Back in March, I was invited to a wedding in Sydney, Australia, so I took to the opportunity to stop off in Nepal and hike to Everest Base Camp. Once again, I kept a travel diary and am posting it here for posterity. There’s also a Flickr album this time, because that’s a thing I’m doing now, it seems.
Day 0 (Wed March 15, 2017)
After packing and waiting around for my phone to charge, I pace around, familiar pre-trip butterflies setting in. A quick goodbye to housemates and I head off into the cool Berlin night, lights seeming slightly more vivid as anxiety slips away and is replaced by excitement. U-Bahn and bus to Tegel, quick baggage drop, fail to change my euros to Nepalese rupees then a short wait before boarding. Gawk at Berlin glistening in the clear night, then watch La La land over food. Mixed storytelling styles? Drift off to sleep listening to God is an Astronaut.
Light sleep. Read for the descent and disembark quickly. Long walk to transfer security, then changing money and to the gate. Doha airport is very fancy, but none of the power sockets work. Board the plane and take off into a grey morning sky. Nepalese guy next to me borrows my charger for a bit and can’t figure out the inflight entertainment. Food and reading as we fly over the deserts of Iran and Pakistan and eventually the sprawling plains of India. My mid afternoon snowy peaks mingle with the clouds, their harsh lines, stark against the fluffy white. Descent into a misty Kathmandu valley and spend a while circling before landing. Humid, but not too humid. Long visa/payment queues and confusion. Get stuck in a queue with a Brit who insists on loudly questioning every step of the process and quibbling over change (he’s been here before, doncha know). Once in possession of a visa, the rest of the airport is easy. Lots of touts past customs “I’ll take you after I have a cigarette”. Not a great pitch, mate. Spot my ride at the taxi rank and we set off. Talk briefly about Kathmandu before settling in to watch the ramshackle buildings roll by. Dust and an orange sunset gives everything a muted look, but colours shine though. Get to hostel, check in, ditch my stuff and head to the rooftop bar. Short internet session and start chatting. Max is a German med student, Hannah is an American med student and Sala is an Australian who just quit her job to travel before returning to Uni. Talk about healthcare in India vs US, then conversation turns to politics (I get Brexit frustration out of my system) and we order food. Crows caw as the sun fades and cool night sets in. Incredibly friendly staff. Rats scuttle around under the floor grating. Me, Max and Sala head off to grab a drink. Wander through dusty neon streets before stopping at a second story bar for beers and whiskey.
Great sleep. Wander upstairs to have breakfast with Sala. Joined by Max and a Welsh guy. We chat apps for a while before everyone parts ways (Sala and Max head to Bhaktapur). Charge for a bit then checkout and head off across bustling Thamel to the Nepal Eco Adventure office. Sort out the details, then get checked into the new hotel by our guide. There are cockroaches in the door hinges. Ditch stuff and head out to get some Chilli MoMos at a tiny cafe around the corner. Head south down a long street lined with pharmacies. No diamox in sight. Turn north into more crowded streets at the Durbar Square and stop off for some excellent lassi. Confused meander through back-alleys before returning to central Thamel. Buy some toilet paper and hand wipes, chat with a climber (he can’t find Diamox either) then wander until I find a back alley pharmacy selling Zolamide. Back to the hotel to ditch stuff and chill for a moment. Head out again, south along the road just outside the hotel until I reach a square. Stop for a delicious trencher of something before picking up a fake north face hat and heading back for a shower. A bit of reading then a short restless walk for a snack and return to find American Seth has returned to the room. We introduce and talk about work (he’s an engineer on a boat in the gulf) and travel before settling down for reading and sleep.
Another good sleep. Get ready quickly, then to breakfast with Seth. Meet the rest of the group downstairs. Irish Mary, Claire from Hong Kong and American Danielle. Hop in a car to the Monkey Temple. Crowded. Stop at a painting workshop to observe progressions of skill. Up to the sunlit temple and explore for a bit before hopping back in the car for a drive to our next destination. Lunch of Kathi, as we discuss our work then around the temple before we take shelter from the rain under an awning. Chat with Danielle about languages and Bolivia before we head back to the car and then office (no crematorium viewing due to rain). Meet with the other hikers, Danish Egbert and Marc and Swedish Jon. Briefed on the hike (“…we don’t usually lose people”) get our sleeping bags and eventually head back. Get a group discount on gaiters then back to room to repack. Decide to go with one bag. No porters needed. Seth heads off to get last of equipment the I go to pick up spare sunglasses. Back to chill, then back out with Seth for dinner at Third Eye. We talk politics over Indian food. Back to do a final re-organise, shower, store my stuff and turn in for an early night.
Wake before alarm and spend a while restlessly gazing at the ceiling before getting ready and heading downstairs for a packed breakfast, including an egg for the trying times to come. Joined by Claire then Keshab and we head out to load our bags onto the jeep and pick up Danielle before driving off into a cool, grey morning. Talk of canceled flights on the drive, but we check in fine at the crowded airport. Claire, Danielle and Jon take the first flight, so we wait at the airport for the 8:30 flight. That flight is then cancelled. Or delayed? Eventually, we get through security and wait for the mist to clear. Hop onto a bus and drive to wait on the airfield for the plane to arrive and refuel. After an hour of waiting, we are about to board when we are told Lukla airport is closed due to wind. Back to the departure lounge to wait it out. Verdict due at 12:00. We dejectedly eat dry fried rice as we wait. 12 comes and goes “decision by 13:00”. Suddenly, half a dozen Lukla flights are called at the same time. We rush out at 12:50 and speed back to our plane. On board by 13:00. A little more tense waiting. After 20 mins, we get told that weather in Lukla is deteriorating, but seconds later the pilot clips in and starts the engines. Finally, we lift off at 13:35. We pull up out of the dusty Kathmandu valley and half an hour later we descend to a bumpy, rainy landing at clouded Lukla. Today has been an emotional rollercoaster. Getting luggage and head to get tea before finally setting out. Easy walking through misty valleys. Group stratifies but we all eventually reach Mountain Resort in Phakding and reunite with Claire and Jon. Ditch our stuff in a very spartan room, then chat with Claire about our days and sexual assault. A fire is lit and there is much rejoicing. Briefing for tomorrow, then chatting and food (dahl baht with greens and reups). “What’s that called?” “…vegetables?”. Two porters play connect4 with unknowable rules (connect6?), then I lose to Jon who is a connect4 grand master. Reading then sleep.
Comfortable sleep under a sleeping bag and blanket. Quick pack, then discover it is raining outside. Breakfast, sorting out rain covers and we set off just as the rain stops. Muddy start, but the clouds clear, revealing wooded valleys. We learn “jam jam” means, “Let’s go!”, a phrase we soon loathe. Catch up with Danielle. Up and down (“Nepali flat”) until we enter Sagarmatha national park, then a little further on to lunch of veg fried rice. Walk along a riverside for a while until the bridges pull into view and we stop for a photo break. Steep climb to cross the bridges, where we wait as a horse gallops across. After the bridge, another steep ascent. Below and above us, darker clouds gather and snow falls despite us being in sunlight. Trudge upwards for almost 2 hours before arriving at Namche. The stupa is being demolished and snow starts again as we check into Camp de Base and have some honey ginger lemon. Drop stuff in room, charge and hang out in the main room, drinking tea and reading as everyone showers and naps. Danielle returns and we chat books for a while before she heads back with her guide. Prior to dinner, I head out for a pee when I see the mountains clearly. I grab the camera and everyone else for a viewing. More chatting and reading before a dinner of Sherpa stew. Failed attempts at astrophotography before turning in. Thin walls.
Woken by yak bells. Clear but cold morning. Dress quickly, then down to breakfast of omelette. Marcus complains about diamox finger tingles. We pack light and head up, out of Namche, then right to a small hill with a Tenzing statue and stunning panoramas. We catch our first sight of Everest, through the trees. Short look around a museum, then down and up the steeper side of the valley. Slog upwards as a helicopter flies overhead. Further up, we see the highest airport in the world, Syangboche. The helicopter from earlier takes off shakily and returns to lower altitude. Further up, we decide to carry on along the ridge to Everest View Hotel. Sit down for a mug of masala tea, then final mirador for a few lunges before heading back. Descent is heavy on the knees, but the poles help. Finally, back at the lodge, we order lunch and I grab a quick shower. Glorious. Dahl baht with mountains of rice, then slip into a food coma. A slow afternoon follows, during which I finish 1984. Doubleplusgood. After planning dinner, we wander around town with Keshab to pick up bits and bobs (I get a buff), then chill in Himalayan Java with Seth, Marcus, Egbert and later, Jon. Back at the lodge, Keshab recommends Manaslu in October before food arrives. Little appetite and a bit of a temperature, but get some rice down. Briefing after dinner then head back to room quite early in an attempt to sleep my condition off.
Poor sleep. Pack, then downstairs for a light breakfast, made lighter by my lacking appetite. Steep climb out of Namche again, then steady walk under a perfectly clear sky. Everest doesn’t even have it’s clouds. As the day goes on, nausea abates but a mild headache sets in. After getting stuck behind a large, slow group, we stop for tea and Marcus gets yak cheese. Downhill and across a bridge to lunch. Soup and ibuprofen for lunch. A steep climb follows, with several much needed rest stops. Beautiful panorama as we arrive in Tengboche. Ditch stuff in room (Everest view, score) and find out that the pipes are frozen, so no running water. Head over to temple to watch ceremony (monk chanting for a while) before heading to a small bakery with the group for a tea. A guide from another group asks if we have a doctor as one of his group has a chest infection. Afterwards, we all split up for a bit before gathering outside for a stunning sunset lighting up Everest massif. Mist sets in immediately after sunset. Dinner, then stunning astrophotography after being alerted by Claire. Cards (Egbert’s version of Shithead) then sleep.
Wake to sunrise over Everest massif. Photos, packing and masala omelette for breakfast. Quick pack, toilet, then set off for the day. Gradual descent down alternately icy and muddy paths until we pass a collapsed pylon and cross a river. Gradual, dusty ascent through a yellowish river valley follows. Tea break with dogs, then continue along the river valley until lunch. Definitely feeling the altitude today. Chat with James Brooman over lunch who is making his second attempt at Everest. Stretch, then head off up another gradual climb. A cloud bank lazily pursues us up the increasingly dusty valley. 2 hours later, we arrive in Dingboche. The 5-star hotel Kasheb promised us is not as he described, but weclome nonetheless. Unpack, handwash some clothes then relax as the cloud bank catches up. Read for a bit until the fog abates, then head out for photos. Wander around town for a bit. Quiet. Chat with Claire, Keshab and Jon around the stove until food arrives. After dinner, we test blood oxygen levels (84%), talk about the coming week then turn in.
Cold morning and disturbed sleep. After breakfast, we set out on an acclimatisation hike up the hill overlooking Dingboche. Slog upwards with a few breaks, eventually stopping for an extended photo break. Top quality lunging. Easy downhill, then order lunch a chill a bit. Stomach a bit iffy, so I have garlic soup for lunch. Shower and laundry follows. Put clothes out to dry and read in the main room. A new group arrives (porters leading them by about an hour) and I head to the coffee shop with Jon to meet Seth. Have an Earl Grey and read a bit of ‘The Climb’ by Boukreev. Will have to finish that another time. Turns out the coffee place has the best toilets in days (they flush!). We hang around, reading for a bit before heading back to order food and chill. Feel a bit cold, but heat up eventually. Head back to the luxury toilets as it begins to snow (Dingboche has been in mist for hours). Decide to reread Into Thin Air until food arrives. Appetite returns somewhat, so goes down easier. Blood oxygen measured again (90, acclimatisation, yo). Later, me, Marcus, Egbert and Claire head out on an expedition ‘to the bakery’, braving dogs and snow for a toilet that flushes. Marc and Egbert pretend to be robots with their headlamps. It’s adorable. Whole group chats about future days until the smell of burning yak dung overpowers the room and we head to bed. Snow begins to fall steadily as we turn in.
Nausea during the night. Wake to a cold, white and windy Dingboche. Head out for breakfast and get stomach meds from Keshab. By the time we set out, the snow has melted. Steep climb to start, then levels out but powerful winds make it one of the more challenging mornings. Catch shelter a few times in the shadow of the wind. Despite buff, mouth gets distinctly gritty. Eventually descend into a shallow valley for a tea break. I get cola due to hypo and throw up into the toilet, making it only marginally nastier than it was before. Steep climb follows, which really takes it out of me. Eventually, trail levels out at a memorial to Sherpas who died on Everest. Gentle walk to Lobuche follows, followed by a light lunch and vomiting again. Brief nap until we head out again on a short acclimatisation hike to look over the Khumbu glacier. Spend ages gawking and photographing Pumori before we head down and hang in “the highest bakery in the world” for a bit. Head back to room to read and take follow up meds from Keshab. Listen to music in the dining hall while resisting the urge to sleep until food arrives. Appetite still diminished, but getting better (less ill, at least). Chat for a while, then turn in early.
Long, undisturbed sleep. Nausea gone as well! First breakfast in a while that hasn’t turned my stomach. Set off in the shadow on Nuptse along moraine strewn valley. Steep climb up Lobuche pass puts us embarrassingly out of breath. Meet an American group literally carrying a puppy with them. Make it to Gorak Shep by 9. Offload bags in room and have a lemon tea before setting off towards EBC. Start along a dusty lakebed, then ascend to a moraine ridge. Long walk, with many porters and yaks. Eventually, we have to run past a rockslide prone area, but are held up by a yak-jam. Short glacier crossing, with deep crevices then we arrive at EBC. Perfect weather, much lunging. Peskar gives us all apples, grinning. Jon has a bad headache so we grab group photos before he descends with Keshab. We fuck around with more posing before heading back. Back at the lodge, a rescue helicopter has been ordered. Debate follows (during which Marcus reveals he has had worse symptoms since Namche) and the helicopter is canceled with Jon deciding to descend to Lobuche with Peskar. We have lunch then decide to attempt Kala Patthar at 3:45. Keshab stays because he’s had a tough day. Dana and another guide lead us. Very low visibility as we ascend, with mere seconds of Everest through passing patches of clouds. Low desire to summit. Eventually, after a long ascent, we reach the final summit push which constitutes the hardest 10 minutes of the journey so far. Collapse like fish out of water, hearts beating like jackhammers, gasping for breath. At the summit, the view is nonexistent until 5 mins in, the clouds part, revealing the most beautiful panorama I’ve ever seen. Clouds hugging distant mountains, Everest revealed and Pumori up close. Tears in my eyes. We gawk and take photos while our luck holds. Share some Kaminwurzel with the summiteers (all minus Egbert, who stayed at the lodge) “better than sex”. As the clouds close in again, we begin our descent. During the last 5 mins, my temperature rises and nausea sets in. Hypo. Grab a sprite, but cannot stomach dinner for now. Short briefing, then a much needed early bedtime.
Woken by a rescue helicopter. Head down to a slow breakfast then head off. Retrace our steps from yesterday back to Lobuche. Freestyle it down Lobuche pass to avoid the yaks. Tea break at Lobuche, then set off again following the dry riverbed for a while, but turning right and crossing a frozen lake then up to a narrow, unstable path. Chat life plans with Egbert. Follow the trail for a while, passing Thukla on the left, then the valley opens up revealing Ama Dablam et al. By 13:30, we arrive at Zongla. Have a heavy lunch and relax for the rest of the afternoon. Wander around town and take in the beautiful panorama before the mist sets in, then sit around the dung stove reading, with an increasing number of trekkers. We receive news that Jon got helicoptered to Kathmandu because his cough and headache didn’t go away. Mate, we all have a headache, welcome to 5000m. Keshab is visibly relieved, at least. Dahl baht for dinner, and after almost 2 weeks, I finally realise that I don’t really like Dahl baht. Blood oxygen is 79%. Talk for a while about colonies and Keshab’s worst trek before turning in.
Many snatches of sleep, dispersed by laying quietly. Egbert and Marcus’ talking signals time to get up, trancelike packing, followed by breakfast at 6. Set out under dawn light and into a Mordor-esque/Lunar/Martian landscape. Sparse greenery is long since frozen, cracking under our feet as we march on. Marcus and Egbert sing War of the Worlds melodies (as has become standard at this point). “… but still they come”. Start the ascent up rocky slopes at a snails pace. Steepening first, then levelling out briefly before we see a steep, narrow, rock and ice filled gully we have to make our way up. Fully body climbing takes it out of us, but is a nice change. After a rest stop, we crest to a glacier and begin our crossing. Flat at first, but soon we find ourselves traversing the side of a depression, not quite steep enough to need an ice axe, but steep enough that I miss having one. Back to undulating glacier for a a while until we come to our final obstacle, a steep wall of rock and ice. More full body scrambling, and with the aid of some guides, we make it to the top, revealing a stark mountain range beyond. We relax, snack and take photos at the top, while birds lazily fly among us. Finally, it is jam jam time and we descend a steep, unstable scree slope. Many slips and stumbles, but nobody is hurt by the time we reach coarser rubble. More hopping until we come to almost Welsh scenery, mud, grass and ice. A few hillocks later, we begin a long, but easy enough descent into a rocky valley that ends at Thangnak. Unpack, lunch and lazy conversations before we split. Claire, Seth and Marc shower, I read for a bit, then wander off to see the nearby glacier for a bit. Misty, so it just looked like a frozen lake with rubble. Get back just in time. Later, we all hang out and read in the common area. An overly friendly Israeli starts chatting with Seth. Dinner, astrophotography and riddles before we all turn in.
As per normal, wake with a headache, but otherwise a decent sleep. Breakfast, then get ready to go. Head off along the path I followed yesterday, but now the stream is frozen. Reach the rim of the glacier and start a steep descent down, then follow the valley wall for a while until starting our zigzag route across the glacier proper. Rubble piles, mud, ice, and scree. From within, the glacier takes on an almost Plutonian feel. Final section is punctuated by rockfalls until we reach the rim and scramble out. Short walk around a hill, then Gokyo comes into sight, on the shore of a vast frozen lake. Another icy/muddy scramble down to a surprisingly well fitted lodge where we snack and unpack before starting up Gokyo Ri, looming over us, reminding us that rest is temporary. Slow, steep start that doesn’t get any faster. Climb with one of the porters for a while, until Claire (who has taken energy gel and is now very fast) and Egbert catch up. Dana is carrying Claire’s hydration bladder and is being mother and allowing them to suckle. “Go on, son”. Eventually, we reach the summit, where Marcus is waiting. Stunning vista, with clouds only slowly creeping up the south end of the glacier. Seth has thrown up during the ascent (stomach bug) but makes it too. Photos, schokorosienen and hanging out before clouds suddenly envelop us and we begin our descent. Marcus bounds down with the promise of lunch. “That man is driven by apple pie”. Distantly, through the mist “… and coffee”. Finally make it back to a mist shrouded Gokyo and chill out while Doctor Keshab attends to Seth and moves him to another room. Read, chat and charge in the main room for a bit. Keshab describes me as a “real mountain man” due to my dealing with the cold. A single tear rolls down my cheek. Joav the Israli from yesterday chats a bit, then I head off to find the bakery Marcus and Egbert went to. I find the wrong bakery, but do find a tap with soap. Score. Chat in the right bakery for a bit, then head back to the lodge. Seth is back in the land of the living. Revise our plans at aim to get back to Lukla by Friday to beat the snow/rain, compressing 2 days of hiking into 1 by skipping Dole. Our resolve is steely. Food, talking maps for a bit, then we all turn in.
Wake early with splotchy vision, which returns to normal slowly. Pack and breakfast in the cold main room. Set off at 7:40 along the shores of the frozen lake, ice crunching underfoot. Soon, we cross over a rushing river into a broad, sandy valley interspersed with farmland. Long, trek along the valley walls, occasionally dipping into side valleys and farmland, until we emerge at the end, spying Dole in the distance. We arrive in Dole by 12, after a twisting descent and ascent that reminds us Nepal is just sub tropical. Marcus sorts out curetape for me and him, then food arrives. Change out of base layer, then set off again. Descend into a wooded valley (trees are back now) until we reach half-frozen waterfalls. Me, Seth and Marc go ahead with Dilip (training for the Everest marathon), while Claire, Egbert, Keshab and Dana go slower. Gradual descent, then gruelling 1 hour ascent to top of a ridge. Completely cloudy at top, but could make out Tengboche during the ascent. Eventually, we rejoin the route we took from Namche to Tengboche days earlier, where Marc bought yak cheese. Marc buys more yak cheese. Almost silent walk back to Namche in thick fog. Almost don’t realise we return until we walk into a building. Back at the lodge, Seth showers while I look for a post office (it’s closed) so I return and shower. Claire makes use of our shower (no water in her room) so I head to Himalayan Java with Seth and Marc, where there is a power-cut. Back to the lodge and food. Peskar may have done a runner with Jon’s money? Back out to the Irish pub, where Keshab talks about the collapse of the caste system over beers. Stumble back and fall asleep quickly.
Wake easily after a long sleep. Filling breakfast, then off to the market, where Claire gets rammed by a cow. After patching up we head off down the shaded and familiar dusty trails out of Namche. One final glimpse of the roof of the world from between the trees. Quickly arrive at the bridges and descend into the river valley where Rhoddedendrum is in bloom. A few bridges later, we get caught up behind 3 sequential donkey-jams. Exit the Sagarmatha National Park as reams of hikers flock the other way. Long, donkey plagued trudge back to Phakding. Stop under a white blossoming tree for a while, an hour from lunch, “Nepali flat all the way”. We pass our lodge from the first night and end up collapsing into another place further down the road for lunch. Launch into the final afternoon with a gentle up and down. Near the end, breaks become closer (partially due to donkeys). See many eager hikers fresh from the plane and still excited by cows. Dilip, Seth and Marc cheer as we pass through the Lukla gates. We made it. Group photos before heading to accommodation. Order food, shower, sort out tips and head up for food. Chicken sizzlers arrive late, but are much appreciated. Tips, rum and hot water, then head out to Scottish bar (empty) then Irish bar (packed). En route, Seth almost falls into a deep hole. The perils of plumbing. Dancing to Bon Jovi and Journey, wearing hiking pants and flips flops. I have reached peak Steve. Dana dances like mad to everything, Keshab to Nepali music and we discover that Marc really likes to move it move it. Dilip gets into a fight, Keshab breaks it up and eventually the music turns crap so Marc, Egbert and me head back, followed shortly by Seth who wanders off again. A deep sleep follows.
Woken early by alarm. Seth packs and washes while I get up more slowly. Meal replacement bar for breakfast, then we are presented with sashes and dash off the airport. Complete clusterfuck. No light, crowded, knocked over by weighing machine. Security is as Keshab described. “Where you from?” “You have knife?” “You have gun?”. Wait in departure lounge for flight. Order is 402, 502, 302, of course. What happened to flights 102 and 202? Mystery. Finally, we take off shortly after 7. Cloudy at first, then we find ourselves high above a fluffy white mat, gazing at the distant Himalayas. Circle above a smoggy Kathmandu for almost an hour before touching down at 8:30. Quick bus to baggage pickup and we are back. Marc calculates we walked 146km. Throw bags on our ride and high tail it to Thamel. Drop off Marc and Egbert, then get dropped off at Access Hotel. Rooms not ready, but we have Masala tea in the lobby. Finally plug back in and recharge. New room, with a flushing toilet. Luxury. Chill for a bit, then to the office to give back sleeping bags. Busy busy at the NET office so we head off for Korean BBQ which is the best food we’ve had in weeks. Wander north and find a Himalayan Brew with WiFi and ice cream. Chill for a bit, then head back via the coca cola store. Relax in room, then go on a pharmaceutical hunt (Protogyl DF) and return for a shower. Later, we head out to Momo Hut with Claire to gorge on MoMos and mediocre Lassi. Eventually head back and slip into a deep sleep.
Wake slowly, enjoying the fact we don’t need to up early. Head down for a slow breakfast, then head off to Shangri-la hostel to sort out room booking for Monday. Apparently I can only do that online. Ok. Chill out and spend a good chunk of the morning sorting out and uploading photos before heading out to lunch at OR2K with the group. Excellent food. Afterwards, we split up, Seth shows me Last Resort and I drop some stuff back in the room. Head out to buy some baggy pants, after trying a few I get a pair near Shangri-la. Get back to the room and realise I put the wrong pair in the bag. Retrace steps and replace, like an idiot. Arse around Thamel for a bit, send postcard and shower before meeting back up with Seth and Claire. Head down to lobby to meet Chhatra and Keshab, then head to Third Eye for food, drinks and chatting. Keshab and Chhatra talk about the earthquake and when Chhatra met the sultan of Brunei.
Another great sleep. Wander to breakfast with Seth and Claire, then move bags and head down to the lobby. Meet Rashesh and Dave, the new guy heading off with Keshab tomorrow. Dave has a lisp, which makes his introduction to Seth interesting. Hop in the car and take a smoggy drive to Bhaktapur. Nepal first set of traffic lights are proudly called out. We explore the sights of sights of Bhaktapur and I regret not bringing a faster lens. After checking out another set of erotic carvings in Durbar Square, me and Seth try yoghurt, Lassi and Kulfi, which Egbert considers entirely too risky. Heading back to the car, we return to Thamel and then back to OR2K where we all have another excellent meal, despite Claire being attacked by a rat in the bathroom. Pick up some clothes for Marc’s children then I pick up my bag from Claire’s room, then walk over to Shangri-la. New room with no storage, but one of the roommates is introducing another to Peep Show, so it’s all good. Head out to get a shirt and a bite to eat, then back to chill and charge. Heavy showers, but head out to an Irish bar to watch Fellowship of the Ring with Seth and Claire in a break in the rain. During the movie, thunder so loud the building shakes. Muddy walk back after the movie, then up to the rooftop bar for drinks. Australian Narelle, Californian Matt et al. Narelle is ‘DJ Good Vibes’ for the night as she has an excellent playlist of important Jazz and Blues. Drinking and smoking continue until late, when we all stumble back to our rooms.
Wake slowly and head up to an equally slow breakfast with Matthew from last night. Eventually head off to brunch at Himalayan Java with the group. Coffee and chatting until Seth leaves for the airport, “watch out for the leopard”. The rest of us head to the Garden of Dreams (very colonial), where we play with and extensively photograph squirrels. Claire dislikes the squirrels after the rat incident. After the garden, we cross a busy intersection to find that the palace is closed to visitors. We instead take a meandering wander back to and through Thamel before dropping by NEA to sort out airport pickup (Keshab is there, but Chhatra is not). Stop at New Orleans for Jumbalaya and an extremely slow afternoon of chatting shit. Eventually we part ways and head back to hostel, stopping off for strange crisp things and Samosa-chat. Head up to the rooftop, where the hostel group are smoking with the owner, confusingly also called Keshab. He explains that he never wanted a hostel, he just bought the place because he could turn the rooftop into an office he could smoke from. Keshab says that he never went to school, but smoking made him smart enough to business. “I have all of this because I smoke”. He talks about the suicide attempt a few weeks ago and that one time they fit 16 people in a taxi. K teaches us the Nepali way of rolling joints (it’s a scooping, sucking motion). California attempts to reproduce, but struggles greatly. K gifts us some good hash and I break it up in a trancelike state. Droov explains what my shirt says “Hare Rama Hare Krishna” and means, then walks back with California as the rest of us retire.
Wake slowly and head up for breakfast. Matt joins shortly and we enjoy his last joint in Nepal. Narelle joins in the wake and bake, really enjoying her breakfast in the process. Chill on the balcony for a while until California heads off and we ascend to the office for more smoking. A list forms, and many things are added and ticked off. Pack in a haze, then ditch my bags in Narelle’s room for the rest of the day. Narelle recounts her awkwardness with her new roommate as we smoke another on the roof. Sunglasses to make us inconspicuous, then we stumble to OR2K and share a platter of hummus and falafel, while Narelle expands on the awkwardness of the last few days (which I definitely made worse). Back to the rooftop, smoke another, hammock, music and meet up with the girl bitten by the dog (Maerla, from Hamburg - better than dog-girl as I had been calling her). We walk with Keshab a short way to a restaurant hidden in an alley way. Fantastic food (lots of buff) and conversation before we head back to the office, have a final joint then chill in Narelle’s room briefly until she gets a call asking if I am staying with her. Scandalous. Goodbyes to the soul-sister then charge upstairs for a bit. Banana split, change and goodbyes to Droov and Keshab before heading downstairs. Some confusion about drivers, but I get a lift to the airport and another sash. Emotional as I rode through the darkened streets of Kathmandu. I will return here. Only questions are when and for how long? Dropped at terminal where I discover that the international terminal is just as much of a clusterfuck as the domestic terminal. No departure boards, because why would you need them. Get a good spot in the China southern queue so check in quickly, but remember that I forgot a pen for immigration so am now in the 7th circle of hell. Help a Chinese guy with his form, borrow pen, swift immigration. Buy snacks, security and surprisingly find a charging point and wifi airside and chill in a very uncomfortable chair until boarding. Get a bulkhead aisle seat. Score. Sleep with an interlude for bad food. Drift away above southern China.