Friday, February 1, 2019

Look out Nepal - Here's Nellie!

So far so good. My excellent friend Mitch Bryan dropped me off at Derby Railway Station, and with only a minor delay to the trains in Birmingham I boarded my flight to Doha seamlessly with the super efficient Qatar Airways. I scraped in on the 30kg luggage allowance with only 2.5 pouches of Aldi cat treats over the limit. The nice lady at check-in let it go, and the shop cat at Himalayan Singletrack in Thamel, Kathmandu was, later, very pleased.
The flight to Doha had barely anyone aboard and I had a row of three seats all to myself, that’s a rare luxury indeed for the frequent traveller; all I had to do was try not to fall asleep. Christopher Robin and Winnie the Pooh kept me royally entertained for quite a while. The inflight meal was a delicious Chicken Biryani, followed by an even more delicious blackcurrant cheesecake. I’m very happy about the improvement of inflight meals; I thought about the first one I ever had, on a Balkan Airlines flight to Bulgaria in 1984, it was so bad that on my return flight home I pretended to be asleep so that I didn’t have to eat it.
I spotted a selection of TED talks in the inflight entertainment section and thought these might be of interest. I've seen a few of these in the past and some of them were excellent, however, on this occasion the ones I picked were interminably dull and I almost fell asleep trying to suffer my way through them.
I turned instead to Mission Impossible:Fallout, which bought me back to life and I saw out the remainder of the flight fully conscious.
My transit stop in Doha was brightened by the eclectic choices of modern art and statues that adorn the terminal, which includes a bizarre teddy bear with a massive lampshade embedded in its head. I was however shaken from my reverie when I had to pay five pounds for a decent cup of coffee. This seems to be the going rate at international airports these days, much to my personal chagrin.

I call this composition " Bear with lampshade stuck in its head".
My flight on to Kathmandu was considerably more crowded and, surprisingly, the inflight breakfast was quite dreadful; I once again harkened back to those dark days of The Balkans (it wasn’t quite that bad but it wasn’t far off). I then spent the rest of the flight productively sleeping.
Even my passage through the worlds most ridiculous airport (Tribhuvan International- Kathmandu) passed without incident, my visa was processed quickly, and my big bicycle bag was sat waiting patiently in the baggage hall; weird.

The ridiculous Tribhuvan Airport. Perhaps the only one in the world that scans your hand luggage before exiting.
I stepped out of the airport fully expecting the usual maelstrom only to be greeted by relative serenity. Had I stepped through the looking glass, I wondered? It seems that the authorities had moved the parking to another area and now only allowed small numbers of taxis to wait there. A brilliant idea. Either someone is making money from this idea or Nepal is finally coming to its senses; perhaps it’s a combination of the two?
Within a few minutes I was loaded into my hotels minibus and we were weaving our way through the strangely quiet midday traffic. I was certain something was afoot, but I think it was just one of those days were everything just fits together. That’s a rare day indeed in Kathmandu.
I checked-in to the ever so nice International Guest House in Thamel, unpacked and reassembled my bike, and headed out into Thamel to reacquaint myself with old friends and Himalayan coffee.

The Sonder Bikes Signal Ti, back in its spiritual home - The Nepalese Himalaya.
I arranged to meet Jenny, Santosh, and Tyler for dinner in the evening and had yet another surprise; my favourite Thamel restaurant which closed last year due to construction work had re-opened and was now a sparkling new version of its old self. The owner recognised me and took my order without even asking, I may be a little predictable when it comes to curry and rice. If you're ever in the area The Nepali & Tibetan Kitchen is nestled in a quiet corner right across from the catchily named Shop Right Supermarket, but don't tell anyone else, it's our little secret.

I've now also managed to get out on a couple of bike rides, firstly with my mate Santosh Rai which involved a disproportionate amount of climbing and an excellently technical descent. We were rewarded for our climbing efforts with a stop at The Brothers Homestay in Panchmane and had two cups each of their very delicious ginger tea. I also met a very nice puppy there and we made friends. I hope to see him again soon.
My second ride was with Tyler and Chris and we were rewarded on this ride with a stop at The Donut Shop. Donuts should be compulsory fare on all early morning rides in my opinion. I also made friends with a street dog here too and shared with her some of my very delicious donut, I think she might remember me next time I visit. Most dogs in Nepal aren't treated very nicely, but dogs are dogs and they just want company and friendship. I like dogs.

The early morning view from The Brothers Homestay in Panchmane.

My new best friend :)
In other news I visited Karma Coffee's new outlet at The Hub in Thamel, with Jenny and Amanda, and bought a couple of bags of their outstanding high-altitude, single-source, coffee which should last me for most of this trip. I'll be calling in again at some point to snag a couple of packs to take home with me. Check them out sometime, they have a really enthusiastic and progressive outlook on social and environmental issues. This one is not a secret, you can tell all of your friends.

I couldn't decide between the dark roast or the medium, so I bought one of each.

The Dark Roast is an excellent brew to kickstart the day.
In a strange twist of fate, whilst whiling away an idle minute on my way to Nepal, I spotted a Facebook post by (the owner of Karma Coffee) Raj Gyawali. It was a meme describing the highly amusing (to me) word Coddiwomple.
Aparently "To coddiwomple" is: to travel in a purposeful manner towards a vague destination.
It sounded like the perfect metaphor for my life so far.

In the next couple of days I will be saddling up my bike and heading the 200 or so kilometres to Pokhara. I'll be seeing you soon :)

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Thank you for looking, see you soon.
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Consume less, live more. Plant more trees.

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