After college I got a job teaching art in a Junior High on the island of Guam. I lasted six months as a fellow I had met in college wrote to me from Australia and sent me some 24 k gold earrings he bought in India where he had been in the Peace Corp. I was hot to meet him in Australia where he worked with the Aboriginal Welfare Department so I quit my job and headed out. When I got there he asked me why I had come.
"To travel." I said. I couldn't admit that I had come because I wanted to be in love with him. We settled in to a domestic life and my adventure as a hippie traveler began. Darwin, Australia was a stop off destination for all the big work camps where hippies could make some money to head back on the road. I made some money cooking for a bunch of them and watched the wet season arrive where the water came within an inch of our front door. Giant anthills dotted the back country and the kangaroos were fun to see in the headlights of a car. The world's longest bar was a hang out of ours. I learned to drink Guinness beer there. When we had enough money we headed to Indonesia via Timor.
We slept on the porch of a grade school in Timor and that was my introduction to life on the road. The next night we slept on the beach and had to move three times as the tide came in. We awoke surrounded by a circle of little kids who laughed when we brushed our teeth. Hitchhiking to the public beach house we finally made it to Dili and got some town time. We listened to stories of people coming from Indonesia and India and swapped hints for good places to stay on the road.
Indonesia welcomed us with little pedicabs and my friend knew to ask them to take us to Kuta Beach. We got a tiny room and settled in. We even got a little puppy dog. We ate for pennies at the beach stands and the food was great. We got terrible dysentary and the puppy got worms and had to be put down. One fellow there had a bucket of magic mushrooms that the kids brought him. They said their grandpa knew where to pick them. Kuta beach was wide and the sunsets were splendid every nite. Sate was meat marinated in peanut sauce and hawked on the beach to the hungry stoned hippies.
At night in Indonesia the lanterns were lit and shadow puppet plays were the entertainment. Then sometimes there was a big festival where Rangda was brought in under a holy scarf. When the scarf was taken off this mythical monster roared out into the crowd and put a spell on everyone. The warriors of the village tried to attack Rangda with their Kris Knives but Rangda's power turned the knives back on them and they writhed and moaned in the crowd. A priest appeared and sacrificed a baby chick to the Randa and the warriors were free from the curse.
The next day the warriors were selling the kris knives in the market place and I wish I had bought one. The art and music on Bali was very spiritual and pervasive. The jewelry and paintings were legendary. I did buy a few cloth paintings and a gold ring that we had made there from an opal my friend had found in Australia. We were happy there but had to move on. The road called and we were on our way to India where my friend wanted to visit the old village where he had been in the Peace Corp.
After Bali I had the idea that I wanted to study batik in Jogjakarta. Indonesia has the most dense population in the world. I arrived there by myself as my friend and I were taking a break from each other. I got a little room in a rambling hotel and set the mattress on fire with the mosquito coil. I don't do too well traveling alone. But I soon made friends and enjoyed my classes with Bagong Kassudirdja who was a Batik and Dance master.
Everyone wore batik clothes in Jogjakarta. There were many modern artists who had taken the art form to new heights and galleries were everywhere. Batik is hot wax that forms resist to the colorful dyes. Bagong had little ladies who did the detailed batik wax work for him and he had some hot young men who boiled the wax out every day so we could all make the next layer of patterns on our work. I bought some batik fabric at the open air market for fifty cents each. The sarongs were worth much more back in the states.
I had a friend there named Ed Hightower. He had been a barber in Georgia and took a tour to Europe. When he saw hippies hitchhiking along the way he quit the tour and joined them. He had made it all the way to Indonesia. He taught me to roll joints that were five papers long and he had a pair of red lips tattooed on his rear. I only know that because we would get stoned and skinny dip in a series of waterfalls out in the country. When I got back to the states a year or so later Ed sent me batiks and I sold them at the Seattle Public Market and sent him back half the money. I've lost touch with him now.
My favorite thing to eat in Jogjakarta was toast. An enterprising fellow had a toaster set up on the street and hungry stoned hippies loved his toast with all kinds of toppings. Another fellow made bananna smoothies and there were always fried noodles to eat. My original friend joined up with me again and off we went to Malaysia with our English friend Quince who fancied me too. All I ever got was a kiss from Quince tho.
We spent a month in Malaysia where it was very clean and organized. There was a giant fine for littering. We stayed in a little fishing village where the houses were on stilts and the goats and chickens came by to eat the garbage we threw out. The batik industry was blossoming there and I saw many colorful factories. It was different that Indonesian batik. We spent a couple days in the larger city of Penang and Quince and my friend tried out an opium den. I had seen it earlier in the day and decided not to go. When they returned to our room they headed straight for the bathroom and threw up. I was glad I hadn't tried it. The place had been so quiet with everyone laying around on bunkbeds and smoking opium from very long, slim pipes.
Quince left us and we went up the coast in a train to Bangkok. We saw the glittering golden roofs of temples in the villages we passed by. Bangkok was a whirl of color and activity. We didn't stay long and I remember little except for the waterways, statues with gold leaf and the American Embassy.
We got the cheap plane tickets were were looking for in Bangkok and flew into Calcutta. The ride from the airport past the crowds of people everywhere made me realize I was in a whole different culture. India embraced us for the next seven months and the images still resonate in my mind as a visual feast.
In Calcutta they had carts that came by in the early morning to pick up the bodies that hadn't made it thru the night sleeping on the sidewalks. In the evening the mats were lined up side by side all along the store fronts so people could sleep. During the day the streets were super crowded. There were rickshaws pulled by skinny men who ran very fast. Buses were filled to capacity with people hanging on to the back of bus and even riding on the roof. On one bus I was standing up hanging on and looked down to see a very young lady with a brand new baby. We smiled at each other.
We worked with the Red Cross making emergency kits to help with the floods in the North. We had dinner with some acquaintances in their apartment and I learned how to eat with your fingers. You take the food with your left hand and use the right hand to put it in your mouth. The nice apartments were right next to cardboard hovels and there were locked gates that seemed to signal that revolution could be a reality. We needed to get over the river to the train station and three taxis turned us down. When we finally got on the bridge we could see why. People lived on that bridge and did business there. It took at least an hour to get across the river.
We arrived in New Delhi and needed to change some money into Rupees. A fellow told us to meet him behind the wall for a good deal. He showed us the roll of money and took our money but at that moment a man came running down the stairs saying something about police. We grabbed the roll he had and took off. A block later we stopped and counted the money. There was a big bill on top and the rest was small bills. We lost about a hundred dollars. But living was cheap in India and we were headed to Udaipur and friends.
Udaipur is a beautiful area. It had been a forest at one time but the trees were long ago all chopped down. There is a manmade lake in the middle of the city and some floating palaces. We lived outside of town in a little village with Roger who was a wheat farmer from the midwest and now a Peace Corp volunteer. The children were so cute at the back door yelling "Boogaladee, boogaladee" and I asked what that meant. It means "I'm hungry." said Roger. Oh.
Roger was nearing the end of his Peace Corp time and he called all the farmers he had been trying to help into the living room. He told them to just forget everything he had told them and to go back to doing what they had been doing for the last hundred years. He married a British lady from the nearby school and they had several kids back in the midwest together. I started teaching English at that fancy private school too and the kids were so bad. I didn't speak their language and they took advantage of that. But we had a funny little house and I learned to make chapattis. A big Braman Bull came by to eat all the garbage we threw over the wall and there were peacocks and cobra snakes in our backyard. Every evening a long line of bats flew over the house for about a half hour to their roosting site.
I was in Udaipur when there was unrest in India. American aircraft carriers were hovering on the coast in case they were needed to quell the conflict. I remember we had to black out all our windows and some people yelled "Americans, go home!" at us but it didnt last long.
My friend and I took another break from each other and he went to Goa. That sounded like an incredible place but I was intrigued by Kathmandu and took the train up there. It was a long journey. I made friends with a lady along the way named Allison. She was from New York. We waited for about five hours in one train station and then discovered we were on the wrong tracks. Never mind. Finally getting the bus up into the Himalayas we passed thru many more checkpoints. In one the two officials were wrapped in blankets and sitting on top of their desks where they stamped our passports.
The bus began the long switchback road that led up into Nepal. The people were hardier up there and the Tibetian monks were awesome. They hosed the throw up outside the windows at each bus stop and it was a challenge to find a place to pee. Finally late at night we arrived in the old part of Kathmandu. I remember the government authorized hash shops and the pie and chai shops. The two seemed to go together. I watched a big holy white bull dying in the street. He was covered with a blanket and marigold flowers with little candles all around him. No one kills these holy animals. We saw the stupas and museums. We took a wild jeep ride to the Tibetian border but could only put our foot on the bridge to Tibet as there were armed guards there.
I reunited with my friend in New Delhi and we made our way to Dharmsala where the Dalai Lama was in exhile. He got an interview with that holy man but I had jaundice hepatitis from a smallpox shot we had been given along the way and I had to lay low. I spent time in a little Tibetian hotel with a view straight down into the valley. There were prayer wheels in the town square outside our door. A stoned out hippie boy was in the lobby and slept there when he wasn't mumbling to himself. Some people wanted him to shape up or get out but the Tibetian man in charge was very patient with him and permitted him to stay.
We were actually hauled into court in Dharmsala and I went in a white ambulance. We had not applied for a visa. In India you only had to apply as the offices were so overwhelmed with the paperwork that you never actually got one. We went to one office where people were surrounded by so many piles of documents you couldn't see the walls. My friend got us off the charges and that was a good thing. We saw the jail where some of the other vagrant hippies were caught.
Our last night in India we spent at the airport. Two Indian ladies and I had a wonderful talk about sex as we waited for our plane to Afghanistan. They said they hadn't been satisfied with their husbands so they set alarm clocks and asked them to make love to them for at least a half hour every day. Good advice.
We flew into Kabul, Afghanistan and the taxi driver sold me some hashish on the way to the hotel. I had my little bit out on the balcony and I was happily floating over the city when my friend came rushing out and threw the chunk of hash off into the air. He claimed there were police everywhere. sigh. I continued to watch the show from the balcony and I saw a Caucasian lady take a swing at a fellow and knock his turban all the way down the sidewalk. Ha. I was soon to learn that this is what happened sometimes in the crowded market places. The men in these oppressed countries think anyone who is not covered up is fair game for a grope.
Kabul was bustling in those days. The stores were full of amazing jewelry of coral, turquoise and beads. The embroidery was studded with little mirrors and the burkas were fascinating. Women had to be completely covered but that didn't stop them from wearing high heels and short skirts under the black tents. I bought a bright orange burka and wore it for costume parties when I got back to the states. It was a wedding style. In one store I saw a Caucasian lady throw a wad of bills on the floor, grab her item and storm out. I guess she was sick of all the bargaining that went on. I saw a lady taking a cup of tea under her burka in one store and drinking peacefully in her tent. Mysterious.
We took a bus out of town and headed overland to the border. But the bus broke down in the middle of the desert and we had to hitch a ride in a truck that had been hauling tar. When we finally arrived at the border they were searching everyone for drugs. One hippy lady had a baby and was going to sneak a bead that was made of hash and painted on the outside in the baby's diaper. She made it thru. On one bus a hippy lady was shooting up in the back of the bus and everyone was disgusted with her. We were a rag tag bunch but we had some limits.
We were stopped at every village in Iran. One local fellow had a package that was round and they made him unwrap it every time as it looked like a bomb. The villages were very fancy on the main street but obviously very poor in the back streets. The Shah had been making things look good even tho it was all a mess. We stayed in a hotel and the local men thought it was so funny to knock on our door and then run away. I think they tried to peek in the cracks too. There were no women on the streets even tho they were not required to completely cover their faces then and only had to wear a head veil. The men congregated on street corners and had the odd habit of touching their crotches all the time. We ran out of money in Iran and our friend played the sitar and sang at the hotel to get enough to make it to Istanbul where his father had wired some to the American Express Office. I had traveled for two years with just a few hundred dollars, a backpack and a little help from my friends.
We were so happy to get to Turkey. People were not veiled or repressed. We saw couples in the streets holding hands. The history of Istanbul is deep and the mosques are magnificent. We had food that we could actually identify and relate to and there was even a hamburger place on one street. We got some money and made it to Prague for a stopover and then to Amsterdam and back to Bangor, Maine where they took one look at our passports and searched us naked. They confiscated some porno we had purchased in Amsterdam. My friend got his back but I never saw my erotic cartoon book again. Welcome back to America.