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Published: March 15th 2008
Ready to go!
At Norwich bus station at the start of my journey to Nepal and India.
The countdown is finally over and the journey to new horizons begun
So here I am, huge rucksack on my back, standing in Norwich bus station with a thousand questions in my mind. Can I really leave Poppy in charge of her little sisters? She hadn't even remembered what time I was leaving and was still in bed when it was time for me to leave, never mind all the complicated arrangements for picking up the girls from school, nursery and the miriad of activities kids seem to have these days. What the hell am I doing going half way across the world on my own? The people on my trips may be awful and I'll be stuck with them for 5 weeks! Have I got everything I need? Can you really get a visa for Nepal at the airport? Can you really hire sleeping bags when you get there? I hate being too cold!
But the coach arrived and I gave Poppy a big hug and took my first tentative step of the journey.
On the advise of my good friend Hel, I'd booked the coach trip to arrive at Heathrow well before I actually needed to
My room mate
Found I was sharing my room with this little lizard!
be there. So I sat back and relaxed and started to actually get excited about my travels. The previous few weeks had been such a whirr of getting things organised for while I was away (at work and at home) and the usual frenetic ferrying of children that I hadn't had time to think about my trip.
At Stansted the new driver came on board and cheerfully told us that Heathrow was a no go area due to someone trying to climb the perimeter fence and that controlled explosions were being carried out. Great start to my trip - I envisaged standing outside Heathrow in the rain for hours waiting for the all clear. As it turned out by the time we arrived all was well again and I checked in for my flight hours early. I passed the hours buying more books (I can't resist a book shop!) and eating yummy grub in an Irish bar (strange place to have one in an airport but hey, I wasn't complaining).
Eventually it was time to board and the point of no return had arrived. I was travelling with Gulf Air and they were very good, friendly, helpful and
My room in Kathmandu
The room is pretty basic but I don't care, I'm in Kathmandu!
even nice airline food! Of course being long legged I'd bagged an ailse seat so was uncomfortable rather than extremely uncomfortable. Sleep was minimal, part excitement and part lack of leg room so it was a relief to see the weird shaped skyscrapers of Bahrain come into view.
Bahrain airport was a surprise, much smaller than I'd thought. I'd got chatting to some people while waiting to get through security and spent the wait for the flight to Kathmandu with them. It turned out they were on a trekking holiday with HF (Holiday Foundation) which I'd actually heard of thanks to Ella, Dion and Sue. They were a lovely group and I only hope mine are as nice when I finally meet them.
Interesting sights no 1. Man in full white arab garb with, black clad wife with only a slit to see out walking 2m behind. I'd already heard about this but the surprise was that he was craddling their little baby!
Big groan factor no 1. Ubiquitous MacDonald and Costa Coffee at Bahrain airport!
On the flight to Kathmandu I was sat next to a lovely lady, also off trekking, who turned out to be a lecturer at Southampton in Outdoor Sports and Tourism kind of thing. I have to say she didn't look very sporty but was obviously very fit as she was doing the Everest Base Camp Trek! She confessed to being a bookaholic too and was worried her yak may not cope! The two guys in front of us were doing the same trek as her but on their own, no guidesor porters never mind yaks!
Having talked to the HF people earlier and my new travel companions I was beginning to get a tad concerned that I seemed to be the only one expecting to get my Nepal visa at the airport so it was a big relief to find the go-it-alone guys were doing the same. As we got closer to Nepal a few mountains began to pop through the clouds. Unfortunately I was on the wrong side of the plane.
Mental note no 1. Sit on the left hand side of the plane if I come back to Nepal again!
It was getting dark as we landed and we could see a few lights dotted about, some way up in the mountains - equivalent to living on the top of Ben Nevis! When we did arrive there was a rush to the visa queues, one for those WITH a visa and on for those WITHOUT and for once I was in the RIGHT queue and sailed through while the HF people had to wait for ages. It turned out the go-it-alone guys were staying at the same hotel as me but by then I'd sussed that they were to be avoided. They were the 'showing off how laid back and cool they were, what seasoned travellers they were, how much better they were than the average trekker and how much better a time they would have' types. Actually like most men when they are together - a tad unfair perhaps - lets say 80% of most men! So I quickly got my luggage and went in search of my pre-arranged transfer to the hotel.
Lottie gets taken for a mug no 1. The guy holding the Imaginative Traveller sign was actually a 'porter' and wanted a huge tip for (what I thought was helpfully) taking my small pack 10m across the road to the van - I'd carried the really heavy main rucksack - bloody cheek! The real Imaginative Traveller guy had let him do it too.
So I get into this rickerty old van and set off into night time Kathmandu. The traffic is mad. There are battered old cars, vans, motorbikes, cycles, rickshaws, pedestrians all using the road however they want and honking their horns randomly for no apparant reason and ignoring all the random beeping aimed at them. At one point we headed off on a short cut through a very rough looking district without electricity and little doorways with very tatty buildings and 'shops' and random fires burning on the pavements so I was relieved when the area started to get more touristy looking. There are so many hippy clothes shops - Poppy you would be in heaven here and spend all your money on day one!
We eventually arrived at my hotel where I plonked myself in my room (bit dingey but ok) and ordered myself some room service (very hot veg biriani, chipatis and Nepalese style tea - milky with cardamon flavour). I said goodnight to my new room mate (a little lizard on my wall) and went to sleep with the sound of music blaring across the city.
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