I am waiting for my flight in Changi airport in Singapore. I am hungover. That type of hang over where you kind of feel tired but at the same time to the contrary your still buzzing a little from the night before. I had a great time in Singapore catching up with friends. I spent a bit of money which is a common occurrence for me in that country. I am in the smoking lounge sucking on one of my few remaining duty free Marlboro lights. I start thinking about where I am going. I start thinking about Kathmandu. My train of though at the time leads me to feel that I know what to expect. Like, I spent my childhood in South East Asia. I felt at the time that I had ‘been’ places. That I have seen things. I remember though that I was feeling pumped that I was going to see some mountains. Nepal has 10 of the highest peaks in the world. Yes, I couldn’t wait. I extinguish my cigarette, get to the terminal. Check my Iphone has power and catch my flight.
My flight was smooth. The food was great and the plane slightly empty, which for me I prefer. The view from the plane was amazing. Kathmandu is located in a valley. Its a big city. No large or tall buildings. Many buildings I remembered to be around three storeys but around it, surrounding it was the Himalayas. Smoke billowed from some parts of the city. Many people were still using wood instead of gas to fuel there fires. I landed at Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International airport around mid day. The airport was around the size of my high school gymnasium. It was old, in an old 1970's sort of way. Faded cream coloured ceiling fans coated in dust and cobwebs. Plastic primary coloured seats. It was amazing. Amazing in a way that I felt that it had some soul. I find that many airports these days to feel the same. They seem like shopping malls with places to line up and wait. Not this place. There was a mix of travellers, Tibetan looking people, Indian looking people, Buddhist monks, old ladies carrying superhuman levels of luggage. I get my bags and camera gear from the old squeaky conveyer belt and flag a taxi.
I walk through the tunnel carrying my luggage. The sound levels rising as I get to the end of the tunnel. Honking, beeping, someone is chanting, people bantering in Hindi. The humidity hits me as well. I have officially left the airport. The sounds, the smell, the smoke and the mountains behind me, all around me. Toto, we're not in Kansas anymore. Well i'm not from Kansas, I am from Australia but you know what I mean. I reflect back on how I was hours ago sitting there waiting for my flight, naively thinking that I knew what to expect from this place. I laugh to myself in my mind as I flag my taxi.
My crumpled up duty free packet of cigarettes had two left. I put two in my mouth and lit them giving one of them to my taxi driver. I stood in awe as I stared out of the car window. I was in awe because for the first time in a long time in my life, I got to see something new. Something foreign, something unknown. It was so alluring.
I spent the next three weeks in Nepal. I hiked around in the Annapurna foothills. I stayed in many of the villages in hills. The hospitality of the people I met were second to none. The porters who I travelled with were especially amazing. Great to have a drink with at the end of the day. I will never forget there level of fitness. Those days trekking in the Himalayas were some of the most physical things that I had to do. I visited Nepal during the rainy season and were were trekking at times uphill on roads that become more like rivers when it rained. Many leaches feasted on my blood. I feasted on those days primarily on Daal Bhat which is a lentil curry with rice.
I managed to visit other places in Nepal such as Chitwan, Pohkra and Bhaktapur. I will expand on them possibly on a future blog. What I want to finalise on is the unique beauty of this country. Its people, its ancient culture and its authenticity. Authenticity is something hard for me to describe in words, but the best that I can do it that it is not like anywhere else that I have been in the world. I would like to one day come back again.