For the second time in two years, I flew halfway around the globe with trekking in mind. In April-May 2011, I took a bucket list trip to Nepal and Tibet for a high altitude trek on the north side of Mount Everest (you can read about that adventure on my blog on this site). This time, I was joining two friends from that Tibet trek to spend some time in Nepal touring the capital of Kathmandu and doing a 5-day hike up a village at about 10,000 feet for an incredible vista of the Himalayas.
Nepal is almost exactly 12 hours ahead of Minneapolis, so I had the option of flying in either direction. One thing I quickly remembered during my first flight to Amsterdam is just how long it takes to get to Nepal. I don't sleep well on planes, so it took two movies, some crossword puzzles and part of a book to make the eight hours go by. After a tight connection, I then boarded another 8-hour flight to New Delhi and followed the same routine to make the time go by, although I gave up trying to figure out the time change and managed a decent nap.
I had a long overnight layover in New Delhi, a modern airport that is not friendly to navigate, so I spent some time in a lounge reading and found a store that sold snacks and coffee. The morning came, but there was very heavy morning fog that worried me about getting off on time. The flight time came and we boarded for the final hour and a half flight to Kathmandu.
Tribhuvan International Airport hadn't changed in the last two years. I had my visa form ready to go and got through Customs and passport control with no issue. I carried my boots, some meds and a jacket in my daypack as a carryon that could get me by long enough to buy new gear in Kathmandu if my two trekking bags didn't show up, but I was glad to see them on the belt. I grabbed them, walked outside, dodged several dozen aggressive bag carriers and taxi drivers, and found my Himalayan Glacier Trekking (HGT) guide with no problem. The day was sunny and warm, in the 60's.
Our guide, Ricci, was friendly and he took my to the Hotel Shanker, where I stayed while in Kathmandu. A former palace, it is one of the nicer hotels in the city and has hot water and generators to provide electricity despite ~18 hours of daily rolling backouts in the city. Two years ago I stayed in a 1-star hotel for the 'trekking experience' and didn't enjoy the cold water showers and having to use my headlamp.
My two trekking buddies, Fred and Shivesh, weren't at the hotel, so I grabbed a quick shower and took the 10-minute walk from the hotel to the Thamel area of Kathmandu. This is the chaotic, assault-all-your-senses, tourist/trekking area of the city and the energy is incredible. After walking some familiar streets and stretching my legs, I grabbed some lunch and wrote out some postcards to send to friends and relatives in the States.
When I returned to the hotel, I checked and found that Fred was in. His wife was with him, as they had departed Minneapolis about a week before me to go to Agra, India (home of the Taj Mahal) and tour Kathmandu together. Shivesh soon arrived and we spent a couple of nice hours catching up. A driver picked us up a bit later and took us to the HGT office, where we met Narayan, the office director. We settled up the final payments and got a trek map, t-shirt and nice trekking bag to put our gear in for the porters. We then went to a very nice HGT-hosted dinner with Nepali fare, including the staple dal bhat (lentils and rice) and cold Everest beers (not great, but okay lager). The dinner included traditional singing and dancing.
We returned to the hotel about 8pm and I was asleep by 8:30pm, tired from the long journey.
Up next: We tour the Kathmandu area and visit a living goddess, an ancient city with numerous Buddhist monasteries and Hindu temples and working craftsmen, and the Pashupatinath Temple with cremation funeral ceremonies.