Monday, December 5, 2011

Nepal: Getting There


Over the next three weeks, I'm taking a trip down memory lane with a look back at our trip to Nepal last December. For all of the entries about our trek, click here.

It took us two days to reach Kathmandu from Denver; we left on December 4th and arrived in Nepal on the morning of December 6th. Our first flight took us from Denver to London. After leaving Denver at 5:30p on December 4th, we arrived in London at 9a the next day. We had about a three-hour layover until our next flight to Delhi. Though I stayed awake watching moves on the DEN-LHR flight, I managed to catch a few z's on the flight to India. We arrived in Delhi at 1:45a on December 6th. And thus began the first snafu of the trip. We hadn't thought to check our bags through to Kathmandu, as we were switching airlines in Delhi. I figured we'd just go through customs, grab our bags, and then put them back through for our flight on Jet Airways. Of course, without any sort of visa (I didn't think we'd need one, since we wouldn't be leaving the airport), this plan was a no-go. I spent a few frantic moments (okay, more like several frantic hours, as I was nervous about the potential whereabouts of our bags until I actually saw them again) talking with British Airways gate agents outside the international terminal. On both our flights into and out of the Delhi airport we were stuck in international transfer limbo as several hours elapsed between our arrival at the airport and when we could check in to our flight and actually enter the international terminal. D set up his backpack and fell asleep for awhile; I was too nervous/worried to do any sleeping myself.

After what seemed like forever, we finally checked into our 7:30a flight to Kathmandu, got our boarding passes, and headed through security into the international terminal. The terminal itself was really nice -- lots of restaurants, shops, and seating/lounging areas. I picked up a snack of mango juice at one of the magazine/gift shops and we set off to find our gate. Our plane ended up being delayed an hour, but otherwise was uneventful. I spent the majority of the flight staring out my window and enjoying my first glimpses of the snow-topped mountains and mountaintop villages that surrounded the Kathmandu Valley. I remember thinking to myself how surreal it was to finally be on my way -- the trip to Nepal was something I had dreamed about doing for a long time.

We arrived in Kathmandu around 10:45a, and after breezing through immigration (we had purchased our tourist visas in advance, though you can get them upon arrival as well), we headed to baggage claim. From my journal entry that day: "Surprise upon surprise, and joy upon joy -- our bags were there - HOORAY!" There was a slight kerfluffle after we got our bags as the baggage tags didn't match our claim tags, since they had been re-tagged in Delhi, but we managed to explain why they differed.

We left through customs and met Prim, who would drive us to our hotel and to other destinations during our time in Kathmandu. From the airport, and onto the road! Oh my god, is traffic in Kathmandu crazy! There are no traffic lanes, no real rules, and the roadways are a chaotic blend of cars, bikes, motorcycles, rickshaws, and other forms of transport. Clearly we were not in Kansas anymore. I remember being immediately sent into sensory overload -- lots of noises, honking horns (good prep for living in Philly?), people everywhere, animals everywhere, and more. The smell of burning trash was particularly evocative, and reminded me of my time spent in Honduras.

We arrived at the Samsara Resort Hotel, which would be our digs while in Kathmandu. Though the rooms were spartan, they were well-maintained and the staff was friendly and quite helpful. Soon after our arrival we met with Rajan, and together we headed over to the Earthbound Expeditions offices (just a short walk from our hotel), where we signed the requisite waiver forms and paid the balance of our trekking fee.

Clockwise, from left: 1. Samsara Resort Hotel 2. A View of Our (Messy) Room 

Though the offices were only a short walk from our hotel, we still managed to get ourselves turned around, and it took about a half an hour to find our way back. (It probably didn't help that we stopped along the way to find an ATM, so quickly lost sight of our original pathway from the hotel.) Luckily we happened upon Prim and he walked us back to the hotel to ensure we wouldn't get lost again.

After a much-needed (and longer than planned) nap we checked and sent email (it was super convenient that the hotel had both wifi and an Internet-connected public computer in the lobby). Later in the evening we headed downstairs to the hotel's restaurant for dinner and then soon after called it a night -- after nearly non-stop travel, we were definitely looking forward to getting a good night's sleep in a real bed. The next morning we would be up early to spend the day exploring Kathmandu.

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