- October 24, 2013
- 4 comments
- Posted by EdGraham
- Adventures, Annapurna Circuit, Asia Travel, Destinations, Featured Posts, Nepal
High Spirits and then a Snag in Kathmandu
A Memorable Flight
I’m mesmerized by the view from our plane’s window as we near Kathmandu. It’s only an hour flight from Delhi, but the haze has already faded and I’m seeing thunderstorms on the horizon as we begin our descent. I catch my first glimpse of the Himalayas. The mountains and storms glow pink against the late afternoon sky, competing for altitude as they reach majestically upwards. It’s a beautiful mess from which I hope our airplane stays well away.
The setting sun shows itself between towering cumulus clouds as our airplane banks steeply, avoiding local peaks along our final descent. The city appears as we duck below the last of the cloud layers and enter Kathmandu Valley. As expected, Kathmandu looks to be gorgeous in a gritty sort of way; dusty roads reminiscent of Mongolia, hordes of people out in the streets as though we were still in India, and colorful houses with the sort of beautiful, geometrically distinct architecture that can only belong here. The overall effect of the city against the setting sun is sublime. We haven’t even landed in Nepal yet and the view is already spectacular.
The Reality of Arriving
We touchdown and as is often the case with travel, the anticipation that’s been slowly building over a year’s worth of planning ends abruptly, replaced with the reality that we have quite a lot to do before checking into our hotel for the night. We’ll need to obtain our tourist visa on arrival (we’ve come prepared with the required passport photos and US dollars), retrieve our checked bags, find an ATM, and find a taxi.
This all turns out to be pretty straightforward with the exception that there aren’t really street names in Kathmandu, and our cab driver hasn’t heard of our hotel. It’s in the busy Thamel area though, where most tourists and nearly all trekkers stay thanks to the abundance of supplies available ranging from sleeping bags to trekking poles to knock offs of pretty much everything North Face has ever made.
Our driver takes us to the area, which we know we’re nearing when the wide gravel road narrows considerably down to a path barely wide enough for one car despite the two way traffic and loads of pedestrians. Thamel’s small enough to walk from end to end, and it doesn’t take long to find our accommodation. Strangely enough, the restaurant nearest our hotel turns out to be a Japanese place. I figure we’ll have ample opportunity to try the local flavors during our month here, so we eat Japanese food and go to bed soon after. Tomorrow will be a busy day of sightseeing and gathering the necessary permits we’ll need to enter the Annapurna Conservation Area.
A Morning in Kathmandu
We wake up early, feeling as rested as one can be after traveling halfway around the planet. We plan to sightsee this morning, obtain our permits by early afternoon, and to use our remaining time gathering last minute supplies. It’s an ambitious schedule before our planned 6 hour bus ride to the start point of the Annapurna Circuit tomorrow, but it seems doable and we waste no time getting started.
We quickly find a taxi driver who’s willing to drive us around all morning, waiting for us at each stop while we explore. Even at foreign tourist prices which are inescapably higher than what the locals pay, I am slightly embarrassed at how little we’ve settled on for his services. The driver seems happy though, so we hop in and savor the few hours we have to explore. We visit Pashupatinath Temple and Durbar Square before returning to the hotel.
It’s not until we return that we discover today’s one of Nepal’s many holidays, and that all government offices are closed. This means we won’t be able to obtain our permits until tomorrow at the earliest, necessitating a longer stay here in Kathmandu. I’m happy to be trekking independently, but this is one issue which a tour company would have helped us avoid. It’s not a major problem as we’ve left extra time in our schedule for unforeseen snags like this. We use the extra day in the city sightseeing some more and developing a more definite plan for our trek.