This week we had the pleasure of looking after Mia for a couple of days. Lee dropped her off on his way to court in Northampton and Sarah picked her up the following day after work. Sue had a U3A walk on the first day, causing a small problem as I had a funeral to attend that afternoon, luckily Charlotte came over to join Mia and myself on a 5 Mile walk through the tunnels along the disused railway line to Oxendon.
For lunch we had a couple of the largest ‘small pensioner’ cod fillets with chips I have ever seen, they filled more than a small hole. Over satiated, a left Charlotte doggy sitting while I drove to the Crematorium in Kettering. The wife of a good friend of mine had passed away just after Christmas and I met up with some other friends to show our respects.
I returned home to find Sue back in charge, Charlotte had left to see a new friend for coffee.
The following day I took Mia on our usual walk to Foxton for lunch and refreshments. Despite it being a foul day, cold, damp with visibility never more that a 100 metres, we managed to be out for 7 hours. We saw very few people on our route and even the Black Horse was struggling for customers.
Sarah picked Mia up late that afternoon. Before returning home we discussed her upcoming wedding and adjusted some of the invitations she had prepared.
After lunch on Saturday (21st) we drove down to the Mercure Hotel in Hayes. After a checking in and an exploratory walk around the area we spent an idle evening watching TV and scoffing sandwiches. Depressingly I watched Leicester Tigers become grossly unstuck against Glasgow Warriors.
We woke to a hard frost and clear skies. After coffee, another exploratory walk was taken through some parkland. The main topic of conversation was concerned with the huge amount of rubbish that is scattered absolutely everywhere. Londoners do not appear to take any pride what-so-ever in the area that they live!
We had a pleasant lunch in a local pub. Apart from one other gentleman who read his paper and drank one pint, we were its only customers. Have they forgotten about Sunday lunch traditions in London?
Returning to the hotel, we boarded the Hoppa bus and made our way to Heathrow. We had a 2 hour wait before we could check in, but security was negotiated quickly and we were soon sat in departures. With the waiting over we boarded our Oman Air flight to Muscat on time but it took off 15 minutes late. This would make our short transit time very tight.
We were impressed with the flight, plenty of tasty food arrived at regular intervals and the selection of in-flight entertainment was good. We both watched ‘Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children’ and didn’t think much of it. Over hyped!
After a fitful sleep and breakfast we landed in Muscat. I counted 4 runways and a 15 minute taxi to navigate them. Why do they need such a large airport? Heathrow should be so lucky. Disembarking from the plane we then had a rather warm 10 minute bus ride to the terminal.
Hurrying along with other transit passengers we first negotiated passport control, then joined a horrendously long queue for security. Thankfully we were ushered to a shorter line as the flight to Kathmandu was already boarding. Sue was stopped at x-ray to remove her shoes and then when her chattels came through on the conveyor her belt had broken. She had to chase after me with no boots on and one hand holding her rucksack and belt and the other her trousers as I headed for Gate 20 with a purpose, which of course was at the furthest end of the building and down a level.
We made it! Yes, we were one of the last to board and also we were not sat together. However, after a word with the stewardess that was rectified after we had taken off. Lunch was typically Nepalese, Sue had to be particularly careful in avoiding the vicious looking black chilli peppers in her vegetarian option!
Landing took awhile, we did 4 circuits before our final approach over some very nasty looking mountains. As we flattened out into the valley occupied by the sprawling Metropolis of Kathmandu you got the impression from the dusty streets and ramshackle building sliding by below that this was a city steeped in poverty and lacking a lot of basic infrastructure. I guess the earthquake saw to that.
On disembarking, you could smell the pollution and see the haze over the city. Such a contrast to the pristine, white-topped mountains rearing towards the north and framed starkly against a deep azure sky. Such a shame and I guess our presence is going to add to it.
Navigating immigration and acquiring a visa was slow, but on our journey through bureaucracy we came across a couple of ladies who were with the same company as ourselves and as a bonus, came from Yorkshire. We chatted.
We were among the first to grab our suitcases off the belt, find our guide and be led to a waiting mini-bus. We were later joined by the Yorkshire lasses and then by another couple, from Manchester (but I won’t hold that against them………. yet).
After a brief talk from the guide we set off towards our hotel the Rama Inn Boutique Inn. The roads were awful, the traffic was claustrophobic and the pollution choking. Worse than riding in a tuc-tuc through Bangkok. Kathmandu has a population of 5 million and infrastructure for 1 million and all own miss-tuned mopeds and cars. The traffic jams were numerous and most moped riders wore masks, as did many pedestrians. We were to later find out why.
The hotel is lovely, situated on a quiet side street and away from immediate street pollution. Our room is on the 5th floor and very spacious. Excellent WiFi (so far) and all the modern conveniences.
We were keen to get out and about, so soon set off into the heart of the city. Crossing a road is akin to walking along the back of a crocodile, you are never sure if it will turn around and bite you. We used the tactics honed in Vietnam, follow the locals and grit your teeth. The difference was that here you also run the greater risk of toxic gasses seeing you off before you reach the other side.
We found the touristy part and apart from the traffic it is a delight. Bargains galore of course and shopkeepers that didn’t push too hard. Like the Thais the Nepalese are very artistically talented, particularly painting. After spending half an hour in The Himalayan Bank converting dollars into local currency using an archaic system involving lots of paper and signatures we mooched our way along the myriad of streets, dodging traffic until it started to get dark. My trusty phone got us back to the hotel, serenaded most of the way by a million crows settling down to roost.
After a brief rest we ventured out again. First to buy a couple of bottles of water for tomorrows activities and to eat. We had a good wander around the local eateries but rejected all but one as we wanted to eat authentic Nepalese. Western European tastes seem to be the flavour of choice here, you can get Mezze, pasta, Chinese, Thai, KFC, Wimpy etc. But only one Nepalese near the hotel, and that was right next door, but we rejected it as when we investigated they were having a dance evening and we just wanted to chill out and eat.
After stretching our legs again and crossing another two junctions we went to the Garden of Dreams. Sumptuously romantic setting with hidden lights in a beautifully architected garden, the more so as Venus hung bright in the sky above. We chose to sit outside on the balcony and the waiters thoughtfully brought us blankets to keep legs warm against the cooling evening. gorgeous meal, lovely atmosphere. I also tried the local beer, Ghorka, and was decidedly unimpressed.
Returning to the hotel we hit the sheets in readiness for a very early start in the morning. Everest here we come.