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Published: December 4th 2018
We had to be up early on our final morning in Tibet, to catch our return flight to Kathmandu. Our hotel had been excellent, right in the heart of the city with everything one might need so I was somewhat surprised that Reception wasn't staffed 24 hours a day. It turned out it was, because I disturbed the young receptionist this particular morning when I went down about 5.30 am. Apparently, she slept on the cold marble floor behind the desk in a sleeping bag and a woolly pully and I don't know which of us was the more scared - me at the sight of her, suddenly rising up from nowhere, or her at the sight of me in pyjamas and a puffer jacket, with bleary eyes and a bed head. Not a good way for either of us to start the day!
I'd struggled to get an omelette for breakfast here. Every morning, in my clearest speaking voice, I would ask for 'a two egg omelette, please'. In return I received either two fried or scrambled eggs. Mr Personalitybypass Surbiton kept getting an omelette when he asked for boiled eggs so, on this last morning I thought I'd
give that a try. 'Two boiled eggs, please' said I, eagerly looking forward to my omelette. In return I got ... two fried eggs! It just wasn't meant to be.
Our driver was waiting to take us to the airport at 8.30 am. The return journey was lovely with the road running alongside seemingly motionless, crystal-clear rivers and skeins of colourful geese taking to the clear blue skies. Norman had gone to be brainwashed, of course, so we weren't too surprised to be abandoned at the kerbside at the airport by the driver. Given the rigid efficiency at our arrival, we fully expected a straightforward, faster departure, on the basis that they would be pleased to see the back of tourists they didn't really want there in the first place. How wrong we were. Nothing was clear. We struggled to find International Departures and had to queue just to get in the entrance, then queue again to have our luggage x-rayed, then join another queue for a health-screen, then another for hand luggage scrutiny and lastly one for check-in. I'm not a vocal complainer normally (I tend to go for the more silent, less confrontational methods of showing my
displeasure - wuss that I am) but when a group of about ten people tried to 'join' this final queue in front of us I just lost it. Sod the 'don't be argumentative' advice from ManCanDo, throw me in prison, just DON'T PUSH IN FRONT OF ME IN THIS QUEUE! In the end the very apologetic spokesman of the group said they would move behind us which was fine by me but maybe not so good for the chap who was behind us and now had a large family group in front of him with trolley-loads of what looked like tomato boxes that you just knew would be a problem.
Our plane was due to depart at 11.35 am but we were delayed by over an hour with no explanation given. I blame all that luggage from the large family group as the one guy we could see loading all the baggage into the plane seemed to go on strike, having got fed up with his two colleagues just watching.
Our flight over the Himalayas was just as impressive as first time round, though I still couldn't identify Mt Everest. We gained back the 2 hours 15 minutes
we had lost on the outward journey. It was almost a relief to land back in Kathmandu but, of course, we had forgotten their chaotic Immigration process which we had to repeat all over again minus the visa bit as our initial visa was still valid. Baggage reclaim was a nightmare as it was impossible to identify which carousel was ours. We knew we'd got the right one when we saw all the tomato boxes turn up!
It was a pleasure to be met by our usual smiling, welcoming driver. I was better pleased to see it was him because he had a lighter and mine had been taken from me at the Tibet end. I really don't mind all the security checks at airports; I reckon they're in place for our own safety. But, please can we have some consistency? Shoes on or shoes off? Watches on or watches off? One lighter per person or no lighters per person? I'd had two taken off me by this point in our travels but had been allowed to keep them on more occasions. And don't get me started on bottles of water which I thought were a no-no everywhere but
now sometimes seem to be allowed through in some places for reasons I can't fathom.
We finally joined the gridlocked throng of traffic on the dusty, pollution-choked roads. We were now in the middle bit of ManCanDo's organised tour, and he was waiting for us at the Vaishali Hotel to help us check in (to room 3112). It was probably not a hotel we would have booked independently but it was fine, just full of large groups of tourists, predominantly Polish on this occasion for some reason. He also had the visa and itinerary for the next part of our trip, so that was good. We felt we were returning to a place we knew and were familiar with in that we knew our way to our favourite eating place - just down Tin Pan Alley, right into Clothing Crescent and left onto Prayer Flag Street!
I've always had a soft spot for old men. Even in my youth, Steve would often say he didn't worry about getting old because I seemed to like old men! I seem to always acquire one too, whether it be a postman or porter when I was working, or an interesting travelling
companion on a train journey or a man with a dog in a pub. On this visit to Kathmandu my old man was the chap with the trinket stall just outside the hotel gates who showed me where to get another lighter. I sat on his spare stool in the evening, somehow enjoying a conversation in broken English. After a while we were joined by his daughter and then by what I thought was a random passing dog (it turned out to be theirs, they thought he was about 15, and he rightfully owned the blanket he curled up on that I had thought was for sale, animal fur included for free), then by another guest from the hotel and then by the security guy from the hotel entrance. We had formed quite a party within half an hour and I felt quite at home again in this challenging but welcoming city.
After breakfast the following morning (I finally got an omelette!) our group of four was augmented by The Two Widows. They had spent the previous day on a perilous eight hour road trip to Kathmandu that sounded hideous - one of them said she had to close her eyes for most of the trip, the road conditions and sheer drops were so bad! They talked constantly (one of them even spoke to her vegetables one meal time - 'I don't know what you are and you look a bit burnt but I'll give you a try'!). Hmmmm. Achut ManCanDo and our driver joined us to take us to the airport and, after a much faster exit through the airport we were off again.
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