It is a hot and hazy afternoon in Kathmandu when we touch down at Tribhuwan International Airport. The first leg of our flight took us seven hours from London Heathrow to Doha, Qatar, aboard an A300. While still waiting anxiously at the zone F check-in desk of Terminal 3, Heathrow for James to turn up (whose ticket I was carrying), I had already identified two of my other travelling companions, Martin and Nicky. (The Exodus kit-bags were a bit of a give-away.) They in turn had introduced me to the remaining four of our group, Simon, Alex, Val, and Ray, as we waited for our connecting flight at Doha. I gathered that the four of them were regular travelling companions.
The terminal at Tribhuwan is a modern-looking but characterless brick building. As we enter the air-conditioned space, our hand-luggage is x-rayed yet again (on the way out of the airport?!) The gate bleeps at me as I walk through, but nobody else seems to notice and after a brief hesitation, I step through into the luggage reclaim area. There is a long wait for any luggage to appear, but finally we emerge from the terminal building and it seems that the whole world wants to help me to carry my bag literally all the way from one side of the road to the other, where Exodus-types seem to be congregating.
Our bus takes us through the ramshackle outskirts of the city. If someone had taken the bits of a city, put them in a box and shaken them up, I imagine that this is what it would have looked like.
At the Royal Singi Hotel, James and I are sharing a decent, if bland, room. We are all greeted with tea and coffee served in the hotel foyer and Siling gives us a brief introduction to our trip.
As I lie back in our room to the muffled backdrop of car horns still audible through the double-glazing and reflect on 5 hours and 45 minutes of jet-lag, it slowly sinks in that I have arrived. This is Kathmandu.
That evening, we dine in style at Kilroys, a short walk into the Thamel district. It seems a good time to become acquainted with the ubiquitous Nepalese Daal Bhaat (vegetable curry), and Nepalese tea, which is made with tea, milk, ginger, and cinnamon and tastes oddly like Horlicks.