The day had finally arrived. I checked my list, unpacked and repacked my bag multiple times and panicked repeatedly about the number of socks in my suitcase as it rolled out of sight on the airport conveyor belt, bound for Kathmandu. I calmed my nerves with chai from the overpriced airport café and waited for the boarding call. We were officially on route to Everest! Well, Nepal but in three days’ time, we would board another tiny plane heading toward the world’s most dangerous runway.
Flying with China Southern Air was great and for the first time in my whole life, I ate the plane food, to its entirety. This may be because I clicked the Vegan option but my normal habits of buying an airport sandwich and sniffing the box until the food has been cleared were put to the side on this flight. Robbie had been to Kathmandu before in 2015 where he completed Annapurna Base Camp, so he knew what to expect, however, this was my first time and I was beyond excited. Three films deep, including the crimes of Grindelwald (fave!) I decided to get some rest, we were due to arrive at 10 pm and I knew I would feel crap the next day if I didn’t sleep at least a tiny bit.
When we landed in Kathmandu my adrenaline hit the roof, one step closer to the trip and also extreme excitement to be exploring a new city. My excitement was soon wiped when we entered the arrivals hall and the ridiculous methods to obtain a 30-day visa presented themselves
Side note, if you have the chance to get this in your country beforehand, I advise you do.
We started to queue; it wasn’t all bad we heard some people spent hours here. First, you fill out a paper form, then upload that onto a screen that was installed sometime in the ’80s to receive a small ticket, you then move to a payment desk and pay the $40 for a 30-day visa, you then move to the immigration agent and show him all of the above. After a very awkward silence and what seemed like forever, he stamped our passports and then the real carnage followed. The baggage claim area was madness, with multiple flights arriving at once the place was chockablock. We proceeded to belt 2 and waited for our bags to arrive, I loosely overheard a crackly tannoy announcement that our bags would be moved over to belt 3. We pushed through the crowd and waited patiently for them to arrive, it was getting on, we were now watching one lone silver suitcase make the rounds… no backpacks in sight.
Oh lord. I panicked, all my gear was in my bag, my boots and all… I was devastated. I honestly thought my bags were still in New Zealand. Not one to hide my emotions very well I drew the attention of an airport worker who so very casually pointed to a pile of lonely luggage… and there she was, my suitcase and Robbie’s backpack waiting for us. We headed out to grab a cab into the city. Due to it being late we just jumped in the first one, it only cost $8USD to Thamel which is the main tourist area of Kathmandu.
It’s always weird when you arrive at accommodation late and this was no exception. I pulled my case over the building site rubble and entered what looked like an apartment block, dodging the hanging washing we took the stairs to the first communal area we found. Someone was sleeping on the couch, we had to wake him up to check in, his first question… Do you need a mountain guide, my friend will take you to Base Camp. As we had already booked with G Adventures we politely declined and chose a room on the top floor. 17 hours later I made it to the top, dragging my case full of hiking gear behind me.
This hotel was to be a base for the next two days as we explore Thamel. I woke up crazy early to a beautiful sunrise over Kathmandu and waited for Robbie to rise. We wanted to spend the day just wandering around and eating good food & that’s exactly what we did. First on the agenda was second breakfast for Robbie. We then walked through the back streets and down to Durbar Square. We arrive before the guards, therefore, skipped paying, we did return after our trek and paid to enter, it’s only $10 per person.
We didn’t really know what we were looking at, so I researched it over lunch for the next visit. Food was the next mission of the day. We had walked past a real urban looking café near our accommodation, so we headed back there and man, I’m glad we did! It was unbelievably tasty and cheap. We had budda bowls, momo’s, spicy potatoes and heaps of lemon & turmeric drinks. We people watched from the balcony before retreating for an afternoon chill.
The days before we started the trek went a little like the above. We had massages, strolled slowly around Thamel and topped up our supplies. The only thing I needed to purchase was a pair of waterproof pants and gloves, and we needed to rent our sleeping bags. We found a shop, ‘The up to date trekking shop’ & met the sweetest guy inside. He assured us our bags had been professionally dry cleaned and that the -20 fill would keep us warm high on the mountain.
All this shopping called for more food and beverages. Most restaurants in Kathmandu had awesome vegetarian options however it was hard to find the good ones right off the street. The lower level of shops are filled with goods to purchase and most eateries are located upstairs, entrances sometimes not visible to the eye. We googled some of the hotspots and drowned in veggie momos.
As we booked the trek with G Adventures, we had a hotel for the night before departure, we met the crew and our guide Shankar. What a guy, he was the most chill person ever and ever so casually told us of the risks involved in our upcoming adventure. This is when you run through the itinerary and big Shanks made sure everyone had everything they need for the trek. We politely opted out of a group dinner, only because some of the group had just arrived in Kathmandu and had last minute bits to collect, unfortunately Chase’s suitcase didn’t make it all the way from the USA so he had a mad dash round Thamel to sort himself out before the 5 am wake up call.
Our last night in Kathmandu was one full of nerves and anticipation. I emptied my suitcase multiple times to repack into the supplied trekking bag, this can only weigh 10KG so packing only the essentials is imperative. Once packed, locked and secured at the other side of the room to stop me digging in there I had what I thought would be my last shower for 12 days. We went for one last stroll and cheeky beer before retiring to bed at a ludicrous hour of 9 pm.
I wish I could say I got a good nights sleep, but one slept for a grand total of 40 minutes. My alarm went off and I was already lying there awake. You know that Christmas day sicky feeling you used to get as a child, well that’s what was going on inside me. I had another shower and put on my trekking clothes, sent messages to our loved ones and waited in reception for the rest of our group.
This was it, we were ready to go… or so we thought.