Safe Arrival in Kathmandu (Gods be Praised)

I had forgotten what my friend Chris had said about this being one of the most challenging airports in the world until a couple of seconds before we landed when an abrupt change of engine noise and a steep climb indicated that we were going around for another try. For the next few minutes I tried very hard to empty my mind of negative thoughts until our aircraft lumbered down again and slalomed to a halt, engines screaming. Well, Kathmandu is certainly proving to be an interesting starting point for this pilgrimage, isn’t it.

Shangri-La and the sacred Mansarovar Lake at the foot of Mount Kailash high on the Tibetan plateau; I can remember exactly when I first contemplated making this trip because it was back in September 2013 that I rushed away from the first explanatory meeting to my mother’s deathbed.  Since then a series of additional inauspicious events including Chinese border closures, massive floods and one of the world’s most devastating earthquakes have put the venture off again and again. Now that I’m here in Nepal, the only non-Hindu in a small group of British Indian ladies, I too am wondering whether this was really such a good idea after all.

For the next week we will be travelling around Nepal and visiting some of the country’s most beautiful sights and sites: transport and weather permitting, of course. This evening I learned an important Nepali expression when one of my companions asked our local organiser “are the roads OK now?” “Yes, they are fine – more or less” was the confident reply. “More or less” is definitely something we are going to have to get used to but I personally could have done without the lecture on the need for positive thoughts to clear our path for the spiritual journey ahead. No, I don’t expect wi-fi at every destination along the way but that’s all the more reason for me to have the right password so that I can make use of it while it is available and I am not being picky when I ask again for some clear information about what to carry for each stage of the journey.

What I have seen through the mists so far of the fabled Kathmandu Valley on the brief trip to our hotel from the airport makes much of India seem like a first world country in contrast. Mud flows between the rubble in every side street, electrical wiring hangs like cat’s cradles from precariously leaning wooden poles at every intersection and the World Heritage Pashupatinath Temple is all but obscured by a gaudy funfair. I guess I won’t be seeing the Narayanhity Royal Palace either: the country having become a Republic not so long after the Crown Prince Dipendra made use of his impressive personal collection of automatic weapons to slaughter his parents and most of his immediate relatives at an intimate little family get together in 2001.

Positive thoughts indeed.

 

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