Before leaving New Zealand to travel through Nepal and India, the furthest abroad I had ever been was Niue. I had been to Australia for one week in high school on a volleyball trip, and to Niue for a week with Boy, Vicky and another friend named Kristy for an end-of-uni holiday. These were both fantastic trips, but I wouldn’t really consider either of them to be “travelling”. Travelling is always something that I have wanted to do, but honestly, Nepal and India weren’t countries that were at the top of my list.
How we came to be in Nepal was through the wonderful hobby of hiking. Boy has said that something he has always wanted to do was hike to Mt Everest Base Camp. It’s not something that I had always wanted to do, but it certainly wasn’t going to be something I would say no to! We did plan to do more in Nepal once we were there, but getting to Base Camp became one of the main reasons.
We flew from Auckland to Guangzhou, China, and from Guangzhou to Kathmandu, Nepal. The first flight was about 12 hours long, and the second was about five hours. We flew with China Southern Airlines because they were the cheapest (about $750NZD each). I don’t know how much you can expect while you’re 39,000 feet in the air, but Boy and I were happy with their service.
We arrived in Kathmandu at about 1:00pm on Thursday 11 May. It was so hot and we were pretty tired. Unfortunately, Boy’s bag was left in China so it didn’t arrive with us which wasn’t a particularly reassuring sign we had made the right choice to go travelling…but his bag arrived on the next flight in from China with a “Priority Baggage” sticker on it so there was no harm done.
The taxi ride from the airport to our hostel was like nothing I had ever experienced in my life. Taxis in Kathmandu are tiny, Suzuki Marutis. They could barely fit Boy and I, let alone our massive packs! It cost 500Rs (about $7NZ). The hostel was about 4.5k’s from the airport, but the journey took about 45 minutes because traffic in Kathmandu is something else. Nepal was in the middle of local government election campaigns, the city was damaged from the April 2015 earthquake, and the water board/government was in the process of replacing the city’s water mains, which meant that the roads were mainly dust and stones, with some tar seal every now and then. The cab driver said, “at the moment, the roads are quite dusty because they are replacing the pipes but usually it is not that dusty.” We didn’t believe him, but we didn’t mind either. On our drive from the airport, we passed cows wandering the street, monkeys hanging out on power lines, slums on the roadside, beggars approaching the car, temples, and everything in between.
We stayed at Alobar1000 in Thamel, Kathmandu. We booked it on our friend, Emma’s, recommendation and because it costs about $5NZ each per night. It’s a really great hostel because lots of different people stay there - I think it’s probably the first stop for lots of people arriving in Kathmandu.
My first thoughts when we arrived in Kathmandu were “this is not what I expected”. It’s a bit stupid to carry expectations with you when you’re travelling, but for someone who had only been to Australia and Niue, it’s hard not to do. It was so noisy, it was so hot, and there were so many salesmen! They product of choice is usually some sort of mini-upright-violin-thing, or tiger balm. I could want three violins and seven pots of tiger balm, but when approached by a salesman, I would suddenly become very busy and need to get somewhere very quickly.
I found Kathmandu overwhelming in the first couple of days. Luckily, my Uncle Geoff has been to Nepal numerous times and had three of his friends to show us around the city – Prabin took us to his favourite tea house and momo restaurant, Janga organised his employee to take us to the Tourism Board so we could get set up with our trekking permits, and Sunil had dinner with us the night before we flew out to Lukla.
As scary as it was to travel to a developing country, I think Nepal is a wonderful place to go. I had the typical “someone might try to get into my backpack” fear so I wore it on my front for the first day, but I think that was unfounded. It’s a friendly place and, as long as you keep your wits about you, there’s nothing to fear. It’s easy for me to say because I was with Boy, but Nepal is somewhere I would go back to by myself. One of my closest friends, Emma (mentioned earlier), has also been there on her own, and she had a wonderful experience.
We were only in Kathmandu for two nights before we flew to Lukla. My next post is going to be about our hike to Mt Everest Base Camp – I think this will have to be broken into two or three parts because it took two and a half weeks in total!
Bye for now,