Well that’s how it was back in 1981, as the first Nepali smoker we met took us to someone who produced some outstanding hash and some quite decent, if not very potent by today’s standards, marijuana.
And yes, the hashish was the famed “temple ball” — a black, round billiard ball sized glob streaked with white lines of mold from the water-press process used to make it.
But now as we soon found out getting anything above crummy street-level weak hash, or dried-out grass any sophisticated smoker in USA or Europe wouldn’t bend down to pick up for free, is almost impossible. And after talking with a number of Kathmandu’s young self-professed potheads, as well as an even larger assortment of street peddlers, rickshaw drivers and “Hey, Mr., looking for something” touts we couldn’t find anything we’d toke, let alone call a trophy.
So that’s the way it went for about two weeks until one of those lads, named Raju, told us he’d located someone who just came in from the countryside with some “really top-quality” smoke. We didn’t waste any time and immediately headed off with him through the back streets of Tamel, Kathmandu’s somewhat decrepit version of Haight-Ashbury meets Greenwich Village where trekking supply stores, curio shoppes selling new made to look old curios, travel agent/tour guides, and clothing stores of all types and description are packed together like sardines in a can.
Tamel has to be the dirtiest place we have ever been, making India’s New Delhi and Bombay seem, well, almost clean by comparison. But things were not like that in 1981, the last time we visited and hung out in Kathmandu and now about the only place that remains like the Kathmandu we remember is the Swayambu temple complex. And what an incredible place it is sitting majestically atop what appears to be the highest hilltop in Kathmandu.
The thirty year old memories we have of climbing up the one thousand or so steps leading to the complex, finding a quiet corner, twisting up a “temple ball” black hash and grass bomber and slowly toking the thick pungent smoke while gazing at the city, the close surrounding hills and almost Everest high mountains ringing the Kathmandu Valley can be recreated today. Well, except for the fact we couldn’t find any smoke to compare with what we had back in ’81.
Swyambu is still there, it’s peaceful presence a major contrast to the teeming city streets where cars, mini-buses, trucks, 8,000 plus taxis and more than 500,000 motor bikes play a bumper-car tag-you’re-it, and lucky-not-hit, game with pedestrians. Walking the streets anywhere in Kathmandu is surely not for the faint-hearted or nervous don’t-invade-my-space types. And while we only saw one accident where a taxi knocked a poor woman down, and another minor crasho-smasho between a taxi and a Toyota, we did witness a countless close-calls. Reckless driving is a sport in Kathmandu, where it seems almost everyone behind the wheel of a car or handlebars of a motorcycle is a participant much to the dismay and chagrin of anyone who wants to get anywhere on foot.
So with Raju in front we scampered down a few back alleys, cutting across some of the larger pothole-pocked dirt streets until we got to a cafe where he left us and went off to score the “something” special he’d promised. About ten minutes later he returned empty-handed but said we should walk back to his place where his guy would soon show up with the goods. We left our milky, sugar saturated tea untouched, after all, we were after tea of another vintage, and trooped off to Raju’s one room pad with its cold-water bathroom and toilet on the roof.
About 30 minutes later (watches exist in Nepal and almost everyone has one but rarely is anyone on time) his guy showed up and we forked over 3000 rupees(about $35) and were presented with a paper package about the size and volume of a Marlboro cigarette package. As soon as we opened the paper up and saw the brownish green, scuzzy and damp (mind you) contents, we looked at Raju and told him straight up “This is garbage, I really don’t want it”. Raju then started his spiel how I was wrong and this was “really great” and I should try it. We then reiterated our position several times but eventually, to mollify Raju and to try and get out of the situation, we rolled up a joint and lit it. After two tokes we handed it to Raju, told him we were displeased and expected him to find someone to sell it to and return us our rupees. After several days went by and no rupees found their way back into our pocket; we decided to forget it, forget Raju, forget trying to get some good bud in Kathmandu and began to make arrangements to go into the countryside where we had heard there were growers.
That’s right when we ran into K. Lee, a guy from Hawaii who was, like us, experienced enough to know the smoke available in Kathmandu is at best amateur-status. Over tea and then dinner he told us he is a long time grower, a collector of rare-strain seeds and a historian of old time marijuanas. After dinner we climbed the 8 flights of stairs to the rooftop of his hotel, continued our talk and made plans to rent a car and driver and head off to Malekhu, a city about 60 km from Kathmandu where, rumors had it, we’d be able to meet some growers and score quality smoke. Two days later, car and driver hired for the ride, K. Lee met me in front of my hotel at 8AM and we headed off for promised land.
About 10:30 we reached Malekhu, took a quick spin around town and, finding a place where some of the younger locals were standing around, we got out, telling the driver to park at the end of the street and wait for us to return. Approaching the group we exchanged smiles and hellos and got right down to business. No one in the group knew much about the smoke scene, or if they did, they weren’t going to fess up. But one guy directed us a few streets away to meet two sisters who had a small road-side cafe.
Finding them was a bit of a hassle, as there were numerous similar places on that and just about every other street in truck-stop Malekhu, but we eventually did find them. However, much to our dismay, it was another false start and the sisters had nothing to offer. As we were walking back to the car, two young boys approached us and, after a few words, took us to meet Krishna, who they told us knew all about what we were after.
Krishna and his newly married wife run a little shoppe in Malekhu selling various household goods. Wise beyond his 22 years, Krishna told us he could help us find what we were looking for, which was not far away. K. Lee and I jumped on Krishna’s motorcycle and drove to the other end of town and stopped in front of another small roadside cafe where, behind the building, we found paydirt — a tall, sativa plant with some pretty purple tops maturing in the sun. After several weeks of seeing beat brown dirt-weed, this 7 foot tall purple plant was god-given treasure.
We immediately asked Krishna to go talk to the owner and ask if we could buy some of the better juicier tops and he returned with a big smile on his face and said yes. For 500 upees(about $6.50 U.S.) we bought about 2 ounces, put it in a paper bag to begin the drying process, and said our goodbyes. In hindsight we should have bought the entire plant, called it quits and headed straight back to Kathmandu. But Krishna told us there’d be more and better if we hiked with him, up the hills behind a town about 30KM from Malekhu where his uncle lived and grew, according to Krishna, some much better weed.
Naturally, we took the bait, rode the motorcycle back to our car and driver and told him we wanted to go further down the road with Krishna in tow. Our driver complained and then held us up for another 2000 rupees for more gas. We agreed and headed off for Krishna’s uncle’s place in the high hill country. Driving as far as we could, over what might be best described as a 6 goat-wide trail, our driver slowly inched along to avoid dropping his transmission on the rutted, bumpy-to-the-max, dirt and stone path. But when we got to a small stream with about a foot and a half of flowing water he refused to go further. So we told him to wait for us and started our trek up the steep sloping terraced hills.
Krishna told us it was about “20 minutes” walk but after an hour we still were not there, so much for Nepali time. After two hours of walking up a trail at about a 60 degree average, we finally reached the small village of huts where Krishna’s uncle pot-farmer lived. We were greeted by big smiles, many questions, fed a nice lunch of beans, rice and vegetables and then to our dismay learned uncle had just recently sold the entire crop and nothing but a few worthless sticks remained. To say we were disappointed would be an understatement but the ever resourceful Krishna told us his uncle’s uncle could help us out and off we went.
This walk was 20 minutes, and when we arrived, uncle’s uncle instantly took out his chillum and produced a handful of cleaned brown dry weed while telling us, with Krishna translating, he only had his stash and could not sell us any but we were welcome to smoke with him. K. Lee jumped at the chance and shared a couple of bowls with him but I demurred on account of the fact I only smoke joints, no pipes, bongs, vaporizers, etc. We thought at that point the jig was up but after Krishna palavered with uncle number two, and number one who had joined us, he told us to follow and we took off on another “20 minute” hike to find, hopefully, what we were searching.
After about 30 minutes of the steepest uphill walking yet, we arrived at a small circle of huts and there found some other relative of the family who had not yet sold the crop. The lady of the house was in charge and she showed us her crop. Krishna did some negotiating, and we chose a nice big plant with a couple of seemingly juicy king-tops, paid 1000 rupees for it and headed home. About half way down I rolled up some of what we had just bought, the purple was way too fresh and moist, and after a few tokes came to the conclusion it was better, but not a whole lot, than what we had seen in Kathmandu. But it was better, and at that point this was all that counted.
After about another hour of down hill we found our car and driver, took Krishna back to Malekhu, gave him 1000 rupees for his help, and just at dark headed to Kathmandu. We could tell our driver was a bit curious about our mission but we never said a word. However, Krishna must have because the next day when we met him in front of the hotel he asked how our “flowers” were doing.
That evening after dinner K. Lee and I went to his hotel room and trimmed the brown (indica/ sativa) plant in his hotel room and manicured the best of its tops, as well the still slowly drying purple plant ones. The brown plant yielded about three ounces, much of which became some welcomed Xmas presents for many of our new travel friends. And, rather surprisingly, we are still smoking them several weeks later and have to admit they have a good bit of buzz. But compared to the cultivated outdoor we are used to, twisting the Nepali brown is only a faint and distant reminder.
After about a week, and even though K. Lee moaned about my intentions to roll up some of the still not properly dry, but really dry enough to smoke, purple I finally did and its a yard and a half better than the brown or any other Nepali smokeable we have seen. The high is a gentle but insistent sativa buzz with no appreciable effects to the body, which is the way we like it, preferring to feel those cannabinol waves in our cerebrum and not in our legs and chest. Since our Malekhu trip K. Lee and I have sampled a goodly number of other weed and hashish but nothing in my estimation comes close to our now diminishing stash of purple sativa. In fact, we are considering going back and getting the rest of the purple plant; that is if someone else has not already bagged it…