The flight from London turned out really pleasant, as I had the entire row to myself for the Delhi flight and slept better than in business class. No issues transferring to the Kathmandu connection either. On arrival in Nepal I obtained my visa. You fill in your application using the machines provided and take a snapshot of yourself. That way you don’t need to waste two passport photos (so you can use them for your trekking permit or for your application form for a local SIM). Visa fees vary by length of stay. I paid USD100 for 90 days.
Outside the airport I was greeted by the hotel driver and Stephen – a fellow hiker who had arrived on a different flight from London. He is a photographer, which I fully intend to exploit by asking him about all his little tricks to advance my own photography skills. The drive to the hotel gave me us first taste of Kathmandu. Busy streets, polluted air and a fair amount of (creative) chaos. Tim was waiting for us in the hotel. We’d meet the whole gang (almost) for dinner at 6pm. Time for a quick refreshment and wifi (hadn’t been connected since London …).
For dinner we headed to Gaia – a nice restaurant in the Thamel district. They offer decent food beyond traditional Nepali cuisine (I had chicken curry and Everest beer), seemed pretty clean and I would recommend it. After dinner, I quickly replaced the lens cap I lost (Hubert … do you have it by any chance?) and then joined the others at Sam’s bar. Cool place with some rock classics (rather than Justin Bieber & Ed Sheeran) and a very nice , chatty atmosphere. We bought more Everest beers in turns (I have to note that even Rory is back on the booze after ten weeks abstinence) and started our bonding experience.
Great bunch of people from US, England, Uganda, Scotland, Ireland, Australia and ze German being myself. I think we finished by 1am with a pretty thinned out group and enjoyed a fun cab ride to the hotel. Jon (US Navy) and myself were keen on another beer and got lucky at reception. After midnight it’s apparently super hard to find a place after the government tightened controls. So we ended up chatting for a bit in the lobby. He about his travels with the navy (he works on a supply vessel with usually 4month on / off rotations) and me about rocketontour ;o). Really entertaining evening with a fun crowd.
I slept well and only woke up when my room-mate billy got going. I figured I give myself another few minutes before heading to breakfast. Well, easier said than done as Billy had diligently locked the room. I called reception and he came up to free me …
Sightseeing Kathmandu: By 9am we were all in a bus for a brief sightseeing tour. First stop, Pashupatinath, a hindu temple (the main religion for 80% of Nepali’s). Weird experience really. Right as we arrived they slaughtered a goat as offering to the gods … blood everywhere on the floor. Then a dead body covered in an orange sheet passed by on its way to open air cremation (happens here every day basically). In hindus believe, you have to burn the body within 24 hours of passing. Interesting to see, but strange too. Afterwards we headed to the great Boudha stupa – the largest temple of its kind in the world. While there we also visited an art school where they produce amazing water paintings that depict an areal view of the temple with all its gates and doors and colours. Amazing detail. A master will take 40-50 days for a 30cmx30cm piece and they go for about USD200 each. Less for intermediate or student artist work.
The team, climbing & health update: Tim is going for Lhotse this year plus another Stephen (who just joined us today) who will meet us in base camp. Four guys plus an additional guide go for Everest (Jon, Rory, Blake, Billy & . As for trekking, there are 6 people so far I count. So far no major health issues to report although Tim did catch a stomach bug. He won’t be the last one …
Useful tips: If you are looking for last minute mountain gear go to Shona’s Alpine store (see map), as they have a decent selection despite the small store space and struck me as honest folks. Further, head to the blue dot on the map (Shree Handicraft) to get yourself a local SIM. We went for ncell (best in the mountains) at R700 a piece. Data is USD2,50 per 1GB and calls depend (we think that USD10 = 1-2 hour calls to Europe). Another tip is to get a dumb phone (old fashion, no data device) as they seem to work better in base camp.
So, off to dinner now. Pick-up of our flight to Lukla (crazy airport at 2,840m) tomorrow is already 5.15am!