The air was surprisingly cool and fresh as I stepped out of the Boeing 777 onto the tarmac at Kathmandu. After almost two days of travel, I was here. My mind focused on seeing if my three duffels had made it across four flights, four countries and two airlines.
But a thin smile came across my face as I stepped into the airport and was greeted by a big Nepali grin. I moved quickly through customs and then downstairs. Grabbing a cart with a serious wheel malfunction, I moved near the door to the snake like carousel.
Bag after non-descript bag emerged from behind the black plastic strips. My eyes followed each one even when I knew it was not mine. Then they appeared – the black one, the red one and the green one!
Life is good!
The streets of Kathmandu were quieter than normal. Maybe since it was Saturday. Maybe because of all the tension in the capital. But some sights were reassuringly familiar – the large cow napping in the middle of the street, women in their colorful dresses with child in tow, men huddled in small groups discussing the world and the national bird of Nepal: the car horn.
The Hotel Courtyard is tucked behind several small streets in the tourist area of Kathmandu, Thamel. It was as it was on my last visit only six months ago during my Shisha Pangma climb. The dusty, narrow streets were shared by rickshaws, small cars, bicycles and a mass of humanity. Some how it all worked. As it does in the troubled country.
Most of my team have arrived and Thamel is bustling with fit looking climbers and trekkers on every corner. The shop owners are especially pleased to see their future customers and send a friendly shout out to each passerby. The pizza is still good at Fire & Ice. The one legged, nub armed man still begs outside. The dogs sleep soundly in the streets. And the motorcycles take the sidewalk when the roads get too congested. The editorial in the Kathmandu Post tells of the upcoming elections, a time for change and violence.
There is a relaxed feeling in the air in spite of the tension this year. Long time expedition leaders, local tour company owners and people in the know such as Ms. Hawley are all nonchalant about the rumors. It is what it is. Luckily here, the rumor mill is thwarted by lack of blackberries and ubiquitous Internet connections. Mostly it is word of mouth. Maybe better or worse but by the time you hear something it feels more solid. The best rumor I heard however was that all men would be required to be clean shaven this year! To be fair that rumor came from a newly arrived climber and he had heard it back home.
We have our permit. We have our Sherpa team. And in fact some are already at base camp staking out our site. The Icefall doctors are starting their work and climbers are trekking towards BC en mass. We leave our hotel at 5:00 on 1 April for the quick flight to Lukla. We expect to be in BC around April 10 or slightly earlier.
Occasionally, I find myself staring at nothing. My mind drifts. I start remembering being here before. I remember the Icefall. I think about the trek to BC. I remember the kids. Then a dog barks or a car honks and I look around. I am in Kathmandu. I am on my way to climb Mt. Everest. This is not a memory. It is real. It is my dream. And I am about to turn my dream into a memory.
Remember: Memories are Everything.
P.S.Please take a look at my Travel to Kathmandu video I created of my travels to Kathmandu. It is fairly large and remember you can start playing it after a few seconds of starting the download. You can view it from the Video Menu on the right column. The video is listed at the bottom of the list. Turn the audio up!