrived yet.”
Finally the scullery was installed and Mr. Sharma and I were on the roof terrace. As usual he hollowed out a cigarette, mixed tobacco with dope and refilled it; he did not want to have any tell-tale signs in his hotel, such as cigarette papers or chillums. Whilst I did the same and he and I were discussing the menu we suddenly discovered a big troop of policemen. Shocked he ran downstairs and left me alone on the roof.
“What is going to happen to me? I am in possession of a valid visa!”
Agitated employees came running up the stairs and started to hide small amounts of charas inside the flowerpots. Then I spotted D.D. Sharma who had been arrested and led away from the hotel by the police.
“Lucky me!” I thought and finally the manager turned up to inform me of what had happened.
“Don't worry and don't be afraid. Sharmaji will be released in one or two weeks. Let us continue with our jobs. We need you!”

He was released rather quick and then I got some more information. After having been questioned for days on end he showed the officers his hiding place with 3.5 tons of hashish. “I had a license, was I supposed to just throw this away?” he repeatedly asked. I never came to know the amount of the bribe he paid, but it must have been an enormous sum. The longer the more I came to realize that basically all he wanted to do was run off to India. But now the big test with all the dignitaries was awaiting me. Amongst them there surely were a few who were involved in his arrest. We agreed to have a trial meal where I was to prove my cooking skills by preparing an appetizer.

I decided to cook a typical German potato soup and with mixed feelings I went to the nearby vegetable market. To my great surprise I found nearly all the ingredients noted down on my shopping list. Apart from potatoes, carrots, onions and garlic I also found celery and leeks. Only my search for parsley was in vain so I decided on fresh coriander instead. The taste is very similar and this plus the addition of cumin was supposed to give the soup an oriental touch. For 8 people I bought 1kg of potatoes, 2 carrots, one small celery, 2 leeks, a bunch of coriander, onions and garlic.

Under the watchful eyes of the youngest family members and the manager I ground some pepper and cumin and quickly roasted them in concentrated butter. Then I added the onions and a little later garlic which all together I put into a pot with 2 liters of water, added salt and the cubed potatoes, carrots, celery and leeks and let this simmer on a small flame for one hour. Right at the end I added the fresh coriander and now I puréed this with my new mixer – and made a grave mistake. To taste the soup I quickly dipped my finger into it, completely forgetting that I was cooking for a Brahman family; the family head was busy and I had a plate brought to him to his office. The manager and the secretary enjoyed the soup but the children did not touch it. After a few hours I asked D.D. for his feedback and he replied:
“I haven't eaten any of it. It was dirty because you touched it with your fingers!”.
“If this was dirty then I refuse to cook here any longer!”
“OK” he said and walked off laughing.

Now I was in a precarious situation, as he had my passport and he no longer could present the announced German cook. He held me in limbo for 3 days and finally he gave me my document with a visa that would expire in three days. Pensively I walked to the bank, where I was greeted by a beaming employee.
“Your money from Germany has arrived! It was transferred via the First National City Bank in New York because we do not have connections to the Sparkasse in Cologne.”
The money was paid out to me in Dollars; 125 Dollars were the equivalent of the 300 German Mark my mother had so kindly transferred to me.
“Thank you!”
I took my leave, grinning to myself, knowing perfectly well that the delay had not been caused by the transfer. But so what – the timing was perfect.

I did not want to leave Nepal that fast and being certain that a Higher Power was protecting me I walked to the Immigration Office. When the officer saw my visas he smiled at me in a friendly manner.
“How many days would you like?”
“Two weeks to say goodbye to Nepal.”
“No problem. All the best!”
and we shook hands. Slowly I started to see the connections: Sharmaji no longer had any backup! Suddenly my money had arrived 'officially' and I was able to legally obtain a visa for another 2 weeks.

Relieved from a great weight I happily went to the “Snowland” where I shared my experiences with some freak friends of mine and was invited to share several chillums. By now I was also known among the Nepalese and the young owner brought me a milkshake on the house; when he served me his words were:
“This was exactly the right moment to back out!”

Intoxicated by feelings and charas I walked through Kathmandu and met a Shaman in Patan. He whirled around and drummed himself and me into a trance. And again I had a vision of my protective Demonfright signalling to me:
“You got out just in time!”


Drumming Shaman
Digital image by Peter Engelhardt

Yes indeed things had worked out just fine for me in the end. Without my mother's support I might have stayed for good in Nepal or India, following in the footsteps of others who ran out of money and had no visa. The border between the two countries was easily crossed; some took refuge in the uncontrollable mountain regions whereas others found shelter in the endless expanse of the Hampi region, becoming Saddhus and Yogis even accepted by the Indian people. Some got a new identity by buying a passport from somebody in need of money, preferably from a British, Canadian, Australian or New Zealand national as they did not need a visa for India. There must have been plenty of places in India where passports could be forged.

On my way back to Europe I enjoyed my last days in Pokhara. The journey to the border of India was a melancholy goodbye from those majestic Himalayan peaks.


Annapurna range
Photo by Ting Po

In Sonauli I got a 14-day transit visa for India.

  Ting Po

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© by Chris De Bié admin: 17.03.2019