February 5th, 2006


Sunday 5th February

(Plane landing delayed)

Arrived to see blue swallow type birds about swift size and blue DPM (Dispersed Pattern Material) clad police/soldiers.
Took a long time to get through immigration/disembarkation but by the time I got to baggage collection my Bergen was there waiting for me.
As I exited the terminal building I saw that the road and car park opposite the terminal was heaving with 100s of people. Among the crowd I made out my name "Paul Richard Wren" (written on a sheet of paper).
I was about to head over to the person holding my name (card) but another person approached me (emerging from the massive crowd) and said "Mr Paul?" . I asked whether he was with the Utse (Hotel) and Puri Sherpa as he led me to a waiting taxi. Sure enough the guy with the card bearing my name was at the car. Another 'bag carrier' tried to take my day sack - but (I) made him carry my Bergen instead. (day sack had my valuables in!)
He walked 20 meters and loaded the Bergen into the the taxi while I clutched (my) Day Sack. He asked me where I was from and on learning I was from London he said "You tip plenty money", I said "$1" and handed him a note. He didn't look pleased but feck it I'd carry a Bergen 20meters for $1 quite happily. (The) Taxi waited for a few minutes for another English Tourist . I chatted to the driver while waiting. Raj was married with two kids a 5 year old and a 15 year old . He didn't explain the age gap - but he didn't look that old.

The drive out of the airport to Themal Kathmandu was a sight I shall never forget - a real Third World Country (to be sure). Pot holed streets, rundown higgledy piggldy buildings, filthy rubbish filled rivers, ancient rusty looking cars and hundreds of pedestrians and cyclists all vying for roomon the street. There was also a large police/army presence and a couple of v(ery ) serious looking APCs (Armored Personnel Carriers) tooled up with turret mounted MGs (Machine Guns).

Hot to the Hotel (at about) 12 / 12:30 ish. As I got out of the Taxi (I) was met by Bill and Phuri Sherpa.
(I and the others) Took my bags up to the Hotel Room and everything (happened so quickly it) was a blur. (On getting out of the taxi I) Didn't recognise Bill and Phuri for a few seconds and couldn't get my bearings before going into the hotel via the back door (due to the Bandh that was in force).

Dumped my bags in (my) room and then we all headed off for lunch. Lunch was in a very quiet looking café place.

Was presented with a menu but had no idea what to pick. Plumped for Tibetan bread with honey & hot lemon. (and tried a couple of Buffalo dumplings - 'momo') Over lunch I learned that I had been lucky to be picked up at the airport as there was a 5 day bandh (strike) was in force. This was the reason that most of the sho[s were closed with their shutters down and so few people were out on the street in old Themal. (Suddenly) the lights went out in an apparently frequent black out, and gas lights and candles were lit.

I also learned that the guy with Phuri would be my sherpa, as Phuri had learned that his sister was very ill. Phuri had to collect her from the mountains & bring her to Kathmandu for treatment. He seemed very apologetic and very worried. Almost looked close to tears as he told me. He introduced Mingma - his brother in law. Mingma was apparently a very experienced licensed guide - and I would be in good hands.
Partially reassured I felt a little uneasy at the prospect. After lunch I handed over $180 for the (airline) tickets to Lukla. The rest of the day was a bit blurred. Bill and I wandered around the old town of Kathmandu, Durba Square and the New Road. No sign at all of the reported trouble (that had occurred the previous day) and as the day continued more and more shops opened (in defiance of the bandh).
In the afternoon we called into an internet café and I sent my first two e-mails (home). I think I may have lost the second which was (addressed) just to family members, because (the) connection was so slow. (They) claimed it was broadband, but not even sure it was 'broadly connected' to the internet at all !

Went on to explore Themal. Found mapand book on birds in Nepal. Then in the evening we met up with Purkash(Bills Porter from last year) and a mate of Purkash. Purkash's mate spoke great English and seemed very knowledgeable about the Khumbu. Purkash like Mingma seemed very quiet.

Anyway, finished the day off in Sam's Bar - downing a few San Miguel beers and warming ourselves against the clear night air in front of a cut down oil drum filled with burning wood.

Also during the day , Bought first souvenirs - prayer flags and wall hangings.