Passing through Terminal 3 International, Departure, Indiri Gandhi International Airport, in New Delhi I was a little hungry. I wanted substantial food and not fast food. I asked for lemonade – and not masala lemonade. I got the masala lemonade I said I did not want. The starter and mains were dry and quite bland with no real flavour befitting their over the top prices.
Kathmandu‘s Tribhuvan International Airport marked my entry and exit to the country of Nepal. Red bricked walls gave a homely feel as I whisked by rucksack from the conveyor belt. I had filed a visa request in less than ten minutes and exited into the icy cold air of baggage reclaim, with only an hour to spare before the clock hit 2017’s New Year’s Day. A pre-booked taxi-van, full-throttled through bustling streets as revellers greeted the Gregorian calendar year with optimistic open arms. Before long I had checked in, drank a celebratory ginger tea and gone to bed, shattered from the journey from Dongguan. Ten hours of flights and wheels hadn’t been so bad. Just not, what I was excited for.
I arrived at Kathmandu with 30 minutes to New Year’s Day kicking in. On departing the airport, tired and having pre-arranged a taxi lift by the Alobar 100 hostel, I was greeted by a mob of men, of them two men appeared to be connected to the hostel. One held my name. The other was a driver. It was a tad intimidating. I booked the taxi to avoid being over-charged and to make the passage to the hostel simple. It put me in a poor mood immediately. I was harangued into tipping, my leftover low-denomination Chinese Yuan. I had no U.S. dollars, despite pushy requests for them. Nor pounds, I live in China and not the U.K.
Check-in was simple. Advice was good. The pre-booked shared dorm for six was actually an 8-berth. No worries. After a good shower in the morning, I had a simple breakfast. I ate a few meals at the hostels. Prices for food and drink were okay. There were plenty of books to swap, and good Wi-Fi. A porter and guide service, tourist trek place is attached but was above my budget so I opted away from utilising that. That said, the lady advised me of where the main bus station to Jiri was and the TIMS office. Communal lounges and the bar were welcoming but a bit smoky. The outside balcony proved comfortable for reading. The bunk bed on the ground, bed and locker G2G (Good to go?) proved perfect for my large rucksack and lanky, heavy figure. I slept well.
The following day, I explored the city of Kathmandu and made my last minute trek purchases, some walking poles and a dust mask for the immensely dusty city.
I explored the Garden of Dreams out of curiosity. I had no idea what was beyond tall the perimeter red-brick wall. The Garden of Dreams is really well-maintained. Not a hint of dust. Combining multiple cultures and their interpretations of a stately home’s gardens, they combine well. You really do escape from the city beyond the walls. Chipmunks, butterflies and birds combine to give a feel of being closer to nature than on a road. If you like the neo-classical style and quintessential ambience of a garden, this is the only place to go in Kathmandu. I visited on a grey cloudy day and lost the feeling of that weather on stepping through the doorway. 200NPR well spent. I learnt only half of the original gardens built remain. That is a crying shame. The Austrian Development Aid, Eco Hima and the Nepal Ministry of Education have aided renovations but the gardens still need a little more, following earthquake damage.
That evening I visited Kathmandu Durbar Square at the Hanuman Dhoka Palace Complex. It is bizarrely one of three sites called Durbar Square. The earthquake on 25 April 2015 has ruined a fair portion of the site. Expect stilts, ruins and boundaries hiding the damage. However, refurbishments are under way and taking time. The UNESCO World Heritage Site is marvellous. I visited as the sunset and enjoyed the dusky appearance. The colourful
Kalbhairav at Hanumandhoka dharwar is bedazzling on the eyes. The Taleju Temple is ornate and spectacularly broad. The colours of Courtyard of Kumari Bahal are equally pleasing on the eyes. Throughout the area there is a real wow factor.
I eventually booked a coach ticket to the beginning point of my trek, Jiri.
For 590 Nepalese Rupees (NPR), even though I paid 400 more for a taxi and arranged ticket via a tourist agency, I found myself at 5am on the 3rd of January, walking around hundreds of unlit buses looking for my bus, number 5064. I eventually met a kind soul who shown me to a cramped set of wheels with forty seats. Space was not optional. A roof area would be available for summer passengers, but the severe morning frost and fog made this uninviting. The driver positioned my lanky legs behind his seat and I was set for the journey.