After approximately 33 hours of grueling plane travel to get to Nepal, you step off the plane and onto the tarmac of KTM airport… straight into a wall of humidity or, if you’re really lucky, maybe some monsoon downpours.
You collect your bags at the single baggage claim, breeze through customs and experience your dose of Kathmandu traffic as your taxi/van/bus (and the other 30 vehicles) attempt to leave the airport through the single-exit bottleneck.
But the excitement is tangible: you have arrived in Nepal, the home of the famous yeti (abominable snowman) and the infamous Himalayan Mountain range.
The city of Kathmandu exists on an area of approximately 20 square miles, but is home to over 1 million people. The result? The streets are overcrowded with trucks, buses, cars, motorcycles, and bicycles. Traffic. Lots of traffic. If you attempt to walk the streets of Kathmandu, be prepared for an adrenaline sport and to occasionally dodge the piles of trash that line the streets. Rules of the road don’t exist, except that the bigger you are the more you can ignore everyone else. Consequently, there is a general pecking order when it comes to who has the right of way: trucks/buses > cars > motorcycles > bikes > pedestrians > dogs > everything else. Of course, given the deep Hindu roots in Nepal, cows trump all and can wander across the busiest of roads without fear.
Life in Kathmandu is truly a full-sensory experience. From the 24/7 honking to the chants from the locals, and the reeking stench of rotting garbage to the omnipresent exhaust in the air you are constantly overwhelmed. There is a lot of visual stimulus as well from the bright saris, fresh produce markets, and pastel colored buildings. Everything is always a buzz and your senses are incessantly bombarded.
As a tourist, the city seems to be chaotic, but locals casually go about their day-to-day life: children in starched uniforms go to school, mothers purchase fresh vegetables for the evening meal, and the whole city comes to life during the festivals. Case in point, this past Wednesday women from all across the city headed to Pashupati Temple dressed in their finest attire – red wedding sari, bangles and hair adornments –to celebrate Teej, the women’s festival. The streets of Katmandu were flooded in red.
But now it is time to leave for the Khumbu (Everest) region to begin our expedition to Imja lake. We will trade in the commotion of the city for fresh, cool mountain air, and the honking cars for (hopefully) serene trails.
Until next time, Namaste!
James and Kate