Waking up was early today. Or late, depending on how well some of us adjusted to the jetlag. For me, there really wasn’t any. Maybe it was the constant daylight on the flight from Seattle. Or maybe my body is just goofy. Kim did mention it is easier to adjust going West. At any rate we were up 5:45am and after some meditating, a shower and stretching, I was feeling pretty good. Matt, however, must not have been awake as he ended up putting soy sauce on his french toast. And after waiting for David to finish watching Scooby Doo (it was the only English show) we all boarded the bus for the airport.
All seemed well until we tried heading to the security checkpoint. There was a lady out front who randomly weighed people’s bags. Ok, maybe not so random as she grabbed Dave’s large bag with much camera gear. Kim and I slipped by (there was one lady for all the passengers) but Tyler (I think) wasn’t so lucky. Matt had to come out of line to take some of the items from his backpack to make it lighter. All this and we boarded in Seattle without weight questions. It was a bit odd.
Beside Diane’s incessant accidental depressing of the stewardess call button, the flight from Seoul to Kathmandu was enjoyable and calm. No in seat entertainment and I can’t remember the movie, but it was good. The flight is around 5 hours and soon the Himalayas came into view….although on the other side of the plane from most of us. Bummer…..we’ll see them soon enough. The sprawl of Kathmandu thickened as we banked our way into Tribhuvan International Airport and pulses quickened. Deplaning is done from a wheeled up stairway and upon reaching the cabin door the heat and humidity, while not stifling, is the first notice we receive of being far from our Whidbey home. And happy we are for the change, until we stand for an hour in the immigration line. Fees to enter the country have increased to $40US. This isn’t too bad when you consider the US charges around $100 to apply for a entry visa with no guarantee of getting one.
Lhakpa, our friend from Kim’s past trips as well as his visits to the US, meets us upon exiting the Customs ‘check’ (I don’t recall anyone actually checking anything) and it’s good to be greeted by a familiar face. Matt, who has organized over 20 other treks in Nepal, is greeted by the children of a Sherpa he had trekked and climbed with for over a decade, but who recently suffered fatal liver failure. All together we load a van for Sunrise Cottage Guesthouse in the Thamel tourist district. The adrenaline of a van ride through the crowded streets of Kathmandu and the excitement of being some place so foreign to where I spend my ‘normal’ days keeps me giddy and terrified…..until I learn that people actually know how to drive in crazy traffic with little to no rules and lots of horns.
After settling in to our rooms, half of us head out with Kim as our defacto guide to do some shopping. While we exchange some money (73.50 ruppies to the USD) David, who has never left North America, becomes an instant magnet for the beggars and ware hawkers hanging out around town. I’ll come to find as the trip progresses that David has a very rare ability to honestly laugh at himself. And I’m not picking on him when I say we’ll have plenty of chances to laugh at some of the things he says. Without fail he laughs at himself in earnest each time and that makes for a very fun travel companion. Before I move on there is one thing that freaked me out about shopping in Thamel and it’s that they all have the EXACT same calculator. Shop after shop after shop to restaurant to internet cafe…..the same huge calculator. It was very freaky.
Dinner that night was supposed to be at Fire & Ice but the Dashain festival had things shut down here and there. So we headed over to the Third Eye for some rooftop dinning. And some beer to wash down the travel dust. Ahhhh…..cheap beer is easy to find in Nepal. After dinner I wandered around a bit after hitting up an internet cafe to let family know we arrived safely. The smells of garbage and diesel fumes are nonstop, the bright lights from shops crowding in to the small streets and the constant din of horns, music, conversation….it’s all so different and quite frankly, cool. But I know I can’t stand it for long, big cities don’t suite me. I know we only have two days in town until our flight to Lukla and the start of the trek, so I’m enjoying Kathmandu for what it is. Knowing I have an escape soon.
Day 3 covers our one solid day in Kathmandu before heading for higher ground.