Everest Update: Keith Cowing: On The Road to Kathmandu
14 April 2009
I experienced my second sunrise in less than 24 hours - this time it was over the Pakistan/Indian border as I headed north from Doha, Qatar. Alas, the skies were overcast the entire way so I could not see much of anything until moments before landing.
Just as I heard the plane's hydraulics begin to move flaps, misty hills emerged below. Moments later buildings and roads emerged. Then, just as the gear went down, homes and people appeared - less than few hundred meters from the landing strip. As we landed the dense, misty air served to illuminate all of the aerodynamics of air moving over the airplane's surface.
Once off the plane, the process of entering Nepal began. It took a while. But I really did not notice given that I was drinking everything in. Eventually I was at baggage claim relieved to see that my three duffels had arrived scuffed, but otherwise no worse for wear. On the way out I seemed to be headed for an X-ray machine that wanted to eat my baggage. A moment later, someone was waving all of us to walk around the machine. It was either jammed or broken. Oh well.
A stop at currency exchange (they staple thick wads of 500 rupee notes into big bundles) and then I was outside and slammed in the face with Nepal. Luckily I stood out as someone heading for Everest and a local person holding an "IMG" sign located me. Tips were exchanged and I was soon in a small white station wagon taxi headed for my hotel.
I don't get freaked out by taxi drivers. Indeed, I enjoy jittery high speed rides through narrow streets - Italy, New York, etc. The fact that they drive on the left side of the road mere millimeters from every other moving (and non-moving) object makes it even more thrilling. You see, I simply decide to assume that they are good at what they do and don't have dents on their car for a reason. The ride gave me a full bandwidth, high speed onslaught of street life in Kathmandu. Despite the chaos and seemingly imminent collisions it was a lot of fun.
I had my camera in hand to alternately shoot video and stills. I will post the video eventually - after some sound editing - the sounds of the traffic are mixed in with two separate, private, cellphone conversations that were going on inside the car.
Eventually we made it to the Hotel Tibet. True to form it is right out of Indiana Jones. The staff cater to the trekking and mountaineering crowd and it shows. There is a huge Raddison looming across the street. It looks like any other addison inside. This hotel seems to have grown here organically.
By the time I arrived I have been in motion for exactly 24 hours. And my wallet was already being drained far too fast for tips. After an 11:00 am meeting to discuss my trekking arrangements I went to my room. Intending to lie down for an hour or two, suddenly it was 5 hours later. Then it was 8 hours later.
I am still in time limbo. So while everyone around me slept, I quietly re-shuffled my gear. As I did, I experienced the on/off nature of electricity here. There is regular power rationing and the hotel's generator takes a moment to kick in. When power is out it is really dark outside - and very quiet.
It is one thing to pack bags to make it onto airplanes, it is another to pack them the be carried by humans on a trek to Mt. Everest. Not only do you need to adjust the loads weight wise, you also need to parse things such that what you need is at hand while everything else stays bundled up for the day. I will have to get this completed tomorrow such that I will be ready to go on the 16th.
15 April 2009
I really did not sleep much last "night". While it was dark, my body was awake. I decided to start exploring once the sun started to come up. The first thing I wanted to do was to check in with my SPOT personal satellite tracker to let everyone know where I am. The place to do that was the roof of the hotel. Once again, that Indiana Jones vibe was in evidence - much like the scene in Cairo, I emerged amidst a jungle of tropical plants with a panoramic view of Kathmandu - spoiled only by the looming hulk of the Raddison Hotel. It was amazingly quiet - you could hear individual dogs barking, people talking, mopeds groaning.
After an hour up on the roof I came down to the lobby, where the WiFi is crisp and clear, and caught up on things. Then it was breakfast and a iChat with Miles O'Brien about my progress and plans.
The rest of today will be concerned with repacking, going over my plans for the next 11 days as I hike to Mt. Everest. I hope to get updates out on a regular basis - if not daily, close to that. It all depends on what form of Internet access I want to employ: expensive, more expensive, or very expensive.