We'll we've arrived in Nepal finally. Today's the first time I thought we'd miss a flight – we had a bit of a problem with our kayaks. We arrived to check in 3 hours before our flight and Thia Air point blank refused to take them, they didn't want excess baggage money – they said that there wasn't room on the plane. Rapidly assessing our options – we could delay our flight by a few more days, or we could send them cargo. If we delayed our flight, we'd have to pay excess baggage on them anyway, so we decided to send them cargo. Apparently it was a Saturday and the Cargo shipment wouldn't arrive in Kathmandu until Tuesday – that wasn't really a problem, since we'd have to delay our paddling a few days to allow Sharon to recover from her throat infection anyway.
The problem was getting us and the boats to the Cargo centre and ourselves back again before the flight let. The (now) helpful staff at Thai Airways checked our bags in on 'stand by' incase we didn't return in time. It wasn't hard to find a taxi driver willing to take us to the cargo centre with our kayaks. We didn't know where it was, so had to get him to call them up and get given directions in Thai. The driver was really helpful and even waited while we filled out the paperwork and then went on a mission to pay them – the cashier counter is in a completely different building again. To get to the cashier counter I had to head into a secure area accompanied by the Thai Airways driver (our taxi driver and Sharon had to stay in the main office) and then I needed to show the poor girls staffing the counter how to use their card payment machine. Chip and PIN is a pain to use abroad, most places don't understand it – this time it almost caused us to miss the flight as it took me ages to explain about the pin number to people who don't speak English.
At 10:10 (with our gate closing at 10:35) we had a 10 minute tax ride back to the airport terminal (where the driver expected extra money for having to wait so long) and luckily we were able to let the staff know to load our rucksacks and sprinted through security. We had to massively jump the queue at Passport control, but everyone in the line was understanding and allowed us to without too much complaining. The gate was one of the furthest away from check in, so we had to sprint and arrive just after the gate was due to close. We were the last people to board the plane and were out of breath and very surprised that we were actually on the plane.
The flight was amazing – we were above cloud level as we came into Kathmandu and saw the Himilaya sticking out above the clouds too – we were flying level with Everest, looking across the peaks of the highest mountains in the world.
Kathmandu brought us back down to ground, the airport was a strangely relaxed affair with no-one manning the walk through metal detectors and the staff seeming more intent on playing hangman on the computer than issuing visas. But we got through and found Ultimate Descents who are helping us with the logistics of this part of the trip. The theory is that if they organise it all, we end up paying a little extra, but end up getting to do much more and don't have to worry about putting 9 days worth of food in the back of the boats. The plan is to wait for a few days in Kathmandu, then head to the Seti for a 3 day trip, then 3 days on the Kali Gandaki and then 9 on the Sun Kosi, with one in Pokhara to relax and then we'll hook up with Intrepid for our overland trip to Delhi.
[Written 1st March 2008]
Addendum: a few days later, on attempting to pick up our boats, we had lots more hassle at the cargo centre. Luckily Ultimate Rivers sent a local guy with us. He didn't have a clue what was going on, but could at least ask people – their English wasn't great, although they knew well enough when it came to asking for money! The moral of the story is, don't ship a boat into Kathmandu. If you can't fly with one, hire one here.