So, here goes. Not sure to what extent I'm going to keep this up, or how much I'm going to include, I'm writing quite a detailed journal so far so I guess I'll try and put some of the highlights (and lowlights!) on here and just take it from there…
28th Sept - Departure, Delhi
Right, the first day was a bit of a f**king nightmare to be honest. Bed at 2.30am on Monday morning due to last min packing and preparations, got to sleep at 3 and then up at 6 for my flight. But the main problem was going to pay for some stuff in Boots at Heathrow shortly before boarding, to realise there were no cash or credit cards in my wallet. All 4 on Dad's photocopier a home…spent so long debating whether to take photocopies with me myself or not that I forgot the bloody real things!
No time to do anything before boarding, except leave a voicemail on folks phone to send them to the hotel I was staying in in Kathmandu. Then spent most of the flight wondering if that was the correct decision and coming up with a million better ideas -ie DHL to British Embassy etc. Had about 250 pounds worth of dollars and travelers cheques on me though, which seems to go a long way in Nepal. Plus the folks wired some money through too to tide me over. Current status of this one is I head back to KTM in about 12ish days and hope my cards have arrived, although apparently the post can be pretty unreliable. Still, it does you good to get out the house Mum, perhaps you'll come to like these trips down to Western Union?!
Despite tiredness and the bank card situation, was still a bit of a buzz walking onto the plane, bound for the world. Watched a bit of the new Terminator, although no sign of 'Looking for Eric' unfort, starring the great man Eric Cantona. Supposed to be good as well. Had a little chuckle flying over the Middle East way, seeing on the screen we were flying over a place called 'Nukus' - surely that's asking for trouble in that part of the world.
Got into Delhi airport about 23:30, well hot and didn't really have a clue where I was going or what I was doing. In the end got a taxi into the centre of Delhi to look for some cheap accom, taxi took about 30 mins and was completely nuts, wasn't sure which was going to happen first - the taxi blowing up or getting smashed between 2 lorrys - the driving here is crazy. Lane discipline?! Where we see 2 lanes, they see 4! Anyway, got to a hotel down some dingy backstreet that I was well wary of at first, but the staff were friendly and all was good. Quick wander round the streets, not much going on at 2am ish, then back to the hotel and up again at 9 for 1 hour taxi back to delhi airport for flight to Kathmandu. Was loving being away by the end of the day, guess the trip started to kick in on the taxi ride into the centre of the delhi, the heat, the crazy drivers, new sights and smells, I was buzzing.
29th Sept - Delhi to Kathmandu
Okay, perhaps I'm gonna have to trim these updates a bit cos I'll never be able to keep this up, Pokhara's waiting for me!
Better than expected flight to KTM with JetLite, a real budget airline. Leather seats and nice stewardesses. Mind you, the pilot did seem to have the shakes on landing….later found out apparently the mountain and terrain affects wind, landing etc. Breezed through KTM airport, got a visa arranged quicktime, then taxi straight to British Embassy to see what they could advise re the BCS (what the post's like, safe to send cards to hotel etc). Sod all help though. Taxi to the hotel in the main backpacker area of KTM, Thamel. Streets of KTM and Thamel again were nuts, narrow streets, full of shops, bars, restaurants, colour, activity, motorbikes and rickshaws.
After dumping bags at hotel, wander round streets in search of food. En route I pass Ramesh, the hotel manager's, office, and he calls down to the street and he invites me up for a few beers as it's festival time in KTM. Think trying to sell me a trek was a pretty big part of it too. Few more beers, restaurant and bed, after flicking around the TV to see England getting spanked at the cricket by NZ. Good work lads.
30th Sept - Kathmandu - Durbar Square & Bodhnath
Follow a Lonely Planet walking tour out of the guide from Thamel down to Durbar Square, cultural heart of KTM. Weather's sweet (high 20's), see loads of impressive temples, and countless other sights and general people watching, seeing what goes on around here. Start chatting to a Finnish guy called Timo who was cool, arrange to go for a beer the next day. Hitting the photos hard by this point, although don't really know how to get the most out of camera, not far beyond the point-and-shoot stage yet.
Awesome pizza on Freak Street off of Durbar square for about 1.50 GBP (no pound signs on the keyboards over here, ya get me!) then see a bit more of Durbar Square before getting a taxi over to Boudnath - described by LP as "one of the few places in the world where Tibetan culture is accessible, vibrant and unfettered". From beautiful weather in the centre of KTM, sky clouded over on the way to Boudnath and then torrential rain. Sat it out in the tax I for a while, then took shelter with the locals under shop overhangs/awnings just outside the entrance for Bodhnath. Tried to make general conversation in broken English, together with haggling for an umbrella. Spent ages tried to haggle, then eventually bought one and literally as soon as I did, rain stopped and clouds opened. Kind of ironic, perhaps it was karma…
Boudnath was cool, pretty immense seeing a rainbow, the moon, the big stupa (shrine), prayer flags and Tibetan monks, all in one scene. Had a bit of a chat to a monk while wandering around the stupa, neither of us really understood eachother but we had a good laugh. Saw the sunset there, then taxi back to Thamel
Dinner in Budha Bar, found a little gem basically. Candlelit, low ceilings, people sitting around on cushions eating dinner and smoking shish pipes at low tables, and quality music. A bit of trip-hot, chill out, and chilled drum and bass, some old roni size type stuff. Saw a matey on the table next to me go to the bar, I asked him on his return whether was asking about the music and he was, and from there got chatting to him and the girl he was with for about an hour. Really interesting people, he was an International Observer in Nepal (involved with the conflict between the government and the Maoists) and she wasover on holiday from her work in human rights in Timor. Asked a load of questions about their work, living in Nepal etc. They were both Italian. Interestingly, he had a Nepalese wife (who wasn't there) and I found out a bit about the relationship between the Nepalese and tourists - basically it's well hard for a Westerner to get involved with a Nepalese girl because their community will disown them afterwards, he said it was a long slow process for him. Quite unexpectedly, the Nepalese girls are stunning.
1st October - Mountain biking North of KTM and Monkey Temple
Up early, breakfast for second morning in a row reading the English language Kathmandu paper at the Electric Pagoda bar, really cool place, outdoors under a Pagoda, sun shining, slight bit of incense burning, chilled out music, well friendly staff…
Then hit the mountains with Ox, my guide! 40 USD for me and him to go out into the mountains and hills North of KTM for the day, f**king loved it. Amazing scenery and good to get out of the chaos of the city. Although this did mean I had to ride through the City to get out, which was mental. Anything goes, there doesn't seem to be any rules. But yeah, the climbs and descents in the hills were awesome, really got a taste for it and might do an extended mountain bike trip over a few days sometime. Riding in the intense heat was a bit of a challenge though. Ox was a good lad too and chatted loads about Nepalese people, the country etc. Stopped at Monkey Temple on the way back into the city, teeming with monkeys (naturally) and masses of prayer flags, was like a big complex of temples and shrines on different levels.
Had got woken up by monkeys the previous night though and struggled to get back to sleep, so home for a quick powernap before hitting the town again. Dinner and a few beers with an English guy called Gus (who was an absolute nutter, and riding a Royal Enfield through India and Nepal, picking up women for various bits of the journey on the way), then hooked up with Lauren (sorry Timo) who I met at Exit Festival last summer and had been working in Nepal for the past few months. Was wicked catching up and seeing someone from home, had a few too many with her at the Raggae Bar which led to a painful early morning rise the next day….
Wandering home drunk, was craving a kebab or KFC. Alas, I had to make do with the Pringles and shortbread in my room.
2nd October - KTM to Pokhara
Up at 6am, feeling like sh*te. Crap first few hours on the bus but then mood picked up as the hangover started to clear, views got ever more impressive and I whacked some good tunes on the Ipod. Currently loving 'Don't Fall Softly' by Filthy Dukes, think it's gonna be a bit of a theme tune for the trip. Arrived at Pokhara, even hotter here (delish), hotel Nirvana (where I was supposed to be meeting a guy to go trekking with) was booked up so found somewhere else. Got a sweeeeet room for 700 rupees (about 6 quid) with TV, fan, bathroom, which I'm sharing with Chris - a guy I'll be going trekking with - the beauty of me arriving before him is I've got the double and he's got the single. Sharing halves the costs too, now 3 quid each per night. Will be good having some company over a number of days, rather than meeting people for a few hours, then going your separate ways. Better not snore though. Meet him for a few beers tonight, then maybe stay around Pokhara for the weekend before heading into the mountains Monday. Want to get out in a canoe on the lake tmrw or Sun. Also itching to hire a motorbike (which is like 1 to 2 GBP for a day) and maybe even paragliding! Looks sick, but it is about 70 euros….(f**k knows why it's euros…).
Right, that's me done for a while. Will try and upload some photos next few days (cams out of batt at the mo) then update this blog in say 10-14 days when I'm back from the mountains. Hope everyone's well at home, adios!