Mount Everest and Kathmandu

Today was our last day on tour. We were booked for a flight to see Mount Everest in the morning with our flight out to Singapore in the evening. Our plans for the rest of the day were fluid.

Pickup from the hotel for the Mount Everest flight was set for 5:15 am so we were up at 4:45 am to be ready. With no coffee making facility in the room we had to make do with muesli bars and water to sustain us. There were 8 of us flying this morning so there was a minivan to collect us and deposit us at the airport with loose instructions about where to go inside and where to find the van again afterwards. 

There was rudimentary security screening at the entrance to the domestic terminal but the only bags we were carrying were cameras so that was little trouble. We stood for a while at the counter where we had been told to go and eventually somebody turned up to check our temperature for fever and issue us boarding passes. Then it was on through the ‘real’ security screening which was also little bother and into the lounge to wait. There was a place with an espresso machine so we got coffee to drink while we waited to board.

We had been warned that there could be delays or even, in the case of bad weather, cancellation. The morning sky was cloudless but there was some low hanging mist which might have been a problem if it were thicker. It was not a problem and we were boarding soon after sunrise around 6:30 am. There was a long taxi to the runway and then we were off, flying south over Kathmandu and then turning to head east toward Mount Everest.

The aircraft seating configuration was 2 + 2 but only window seats were used on these flights so that everyone was an assured view through a window. It was a propellor driven plane with wing above the fuselage rather than below so the view was not obscured at all though photographs often had some wing at the top or window frame in view.

I was seated on the left which gave me a view of the mountains on the flight out. That suited me since it was easier to use my camera on that side. Majella was seated across the aisle so she had the mountain view on the way back. 

As soon as the plane was tracking along the mountains the flight attendants began moving about and pointing out peaks in relation to the photographic guide we had been given before boarding. They also began ushering people one by one, beginning with those on the right who were not seeing much of the mountains yet, into the cockpit for a quick photo opportunity. On the way back to Kathmandu they served champagne – a nice celebratory touch.

The clear morning allowed us spectacular views over the Himalayas, including of Mount Everest near the far point of our flight. There was mist hanging in the valleys but it was still possible to see settlements perched on hillsides and hilltops below the snow line.

Once we had landed we found our waiting van and it headed back to the hotel. Or so we thought. It drove up some unfamiliar narrow lanes, backed into a yard, and the gate closed. It was not our hotel and some members of the group queried that. It was the office for the company doing the flights and 2 of our group who had been late takers had yet to pay. Once they had done that our van was released and took us back to the hotel.

Our two fellow Australians, Wayne and Graham, were leaving for their flight home when we arrived at the hotel. We farewelled them and those of us left went back to Gaia where we had eaten last night for breakfast. Majella had eggs and toast with more ginger and lemon drink. I had muesli with fruit and yoghurt with a coffee.

After breakfast we took a 2 hour break to shower, rest, and pack before checking out of the hotel. We left our bags there and went out with the remaining 4 members of the tour group to see some of the old city. They had already been for a walk after breakfast and were bearing the colourful marks of Holi, a Hindu festival of colours in which people in the street colour each other with bright pigments. Fortunately people are polite about it and do not typically colour anybody who is trying to avoid it.

We walked to Durbar Square where we had been last night to see some of the old royal palaces and other buildings. We managed that despite the chaos of crowds of mostly young people celebrating Holi. Those of us who were already coloured attracted more pigment but Majella and I were wearing what we would travel in and managed to avoid being coloured. We did get a little damp when water was dropped from an upper floor in a narrow lane.

After negotiating our way across the square filled with noise and colour we went upstairs to a bar where we ate chips with cider while watching the crowds below. We enjoyed that for an hour or so and then went for a look inside one of the palaces. Parts of the building had been damaged in the 2015 earthquake. Some were under repair, supported by aid from China and Japan, but others were simply propped up.

Soon after 2:00 pm we were back at the hotel where we relaxed in the lobby for a bit more than an hour. Julie departed for the airport at 3:30 pm and we went for a short walk to see what few shops might be open despite the holiday. The runny nose I had last night, probably/hopefully an allergy, had returned despite a dose of antihistamine so I was looking to see if there might be something to help. 

Majella asked a man in a little shop front just up the street and he recommended Sancho which claims to be a blend of Himalayan essential oils. That may be true of the contents other than the 21% eucalyptus oil and a couple of drops below my nose produced instant, if temporary, relief. At another store I picked up some tissues and Altoids mints with an ice cream for Majella.

Our other purchase was a t-shirt for me. The store selling those had an old very basic Singer style electric sewing machine out front and the young man we talked to assured us that they did all the embroidery on that machine. Majella was impressed by their skill. Prices varied by complexity of the pattern and I got a colourful mandala for 850 rupees (about $11).

Back at the hotel we farewelled the 3 remaining members of the group as they went out to forage. Then we relaxed and waited for our transport to the airport to arrive at 6:00 pm.

The woman arranged through GAdventures arrived about 15 minutes early in a late model Hyundai. Perhaps they have an arrangement here similar to our transfer in Delhi. Traffic was light and we had a comfortably quick trip to the airport. Once the counter opened we were checked in and off to face immigration and security. That involved the usual unpacking and repacking but was otherwise straightforward and we were soon waiting to board and depart.

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