Feeling: HAPPY TO HEAD TO SECOND BASE (CAMP)
Thought you’d heard the end of me for the forthcoming fortnight – guess what! I’m back for a little bit more.
So yesterday morning after a 1.50am alarm fail (Sarah’s part; on accidental repeat from last Tuesday to arise her for her journey to Auckland airport) and a 5.50am wake up of staff on leave three above having a furniture moveabout (I’ll admit, there was a somewhat furious call down to reception by yours truly) we awoke at 7am for me to flit to the gym and Sarah to finish packing. Come 8.38am we were down checking out, well ahead of our 9am scheduled departure for the airport (a mere 2.5km away from our staying place; with our flight at 12.45pm, we were aiming to be checked in by quarter to 10).
As I signed off our sign out, I noted a 900 rupee charge for food. “What’s this regarding?” I enquired. “We haven’t eaten anything.”
“You breakfast, madam,” the man replied earnestly. “Part of the package.”
News to us. News which necessitated a frenzied shovel-in at the stellar buffet, of which there was an incredible array. (“Mate, if I’d known about this I would’ve come down here at 6am,” Sarah said).
The Uber was called for, it arrived within two mins and after a mere moment of reshuffling to fit all our items in the small vehicle, we were off.
The nerves flurried up at a bit on reaching the Air India counter and the bag weighing apparatus. You see, all my other flights of this trip have given me at least 23kg and have not had all my gear on me aside from the initial one over (of which the haul has been mightily added to, I must admit). So I had been a little bit antsy of this one and its 20kg limit.
The day before had seen Sarah and I spend a solid afternoon strategising the best way to fit all our – mainly my – belongings in. With military precision, we thought we had it pretty well nailed – just a side stance at the check in counter to hide the two additional bags set to be carried on, and Bob’s your uncle (again, he’s not anymore still. And a reconciliation doesn’t seem to be on the cards for him and my Aunty). So upon weighing I was pretty satisfied to see hers total 19.5kg, with my purple bad boy a respectable 21.5kg.
No stress, I thought. Shift 500g over to Sarah’s pack from mine, then just hustle over the 400rupees required for any additional kg.
But our lad – after a quick enquiry with another man, think our one was new – waved us through and said all was dandy. (Think it was my casual name drop of, “Our dad” [always under the pretence of sisters, you see] “is a pilot for Air India. So we get to… see things.” (I started the sentence with no idea of where I was headed, so faultered a bit and ended on a somewhat lame conclusion. It was only in hindsight – oh, got to love hindsight! – that I realised I should’ve said, “we hoped he’d be flying us today”. No matter; we were through).
The next hurdle came upon attempting to hustle Sarah USD$40 to attain her Nepalese visa on landing in Kathmandu. “Taking American currency into Nepal is illegal,” the currency man said. Extremely fortunately for us, his counterpart on the other side of customs saw no issue and dolled out the dosh required.
But I tell you what – customs was a fuckfest. My shoulders were red-raw from my back pack straps (may have been on the heftier side of the 7kg carry-on limit; I’d say about 17) from the amount of time we stood in the line. Only to finally be stamped, and have to stand in another to get all our stuff screened. Another moment of panic when the man held up my bejewelled yoga mat bag and asked whose it was (“I told you it looks like a bow and arrow!” Sarah hissed at me), only to find he was purely handing it along so we didn’t have to wait around for the American lady ferreting about in her caught-out bag for her very-banned nail file.
After two gate changes necessitating a hurried run from 9A to 6 and back again, we were informed our flight was delayed from its now 12.55pm until 1.30.
After a further wait on the Tarmac and final take off at 2.30pm, we were away. It was pretty surreal – over three-quarters of the passengers on board were Westerners, no doubt headed over for a little mountain traverse too. And they all seemed to have severe bladder issues; I have never seen so many people up to go to the toilet during a 1.5 hour plane ride in my life.
There was one moment of caught-in-throat when upon crossing my hiking-boot-clad foot over my knee (I was on aisle), it caught a man (loo-returning for the third time) across his thigh and saw him flying (in more ways than the plane aspect, I mean). Luckily he caught himself around row 10 (I was in 24D), meaning a face plant was avoided. Joy for all!
Another was when the flight attendant came to collect our food trays and saw I had stacked mine and Sarah’s together, with all the rubbish and leftover food on top. Now, I must say; I do this every time I fly, taking my neighbours’ atop my own to pass over to the hosty for their ease. Well, apparently this is wrong; my lad got rather pissy at me and demanded I separate the two straight away, as, “they only fit one per line”. To his antsy tone I responded curtly, “Only trying to help”, and purposely left the plastic cutlery on a mound. (I felt really guilty afterwards, I will admit).
We finally got to Nepal and landed at the Kathmandu airport at 3.58pm. I hurriedly sprinted off to “have visa” line, where I was stamped within 24 seconds, and ran on to collect our baggage, while Sarah joined the heaving “get visa” que. (Just to clarify, I wasn’t being an arsehole; we had set this out as our plan of attack on the plane).
When she finally appeared about 40 minutes later (lacks the pushy Wort elbow, you see), we exited the building and found our lad with his, “Intrepid: Anneke Rose Wortman” sign and headed into Thamel. (He had been waiting for three hours, he told us after some coaxing).
And my my, how incredible was it to be back in Nepal. My insistence at it being my favourite country in the world was only cemented as we drove through the streets, the beautiful Pocahontas-looking people just gentle in everything they did. I felt at ease, peace, all things carefree and unhurried; I was here, and my word was I happy.
Hotel. Checked in. Met up with Jack (my pal from Cambridge) and went for a roam, beer and dinner. Then met up with some more of the crew (Craig – knows Jack from the cruise boats where they both work; Marv – knows Craig from their eight years in the military together; Carla – knows Marv) and had a few bevys as a band played at an Irish pub.
This morning we arose (after a sing-out of my phone at 5am declaring a flat battery; a very panicked half-hour ensued where we thought my charging input was broken and I wouldn’t have my camera for Base Camp. As I was drafting a furious email to both Apple and Life Proof in my head, we realised there had been a power cut and when electricity came on, all was well) and spent the day gathering required gear (including a wondrous pair of pink waterproof pants, a pink rain jacket and a purple puffer vest for me) and meeting the rest of the crew (Gemma – knows Jack and Craig from the boats; Craig – yes another one, an Aussie with no connections; Philip – also no connections, a 64-year-old from Northern Ireland. Very pumped to blitz him on Belfast history).
I met up with my friend Megh for a tea in the a.m. I met him here two years ago, where he was the guide for a girl I become friends with. As we sipped on Nepali tea (me; funny how here they say “Nepali” where we all say, “Nepalese) and hot honey lemon (him) we caught up and he made my day when he told me I was “a very precious person”. He hammered home just how much I love the Nepalese (Nepali?); so beautifully gentle, humble and harmonious.
One funny moment; a dealer was loitering about the street, and went up to Jack to ask if he wanted some “coca cola”. After telling him no, Sarah quizzically asked us why he had no bottles on him. “Cocaine, my girl,” we explained, to her astoundment.
It is now 10.30pm and we are packed and ready to rumble for our 4.30am alarm. If the clouds are clear and weather is well, we should land in Lukla about 8am or so. (Most dangerous airport in the world, with a runway one-tenth the regular and ending in a cliff face).
Excited? Doesn’t even begin to describe it. It’s the part of my travels I’ve been looking forward to the most. I’m so keen to see how the Everest region is faring two years on after the earthquake, and if all the rubble around on my last visit has been cleared. I’m so pumped to go back to the little villages and “namaste” greeting local people, and have duo nights in Namache Bazaar. I’m so elevated to get into the mountains, into a lot of rumination and to sort myself out.
I cannot even describe how happy I am to be in my favourite place in the world.
Time to get to second base (camp).
Shall yarn again November 8.