Marc Mailloux's Blog

Discovery on the Katmandu Trail

Discovery on the Katmandu Trail is the story of a young man’s adventures through Europe and Asia in search of peace and enlightenment.  Restless and dissatisfied in the spiritual bankruptcy of the opulent West, the author embarks on a journey to the oriental lands of mythical serenity and illumination, while attempting to stifle metaphysical anguish with the help of hallucinongenic drugs.

   Through numerous episodes across sixteen countries, his tale is a modern pilgrimage–a chronicle of one traveller’s growing awareness of the providential hand of Him who guides all true seekers to the Great Discovery. 

“…and as far as Steve was concerned, seeing the world was his vocation and full-time job.  Though he’d already been travelling for over a year, he had no intention of giving up his vagabond existence; not as long as he had any money or any way, ethical or not, to procure some.  This kind of wanderlust was understandable to anyone with a case of it himself.  One was seeking the meaning of life.  One had to keep moving, for the elusive answers were just over the next hill.  I couldn’t imagine any real searcher who was not a traveller, pressing on towards some imaginary country or goal in a game in which geography and metaphysics were confused cousins.”  page 113  

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WORLD MAGAZINE REVIEW (June 8, 1987):    


                              By Stevan M. Horning

“We all wanted to go East without leaving the West.”   Marc Mailloux

      Where are they now those rakish, pathetic, yet durable young seekers of the 1970’s?  Thousands then turned their backs on their western heritage, donned cut-off jeans and a hobo’s bundle, and hitchhiked eastward, allured by the scent of marijuana, and the grimy feet of Hindu gurus.  Along their trail in exotic spots like Kabul and Katmandu sprang up hashish dens, curio stores, hamburger joints and “crash pads” where English and German were spoken.                

     Adventurers who trekked overland as far as Nepal discovered not mystic enlightenment as a rule, but rather the brutal realities of sin, sickness, oppression and death. During my own Foreign Service stint in Katmandu, I met one self-styled poetess who, wanly yellowed by hepatitis, looked at me from her squalid straw mattress, recited some spaced-out verse from a tattered card and shortly afterward—so I recall—was flown home in a coffin.     

      But one man at that time, likewise a vagabond seeker, discovered new life in Christ of the Bible and today preaches Jesus as a Presbyterian missionary in France. His wry, almost rollicking tale was published in May as “Discovery on the Katmandu Trail.”      

     That converted vagabond writes with the ease of a converted raconteur deftly combining scene-painting with well-tuned observations of irony, pathos, and sudden spiritual insight.  Mailloux (pronounced MAY-oo) thoroughly understands the assumptions which propelled the culture he describes; with zest he punctures the illusions which once ruled him.  “Thanks to the influence of Alan Watts and Timothy Leary”—and Leary’s LSD—“I decided to drop out of the university and head for India…so I was caught up in the myth that ultimate truth and serenity could only be found east of the Khyber Pass.”      

    Along the way, he personally met Leary: “with his terribly conformist dress, he had the allure of a businessman.  A great disguise for a guru I hoped… I had half expected to hear from his lips some ineffable oracles whose mysterious wisdom would alter the course of my life.”  In this, Mailloux was disappointed.  Instead, it was Dr. Francis Schaeffer and his Christian colleagues in the L’Abri community in Switzerland who gave solid answers to his question about the meaning of life.            

     The seeds Schaeffer planted did not sprout all at once; a year later Mailloux had traveled 16 countries testing two ways set before him.  On the decisive day, Mailloux’s diary records him sitting in bewilderment on the banks of the Ganges River in Benares, the holiest city of Hinduism.    An elderly Indian dressed in white shirt, tie, and dark trousers came alongside the bearded, bedraggled French Catholic hippie and began telling him about Jesus.    That afternoon, Mailloux began reading the Bible for the first time. With the Indian named Jacob, Mailloux “knelt and prayed to the God of amazing grace.”        

      The story does not end there, nor does it even slacken in interest.  Many adventures later, we read how words from a pagan poet helped Mailloux come finally free from a three-year addiction to hashish.  It fell also, oddly enough, to a Japanese Christian carpenter in Hokkaido, to bring Mailloux to a serious commitment to Christ.        

      Mailloux’s narrative should be appreciated as a rare classic both among travelogues and spiritual histories.  “I couldn’t imagine any real searcher who was not a traveler pressing-on towards some imaginary country or goal, in a game in which geography and metaphysics were confused cousins.”  He keeps his readers solidly planted in the matter-of-fact, while appraising his misadventures from a sublime vantage point.  “As we shuffled around the streets of Tehran in pursuit of the necessary administrative papers for the journey, it occurred to me that, in spite of our mystico-hippie pretensions, our lives on the road were not all that different from that of millions of other people in the daily rat-race.  Indeed it was difficult to keep ones mind on the lofty pursuits of spiritual sublimity in the midst of downtown traffic.”  And “As I walked towards the camels, I was suddenly conscious of how one’s notion of space was peculiarly affected in the desert surroundings.  Perhaps it was due partly to the effects of the hashish, but the whole setting had the airless quality of a Dali painting in which one lost all depth perception… The desert is a curious place, I thought—the edge of infinity.”            

      Mailloux exposes for us the mindset of fellow travelers and also of an assortment of Turkish police, Iranian border guards (who shoot drug traffickers on the spot), Afghan desperados, and the Hindu charlatans who wheedle money from the pockets of their adoring white-faced disciples.  To Mailloux  “it was apparent that we too…were constantly benefiting from the unsolicited blessings of a…Providence” largely ignored by these characters.           

    Discovery in places seems to belong to the literary genre of the picaresque. Mailloux reveals himself in a full range of emotions, moods and reactions to the circumstances which have borne him along by their irresistible pressure.  Some scenes are broadly funny:  forced to spend a second night in Bombay’s rat-infested Sheel Hotel, “I stared in ghastly amazement as this repulsive creature from the underworld crossed the ceiling, slid down the pipe and into my food bag!”   Meanwhile, a young French couple in an adjoining space discuss the sounds they hear:  “Ne t’affole pas cheri”, (Don’t be afraid dear), “It’s only mice.”  But soon, “Ce sont des rats!  Regard comme ils sont gros!”  Moment later, out on the sidewalk, Mailloux and the couple met, apologized for waking one another, and Mailloux “reluctantly admitted that even some males are afraid to sleep with rats.”          

       But the book actually belongs to the category of wisdom literature.  Mailloux prefaces each chapter with a delightfully apt quotation; usually from Proverbs or Ecclesiastes, which truth is illustrated in anecdotes following.  In the narrative, he reflects on appropriate references to a wide variety of writings, films, and cultural monuments.         

      I vouch for the accuracy of Mailloux’s insights as one who, like him, adventured in Europe and the Orient while searching out the meaning of life.  His achievement in purposeful story telling is admirable.  One could wish that this book had been proof-read with more care since spelling mistakes or typos, with occasional redundancy of expression are noticeable to the eagle-eyed.  But Mailloux’s natural fluency of expression will be enjoyed instantly, along with the timely significance of the issues that compel him to write.         

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