We were back home in the warmth of the KTM sunshine – never have showers and fluffy towels been so eagerly anticipated.
4 clean bodies emerged from the hotel in need of food and sustenance. Himalayan Java ended up with our custom where free wifi, decent coffee and an awesome egg and bacon croissant made it a worthwhile trip.
Roger and Rich had work to catch up with so me and Nads went exploring the streets of Thamel – basically we just kept turning left when we felt like it and ended up doing a massive loop round Thamel, finding off the beaten track places for Hazel to buy more Nepali clothes!!
We treated ourselves to some well earned drinks at Cafe Gaia where we were joined by my friend Asim. Nads took an instant like to him as he basically just sat there and took the mickey out of me!
Fire and Ice had been booked by our esteemed leader as Rich had been dreaming of Hawaiian Pizza. The boys then headed off to the Irish Bar for more beers while we headed back to our penthouse suite with balcony for an early night and the traditional gossip for an hour or two.
The next day dawned with Nads not feeling herself – she made up her mind to stick at the hotel and stay at the relative safety of the room! A quick trip down to the supermarket and our fridge was stocked with water for her.
Roger and I headed off to see Iswari and try and work out what our final bill was with excess charges on the Lukla flight and import duties on the children’s clothes. We had a mix of currencies on our list, dollars, rupees and sterling, it was all a bit much for Roger and his lists, so when we were done he headed to Cafe Gaia for some peace and quiet while I headed off for momos with my friends Asim, Ramesh and Rishi. Then I got a call from Roger, his head was clear and he was on his way! Now I just had to explain to him where we were, not one of his usual haunts (creature of habit is our Roger – don’t mention chicken satay…..)
Roger and I then headed off to pick up Namgel and go to see Raju from the NYF and fill him in on our visit. We left there completely reassured that this whole project is in the best hands. He has such a kind and calming manner, we instantly knew he would get the best value for our grant money whilst ensuring the children’s safety and security stayed as top priority throughout.
On our return, Nads was still feeling under the weather but had managed to sleep for a lot of the day. After a quick water stock up, the 3 amigos set off in search of beer and food – and ended up at the local thai restaurant where chicken satay unsurprisingly made an appearance on our table!!
Friday dawned bright and sunny and Nads was feeling up to a little bit of breakfast! Rich, Roger and Nads set off to Namgel’s shop, there was a little matter of a watch purchase to sort out for Rich!!!
Meanwhile, I still had some work to do – back to Iswari’s to collect the clothes, books and toys from his storage and settle the remaining part of our bill!
Asim came with me as he would be taking this stuff off my hands for his foundation! Much to my amusement, they summoned a rickshaw and proceeded to load it with the case, 2 x 100litre kit bags and 3 boxes!! They made it all fit too!! So Asim and I walked behind the rickshaw to my hotel – power was off so I insisted it was all left downstairs until power was on otherwise those poor boys would have had to troop it up 5 flights of stairs!
One box of books was opened and packed into Asims backpack and he took the smallest of the bags with him…….onto his wife’s scooter to take home with him as one of his friends was heading to Pokhara the next day – I couldn’t believe this bag would fit, but somehow it did and off he happily went!!
The guys got back from their trip to Namgel’s and Boudhanath (without a watch, for now) and we all headed off to Nepali Chulo for a cultural evening. But first a taxi ride……
I had been told no more than 150rupees by Asim, so this became a matter of principle!! 200rupees? You are having a laugh Mr Taximan (I should point out at this stage that the exchange rate is approx 150rupees to the pound!!). After about 4 taxis we agreed the price and jumped in. When we arrived, the bonnet went up – we seemed to have blown the engine up!!
Much hilarity at the Nepali Chulo – last time I was there the atmosphere was great and everyone was getting into the cultural dances and having a good time – even with the “lettuce dance” as it will forever be known to us 4! This time it was much more staid – there seemed to be a business meeting going on at the table one side of us and the other side had bought a tube of pringles along with them and continued to eat those rather than the Nepali food!!
Quite what they made of a bunch of rowdy English, drinking beer and having lots of fun with a roll of red masking tape, gawd only knows!!
We bailed at about 8 with full bellies in search of fun! Another expertly negotiated taxi rate and we were off – whacky races!! We were whooping every time we overtook anyone and at one stage went round a corner on two wheels! We doubled his fare to 300rupees just for the fun element.
Our hotel is right next to the Reggae Bar which plays live music, very loudly, every night – so it seemed rude not to join in!
The place was full of locals enjoying a night of beer, food and live entertainment, the place was rocking! We all joined in and were embraced by the “young uns” in the “mosh pit” (about a 2 foot wide space at the front of the stage!)
Nads went home when the live music stopped while Roger, Rich and I hit the dancefloor in the club below. We had been in here before in 2012, it was the “empty” bar we had gatecrashed when searching for some entertainment. This time the place was rocking!
Roger bailed at about 1 while Rich and I carried on being pestered by the locals and having to protect each other at various stages until around 2am…..home!
One problem – the metal shutters and gate were firmly shut and locked!! Luckily enough I had the hotels number on my phone….after 5 mins of explaining to the security guard where we were, we finally were in!!
The team enjoyed a final “Belfast” on the rooftop restaurant before heading off on their final and most important mission together – get Rich a Kobald watch!!! Mission accomplished thanks to some fine admin negotiating skills by Namgel with his bank. All too soon it was time for the guys to check out and leave – but not before one final party in the penthouse!!!
And then there was one! How to fill up your days when alone in a “scary” city like KTM…..you call on your friends of course!
Sunday was a lazy day that ended in dinner at Asim’s house with him and his lovely family. Sat in their kitchen watching the teamwork between Asim, his wife Sarita and daughter Sangya whilst they created Momos together was awesome – such a lovely and special night to share with this lovely family.
Monday dawned with the news from Asim that unfortunately his father had been taken ill overnight and was now in hospital, where Asim would stay.
I spent most of the day walking and walking and walking getting further and further away from Thamel and deep into the heart of the city. At no point did I ever feel unsafe, that’s what I love about this place, that you can walk down any side street and not feel threatened at all (mind you I’m not saying I would venture that far at night, although I probably could!)
Late in the afternoon I heard from Birkha, Bhim’s friend that I had met in Rocham. He was supposed to be trekking but his client was ill so it had been delayed, did I want dinner?
When he arrived he asked if I wanted to eat “local” – der, of course!! So off we walked, twisting and turning out of the streets of Thamel and past all the tourist eateries. Then he disappeared behind a curtain! I pulled the curtain back and was surprised to find a cafe full of locals!
Dinner for 2, including starters, mains and copious amounts of tongba…….460rupees – approx £3!!! We stumbled out via the back door as the shutters had been pulled down and headed back towards my hotel, but not without stopping at a street vendor for sausage on a stick….I had seen a couple of hundred rupees exchange hands between the owner and the Korean tourists in front of us……then I was told our bill was 40rupees!! Awesome to be treated to locals prices!!
Met up with Birkha again the next morning and headed off to the Monkey Temple – by foot in blazing heat! What an awesome place this is perched on the top of a hill – stunning views and also remarkably peaceful in certain places!
We also dropped in on his Uncle, who has been a trekking guide for 22 years and was very interested to hear about our work.
We won’t talk about Tuesday evening, basically spent in bed sleeping so I could wake up a 1.30am to watch my shambolic footie team!
Wednesday meant meeting up with Asim to catch up on news about his dad (a bit more positive) and Jenny’s fave leader Prasant to hand over gifts sent by her. He too is a Man Utd fan so we consoled each other!
Quick wander round to Durbar Square and Garden of Dreams with Birkha before bidding him goodbye until September as his client was now recovered enough to start their trek round Annapurna.
Thursday was another shopping and walking day – I have found so many new little places now, each one making me fall more and more in love with this wonderful place.
Asim escaped from the hospital and we had a quick coffee together when he told me he had arranged for a family member to be with his father on Friday afternoon as he wanted to take me on a sightseeing tour on his bike! Fabulous news and I had no idea where we were going – much to his amusement!
Packing started in earnest and I decided there were a few items I could leave here – the hotel agreed to look after them until my return – I now have a stash in KTM :o)
After another dash round the streets of Thamel and finally getting round to posting postcards (sorry Mam!) I got the call from Asim, be downstairs in 10mins, bring my camera and a bottle of water!!
So off we set out of the city on his bike – past the Monkey Temple and off up and up into the hills!! We were probably riding for about 30/40mins, it was awesome! You will NEVER get me on a bike in the UK but here it’s just normal! Maybe because all the traffic is so much slower…..
So we got to our final destination – the White Monastery, and it was closed!!! I laughed and Asim was gutted! But it was amazing up there – we may not have been able to get in but we could still see the views over the whole of KTM valley – and it was so peaceful! I felt very privileged to be there. Asim just kept apologising! But as I said, it’s another place for me to go to when I come back!
Friday night meant the arrival of the one and only Tim Mosedale so it was off to Sams Bar for a beer and catch up and meet his friends Ade and Tom. Excellent night with excellent company.
And so we’re here…..my final day in this amazing country. It’s been a sad day of goodbyes. Coffee with Tim this morning, lunch with Asim after another bike ride to his friends restaurant. Drinks with Asim and Ramesh at Cafe Gaia, where I also bumped into Iswari. Goodbyes to my dear friends at Hotel Access and off to the airport with tears in my eyes.
More tears here with texts from Bhim and Birkha, then a panic – my name being announced over the tannoy – I wasn’t late, I was standing at the gate – heart pounding I walked up to the desk – upgrade to business class to Abu Dhabi!!! Whoop whoop – I have clearly done something good in the last 5 weeks!
So now I am about to board, but I leave knowing I will return in 6 months for more amazing times to bore you with.
Dherai dhanyabad everyone for all your support – keep your eye on our website for more news www.supportingnepalschildren.org.uk – and of course if you feel like donating to help us help these amazing kids, please click on the button!!!