Around 1pm Coach informs us we have a ride to the airport. It will be at up at reception around 5. We lay around the pool for for the afternoon. Swimming, having lunch and packing bags were the only things on the agenda.
Around 515pm a white truck pulls up with some blue script on the left side of the vehicle. Unable to read the writting, I went to the right side, the drivers side, to find it said ‘police’. 5 men in blue fatigues jump out of the truck and start loading our bags into the bed. Coach White tells us we will be getting a police escort to the airport today.
There will be 4 trekkers from our group, and one British ladie, getting a ride. Unfortunately, they will need to put 2 people in the bed of the truck and only 3 of us in the cab. My father is one of those lucky bed-riders.
With 2 cops up front, 3 in the bed, 5 passengers and 8 bags, the truck was filled to the max. What a story this will be, I tell myself.
We left the Park Villa around 530 after filling up the tank with some diesle poored out of a bucket into a first funnel designed for large amounts of liquid, followed by a modified 1L pop bottle. Hmmm. Sketchy, to say the least.
As we travel down winding streets and back alleys, there are almost no motor vehicles on the roads except a few motorcycles. The pedestrian traffic seems to have dwindled as well.
About 10 minutes into our trip we go from a calm, low traffic, smooth ride to pretty much mayhem.
We hang a left onto one of Kathmandus major roads and it’s swamped with people. Hundreds turn to thousands all waving red flags of the old CCCP (I forget the actual name of the flag), it’s nuts. As we approach a large intersection the truck grinds to a halt. The 6 lane roadway (there are no lanes in Nepal, that I’ve seen. No right, or wrong side of the street to drive on, and very few curbs. No lights, and no signs, just a whole bunch of horns honking. Words can not express regular everyday driving. It’s kind of like a rally race in the middle of a packed mall, and I’m not making this up) is filled with people from side to side, and 100+ yards deep. Beep beep beep, the driver starts to raise awareness to the fact a truck will be slowly making it’s way through the crowed.
I feel like a fish in a spawning stream. Clausterphobia is not an option. Get moving to be consumed by the masses. The look in peoples eyes scares me. You can cut the tension with a knife. Each set of eyes has the same questioning squint to them, who are these guys and why are they in that police vehicle? The crowed parts, slowly. I can see it, the light at the end, we’re no more then 30 feet away from the end of the crowed and my body goes flush and starts to sweat. 3 middle aged men with bandanas covering their face, hands concealed behind one another, stare directly into my eyes and start walking towards the truck. My heart stops and there is an apple in my throat, my mind goes blank and the muscles in my face go limp. I’m helpless, at the mercy of the mob.
We exit without incident, thankfully. My palms are sweaty, all the passengers are silent. There is nothing to do but watch. It’s like a movie, a drama at the height of the climax.
We pass the shell of a bus on the side of that road that has been consumed by fire. Set a blaze, poor electrical wiring, mechanical issues, we’ll never know. It feels like I’m in a war-torn country yet it’s the 2nd day of civil disobedience and there has been very little volence.
We pass through 2 more protesting groups before we reach our destination, the Kathmandu International Airport. A clean cut brick face, the building looks fairly updated compared to most in the general area. The inside is a different story. With a public bathroom likely not cleaned in weeks, it reminds me of a greyhound bus stop in Squamish from the mid-80s. Seats for 50, yet 300 people are waiting for their flights, an xray machine that looks like it’s from the 70s, and check-in counters with sleeping attendants behind them, this is not how I wish to remember this beautiful country. The shops have no price tags on anything, as the price fluctuates depending on the size of your wallet or the size of font ‘sucker’ is written in your forehead in. Our group of 4 sits patiently waiting for the Dragon Air booth to open up. Once checked-in, we proceed upstairs to try and find some food.
Sitting in the waiting area before going through the final groping station, I mean security checkpoint (I’ve never been so thoroughly ‘patted’ down in my life), we sit watching a little soccer on tv. The place is dim and grungy. I’ll call this the 50% floor. 50% of the lights are working, 50% of the shops are open, 50% of the employees are actually working. On second thought, it should actually the the 30% floor. Heh.
An attendant informs us our flight will be ready soon and we should proceed through security to the boarding area. The boarding area is like a concentration camp. 300 people in a room made for 200. The rank smell of urine fills the entire place, it’s worse than some of the bathrooms in the Kumbu which I didn’t think was possible in areas with running water.
We pass through the gate and onto the tarmac, finally. The 4 of us have one last laugh at our Nepal adventure, and walk up the stairs to the plane and back into some form of civilization.
17 days after arrival we leave the country of Nepal, what a place. Chapter 2 of my adventure, The Climb, is now complete. I am currently on a flight from HongKong to Bangkok, yet another city/country with some political issues. Out of the frying pan, and into the fire.
And I thought my articles would be less entertaining after the trek to Everest Base Camp, guess I was wrong.
The adventure continues…