January 28, 2008
By KRISTIN BUEHNER, email@example.com
CLEAR LAKE Mike Tefft's life has taken him from his days as a
"peace child" in Clear Lake to the storied "hippie trail" in Central
Asia and back.
Now an architectural technician at Accord Architecture in Mason City,
the 54-year-old Clear Lake man recalls his experiences in a
self-published softcover book, "The Monkey House on Sanepa Hill (2007)."
"I went from an atheistic hippie to a born-again Christian to a
short-lived missionary," he said.
The hippie trail is a term used to describe the journeys taken by
hippies and others in the 1960s and 1970s from Europe and America,
overland to and from eastern Asia.
Tefft followed the trail to India, Nepal and Pakistan carved in the
late 1960s by The Beatles. Along the way, he become enmeshed in
exotic cultures most of us only dream about.
"I'm a child of the Sixties," said Tefft, who graduated from Clear
Lake High School in 1971.
The book's title is taken from the Nepali name for the house in which
the missionaries lived in Kathmandu the capital of Nepal in the
Himalayan Mountains. "We all had beards. They thought we looked like
monkeys," he said, with a smile.
Several chapters of the book are devoted to the hippie scene as it
existed in Clear Lake from 1970 to 1973.
Tefft's journey then took him to Minneapolis for missionary training
at Bethany Fellowship. His study included work in Bedford-Stuyvesant,
a black neighborhood in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he worked with people
with drug and alcohol addictions.
After his graduation from Bethany in 1980, Tefft applied to
the Dilaram missionary pro- gram in Kathmandu.
"Eight months later, I went to Kathmandu with a one-way ticket and
$200," he said.
Nepal still seemed as it was in the Middle Ages, Tefft said, but he
fell in love with the place and the people. "I learned the language
and really got entrenched in the culture."
The missionaries worked with hippies from the West who were following
the hippie trail. Many needed psychiatric and medical care, he said.
"The (Nepalese) government didn't know what to do with them."
When his term of service was up, Tefft took the long way home,
traveling for six months overland through Nepal, northern India and
Pakistan. "I was inspired by Rudyard Kipling's writings."
He stayed with missionary friends, at hostels and hotels that cost
less than a dollar a day. "You might have to chase the rats and the
fleas and the cockroaches out first," he observed.
His transportation was often buses and trains, including a memorable
train ride to Darjeeling through the mountains. "You're looking at a
3,000-to 4,000-foot drop off," he said.
He made his way across western and central Europe, setting up his
base in Amsterdam "the start of the hippie trail."
His travel experience, carried out alone, was not without danger, Tefft said.
In Pakistan, for example, the first bus he got on was filled with
guerrilla freedom-fighters on their way to Afghanistan to battle the
Soviets. "They were armed to the teeth."
"I have learned to be really open-minded," he reflected.
Tefft hopes his book will be picked up by a national publisher and
printed on recycled paper, of course.
The 139-page book is available for $20 by calling Mike Tefft at
641-357-3701. The book includes black and white photos taken by the
author and detailed pencil drawings by Tefft of Eastern architecture,
including the Badshahi Mosque in Pakistan and the Naytapola Temple in