Just arrived a few hours ago, on my way to sleep. First super-quickie impression of Katmandu: super cute, people are sweet, everywhere is dilapidated beauty, the city is old and poor, and totally charming.
I spent about 24 hours in transit since take-off at JFK, with the first 12 hours in the air, then a 7 hour layover in Abu Dhabi, then about 4 more hours on my connecting flight, then customs and the way fun crazy cab ride ‘home’ to our couch surf flat.
Air Etihad, the national airlines of the UAE (United Arab Emirates), was a sweet ride. There was amazing food, good booze, really nice staff, and it was posh and totally geeked out with 80+ movies on-demand and a camera view where you can watch the sky/runway from the cockpit view and also a bird’s eye view of the terrain below. Abu Dhabi airport was kinda cool too, out in the middle of the desert, hot, seemingly nothing for miles around, and everything outside covered in dust (a la burning man). People looked cool, in arab dress, and arabic writing everywhere. Was fun for people watching. I slept a lot, both on the plane and at the airport, as I pulled an all-nighter before I left.
We landed at the tiny Katmandu airport around 9PM. Our flight was seemingly all the action going on there at the moment. Relieved that all my stuff and bike arrived intact, I was wondering whether my friends made it too or not — minutes before I boarded my flight in NY and suspended my cell service I got a call from Bonnie, who was with the gang in India at the Nepali border. She told me that IF they caught the night-bus they would be arriving in Katmandu at the same time as I was expected to land. That was a big IF! Long story short, they paid a Jeep to take them the shorter 5-hour ride over the Himalayas to the capital instead of taking the regular 10-hour road the bus would have traveled. It was harrowing and memorable, but I’ll leave that story for them to tell.
As I wheeled my wide load (bike box) out of customs I heard them scream my name, and I soon was in the arms of my travel buddies in my country-to-be for a month. I can’t imagine what I would have done if they weren’t there, and I’m glad I didn’t have to find out! There were definitely more people outside the airport than inside, about 200 of them trying to give us a ride and help me with my luggage. Next thing I know my box is strapped on top of the tiny car by a shoestring, I was climbing into the passenger seat on the wrong side, and we were on a wild ride down narrow streets, barely skimming by the oncoming traffic which swerved constantly as a rule. I noticed the cool white 2-3 story buildings in various states of disrepair, hand-painted colorful signs on their facades, people and stray dogs walking in the streets. It’s gorgeous! Soon we were home, chatting and eating a home-cooked meal with our hosts, a nice 23-yr old student named Nabin and his 2 teenage sisters, plus a couple of their friends.
Wow, I’ll have to learn to make these posts more brief if I want any readership! I’ll get better, and use more pics to do the talking!
Good morning friends. Show & tell ya soon!