Everest Base Camp Trek – Day 2: Hello Kathmandu!
In my diary of day 1 of my Everest Base Camp Trek, you were able to read how I got to Doha. Today the journey continues and you’ll read how I finally managed to get to Kathmandu.
I had arrived around midnight in Doha and my flight to Kathmandu would leave at about 3 am. Unfortunately, I had a bad surprise when I checked one of the departure displays. The flight info read: expected departure 6 am! WTF! I went over to the information desk to double check. The woman behind the desk confirmed the delay.
Crap! Another 3 hours to go, I was feeling tired and already had my share of champagne. Now would be a good time to be laying down on the plane and having a sleep. The air conditioning was running at full blast in the lounge and I was getting cold. I was glad that I had brought a jacket with me.
Up in the air
Eventually, the time for boarding arrived and as soon as I was on the plane I ordered one more glass of bubbles. There were only 5 other passengers in business class on this Qatar Airways Airbus A330. So the cabin was quiet. Add to that my Bose noise cancelling headphones and I was happy.
The lovely stewardess came over to inquire about my meals. But I told her I would skip all meals and just wanted to sleep. Not even breakfast. Shortly after takeoff I put my seat into bed mode and passed out. It was until the captain announced that we would be landing in about 35 minutes that I woke up. I had a nice warm cup of green tea and a little while later, we touched down in Kathmandu.
If you have never been to Kathmandu airport, then you are in for an experience. It is only a small airport, even the international terminal is quite minimal. Our plane stopped on the tarmac in front of the terminal building. Everyone had to use the stairs to get off the plane and then walk towards the arrivals hall.
In order to get through immigration, you need a visa. You can apply for this visa online (insert link) and you will receive a confirmation page which you need to print and bring with you. As soon as you get at immigration, your first stop will be the visa counter. Here you are required to pay the fee for your visa after handing over your passport and visa confirmation. The fee depends on the type of visa you applied for. A 30-day visa will cost you $ 40. After payment, you will receive a yellow piece of paper as proof.
Take this and then queue up at the “foreigner” immigration desks. Once you are called forward, hand over your passport, yellow paper and boarding pass. The immigration officer will then put the visa sticker in your passport and stamp it. After that, you can head over to the baggage hall.
But hang on, because before you get to your luggage, you will need to go through a security check. It was completely unorganised and the queue was endless. Eventually, I made it through and I thought that my luggage would already be on the conveyor belt. But no… I had to wait again and after about one hour and 15 minutes I was outside.
Off to Thamel
I was happy to see the driver standing right in front of the exit. He was holding up a sign with my name on it, so it was easy to spot him. Together with a girl from Vietnam, who had also booked a tour with Himalayan Leisure Inc , we got into a car and set off towards Thamel.
Like in most Asian countries, traffic in Kathmandu is mayhem. After the earthquake in 2015, most of the infrastructure has not been fully restored yet. The main roads are in a reasonably good state, but the smaller roads are narrow and full of potholes. Traffic on the roads seems chaotic for us foreigners, but the locals seem to find structure in it. Overtaking left or right didn’t seem to matter. It was busy so it took us a good half hour before we pulled up at Hotel Thamel Park.
The location of the hotel was central but quiet. It was away from all the hustle and bustle so I would be able to get a good night sleep. After the formalities of checking in, my luggage was brought up to my room for me. The friendly guy explained all features of the room to me before leaving.
I got issues… luggage issues!
The driver who picked me up at the airport had told me that Upendra and the guide would be meeting me at 4 pm in the hotel lobby. Until then, I had some time for myself. The first thing I did was unpack all my gear and then repack. But not after giving it the last check for items that I wouldn’t take with me.
I decided I would not take my GoPro camera with me. Why? Well two reasons: one is that I take a lot of video footage but never get to actually editing it. The second reason is the weight. My Hero 4 Silver does not weigh a lot by itself, but the accessories that come with it. I have the GoPro Karma Grip and the El Grande pole, the combined weight of these two would have taken me over the weight limit for my flight to Lukla. Remember I was restricted to only 15 kilos (carry on and checked in combined).
I had a scale with me so I would be able to weigh my Osprey Transporter 95 duffel bag and my MLD Prophet pack. The duffel bag came in just under the allowed 10 kilos and my backpack weighed 5.1 kilos. I assumed they wouldn’t hassle me over a few extra grams. During the actual hike, my backpack would become a little bit heavier as I added a 3 litre Camelbak with water and an extra litre in a Nalgene bottle.
I was happy with all my packed gear and noticed it was almost 4 pm. So I headed down to the lobby to meet up with Upendra and the guide.
Upendra, the bearded man and always smiling, greeted me and introduced me to Raju. A 29-year-old young man who seemed a bit shy at first. We went over the trip schedule and I was explained what was and what wasn’t included in the trip. The trip included breakfast, lunch and dinner on all days of the trek. Any additional items or expenses would be at my own cost.
The meeting took about 15 minutes. Everything was clear, especially because Upendra had already answered any questions I had prior to the trip via e-mail. Before coming to Nepal I had asked if they would be interested in any used trekking gear. They definitely were! So I had 2 pairs of hiking boots from my dad and 2 bags of clothing. Rain jackets, winter jackets, hiking socks, wool hats, fleece sweaters and so on. The look on Raju’s face when he saw all of it said enough, he was delighted!
Last minute preparations
I still had a couple of things to sort out. I needed a sleeping bag. So together with Raju we walked into Thamel. Now there are hundreds of shops where you can either buy or rent trekking gear. I wasn’t familiar yet with the area so I followed Raju through the busy streets. Eventually, we made it to the Hi-Himal store.
Namaste! Before I knew it Raju was speaking with the store owner and the only word I could understand was “sleeping bag”. The owners looked at me and started laughing. I didn’t have a clue why, but I quickly found out why. I’m almost 2 meters tall and I wouldn’t fit in a regular sleeping bag. So Raju convinced them to provide me with a brand new one which would fit me. Thank you!
I thanked the people and we went to our next stop: currency exchange office. As there are almost no ATM’s on the trail, I wanted to exchange enough money that would last for the entire trip. With the help of Raju I quickly managed to get that sorted and got about 63.000 Nepalese Rupees for 500 Euros.
We parted ways and Raju went home for the night. I still had one item on my list that I wanted to purchase. A local SIM card. Beware that you need your passport and a passport picture if you want to buy a Ncell SIM card. I bought the 15 GB data package for 1350 Rupees (just over 10 Euros).
I did not have anything to eat since I had arrived in Kathmandu. So I was very hungry. After dropping off my things at the hotel I went out to roam the streets, trying to find a place to ear. Only a few streets away from the hotel, I stumbled upon Spize restaurant. The outside terrace was full, but there was still room inside. I was welcomed with a smile and after looking at the menu I decided to order the chicken momos and a bottle of water. Momos are the Nepalese version of dumplings and they were delicious!
By this time it already was dark outside. On the way back to the hotel there were several men on the street that approached me. Not to greet me or have a conversation. No, they only had one goal: try to sell me drugs. No thanks!
I took a long hot shower and gave my mom a call before I went to bed. Funny thing was that the WiFi through my mobile hotspot was faster than the hotel internet.
My alarm would go off at 6 am and would meet up with Raju at 6.30 am to head to the airport. It didn’t take long for me to doze off into a deep sleep after a full day of travel.