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.
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.
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.