Oh dear f***!!!
First night in Kathmandu, right after I posted the last blog. Realise we have NO money! Bank cards not working and apart from a few dollars and sterling we are brassic. Minor freak out as my phone won't get reception and the wheels are REALLY coming off the wagon. I'm also very hungry and as I say, damien-no-function-food-well-without. So we go for Thai, and I'm the restaurant I get a signal and the good folk at RBS sort us out. Money crisis part 1 over.
The Thai was REALLY nice.
While outside the hotel trying to get a signal earlier I bumped into that most common of things, an Irishman. Working for an NGO he was running a pub quiz fund raiser. I said I'd be back after food and we were, where he introduced us to fellow Irishmen Oisin, Brian and... Duck! Duck was an interesting character. A rather susceptible soul who I expect spent a little too long in Nepal. Six years to be exact. Kaftan, dreads and a quite impressive long chin goatee meant he looked every inch the Bob Marley disciple his southern accent betrayed. Anyway, he knew how to get the All-Ireland on so is still a good chap, and was smart enough as he lead our team, 'Up the Dubs', aptly, to win the quiz. Pity we will be up a mountain come Sunday.
A long lie to relieve some jet lag and the next day was bedlam. After a relaxing breakfast and coffee we set about the hotel manager to organise our next few days. Unfortunately there was no more room at the inn that night, but the guy came up with a stellar idea - hire a jeep now and get to the trail a day early while we would save a nights accommodation in KTM (which he would later claim back on commission). Made sense, even against every fibre of us saying it was too decadent and we should just take the local bus for a fraction of the cost. And comfort. Our guilt soon dispersed when we were stuck in a 4mile jam on the side of a mountain, but that was after we took a walk in downtown Kathmandu to get photos for our permits. It was like when I was young going to the Andersonstown News to get you passport photo taken! Step behind a curtain while a wee guy takes your photo. Did the job mind.
So, money crisis two - in our haste to get the lift to the trail and leaving our hotel Kim realises we were screwed. We had a grand total of £250 for 11 days and no ATMs. Now, luckily accommodation and food may only cost us £10 each per day. Absolute max. But that means a budget of £220. And Kim needed walking sticks (bastones, in my now-fluent Spanish since Maddy left, tho pretty-much useless in Nepal). And that left NADA in case things went wrong. Slight panic, but with a fair wind we might be ok. And there was a bank where we could get a cash advance. But that would be on a Saturday. And this Saturday was a festival. Balls.
A Mild sweat kicks in. But 20mins down the road keen-eye Kim spots a random ATM and we are saved! For now no-doubt.
The next few hours are a mix of queasiness, heat and a side trip more akin to a Top Gear challenge. We definitely went off the tourist-beaten track. Maybe our luxury transport was paying off! Proper outback, little villages bustling with life and animals looking a damn sight healthier than they did in Kathmandu. But panic sets in as we enter our fifth hour on the road with a thought 'if it takes this long to go between the capital and a major ptrekking town (Besi Sahar), how long will it be, and how much pain will you be in, should something go wrong up the mountains!?!' The reality of what we are doing, in our precious spare time relaxing away from work, is starting to dawn on me. Bit late now, but are we f***ing crazy!?! Little did I realise reality was still to bite. And that b**** has teeth...
We hit the town and make a bee-line for the lonely planet recommendation. No room at the inn. What ensued ended in a pact on request from my lovely wife - Damien, NEVER let me choose the accommodation again!
A sucker for a child carrying a child, Kim panicked in response to the beckoning of 'room, wifi, bathroom. Thinking we would not find anywhere 'OK' was the response. I was half-way across the rd to the much nicer but still dindgey hotels. Dutifully I followed Kim, who by now was in-turn following the grandfather and owner to look at our room. I later learned that, even by Kim's India standards, this was by far the worst place she would have ever stayed!!! A fact she left to discuss over dinner! So. Mankey beds. Mankey rooms. And a shared shower and toilet. Sorry - Squat toilet.
We went down for food as we hadn't eaten since breakfast but to my surprise Kim asked to see the menu. 'NOT HERE!' I kinda shouted all over the place but Kim reasoned it was rude not to eat where you stay. After receiving what we hoped was the safest option - boiled rice and veg curry, I argued that the 'eating where you stay' rule was reserved for the tea houses on the trail only. Then a huge moth flew into Kim's curry.
While she flapped I manfully spooned it out onto the table without missing a beat. The moth died. One second interaction with what we were eating killed it. Oh dear. One curry between two ended upper than enough. And when asked about breakfast we said we were not having any as we had our own. Mars bars is a breakfast
To get out we walked up and down the town, got Kim bastones, came back as everything was shutting down. We were contemplating sleeping in the fancy resort and picking our bags up in the morning but politeness got in the way, so we decided to do things the Irish way, have a drink and it'll be grand. So we returned and right enough, Kimbo's beer goggles told her it wasn't that bad as there was a nice atmosphere with just us, the family and a group of porters. I needed more encouragement so got another round.
So all-in not a great place. BUT, every cloud - it was in that great oracle I learned, at the age of 11, that these things 'build character'. I, yes, Damo Mathews, made use of a squat toilet!!! Damo 1, OCD 0! Plumbing still working!
So, today sees us start the trek and the reason we are here. I know it sounds like a bit of a nightmare, but we are having a blast. I think. Wouldnt have it any other way. Now, this may be the last instalment for a while until we reach civilisation again but thats expected. BRING ON THE MOUNTAINS!!!
Oh yeah, and that great oracle? Calvin and Hobbes!