Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Kathmandu - First trip

On the air plain, my first glimpse of the Himalayas!
As you get out the bus from the air plain to the terminal building :)
This is what you see just before you clear customs:
Before I could blink an eye I found myself here at Adventure Mountain Explore: I arrived in good time, I think around 4pm and before I knew it after chatting to the director who was organizing my trip it was 6pm and I had no option but to go with his offer... Very sneaky but it worked... This is what he did. He welcomes me with warm smiles, offers me water that was from a bottle that was not closed - I didn't drink it - and then MoMo which are like dumplings. Very nice actually! After discussing what was and what was not possible he knew the conversation was leading towards price. He also knew that all businesses would close at 6pm - it was a Saturday after all! So he hiked up the prices and added all sorts of commissions onto everything. After trying to haggle the price down and seeing he know he had me... I had no option but to ask him to direct me to an ATM where I would draw the wad of cash I would have to pay him!
At Fire and Ice in Thamel. I join in on the table since the conversation was so interesting!
I had the polo pizza and an Everest local beer, both where very good! :) I wish I had ordered a pepperoni pizza like... Joyce from Ireland did! That looked amazing!
The next day, 5:30 am I'm back at the air port with a ticket for a mountain flight! Very excited! I'd just downed a Red Bull for energy and to stay alert. Not included in the ticket is the NRS 200 airport tax. This doesn't really make any scene to me! The ticket was $171 + $9 service fee - making it $180, so why didn't the airport tax get bundled with the ticket??
The first glimpse of the air plain I would be traveling on.
Sitting in my seat filled up with excitement! I was a bit upset with Yeti Airlines - the window is the smallest out of all the airlines and the headroom and standing up space is the least. My view out the window was mostly fulled with the engine and the wing.
View of the Himalayas from my window. See what I mean about the view! At least the mountains are visible! :)
Everyone gets a change to see mnt. Everest from the cockpit. Check out Mr. Cool captain.
Here is my un-zoomed view: You can see mnt. Everest far in the distance with snow from the peak blowing off the top.
Here is a 3x optical zoomed view:
But this is what I usually see! :(
It improved to this:
And then this:
And finally the air plain tilted to give me this view from over the wing: This ended up being my best view! A dream come true! Seeing mnt Everest with my own eyes! :D
The flight was supposed to be 1hour long... I paid $180 for a 60 minute flight at 7am... (Even though the booking was for 6:30am and I arrived at the airport at 5:30am) We took off at 7:20am and the flight was only 40 minutes long... I was to be honest... a bit pissed! Thats a lot of money for such a short flight and all the little air hostess could do was shrug when I complained and she said: "Sometimes its 60 minutes, sometimes its 45 minutes... sometimes its 40minutes..." It wasn't her fault, she is not the Mr. Cool pilot... I give Yeti Airlines a 1 out of 10! Anyone reading this, there are 5 other airlines that do mountain flights. Try something else and maybe you will have better luck.
Here's Mr. Cool. Lets admit... He has quite a cool job! He gets to see Everest every day! That view can never get old!
This is the route we took:
Next I was off for white river rafting, which I paid $63 for. I've only just done the Googling and emailing around now... Most Nepalese travel and adventure companies charge $30 for rafting - so I got ripped off again! On route I there was a marathon race going on! I was shocked to see that in the chaotic traffic and pollution conditions, athletes existed and were willing to race!
We passed a village that has a Buddha temple, I took a photo from out the window while driving:
Obviously there are no laws on child labor in Nepal! This kid was probably 10 years old!
The view as we travel down the hill! Its a narrow road with heavy trucks and buses on either side and no real room for error. I was so happy it was not raining! I can't imagine these roads in the rain when its slippery!
Another Red Bull while I waited for the rest of the rafters to arrive.
And here are some of the rafters from Poland! I didn't bring slops so I had to wear my shews which got soaking wet!
A walk through the fields down to the river. There were 8 of us in total including the guide.
Our team on the river bed:
Everyone on the raft, in the river - I caught them when they weren't paying attention! :)
Myself and Mathias from Denmark - it is Mathias's birthday the next day, I think he was turning 20!
I had just gone over board due to a rapid and been pulled back in so I'm doing a small victory pose: The rapid name was "Big Smile!"
Our raft had come to a slow spot in the river so we could jump off and swim! :)
Swimming and rafting in a Himalayan river! The Trishuli river :) A dream come true! Two dreams coming true in one day!
Our Asian rafters:
A photo with the guide, from the photo it should be very easy to see where the sun was:
Our group at a distance!
The river bed looks just like the Mediterranean sea's beach front! A nice way to end the rafting! :)
On the road back I had to stop the taxi I paid $140 for - yes another total rip off - so that I could take a photo of this sign! :)
Later that evening after I had bought some souvenir beer, maps, post cards, playing cards and fridge magnets I went for a pizza at Tranzit because Fire and Ice had too long a waiting queue. Tranzit was in the same block as my hostel/guest house. It was at Tranzit that I met Anastasia on the left of me from Russia and Elcke from on the right of me from Holland. They met in high school as exchange students and have been friends ever since. Elke has a Phd and Anastasia has a MSc in control systems.
About that hole in the wall place I was staying at for $10 a night. Behind those dirty curtains are OPEN windows that are covered with thin chicken wire. So no heat in the room.... i.e. it was COLD!!! At least it wasn't windy since there was anther building half a meter from my window. I would here street dogs walking past at night while I was trying to sleep.
Who would check in to a place like this to watch TV?? Who would do such a thing??
As for the bathroom, visible is the basin and shower. On the first night there were worms coming out the drainage hole, which I only noticed once I had stepped on. Oops.... I'll leave it to the readers imagination to picture what the toilet looked like!
And the name of this fabulous place... Red Planet Guest House. Obviously!!! Because only people from Mars would find this place inviting!
The next morning I had paid $20 to see two temples and be dropped off at the air port. Its 5:30am and I am outside the biggest Buddha temple in Kathmandu! No Red Bull! :|

Its not snowing or raining, those particles you are seeing are particles of dust that the flash is bouncing off of. Thats how much pollution their is.
Here is the same place but the view is from above.
There was a little sacred place that I did not go into because I would have had to take off my shews, and I thought I was going to see another temple and time was an issue. I wish I had taken the time to go in now...
Leaving the Buddha temple this is what you can see - remember it was night time when I arrived so nothing was lite up!
Spinning around, this is what the view looks like:
And then once out the temple, the person in the blue hoody was my taxi driver.
The visa was $25 and all in all I think I parted with another ~$450 excluding the flight which were $130 round trip, bringing up a total of ~$605 for this 2 night 3 day adventure. I'm a really careful person... I had a hostel booked on line for $7 per night... would it have been any better... Not really! After speaking with other travelers all the hostels are more or less like that what you see in my post. The lower the price the more people you share with.

I had a flight with Buddha Air booked and confirmed for 6:30am costing $174 - would that have been better and given me a better view? I don't know!

What would have happened if I went with my original planned plans - which didn't include river rafting?? Would I have gotten to do the river rafting? I think yes - the others all arrived on public bus 1 hour after me! and they paid NRS 500 ($6.50 - 21 times less than what I had paid) per person for a ticket! Not $140! I did have my own taxi for the day and I did travel in comfort. They told me they were crammed in like sardines and where listening to old Nepalese/Thia rock - which I actually think is what its meant to be like... to experience the real deal as the locals do. But then if I had taken the bus my travel time would have been longer, so would I have gotten to meet Anastasia and Elcke? Maybe? I try meet people everywhere I go and at every opportunity I get - so I would have met somebody!

I did not get to see the Hindi temple Pashupatinath because there was big religions festival on that day honoring lord Shiva... Which I knew about and asked the director of Adventure Mountain Explore if it would be possible to get into... He assured me it would be and insisted I pay the $20 up front in advance... The roads were all blocked off that day and after coming out of the Buddha temple, it was nearly impossible to get anywhere. I'm sure he knew this since he is Nepalese and been running the business for 15 years like he kept telling me. I can see how he has kept going all these years!

To sum up... It was totally worth it! :) Once is not enough! Hence the title, First trip! I will be back there again - hopefully more aware and more prepared, but what I have noticed is that there is never enough preparation and you just have to go and do things and reflect later. I have been dreaming about Everest ever since my first Scout hike in the Drakensberg, now I can say I have seen it! :)

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