Kathmandu, 12 September 2015
(Written by Nick)
Two days after arriving in Kathmandu we were heading out of the city on our way into the Himalayas.
The 16h flight from London via Delhi had been stress-free with decent veggie curry, a few beers and a couple of invitations to the houses of our co-passengers. We were flying with an Indian airline so none of this was a surprise of course. Perhaps the only thing that caught us off-guard was that Jet Airways hadn’t made us throw away a suitcase like they had last time.
In our somewhat frantic mission to get our trekking permits, book the bus, buy some essentials and have a beer with fellow travellers we had successfully missed every one of the must-see sights of the city. We saw one of the pagodas of Durbar square looming behind a row of buildings before being asked for a 700 rupees (£5) “entry ticket” to what looked like just the second half of the street we were already on. More interested in food at that point we gave it a miss. I was fairly sure I’d seen news footage showing most of the buildings reduced to rubble from the earthquakes in April 2015 so figured I had missed the opportunity to see it in its glory.
Our first journey was a fairly gentle 8 hour affair that got us into the swing of things to come on our half-year honeymoon. We were headed for Dunche in the Langtang national park for some trekking.
Well, the journey was ok for me but Steph had apparently drunk a little more vodka than me the night before and didn’t fully appreciate the bumpy, windy roads or the high-pitched Nepalese pop screeching out of the broken speakers. Unsure of when, or if, there would be a toilet break, drinking lots of water wasn’t the obvious cure it normally is.
“It’ll all be alright when we find a hotel. We can have a shower and go out for a meal.”
That was to be the first of many lies I was to inadvertently make in an attempt to be optimistic. Every hotel in town was full and panic set in as night fell. Eventually a hero stepped up and offered us a room for 300 rupees (£1.90) above what looked like a tea shop in a concrete lock-up. All I can say is that the room was beautiful compared to the shared bathroom down the hall. With no light in the corridor, finding your way in the dark may have been tricky if it weren’t for the smell. You just had to follow your nose.
There was no shower, no bath and no toilet you could sit on, so perhaps the term bathroom is overstating it. Having being appalled when hearing of the kind of accommodation I had frequented when travelling in India & Bangladesh 3 years ago, I had made a promise to avoid the particularly grim. Another promise shattered and only 3 days into our trip. “Happy honeymoon darling.”
Why call the owner of such an establishment a hero? He was a porter from the nearby village of Thulu Syabru in the Langtang Valley which was near the epicentre of the recent earthquakes. 148 out of the 158 homes in his village were either damaged or destroyed. His wasn’t one of the lucky ones. He showed us a photo of the pile of rubble with a roof a metre high that used to be his house. Even though his wife, his young son and he were displaced people they were still willing to take in others looking for a temporary roof over their head.