Those who have been to Kathmandu will understand. For those who haven't it's hard to simply describe. Chaotic and a bit grotty at one level, beautiful and intriguing at another. Mostly very friendly even if the language is well beyond those of us from faraway shores. A "namaste" and a "dhanyabad" goes a long way.
I arrived very late on Friday night, but the process through immigration and onto the Radisson was a smooth as could be hoped. That left the last three days to meet the travel group and explore. With one exception we're all of a similar age and collectively there's a lot of travel experience all through the Himalaya and many wider parts of the world. More than half the group are either family or very long term friends of the Dillons, and the rest of us (bar possibly one) have some connection back into the AHF. There are invariably stresses and strains when a group of relative strangers are thrown together, but I suspect at this early stage they'll be few and far between.
The trip didn't officially start until yesterday, so apart from meeting a few of the folk on Saturdaymorning I looked after myself for the day. Apart from the almost obligatory wander through Thamel, I went to explore Basantapur (as Kathmandu's Durbar Square is more properly known), then onto Boudhanath, one of my favouritest places on the planet. A few photos follow, first of Basantapur, which I was pleased to see had been largely restored since the last time I was here (in 2018, not long after the 2015 earthquake).
Then at Boudhanath:
And some words of wisdom . .
Sunday (yesterday) was the first group activity, first to Pashupatinath Temple, the largest and one of the Hindu temple templesin the world. Non Hindus are not permitted inside the temple itself, but a wander around the perimeter is allowed. It's full of colour, life and death. Some may find it a bit squeamish...
Then it was back to Boudhanath - no more photos necessary.
Today's highlight was a trip to Patan, which I don't recall visiting before. That was preceeded by a visit to Swayambunath (the "Monkey Temple").
Kathmandu from Swayambunath.
At Patan, which I must go back to and explore more ...
Tomorrow the adventure really begins. Following an extract from Mike Dillon's briefing note to us earlier today ...
Our flight to Lukla is scheduled for 6.15am and we will have some amazing views along the way during the 35 minute flight.
In 1964, when Hillary had decided to build a hospital in the Sherpa village of Kunde he realised an airstrip would be handy to bring in supplies. So he paid $865 for a slightly terraced section of the then tiny village of Lukla and a huge sherpa team set about the task levelling the area out and completed the task by a lot of dancing on the 400 meter narrow strip of grass that was, in the early days, the airport. Now it is a totally different ,wider and longer modern airport, with over a quarter of a million flights during the last 50 plus years.
When we arrive we will walk to our lodge and once we have settled Robyn, I, and Russell and Deb will take you on a walking tour of Lukla, to orient you and show you where the best coffee shops are.
Lunch will be back at our lodge and in the afternoon, a very special friend of the four of us, Lakpa Tsering, will take us for a walk around the town he was born in and has done so much to develop. We will see the town water project he and other young men of the town made happen,
We will visit the Swiss hospital and we will see the Primary school that has benefited from Teacher training carried out by the Australian Himalayan Foundation. It's going to be a very special afternoon, as will the next morning, our first trekking day, when Lakpa accompanies us to the High School on our trekking trail that he (along with Russelk and Deb) helped reconstruct after the earthquake in 2015.
My next update will be from somewhere along the trail - no promises as to when, but I do have a Nepalese sim card, so all being well I'll be able to give updates relatively easily. Until then ...