We touch down at Tribhuvan International Airport about 0940 local time. There’s quite a lot of queuing and form-filling to get out, but finally we emerge into the sunshine where Dan, our leader, is waiting to welcome us. As I step onto the bus, in a gesture of welcome one of the local team adorns me with a garland of marigolds.
The Hotel Shanker where we are staying is a large white colonial-style building just a short walk north-east of the main Thamel district. The tranquil garden in which it is set muffles the ever-present sound of car horns of the chaotic traffic outside. We are served cold drinks on the lawn while we introduce ourselves. There is John and Marg, a couple from Teeside, David, another David and his daughter Rachel, two Grahams, and Terry, whom I met earlier. Nine of us in total. Dan tells us that there was originally a full compliment of sixteen booked on this trip, but seven of them had cancelled because of the unstable political situation that Nepal is currently experiencing. Indeed, it was only a week or so ago that the British FCO repealed their advice not to travel to Nepal. Apparently this advice had caused quite some upset amongst some Nepalis and Dan shows us a card he had been given by someone obviously aggrieved that our government was telling tourists to stay away. It’s message is simply that tourists are very welcome, and our FCO was unjustified in telling us to stay away.
I have been allocated a room with Terry. The room is large and comfortable, the only peculiarity being the window, which is low and at floor level so that to see out I have to kneel down.
We all have lunch together in Thamel, and then Graham and I decide to go for a wander in the direction of Durbar Square to try to keep ourselves awake for a bit and get over the jet-lag. Staying awake does seem to be a requirement to avoid being run down by the numerous motorcycles. There are a lot more of them around today than last time I was here. I also notice that the black tuk-tuks seem to have disappeared from Kathmandu. They might have been noisy and smelly, but they did have character.
We divert around Durbar Square. We don’t particularly want to go in right now and pay the tourist entrance fee today, since we will probably be coming back tomorrow. Return up a parallel street and get back to the Shanker just before five, exhausted.
We all eat dinner at the hotel buffet. (Dan apologises and explains that it is part of the deal with the hotel that we eat there the first night.) We’re all rather tired and there is not much conversation. Nothing wrong with the food though.