Archive for February, 2017

Returning to Blighty.

Posted in Uncategorized on February 4, 2017 by David Palmer

Our last early wake-up of this trip and sadly it meant a return to the rain, gales and cold of the UK. We had freshened up and dressed by 6.15am and made our way down to reception where we picked up a packed breakfast, kindly provided by the hotel. Soon our guide and driver turned up, quickly followed by Pat and Chris who were also returning home on the same flight.

The journey to the airport was much quicker than the one experienced on our flight to Everest the previous week. After checking-in and before navigating through immigration and security, we found some seats, filled in the necessary emigration forms and ate our breakfast; apple, banana, boiled egg, some sweet bread thing and mango juice.

Things went well at first, though of course I had to split from Sue and join different queues on our transit through the system. As many male Nepalese were returning to work in Oman it made for joining extremely long lines of shuffling manhood, while Sue sailed through with no queue at all. She waited patiently for me to arrive at the final door for a last ok of my boarding card when I was stopped. Some how I was missing a stamp. Of course it had to be at the first desk visited, which meant a trek back through the entire building, and shove the card under the nose of the official who had failed to stamp it. He knew what he had done, smiled and stamped it without anyone saying a word. I tortuously made my way back through the lines of shuffling gentlemen, looking frustratingly at the idle officials on the female side. Very obedient are the Nepalese, though they do have their moments. In a demonstration against the government they destroyed all but 9 of the 3900 traffic lights in the city. This did not help the flow of traffic, increase road safety or reduce air pollution and probably reduced the life expectancy of the population. A bit of an own goal. Perhaps they accept the nonsense of repetitive boarding card stamping and male queueing in fear that any change will cause aircraft to fall out of the sky!

Second time around I was reunited with Sue and we made our way to departures and found two seats next to our fellow travellers. The flight left very late and with another tight transit window in Muscat it looked like we may miss the connection.

The flight and breakfast onboard was good, though we failed to make up any time and indeed lost more time in taxiing around this huge airport. To make matters worse we were at the back of the aircraft and it was a bus transfer into the terminus which meant that we were on the last bus. Arriving inside we were told the flight was waiting. Sue, Chris, Pat and I sprinted through immigration and security, making the last bus out to the aircraft by the skin of our teeth. I haven’t run so fast in years and how the ladies kept up I have no idea, but they did. It probably helped as I punched a hole in any queue that formed in front of us. We Brits are not always polite!

Then flight wasn’t full and we managed to bag two pairs of window seats to ourselves so could stretch out and enjoy the flight. Which we did. We both watched a film and Sue attempted to grab a little sleep between meals and drinks. I just sat back and listened to the in-flight music options. I found a Van Der Graaf Generator cd and listened to that first, but was mightily disappointed, not as good as I remember, so I moved onto Pink Floyd, Deep Purple etc.

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We landed at Heathrow around 6.30pm, but it we spent ages waiting for our bags to come off the belt. Departing arrivals we discovered that we had not disembarked at Terminal 3, but at Terminal 4. Oman Air had relocated their operations in our absence. We then had to catch a bus to Terminal 5 so that we could then catch the Hoppa Bus to our hotel, it didn’t run from 4! We stood for half a freezing hour at each stop  waiting for the buses. It began to rain.

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Eventually we completed the two legs of our journey and before driving back to Harborough we had two warming hot chocolates in the hotel bar. We arrived home just before midnight to a chilly house.

A No Show……

Posted in Uncategorized on February 2, 2017 by David Palmer

As expected we had a 6.30am knock on the door in order to ensure we were awake in time to see the sunrise over Everest. I managed a shower before Sue and opened our balcony door to watch this much talked about event, scheduled to happen at 6.50am. Disappointingly, the hotel was cloaked in mist, I did manage a photo of the  sun peeping over the side of a  black craggy slope for brief moment and then it was gone. We didn’t manage to see the Everest range at all during the day.

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We breakfasted with a few of our party and a small group of locust Chinese before returning to our room and yet again packing in readiness for our return journey to Kathmandu.

We weren’t leaving until midday so we decided on a walk through the village around a kilometre away. It had warmed up considerably and was turning out to be a very pleasant day, it was a lovely way to spend some time. The views as the mist burned away were wonderful, but still no Everest range! We took photos of village life as they prepared for a days work, stopping for a while at the bus stop where locals were milling around waiting for the driver to start the engine. People rushed out of many dark little huts that doubled up as morning cafes as the horn sounded on the vehicle and the engine burst into life. A minor panic but the driver waited until it was full to the gunnels with brightly coloured Nepalese. As they left we made our way to the top of a small hillock and took some more photos. We were soon joined by two more of our party and after a brief chat we set off back to the hotel, stopping only to talk to a couple from Shanghai and swapped horror stories of the traffic in that mega-city.

All the group congregated around the mini-bus at 12 o’clock. Only four of us were to transported back to Kathmandu today, the others would follow tomorrow as their flights differed from ours. We said our goodbyes and set off down the mountain.

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We stopped in Bhaktapur, one of the oldest cities in the Kathmandu and visited the old Royal Palace. Tragically some of the buildings had been destroyed by the 2015 earthquake but UNESCO had already put in place a comprehensive restoration programme, so many of the buildings had been strengthened and those that had collapsed were being worked on. Many of the buildings originate from the 13th century and are decorated with some beautiful architecture. Such a shame we hadn’t seen it before the quake or indeed after the restoration was complete. However, it was a lovely day and lovely opulent place to wander around.

We joined the city traffic and made our way to the Rama Inn in Kathmandu. After checking in we had a coffee before making our way through the choking traffic fumes into the shopping district. Nothing had changed from the week or so before. The volume of traffic was still killing the city and its population and the many  that were wearing masks seemed to me to be only putting off the inevitable. Something drastic has to be done but I am not sure that their unpopular government has the courage or morality to do so.

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We shuffled our way down the narrow streets popping into various darkly lit buildings, trying to avoid smoking mopeds and struggling rickshaws. I bought a t-shirt and Sue tried on a coat. We found a roof-top bar and quaffed some much-needed refreshment and gazed at the moon and Venus, sailing brightly across the black void above. It was chilly and though there was a few patrons enjoying drinks when we arrived, we were soon alone and wrapping coats tightly around us. At this height, the change from warm to cold is pretty rapid.

Once again negotiating traffic through a toxic fug we made our way back to the hotel, aided at two junctions by the poor traffic police standing in the middle of the lung cancer zone, who thankfully recognised us as foreigners and frantically blew their whistles to slow the traffic. It worked, I guess the fines here are pretty horrendous if they obey a screechy tin whistle, and take no notice of blaring juggernaut horns!

Back at the hotel we had an excellent final Nepalese meal before catching up on BBC24 news and pressing the pillows.

The Long and Winding Road.

Posted in Uncategorized on February 2, 2017 by David Palmer

Today we were to retrace our steps back to Kathmandu and carry on further north towards the Everest range and a mountain top hotel in Nagarkot. Whilst there we were to have an afternoon walk around a mountain village and witness sunrise over Everest from the balcony  of our Himalayan Villa Hotel accommodation.

That was the plan. Though we again breakfasted early and were on the road by 7.45 pm, we were not to reach our destination before 7.30 pm that night. Our route led us along the nightmare section of a few days before and this time it didn’t seem to be too bad. The same nose to tail traffic, clouds of fumes from poorly maintained lorries and crazy Nepalese drivers with a death wish. All went well with two rest breaks, with one providing lunch of a very mediocre curry affair. But welcome none the less.

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The problems began around 30 km from Kathmandu on a section where we had to wind our way up the mountain that the city is perched on (it is ferociously high). We could see the line of stationary traffic all the way up to the top. We didn’t move for quite a long time, getting increasingly annoyed at the antics of the lorry drivers hooting their horns or psychotic car drivers thinking that they could drive up the empty lane to our right. The amazing thing was that nobody, absolutely nobody, took offence at such appalling road manners. Even when we did start moving and the idiots still tried to overtake when the only visible gap between vehicles for the next foreseeable light-year was measured in millimetres. Then, when they met an oncoming juggernaut (which stopped all downward traffic) they would slide to a stop and then there would appear to be around a five minutes pause while the brain cells eventually worked out that they would have to reverse as the lorry couldn’t due to the mile of vehicles behind it. When they had enough of going backwards, they would stop at the side of some hapless vehicle and wait for the rest of the vehicles in the line to recognise the situation and squeeze either forwards or backwards , thus reducing the distance between them to a hairs width. In this way, they (after a time ) manged to join the line of sensible and patient motorists to allow the oncoming traffic to move. There’s no doubt that this was happening to us, but further up the road and so preventing free flow. If this situation or less had happened on a British road, blood would be spilled. I suppose that if we also had been through the trauma of a cataclysmic earthquake, such things as a spot of traffic trouble would be seen for what it was. Perhaps?

We arrived weary and in the need of proper toilet at our destination in the dark. After a swift (for Nepalese standards) check-in we found our room and Sue made tea and pronounced that the last section of journey up to Nagarkok had upset her tummy and she was having a lie down. I made my way down to the bar, drank an Everest and gobbled some peanuts, before ordering a meal along with other members of our party.

Nearly two hours later, our meals started to arrive. By now I had lost much of my appetite. The first meal to be brought to the table was a chicken Kiev, It was a beautifully sculptured sitting chicken made out of mashed potato. Surrounded by vegetables. Lovely to look at, but you could see the chef’s finger marks as he had manipulated his masterpiece. Quite rightly it was returned to the kitchen, but on return the chicken was hot but the vegetables cold. Again, on being presented to the diner, this time the vegetables were hot and the chicken cold. Meanwhile, the rest of us had received our fayre and were tucking into it with varying amounts of satisfaction. Unfortunately, I was so tired I managed only half of mine before sleep became more important and I retired to bed. I think that eventually, a completely satisfactory chicken Kiev did turn up.