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Nepal travel report, part IV

More Nepal pics; this time: the surprise!landing in the mountains, plus pictures of myself that I feel I can actually show to people without cringing.

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Not surprisingly, we got our first glimpse of the mountains from the plane on our way in. Tip: If you ever have the chance to fly with Kingfisher Airlines – go for it. It was a most pleasant experience.

Quite unlike flying with Gulf Air on our way back to Germany. Gulf Air, I understood, hated me.

At first, I was pleasantly surprised to find a plastic cup at my seat, as it implied to me that water would be distributed some time soon. It soon turned out, however, that they merely had not collected the rubbish from my seat. To make up for it, they hadn’t supplied a pillow, either.

There were several people on the plane whose actual destination was the Oman, not Frankfurt. R. and I were very impressed that the boarding at the gate had been so poorly managed as to allow people get on the wrong plane. Getting on the wrong train is annoying enough, but fancy ending up in Frankfurt when you were actually hoping to get to the Oman!

The flight was delayed due to a power cut at the airport. That was not the airline’s fault, I suppose.

R.’s and my monitors didn’t work, so the on-board entertainment fell a bit flat at first. I was able to watch The A-Team over the shoulder of the bloke in front of me, but, as I didn’t have access to the sound, I did miss out on all the witty banter. Damn.

I told the attendant twice that the monitors didn’t work. She promised to pass it on “after the service” (the system would have to be rebooted). That was fine - service meant food, and we were looking forward to it. In fact, we were looking forward to the chicken, which was one of the options available to the people two rows in front of us.

By the time the service arrived at our row, the options were “Western” or “Indian vegetarian”. We opted for “Western”, expecting the aforementioned chicken. “Western” turned out to be soggy pasta in an awful tomato sauce – as R. informed me when she got her food. I didn’t. And the attendants disappeared from view.

One came back some considerable time later and offered me “Indian vegetarian”. I wanted to know what the other option was. “Um, there is none,” said she, sheepishly. Ah well. It was food, and it turned out to be better than the soggy Western pasta.

Then, I told them again that the monitors weren’t working. The system was rebooted, I selected Robin Hood, the film started, the audio track was damaged: I got the soundtrack and the music all right, but the dialogues were just a ghostly whisper.

And so I gave up on entertainment and decided to sleep. I asked the attendant for a pillow. “Sorry, but we don’t provide extra pillows,” says she. “You’ll have to make do with the one that was on your seat.”

There hadn’t been one.

Alarmed, she promised to “see what she can do”. A few minutes later, she came back. “Um, sorry, we don’t have any pillows left. All I can offer you is this blanket...”

Gulf Air, as I said, hated me.

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Luckily, the domestic flight from the mountains back to Kathmandu was managed by Yeti Airlines.

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Pictured: domestic flights.

Yeti Airlines is one of the many companies operating planes that are designed to land on runways like this one:

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This is Khumjung – we didn’t fly from there, we just walked across the runway on our way back from the mountains. Our flight departed from Lukla.

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The view from our window in Paradise Lodge in Lukla: the runway. The red helicopter is one of the countless rescue helis we saw flying in and out of the mountains.

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In Gokyo (4800m), we witnessed somebody being brought on board and flown out – presumably a tourist suffering from Acute Mountain Sickness.

Our only brush with Acute Mountain Sickness went thusly: R. and I were having breakfast on our last morning in Gokyo when a German lady approached our table, asking whether one of us had any aspirin. Seeing as headache is one of the first (mild) symptoms of AMS, we were a bit concerned and started to ask her whether she had any other symptoms. She told us that yes, the headache was pretty strong. She had lost her appetite, too, and did feel nauseous. Oh, and she had developed a cough and could feel bubbles rising in her lungs. Bubbles? Bubbles? In her lungs?

We told her to run, not walk, straight to the doctor and then get the hell out of there. The only thing that helps against AMS is climbing back down.

Ah, no, she couldn’t do that. You see, she was in Gokyo with a large party, and they had all climbed Gokyo Ri that morning, so she had to wait until they got back. She might go to see the doctor later, perhaps. And anyway, it probably wasn’t AMS at all, said she, “it might just be pneumonia”.

Well, that’s all right then, eh?

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Here’s what her future held in store for her.

R. and I left Gokyo and walked down to Lukla, where we spent some considerable time admiring the aforementioned runway.

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This is where the planes come in and take off. It is much shorter than it looks in the picture. One end is marked by a concrete wall, the other by a sheer drop.

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Both R. and I documented the takeoff. Presumably to reassure ourselves that it is indeed doable.

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Most of the time, anyway. This plane crashed into the concrete wall coming in. No-one was injured, and they wrapped a plastic bag around the nose to make it look less conspicuous. It totally worked.

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Taking the domestic flight to Kathmandu was conducted in a Volkswagen Beetle with wings (Thanks, Eddie Izzard). We were sitting right behind the pilot, and the door to the cockpit was open so that we could see what he was doing all the time.

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The other pilot was a disembodied hand.



The pilot was right by the plane. It was like going on holiday with your dad: "Come on, come on! You don't need that, right?"

"It's my bag! Bloody hell."

"Get in. Get in. We're going to miss the clouds! Come on!"

So he was taxiing over to the runway: "Come on. Get your heads down. I can't see."

He was right there. I could touch him on the shoulder. Just like in the car. But even though he could turn around and talk to us, he was still doing, "This is your pilot speaking. Welcome to flight one from here to there. We're gonna be flying at a height of ten feet, going up to a height of twelve and a half feet if we see anything big. Your copilot today is a flask of coffee."

And it was! It was a flask of coffee! I thought there was a rule that you had to have two pilots! In case one goes, "Oh, for fuck's sake." And the other one goes, "I'll take over!"


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And then, for reasons entirely unclear, we suddenly landed on a greenfield in the middle of nowhere.

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This is our plane, waiting to get the all-clear for Kathmandu.

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Getting fuel.

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And getting jump-started (?).

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R. and I were more than happy about the break. The flight had been pleasant enough, but before departure, we had been waiting for hours at Lukla airport, which was freezing cold. An unscheduled break in a pleasant green valley where we could lounge in the sun was most welcome.

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That’s me enjoying a digestive biscuit in the sun, sadly without a cup of tea. Observe the daintily spread finger.

By the time that picture was taken, posing daintily had become second nature to me: R. and I took pictures of all the rooms we were staying in; at first, they were quite normal, but then we started to pose with the furniture and the (frequently rather mad) decorations.

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It fell to my lot to pose with these lovely curtains.

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As well as these flowers (fake).

Also, don’t miss the poster on the wall behind me.

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R. got John. Lucky, lucky girl.

Unfortunately, I can’t post more bedroom pictures, because I privately decided that I would only post photos in which my smile doesn’t look too fake and in which my hair looks like something that is actually supposed to grow on a human.

The sad truth is, in most pics, I look like Bill Bailey, hair-wise:

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Well, in the end we made it to Kathmandu in one piece. R. and I took a taxi to Patan – an old royal residence town south of Kathmandu.

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This is me oversalting my breakfast (steak, fried potatoes, two fried eggs, assorted vegetables) in a civilised restaurant off Patan’s Durbar Square. I oversalted my food all the time – my body was quite obviously craving salts and minerals to go with all the carbs and proteins I kept devouring.

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In Patan, another posing-by-the-window pic happened.

This is what I am looking at:

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My brother’s girlfriend’s comment on that last one: “Okay, that’s something fucking something else, I get that. But what the hell is that third person doing with his hand? Where does he put his fingers?”

I’m not quite sure myself. Any theories?

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Here they are, the carvings, in their full glory.

The Durbar Square in Kathmandu likewise has a temple adorned with rather risqué carvings. Apparently, there is a school of thought that claims that the carvings depicting somethings fucking other somethings are there to protect the temple from lightning: the goddess of thunder being a chaste virgin, she shies away from any contact with such lewdness.

R. and I very much liked this theory. Quite apart from the impeccable logic – there is apparently a goddess of thunder, which makes a nice change from all the Zeuses and Thors of our occidental cultures.

Whenever we encountered depictions of sexual acts on temples et al, the information in the travel guide or in the museums read – I kid you not - that “scientists are not quite sure what these images were supposed to express”.

I think scientists should get out more.

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This is a different temple on the same square. That old man is, I think, scratching out wax from the candleholders on the banister. We watched him for some time (there wasn’t much else to do).

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One of the ravens of the tower. I liked the ravens. They were everywhere, and they are pretty cool birds.

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And this is what the Patan Durbar Square looked like from the rooftop restaurant where we had our first meal back in civilisation. It is a rather beautiful place, carvings and all.
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