How do I even begin to sum up my trip to Nepal? So many things happened I couldn’t fit them into one blog post if I tried. So, in an attempt fit most of it in, I’m going to walk you through my trip as it happened, with photos of course. Stick around for the blog posts that will follow. Eventually I’ll take you to the top of Poon Hill, a 3,210 meter high mountain in the Himalayan mountain range, over a cliff edge at Sarangkot where I soared above Pokhara in a paragliding harness, and into the personal lives and homes of Nepali villagers. But first, let’s start with my arrival into this mad, chaotic, dirty albeit beautiful country.
Before I left Thailand I secured a travel buddy, Nora, to go with me on the trip. We had powered through some of my intense workout sessions together in the past so I knew she was just as crazy as me and down for almost anything. We set out on an outbound IndiGo flight from Bangkok just past midnight on October 4th, 2013. We popped into New Delhi, India for a transfer before finally on our way to the Tribhuvan airport in Kathmandu.
As we flew over the city on arrival, the place struck me as something entirely unique from the start. For miles, houses spread out over rice fields and muddy-green land. I found the architecture very interesting. It looked as though several thousand tiny boxes plopped on top of the fertile land in every pastel shade of the rainbow. The angles were a simple 90 degrees from every-which-way and lacked embellishments. It looked like someone cut eight squared windows out of the cement walls just as a child playing with boxes might do. Nothing fancy, just a roof for people to put over their heads and some holes to let some sunlight in.
When we landed at the airport, I noticed that instead of a luxurious international airport the small building looked more like a pile of old bricks with yellow, soured corridors leading into immigration. Had I scratched the walls with my fingernails, I likely would have peeled away 45 years of odors, immigrants and wanderlust travelers arriving.
First, we spent an unusually painful 3 hours acquiring our 2-week visas in a disheveled, unorganized line of foreigners. Meanwhile we chatted up a fellow American named Stuart. When you travel abroad you can pick out people’s accents and mannerisms of your home country from across the room. The familiarity stirs your heart-strings and you can’t help but feel like you exist in one big dysfunctional family together. You know, the kind where Aunt Ida shows up with Uncle Bill who have just spent the last hour arguing about marshmallow pudding and you awkwardly have to stare at her with her frizzy, teased red hair that belongs in a 1980s yearbook for the duration of the night. However, you let her inside anyway with open arms, because well, it’s Aunt Ida and Uncle Bill and no one else in the world will understand Ida and Bill like you do. We’re all just a lot of Idas and Bills roaming the world with our marshmallow pudding hoping others receive us just as warmly.
Anyway, I digress. When we neared the front of the line, and in mid-conversation with Stuart about his diverged path on the way to medical school (sound familiar?) all of a sudden we heard shouting from across the room. I couldn’t see what was happening because crowded lines of people blocked my view. I didn’t need to see it to know what happened next. After the shouting got louder and onlookers spread out in fear I distinctly heard one person punch another person. I heard a fist make contact and a man yelling loudly with a thick, Indian or Nepali accent. Okay, now I’m American and I hadn’t quite braced myself for these cultural customs. Could you imagine the implications of a fist-fight breaking out in an American airport? Security guards, tazing and handcuffs sound like a normal part of the process. We did see security guards walk briskly over to the scene where more shouting echoed through the air before it eventually calmed down. Later, when we descended down into the basement to claim our luggage I saw one of the men involved in the fight lying on the tile floor as another person dabbed blood off of his face.
Next, a man dressed in blue airport security came up to me and sternly said, “You. IndiGO. Yes?” which clearly meant You flew with IndiGo airlines and you need to pick up your luggage, correct? I followed the angry, stressed looking man to a remote corner where my big, blue backpack laid limp on the ground, a little lonely and surrounded only by sad looking duffel bags. I smiled at him and said, “Yes, this is my bag.” Admittedly, after all the twilight zone occurrences thus far I felt rather happy to see it.
“Ticket,” the mean man said. I handed him my plane ticket. “No,” he replied, “your bag ticket.”
My nose curled up and I cocked my head at him. “Ummm…” I handed him my passport and every shred of paper related to my travels. He checked them all front and back. He tapped his foot impatiently on the tile floor and I wondered how a man only 5’1″ could possibly filled with so much frustration and anger. I Thai-smiled at him.
“Look in your bag. You can’t take your bag without it,” he said. Ohhh crap I thought. Great. I make it all the way here, escape after 3 hours of immigration and now I’m going to have to walk the streets of Nepal naked with no clothing. Fantastic. I emptied the entire contents of my purse on the ground and started to panic. Jai-yen-yen I reminded myself over and over. Jai-yen-yen.
The security guard towered over me and sighed as Nora walked around the baggage claim room looking for Stuart to see if he ran into any problems claiming his bags. After the man tapped his feet, checked his watch, and watched me sift through my purse several times over he drug me over to another official-looking man, rolled his eyes and said something in Nepali; I assume “This foreigner lost her baggage claim ticket.” They both looked at me, glanced at my passport and told me to take my bag and go.
We then came upon a security baggage scanner where everyone had their belongings checked. As I went to hoist my bag on the conveyor belt the guard motioned me onward and implied nevermind, we’re not interested in checking your bags. What??? Backwards. Downright backwards. This was just getting interesting.
Next time I’ll talk about my first few days in country roaming around the dusty streets of Kathmandu, Nepal, getting lost on local transportation and gearing up for mountain trekking.
In the meantime, head over to my friend Pierre’s blog post Kathmandu and the Indian Embassy to see some stunning photos he captured of the Kathmandu city-side. To read his blog writing, open the page in Google chrome and translate to English. However, I must say, his photos speak for themselves.
Did you enjoy reading this blog post? If so, check out some of my other related posts: