Monday, October 31, 2011

Feet Dry- Kathmandu

Arrived Kathmandu yesterday and was immediately struck by how temperate it is here. Was a bit curious about how late October would be striking this country, given that as a sign of things to come both New York and Seattle have been slammed by snowstorms (before Halloween?!) yet days remain mild, sunny and with a strong sun. Initial reports are of a Himalaya chock full of expeditions, implying a solid climb season.

I was immediately bathed in now familiar sights: Tribhuvan International Airports crumbly taxiway, long lines at the visa queue, a dimly lit baggage claim area that instantly reminds me of my first visit in 2001. The note of interest is that with time and successive visits, one learns how to streamline the massive amount of time (and money) this process can take if not aware of the upcoming pitfalls. Plenty of folks here, from the 4 visa processors who, if given the window of opportunity will proceed to take 20 minutes of q&a before admitting you. Or, the fleet of 'porters' who follow you to a car like a gnat cloud and then ask for payment. Once its clear one knows the ropes, this process takes 1/10 the time and 1/10 the money.

Kathmandu remains a time capsule in itself and nothing has changed. Progress is slow, but I'm thrilled that a 6.8 earthquake did little to no damage. Stunning in a way given that everything here seems constructed of mud and brick but apparently the epicenter was somewhere in India. Given that the Himalaya consistently rise as the India subcontinent slams into Asia, it does seem like just a matter of time. However, for now everything continues to tick along Nepali style. No tv, no phone. My laptop power converter died immediately on plugging in, thanks to a generator surge. My phone battery died. No ATMs are working w/in a 10 block radius of the hotel, meaning that I cant pick up a new converter to charge either laptop or phone in the immediate future. But in a land full of ear-to-ear smiles, this just doesn't matter, and if you talk about work stress, it is met by a meaningful and quizzical gaze.

It didn't take me more than 2 minutes at Hotel Courtyard (where I always stay) to connect up with good friends. The people who run this amazing hotel smack in the center of Kathmandu put rooms aside for familiar returnees, and climbers have special flexibility as they completely understand the challenges of targeting occupancy dates based on weather and climb variance. I can go on and on about this special oasis right in the center of Thamel District, its a wonderful place. As we reconnect, the phone starts ringing and both climbing friends and locals start checking in. I immediately reconnect with one of my closest friends here who has summited Everest twice (we actually met on the mountain in 2008) and is one of the most genuine people I know.

The afternoon turns into a series of tag-team presentations on Everest and an Australian beef BBQ on the hotels patio before this caffeine addled camper finally surrendered and passed out for the night.

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