This is part of a series that document my trip to Nepal. You can find all of the blog posts here. I awoke around 6am as the sun had risen to the point where it was shining directly through the separation in the drapes and landing squarely in my eyes. The power had shut off during the early morning hours and therefore the air conditioner had turned off. I took the time to listen to music and write in my journal. I also organized some of my stuff but I limited my movements as to not wake Shaun by being noisy. Around 8am Shaun stirred and we both got up and headed down to the garden for breakfast. Thilo was sitting at a table with Pemba Sherpa who was another member of the Mountain Tribes trekking organization that had been on the previous year's trek.
For breakfast I enjoyed a fried egg, croissant, potatoes, and some sausage. After breakfast we hung out in the garden using the hotel's wi-fi and just enjoying the pleasant weather. After a short while I broke from the group and headed up to the room to get a quick shower and finish packing. We all regrouped downstairs and headed to the New Orleans cafe. We knew that they had power, wi-fi, and of course decent food. I had a banana lassi prior to lunch. For lunch I had fried chicken and french fries which were both pretty good. We were under a time crunch as both Shaun and Thilo were flying out in the early afternoon. Due to this Murphy's Law kicked in and the service became very slow and we didn't get our food for over an hour. We ate and then said our goodbyes to Thilo and Shaun.
After they left we stuck around the cafe for a few more Fantas. When we final decided to head out and got the bill it was all messed up. It was as if the waiter just decided to randomize what was on the bill. It took a while to sort it all out but we did just that and bid adieu to the cafe. I needed to do one more shopping stop after lunch and so we all went to one of the local stores owned by some friends of Monika and Chris. The first store location didn't have the owners in residence so we walked a short while in Thamel to their other location and I proceeded to do my shopping with the proprietor's assistance. One of the owners was originally from Longwood,FL which is just a stone's throw from my home. It's just odd how you travel halfway around the world and run into someone from your area of residence. I wonder if there have been any statistical studies of such coincidences?
After concluding the shopping excursion we headed back to the hotel and relaxed in the garden again. Activities in the garden include surfing the internet, watching the garden cats, and writing in my journal. The sky threatened to open up and dump water on us so we moved our activities of killing time to the lobby area of the hotel which had some rather old and broken in couches. While in the lobby Chris introduced me to two iPhone games You Don't Know Jack and Disc Drivin' which I'm thoroughly addicted to now.
Eventually we decided to my last meal in Kathmandu. Monika suggested a place that they had been to the year before and so we made our way to the Northfield Cafe. I had the chicken tikka masala with regular and garlic nan. There was a cricket match on the large television and a "band" started to play music on a nearby stage. Also our waiter sort of sounded like Yoda. I thoroughly enjoyed the entire experience and meal and we promptly finished up and headed back to the hotel. I was supposed to meet someone from Mountain Tribes who would then escort me to the airport.
We returned to the hotel and chilled in the lobby awaiting my escort. Depen showed up with about 10 minutes and introduced me to the taxi driver that had the responsibility of taking me to the airport. I said my goodbyes to Chris, Monika and Depen. As I was getting into the car Depen handed me a Mountain Tribes baseball cap. I had mentioned to I would really like to buy one but he just gave it to me. Babu had made sure to get one for me after I had mentioned that I was interested in having one. I thanked him and hopped into cab on the passenger side (the left side of the car) after almost making the mistake of getting in on the driver's side (the right side).
The ride to the airport was just as harrowing if not more than any of the other trips in vehicles I have been in Nepal. As we darted around town it always seemed like we were going to hit some car, bike, or pedestrian. At one point the taxi driver took us off the main streets and down some small back streets with rather large potholes the latter made me feel like I would be helping to change a tire in my near future. This only got better as we filed behind a police truck that shortly stopped completely and a group of cops piled out on to the street with batons and assault rifles. They then started down another street and we followed the police truck out to a larger road. The rest of the trip to the airport was uneventful. At the curb the cab driver pulled my luggage out and I said goodbye and headed into the airport.
I hefted my bags and waddled into the ticket agent area and searched for the Qatar Airways. I found the line that was forming and queued up. There wasn't any ticket agents attending to the desk yet so the line of travelers was growing. I started to make small talk with the guy next to me in line. I found out that he was a Swiss man who was volunteering at a leper colony in southeast Nepal. We talked for a while about leprosy and the stigma that the local cultures. I learned a lot about not only the disease but the difficulties in completely eradicating it.
The ticket agents finally arrived and the line moved quickly and I acquired my boarding passes and checked my duffels. I then headed up the stairs to the pre-security departure lounge. I went through passport control after filling out a departure from and continued on my way. I had a couple of hours to kill so I tried to chill in this lounge area and listen to some podcasts. I was antsy and couldn't get comfortable so I decided to go through security. On the other side of security was another departure lounge that was considerably more populated with people waiting for their planes to be ready to board. I spent about another hour or two sitting around, listening to podcasts, writing in my journal, people watching, and walking to and from the restroom.
Finally one of airline's agents announced my flight and I proceeded through to the pre-boarding lounge after handing over my boarding pass. This room quickly filled up with passengers and we all waited for about 10 minutes before there was another announcement that we needed to split into male and female lines. We then went through another security check and pat-down and exited on to the tarmac where we were directed to one of the two staircases leading up to the plane. So right about 11:15pm I was on the plane and in my seat. We took off shortly afterward and I was dead to the world just after takeoff.
I awoke just before landing in Doha which almost a solid five hours of sleep. I was still a bit drowsy but I felt somewhat rested. In Doha we followed the same pattern of deplaning and moving around the terminal as I did on my voyage to Kathmandu so I won't revisit it here. Once I got into the departure terminal I went to the power kiosk and plugged in as many devices as I could as much of my electronics were low on juice. I sat and listened to podcasts and people watched as my devices charged. Basically I killed the next 5 hours walking around the terminal. I did buy some TCBY "frozen yogurt" and a soda for what came out to be about $10. Here are some photos of the sun rising in the desert of Qatar.
When it came time to get on my flight I had to enter the American Flight area which was a cordoned off section of the terminal with extra security. I wasn't expecting this but I guess I should have. After passing through that, having my boarding pass and passport checked, waiting for and then riding the shuttle bus I finally got on to my plane to JFK. Frankly I don't remember much about my flight. I believe I watched a bunch of television and movies but I don't recall which ones. I also ate the meals but I just didn't feel they were worthy to write down. I didn't get much sleep as I had slept the five hours on the previous flight.
Due to the lack of sleep on the very long flight I was basically in a fog when I deplaned at JFK. It was late afternoon when I passed through passport control and customs. I didn't have any problems or major delays during this process or if I did I didn't care because I was a walking zombie. Once I exited customs I checked my bag back in at the airlines bag check desk and proceeded back through security and back into the terminal. I had a lot of time to kill, about four hours, so my first order of business was to acquire some caffeine in the form of Diet Coke. I found a Burger King and order the largest Diet Coke I could. I then found a place to rest and suck down my sweet sweet nectar.
I took out my phone and surfed around on Facebook and other sites to attempt to catch up to what I had missed in the last three weeks. The lack of sleep was hitting me hard and I had a real hard time concentrating so I put my phone away and just people watched. I decided that I needed to walk around a bit before heading to my gate and as I got up and started to leave the dining area I saw this little guy just hanging out.
It caught me completely off-guard as a cute little puppy loose in the airport. I took a few more steps around the bend was the dog's owner was present but it just caught me by surprise enough that I had to take a picture.
The rest of the trip home was basically a blur. I made it to my gate with plenty of time to kill so I ended up buying a FitBit from a Best Buy vending machine adjacent to my gate. This was an impulse purchase but I figured I earned it. Not that I hadn't spent enough money on this trip. My flight from New York to Orlando was uneventful and I did sleep a bit on the relatively short flight home. I landed in Orlando, around 11:20pm, and dragged myself through the airport and down to the baggage claim. My purple duffel and knock-off duffel survived the trip and popped out on to the baggage carousel. I had previously arranged for my good friend Erin to come pick me up and shortly after exiting the airport's baggage claim area she arrived to chauffeur me back to my home. After she dropped me off I thanked her profusely and entered my home. I took a quick, hot shower and immediately went to bed.
The next day I awoke really early and refreshed. And that concluded my journey to the Himalaya!
This was by far an amazing trip! Nepal is a great country with wonderful people. I'm a tad disappointed that I didn't get to go over to Tibet but I doubt it's going anywhere soon so there is always another time. I've made some good friends all around the world. I've seen ancient cultures that have survived into modern times. I've seen dogs, chickens, cows, and monkeys on the same street. The sights, sounds, and people were awesome. Kathmandu was interesting. I preferred the other areas of Nepal a bit more.