Nepal, Bhutan, India and Sri Lanka

Me at Nepal Airport Had to do it - stand in front of the official selfie point

First stop KATHMANDU

Being an account of a gallivant that started on March 22, 2019.

Well I finally made it to Nepal, nearly a full day after waking up to my 5am alarm in my nice comfy bed in Hobart, for which I yearned for much of the rest of the day as one First World Problem succeeded another and I began to wish I’d never left home. 

The first one, as documented on Facebook, was getting caught in a heavy Sydney downpour while dashing for the shuttle bus to the international terminal, then being crammed up against a window seat through which the rain was pouring almost as heavily as outside.  Cold and wet and stuck in it.  Poor me.

Then there was having to evacuate our plane and move to another one just as we were about to take off from Kuala Lumpur for the last leg to Kathmandu last night.  Safety reasons, so no one was complaining, but it made that already late plane two hours later again. 

The upshot was we arrived at midnight, four and a half hours behind AEST.  By the time I climbed gratefully into my bed in the delightful Shangri-La Hotel (which they pronounce ShanGRILLer so at first I though there’d been some mix-up) at about 1.30am local time, I calculated that I had been up and doing for 24 hours, with almost no sleep.  Don’t get me started on sleep.  There you go, I’ve started.

Hobart-Sydney:  no probs.  Chatted to a nice fella who’d been down to see MONA with his wife who was a hostie, so he could fly looxury despite being a firey who sharpens knives in his spare time and used to cycle for Australia – Clayton Someone. 

Sydney – Kuala Lumpur.  8-hour flight and the only one long enough for a decent shot at sack-hitting.  But alas, the old corpus just refused to capitulate, what with frequent feeding, quite a lot of turbulence and it just not being my beddy-byes time.  I did try watching some movies:  a crap American drama called ‘The Judge’, during which I might have had a 10-minute doze so that’s something, and ‘Ralph Wrecks The Internet’, a Disney animation whose saccharine wholesomeness was not entirely redeemed by some witty handling of social media and digital culture. 

Then a two hour wait for the final connection to Kathmandu.  Met an Aussie lady whose husband was the commander of HMAS Canberra and she was off to meet him for some conference in Colombo.  Finally get on plane.  Wrong plane, plane broken.  After another hour, onto new plane which seemingly takes an eon to get off the ground due to refuelling, long take-off queue etc etc. 

This is only a four and a half hour flight so after dinner I decide not to take a little helper because I don’t want to arrive in Nepal sounding like an incoherent drug addict.  When they started up the noise and light to rouse us for landing I had a head heavy with strange events and images which a few moments reflection told me must have been a dream.  So despite my heavy-headed grumpiness I had the small consolation of knowing that I had actually slept a bit.  Maybe an hour.

First off the plane and onto a bus which took us to the far entrance of the small terminal.  I could have beaten the bus had I walked, which would have put me at the head of the queue to get our incoming hand luggage X-rayed (curious custom because it was X-rayed before we got on!) but instead I ended up towards the end of it, which turned out not to matter anyway because I had to wait for my luggage which was almost last off and – get this – my bags felt a bit wet and when I opened them up this morning discovered most of my clothes are damp.  Malaysian Airlines hasn’t heard the end of this, no way!  Harrumph.

Soggy puzzles.

One of the Good Things that happened was guide Azair saying I could have a sleep in and we could leave for our drive to Nagarkot at 10am.  Lovely.  Bliss.  Thank you so much.  Hooray.  I’ll get them to give you a wake-up call – what time?  8 o’clock, I say, deciding that 6 hours sleep should be enough even after that day of torment, and feeling quite righteous about it.

Anyway, I collapse into bed and am woken some time later by a phone-buzzy noise.  It’s still dark (the room is blissfully dark and quiet) outside and when I eventually find the phone in the pitch-black a cheery voice says:  Good morning, this is your wake-up call.  Is it 8 o’clock already?  I ask.  No, it’s 5.30.  Didn’t you want an early call?  No, I said firmly, and without too much of an accompanying wail about what time I got in last night and how long I’d been awake and how little sleep I’d had….

(My mind’s eye sees some sceptical eyebrows being raised now but it’s true – I swear on the graves of my ancestors…)

So I got up and started the day which promises to be sublimely heavenly – sunny with a top of 21.  I reckon that’s good karma generated by the fortitude with which I bore yesterday’s horrors.  Plus the hotel wifi is good and free. And the brekky buffet was excellent. QED.

Me in the garden of the Shangri La Hotel in Kathmandu
View from the breakfast room of the ‘Shangrilla’ Hotel, Kathmandu

AND, just when I was beginning at one stage last night to start thinking of my plight as approaching Third World dimensions, Azair pointed out something on the drive to the hotel last night which corrected my perspective.  There was a group several hundred people camped on the dusty unlit footpath outside some dreary office block.  These were unskilled Nepalese workers queueing up all night to get in early to pay a fee to sit an exam to pass a basic Korean language test so they MIGHT then get chosen to go and work in South Korean factories or farms where they could earn as much as $US1500 a month, which is not exactly peanuts when you think about it. 

Nice to know it’s not just us First Worlders who get to see the odd silver lining.

Off to Nagarkot today.  Guide Azair and driver Rai picking me up in 30 minutes…and Azair has promised he’ll get Rai to fix the back seat belt by then!