The adventure begins!
Having done the impossible and fitting all the expedition kit into 2 bags each, our adventure began at Heathrow T4, but for the Boulmer contingent they nearly didn’t make it! Their hire car turning up late put them on the back foot and after a stressful journey trying to avoid heavy traffic they made it! We also met up with our Alpine Mountain Leaders, Al and Duncan who will be crucial as we traverse the glacier on the way to the summit. So 8 hours to Muscat and 4 hours onwards we arrived in Kathmandu and for those who had not been before they were immediately hit by the chaos of the city, not least the chaos at the airport. Long queues for visas ensued which at least meant our bags were off the carousel. Our baggage receipts where taken from us as they checked our bags out of the terminal to make sure people had the correct luggage, a conscientious system you may think… more on this later!
Having cleared the airport, our trekking company met us and our bags were thrown in the roof of a mini bus, flower garlands were put around our necks and we hit the roads if Kathmandu. The city is an assault on the senses in every way. The traffic on the road resembles wacky races, I actually couldn’t tell you what side if the road they drive on as anything seems to go! Cars, bikes and buses managed to squeeze through gaps that only the night bus from Harry Potter should be capable of and it is a miracle there are no crashes. There is a cacophony of car horns, interspersed by dogs barking and we watched out the window in horror as people walked out into the road confident the traffic would not hit them. As we reached the more touristy area the roads narrowed into alleyways and we saw a repeat of knock off outdoor shops, souvenir shops, map and book shops, everywhere festooned with colourful prayer flags. It was with relief that we reached our hotel and sat in the sanctuary of the garden and took stock of our journey.
It was as we took stock that we realised that one of our bags had not made it to the hotel. The one with a lot of expensive mountaineering kit in! So it would seem the system at the airport was not as conscientious as we’d hoped! Robin and Nicky would have to return to the airport the next day on their way from the British Embassy where they would get the sat phones.
Our first evening in Kathmandu was spent enjoying a traditional Nepalese meal of Dahl, vegetable curry and rice and momos. This was washed down with some Everest Beer in some of Thamel’s iconic trekking bars. The next morning, Nicky and Robin set off for the airport and after talking his way back into baggage reclaim it was with great relief that Robin discovered the missing bag. However getting it out was then a problem having already given in the bagged receipt the previous day! A large amount of British charm eventually saw him free with bag in hand! Meanwhile the rest of the gang explored Thamel and bought maps and postcards. Much to my annoyance, being the only female in this group, I was naturally the only one with a pen, yet I didn’t get to write my postcards until last!
Once reunited with Nicky and Robin we headed to Swayambunhath to experience some of the local culture and religion. This Buddhist Stupa was sat at the top of over 100 steps (good training for our trek!) and many monkeys roamed free there! From the top we had excellent views of Kathmandu a the sun set!
The next morning we had an early start to catch our flight to Lukla! Nerves for this flight were plaguing many of the group but it wasn’t as bad as we’d feared. After more chaos at the airport where they weighted our bags and then us(!), we finally boarded our Dornier 228 an hour late. The flight lasted a mere 25min yet the final moments as we landed and hurtled towards the wall at the end of the runway seemed to last an age until we slowed down and turned off. As our bags were strapped up and loaded onto porters we had a spot of lunch next to the control tower. Suitably refuelled we picked up our walking poles and finally took the first few steps of our trek…