After a dramatic reunion through train station glass in Singapore airport, the full traverse team was finally together. We will have at least 3 other people joining us for smaller 2 week sections of the trip. While waiting in line for broken visa machines, our fearless leader realised that something was amiss, that some crucial technology was likely left on the plane. This was the first but surely not the last stressful moment of this trip. After an hour of waiting in lines, paying fees, getting through security, collecting bags, meeting our Nepalese Sherpa guide Chhiree and then finally collecting the missing item from a miscellaneous man in a gutter outside the airport, everything was hunky dory once again.
As our plans fell into place, it quickly became apparent that most of our organisational emphasis has been placed on the final 6 week portion of our trip, which will feature multiple 6,000m passes and potentially -30C winter temperatures. The 28C 95% humidity of monsoonal Kathmandu was certainly a shock to Nic’s Tasmanian winter acclimatised body.
We hailed a huge taxi van to our hotel with the 110kg of gear between the three or us. On arrival we were chaperoned by a flock of Nepalese hotel staff to our room, our headquarters for our few days of civilization until the end of the year.
With an extensive list of final food and gear preparation, visa extensions and purchasing of second hand technical mountaineering gear, we certainly had our work planned out for us.
Amidst the hubabub of motorbikes, street dogs, stray cows and scattered chickens, we felt like hapless ducklings following our guide Chhiree who negotiated much more reasonable taxi prices for us and prevented major navigational mishaps. With a deal of surprise we located crampons, ice axes and super-gaiters at exceptionally reasonably prices amongst the chaos of the central region of Thamel. Nic’s newly acquired 20 year old super gaiters have been up Everest at least once, with old mate Nima the salesman summiting 18 times, as ya do. Pat needed some as well, which came from his personal museum. “Quality product”- every shop in Kathmandu. The boot break in seems to be working by hiking through the ankle deep mud and rough streets of Kathmandu.
Wednesday featured numerous queues and more broken visa mmachines at the immigration office. Some time later we emerged successfully with a whole 105 days on our visas. Our visit to Thamel on Wednesday was minus our guide Chhiree, which may or may not have contributed to an hour long navigational displacement.
On Tuesday, Sonia had arrived via an exceptionally long winded flight via Abu Dubai. As our dedicated ‘food mule,’ she arrived with an additional 15kg of milk powder, dehydrated meals and chocolate. Sonia is a coeliac (gluten free) and so far her diet here has exclusively featured eggs, rice and fruit. Sonia is with us for 10 days, we’re not quite sure what will happen when we run out of fruit.
On our second last night in Kathmandu, a Bollywood party was in full swing below our apartment. We avoided it for a little while and reluctantly went down for dinner before being hijacked into having a dance and crazy night for the Hindu woman’s festival. Being force fed food and alcohol, it turned into an incredible and genuine evening hanging out with the locals.
We reason it is time to start walking and to stop eating, drinking and planning.