My flight from London to Delhi was mostly uneventful. Mostly. About 2 hours after take off there was a short fight between 2 passengers a few rows behind me on the other side of the plane. This event, the cause of which I never learnt, was calmed and settled by the team of unflappable air stewards and stewardesses. This was followed by a nervous couple in front of me fainting. They ended up laying on the floor by one of the over-wing exits surrounded by the same team of unflappable air stewards and stewardesses, one of whom ‘paged’ for the assistance of a doctor. One duly appeared and the situation was resolved much to the delight of the rest of the passengers who could again task the ‘unflappables’ with the apparently more important business of serving food; in my case a rather tasty chicken curry.
The remainder of the flight was much less interesting although the views from my window seat throughout the starry night was a beautiful procession of streetlight-illuminated towns. By the time the sun came up we were over Asia and the desert of southern Afghanistan and south of Kandahar appeared straight from ‘Laurence of Arabia’.
After crossing Pakistan the flight was subsequently stacked in the customary circuit 100 miles west of Delhi awaiting air traffic clearance to land, which we eventually did 45 minutes late. This delay caused some concern as that gave me just over an hour to make the flight to Kathmandu. The transit was mercifully rapid with a reduced degree of administrative checking, searching and scanning of my hand luggage. With 15 mins to spare and feeling quite relieved I arrived at gate 14B at Indira Gandhi International to find the flight had been delayed 2 hours! Never mind, we were able to claim lunch at the ‘Connections’ restaurant – my second chicken curry of the day.
Remarkably the delay didn’t get any worse and we took off for Kathmandu at 15:45. With the view from my window seat slowly morphing from the grey fug of Delhi to the brilliant blue sky and distant view of pristine white mountains a late lunch was served. Yep, chicken curry.
I had prepared for my arrival at Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International airport by reviewing immigration and taxi procedures online. This had served only to bring on a degree of trepidation with tales of woe from previous travellers. These typically related to administrative overkill, scrums and mayhem in baggage reclaim and vulture-like flocks of taxi drivers preying on the unwary. I needn’t have been concerned. Transit through immigration was aided by the recent installation of online registration terminals in addition to the old fashioned manned desks. The only issue here was that following endless minutes spent typing details of my current and previous trips to Nepal the machine flatly refused to obey my request to take my photograph. Repeated and increasingly vigorous stabs of the ‘take my photo’ button resulted only in increased muttering from queue building behind me. Eventually an American chap stepped forward offers by to try pressing the button while I arranged myself in front of the camera. Piqued that he thought I needed help I nonetheless gratefully accepted without any expectation of success. Flash! He had a magic touch lacking in my own digit and I moved on to the next queue. Having paid for my visa I then joined another to actually collect it and then it was through to the next hurdle: baggage reclaim.
The baggage conveyor stopped and started in characteristic fashion with every bag and package that emerged being pounced upon by several members of the 3-deep crowd of hopefuls surrounding the chute. Joining them would have been fruitless so I stood back watching in equal measure the emerging bags and those being claimed. After around 30 minutes my dark blue ‘Jagged Globe’ duffel appeared unmolested. Stage 2 had been completed.
Stage 3 was to get a cab. Unexpectedly there was no queue at the pre-paid taxi counter. I paid my R700 (700 Nepalese Rupees – around £5:50) and was shown to my car. Large, clean with plenty of room I was whisked into the Kathmandu evening to meet Tim at the British Embassy where we were to spend the night. Not in a cell but in the home of one of our fellow trekkers who has accommodation in the compound.
A quick shower later we were on our way to Kilroys for a meal where the team of 5 met for the first time and the chat and laughter bodes very well! Fish and chips was the food choice this time as I’d had enough chicken curry for one day. Following a beer or 2 at Sam’s afterwards to progress the process of bonding stumps were drawn on the day.
And what a day!
Tomorrow we move to Pokhara.