Today is the 1st March, St George’s Day, and yet we are many thousands of miles from England. We landed in Kathmandu, Nepal some ten weeks and three days after departing in December on the 27th February. The time at home has been busy – locuming to earn extra funds, sitting an exam and preparing for a job interview for August, visiting family and friends over the festive season and making numerous round trips between Scotland and North Yorkshire to plan our wedding in June. So as we met up at Manchester Airport and ditched our heavy duffels at check in, we barely spoke as finally we were able to switch off and relax.
I was waiting for the excitement to hit as the plane departed but even at Doha it was just a feeling of necessity as we queued through transfers and then had nearly 8 hours to while away in the airport. We found a quiet spot to catch some shut eye and then it was time to eat (again) and have a coffee ready for the next leg. The excitement levels definitely raised as we boarded the flight to Kathmandu – we’d had our seats changed to 4J and 4K – it didn’t twig until Reuben was directed to the left and somehow we were in business!!! A no frills upgrade alongside 28 others but having declined the option to upgrade for £160 each, we had the amazing seats and space to completely chill out for the next four hours!!!
As we left the aircraft and stepped onto Nepalese turf, the smells and surroundings seemed instantly familiar. A few “namastes” later and already it felt like home again. I can’t really explain it but if I said this was my seventh visit to this beautiful country, you would maybe understand the addiction and love of the people and their home. After an unusually long wait for baggage and the usual chaos, we left arrivals to a sea of people waiting to either pick up weary travellers or try and snap some unsuspecting tourists for the usual overpriced taxi fare into Thamel. To our relief (as I couldn’t face bartering with a taxi driver), Reuben spotted a sign reading ‘Dr Katie & Reuben, HRA’ and came running back excitedly to say we had our lift. And so with excitement, we met familiar faces from our time here in the autumn and were taken to the hotel where finally we could sleep…..
Our first day passed in a bit of a blur……we had breakfast and then slept – a lot. I don’t think either of us realised how tired we were up until that point but after weeks of cramming everything in and months of living out of our duffels, we just switched off. We had to – both full of a cold and weary from nearly 30 hours of travelling, there was no point in rushing out to revisit places we’d already seen. Besides, the next three months are going to be hard work with early starts and 24 hour on calls. A lie in was allowed! Later on we went out and explored the streets of Thamel, taking photos of the daily humdrum as it was played out before us….it never quite fails to amaze me how people make a living out here. We ate at one of our favourite spots – OR2K, which does amazing vegetarian cuisine and is always packed. In fact, Thamel is bustling at the moment with travellers – it’s not quite trekking season yet but lots of young wannabe hippies and boisterous groups packing the bars late at night – it’s quite a different place than when we let just a few months ago.
Today we met with Chhewang briefly – he was our manager at the IPPG Machermo rescue post last season. As expected, it was only brief, but so lovely to see him again and catch up on the last ten weeks. He was waiting to meet the new team for this season and unbeknown to us, we were about to meet ours just an hour later. Lazing in our room again, we heard a knock and found three of our fellow HRA doctors seeing if we were up and ready for a meeting at 1130! Whoops! We’d had 24 hours to recover from jet lag and yet still hadn’t quite managed to look as fresh despite at least one of the team arriving to the hotel at midnight last night!! I think the rumour quickly spread that we’d been asleep……!!!
Half an hour later, we arrived at the offices of the Himalayan Rescue Association (HRA). The excitement continued to grow as we chatted and got to know each other whilst sipping milk tea and filling in paperwork. It has been nearly 4 years since applying to volunteer with the HRA so to finally be here and on the back of a Fall season at Machermo, was pretty special. We had a tour of the building too and found that we are getting new beds and pillows for the season (with mattresses – practically glamping!) and then got more excited as we looked at all the kit being readied for Everest ER later this season. It is going to be another epic adventure!!!
Now however, it’s time for more coffee in Himalayan Java, avoiding the thunder and rain, whilst preparing for our Nepali lessons later today.