Sunday, 27 April 2014

... Crouch With Tigers, Hide With Dragons: In Memory of Daffy

Nepal's capital Kathmandu is situated in a valley full of historic sites, ancient temples and shrines, golden pagodas and fascinating villages. Apparently. I couldn't really say as I left less than 24 hours after arriving.

What it did seem to be was: full of backpackers, pollution and a great bookstore for picking up dubious editions of paperbacks you want to read for around $2. I am now making my way through "Seven Years in Tibet" by Heinrich Harrer and loving it. I also got a fantastic cappuccino from Himalaya Java during our reunion with John aka "dad" (back to his usual self after some R n' R these past few days here in Kathmandu) and enjoyed a final meal with my travel companions that put up with me for the past fortnight. The Nepalese vegetarian thali was amazing.

It was an early start this morning. Partly because, despite having traveled all the way across China, there was only a time zone change upon reaching Nepal (of -2.25hours). The other reasons were the dogs, crows and roosters, in no particular order. Oh and I had a 930am flight to my next destination Delhi, India! I had been warned there may be a taxi strike, although they couldn't tell me until the time the taxi I wanted to order was due to arrive. Sack that. So I ordered a private car to take me to Tribhuvan International Airport, about 6km from the city centre, for $15USD.

Upon arrival at the first "security check", which is as you enter the building itself, I felt someone tugging my trouser leg. Make that something. A monkey. I'd have likely been all gaga over it if the inner voice of impending doom (of the Rombuk kind) didn't yell "rabies alert". The guard thought it was hilarious. The airport is incredibly basic and ladies you WILL see signs that read "ladies frisking" for each checkpoint you go through. Interestingly, at the X-ray machine they asked if I had a Swiss Army knife in my backpack (No). Instead of actually looking the agent merely shook the bag, had another quick look via the machine and sent me on my way. This therefore makes the number of "friskings" that followed incredibly confusing especially the one where you leave the terminal to walk outside to the plane and the one you got at the bottom of the stairs up to the plane. I'm not sure what they figured could have transpired in the 30 or so metres, perhaps when they were blinking or something? Female security agents deal with the ladies only which is perhaps a good thing as I had my groin felt yet again.

The flight with the impressive Jet Airways was only 1.5hrs to Delhi and with a female pilot no less! (Wonder if she has to put up with any crap like that female Westjet pilot did a few weeks back?) I'm not sure how they would actually get out of Kathmandu airspace if it wasn't for all the electronic gadgetry as the smog/haze was absolutely dreadful. KTM's accident & incident list is mainly interesting for the following entry:

"21 March 2014 - A Malaysia Airlines Boeing 738 ran into a flock of ducks with 180 on board. There were no fatalities but 10 ducks were killed"

That's just quackers!


Delhi is the world's second most populated city. This is why after riding the Delhi Metro all by myself for 24 stops with the locals and walking in the right direction to my hotel, all without getting lost, I am feeling pretty darn proud of myself. It is very possible that, like myself, people have "warned you" against going to India, tales of how you'll either "love it or hate it, how polluted & hectic it is. But hey is anything perfect? It was 38 degrees when I arrived just after 11am. Customs was fast, I was the only foreign national in that particular queue. My larger backpack was coming onto the carousel as I walked over (yes, I did the unthinkable and checked it in). The Airport Express train was easy to locate and took me to the very efficient Delhi Metro. I suspect that the lady at the ticket office figured she was doing me a favour in giving me the "easiest" way to get to Jhandewalan. In a way she was, because even though it took me far longer than the route(s) I'd worked out albeit with less changes, it meant I was getting more of a taste of local life. I didn't bother with the "women-only" carriages which are available if you prefer. Yes I got curiously stared at, pointed at and obviously talked about but it was never threatening nor did it make me feel uncomfortable (I was also modestly dressed). I was met with smiles so I did the best thing I could do and smiled back.

By the time I reached the hotel it was over 40 degrees. Two lime juice & soda (one sweet, one salty) and half a litre of water later I'm almost feeling hydrated!

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