Passing out in plane toilets
We are three days into our trip, so time for a blog post. I’ve already done two but they seem to have disappeared in the ether of terrible internet connection. I was unsure whether to be devastated/relieved about one of them because I wrote it following a lethal combination of three beers, excitement and exhaustion, and I cannot remember it’s content – though at the time I thought it to be work of hilarious genius. The reliability of that judgement is tempered by the fact that shortly after writing it I passed out in the plane toilet, and on stirring thought I had been out for four hours, though Liam informed me I was only gone for four minutes- phew! So, maybe it’s a good thing that the post was lost.
Earlier in the day, feelings of smugness at arriving in the airport with plenty of time for a relaxed check in were hastily tempered with panic at realising that we needed to withdraw loads of cash to change in Kathmandu (Nepal has few ATMs). A flurry of forgotten passwords, pins, uncleared cheques, withdrawal limits and bank transfers later, we attempted to check in only to be told that we couldn’t, because there was a problem with our return flight. Anxiety levels raised- we had to hastily rearrange our return flight and have a new ticket issued BEFORE we could check in to fly out! Fortunately, it wasn’t as difficult as it sounded, but it certainly added some excitement to the day and our smugness was taught a lesson!
Beers, pandemics and Oman
After all that, we felt we deserved some celebratory pints and then felt pretty drunk and exhausted and played on Liam’s pandemic/plague game trying to keep quiet conversations about how to mutate the infectious virus and destroy the entire world. The flight to Oman passed by in a sleepy haze, with a failed attempt to watch Bohemian Rhapsody- which had been edited beyond watchability to rewrite Freddie Mercury as a heterosexual with marriage problems.
We had another sleep in some glorious chaise longs in Oman airport, and I got a taste of some of the gender inequality with men feeling like they could push in front of me and grimace at me, whereas they were -only- indifferent to Liam. Many of the women glared also, and I felt very self conscious I did not have my hair covered. On the connecting flight to Nepal there were only 3 women, all of whom were Western! There were about 8 Western men.
Finally we arrived in Kathmandu and immediately noticed the poverty with an airport that was more Hull Paragon Station than the Sultan of Oman. We bought our visas with no problems and met our prepaid taxi to our Air B&B. The taxi journey was our first experience of Nepali driving, overseen by the three golden rules of: be assertive, go very fast and assume that you will never crash. You can also overtake and turn anywhere, especially when traffic is oncoming; this will seemingly assert your dominance over the oncoming driver which is an important skill in becoming an advanced vehicle operative . There were no seatbelts in the back, yet the only worry we really faced was when 20 minutes into our hair raising journey, the driver decided to put his seat belt on. Liam and I shared a glance- what horrors awaited us if this driver was now considering his safety?!
Fortunately, nothing happened and we arrived safe at our Air B&B with hot showers, free tea and a comfy bed and promptly slept for 10 hours happy in the knowledge that our most serious problem at this time was how to kill the population of the world in our pandemic/plague game, where a fungus has been proving difficult to evolve.
Today we had our first day in Kathmandu and we’ve had a great day. We’ve bought everything that we need for the Annapurna Circuit Trek which involved walking across Kathmandu through turbulent rivers of people mixed in with motorbikes, following maps to islands of government buildings. Roundabouts don’t exist and junctions are war zones of driver/pedestrian assertiveness. When attempting to cross never ending streams of traffic on roads our tactic has been to wait for a local to cross, stick next to them like glue, retain focus only on the person and try to blank out what’s happening around you lest you freeze with fear at the oncoming unpredictable traffic, and follow them!
We’ve also navigated Nepalese pharmacies to buy altitude sickness medication- and most importantly, we defeated the fungus level on the plague game. Liam blitzed through parasite and now he is onto Prion.
Tomorrow is Holi festival! We’ve bought some white t shirts in preparation for getting covered in paint for a day! We have also been introduced to a Nepali custom- spitting, which is seemingly something that one must do very frequently. At one point, whilst buying our t-shirts from a street vendor, a man spat at my feet and then in quick succession smiled and offered me a place in the queue. Interpreting this conflicting presentation, I was confused at whether to be offended or thankful!
In two days time we start our trek… for now… it’s sleep time. Happy in Kathmandu, in our bed listening to the orchestra of barking dogs and hacking spits in the street below.