DAY 1 – 25th April 2013
I left Melbourne at 11.30pm on 24th April, Wednesday, the eve of ANZAC Day. I arrived into Bangkok at 6am to await my 10.15am departure to Kathmandu. I was travelling on Thai Airways. First mishap was that I lost the security strap I had newly purchased for my rucksack when I saw my rucksack in Kathmandu. I then felt like this was going to be a very interesting trip considering it started off like this.
Arriving into Kathmandu was a rude awakening. TIA was a really small airport with not computer in sight. Totally run on manual processes yet dealing in foreign currency only. The guy at the visa counter would not accept any local currency in lieu of payment for the visa. Not that I had any local currency anyway. I was greeted by Mahesh from the Nepal Environmental Tours and Trekking Office based in Kathmandu. As I exit the airport with my bags, I was thinking to myself that I must have looked like quite a sight. I had just stepped off from a 15 hour journey in my trekking pants and Manchester United T-Shirt.
From the airport, after a very warm welcoming ritual by Mahesh, I was driven to my hotel. Kathmandu Madhuban Guest House in Thamel. This in itself was quite an adventure as I booked the guest house just before leaving Melbourne through expedia and managed to get a double room for my climbing partner and friend Manoj and I. It took Mahesh 3 tries before we found the right place. The drive to the hotel was comprised of insane motorbikes weaving in and out of the way, hooting a ritual, no lanes or designated intersections so my driver must have been doing this for a while as he was dodging left and right so calmly to get me to my destination.
The roads are more laneways rather than actual roads. The driver didn’t even raise an eyebrow or get a scratch on the body of the car whilst I was sitting in the backseat biting my nails down to the skin and thinking DAMN! That was effing close! Anyway, I digress…
I arrived at my hotel, Kathmandu Madhuban Guest House in Thamel and was allocated room 105 to get freshened up and rest up for a bit before Mahesh returned to collect me and escort me back down to the office of Nepal Environmental Tours and Treks to meet our host and tour organiser, Nava Dahal, the owner of the company.
First things first, I plug in my charger to get some juice to my phone which is by now probably running on battery fumes as it approaches imminent death after a 17 hour journey. I flick the switch but there’s no power coming from the outlets. Initially, I think its a faulty outlet so I try a few others spread out across the room. No luck at getting the phone any additional life. I assume I’m doing something wrong, being in a foreign country and all. So, I hop down to reception to ask for some help. The desk manager points me to the notice board behind my back when I ask about power and he shows me a sheet which specifies a roster of some sort. Upon closer inspection, the roster displayed a power timetable which showed when to expect power in the lines. WOW! what a novel concept. So today, being Thursday, power was cut at 9am and was scheduled to return at around 5pm. Awesome! Should have bought that solar charger…
Nevermind, I rummage through my gear in my room upstairs and go about freshening up and getting out of my shoes. I return downstairs to get a map of the local area after a good cold shower. I was debating whilst waiting for Mahesh to pick me up whether I should venture out into the neighbourhood for a walk or not. I still need to eat something as I haven’t had a meal since 11am bangkok time. It’s close to 3pm here in Kathmandu right now. Kathmandu is 1 and a quarter hours behind bangkok. That means, my last meal was at 9.45am Kathmandu time.
However, before I get any grub into my tummy, I still need to exchange some dollars for local currency to use as spending money.
I also would love to purchase a local Nepal SIM card for my mobile so that I can stay in touch with the family back home in Australia. Manoj, my climbing partner and friend, should be arriving in the next 5 or 6 hours from now. I wonder if his first impression will be similar to mine.
It finally hit me that I was here in Kathmandu, Nepal when I got to TIA and saw the undulating hills in the distance from the airline window during approach.