Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Kathmandu and beyond

On Monday 27th we did get the bus to Kathmandu.

It was sad to say goodbye to Sonam and family, but also quite a relief to be starting the journey home. Poor Osel, who's 10, had been petrified overnight and insisted on Sonam erecting a tent in the garden. Apparently he slept really well after that.

Osel feeling happier in the morning

Sonam says goodbye as our bag is put on the bus

Mountain Man and I were really suprised at the lack of damage on the road from Pokhara to Kathmandu. There'd been 3 or 4 rockfalls, but that was it and no damage to houses that we could see. The worst bit of the journey was at Trishuli River Bridge where the road divides to go to Kathmandu, Gorka and India. Gorka was where the epicentre of the earthquake was and that road was closed and there were queues and queues of lorries and cars trying to get to India. It took us almost 1.5 hours to get through approx 1 mile.

The traffic jam at Trishuli River Bridge

But we did get through and on to Kathmandu. About 20k outside of Kathmandu we started to see damage, but frankly we were expecting far worse. I think the saddest thing was seeing people, who'd either lost homes or were too terrified to go back into theirs for fear of aftershocks, in their home made tents in every available space. I felt an overwhelming sense of emotion for them and it was hard to hold back the tears.

Home made tents littered Kathmandu

We arrived in Thamel and were met by Rabi's brother Raju who escorted us to our hotel, The Holy Himalaya, where the only bit of damage that I could see was to this plant pot.

Damage at Holy Himalaya

The staff were wonderful and hadn't lost their sense of humour.  There was limited electricity and water, no phone or internet, but the hotel was standing and my suitcase was there (we'd left it in Kathmandu as it had all my clothes from working in Thailand in it and were unnecessary in Pokhara), so felt very lucky indeed. The hotel didn't have any food, but there was a cafe open so we grabbed a snack and walked about a bit to see what Kathmandu was like.

Strangely, and I don't know if any of you have ever been to Thamel in Kathmandu, but here's a link to some photos for you if you haven't. If you have you'll know it's pretty crazy and full of people. Well here's some pics of Thamel as we saw it on Monday night.

Thamel street deserted

The main Thamel Chouk, usually so full of people and cars and motor bikes and vendors and tourists, empty

On Monday night at about 9pm I felt another aftershock. It didn't last long but was a reminder that this episode wasn't over yet.

On Tuesday morning the hotel made breakfast for everyone. We were so grateful for a good start. Then it was off to the airport at 10 am. I'd been assured that Thai Airways were flying, but you just never know and so as my flight was supposed to leave at 1.30 we thought we'd leave plenty of time just in case. MM dropped me at the entrance and I was on my own from then, while he headed back into Kathmandu.

Tribhuvan Airport is always pretty chaotic, but it was incredible. No-one really knowing what was going on. I was initially told my flight would be on time, but then there was a flight delayed from the day before so they had the slot that my plane was supposed to have. Luckily within the hour another plane came in from Bangkok and it was with some relief that my flight was called.

We had to wait for what seemed forever at the departure gate. By this time a thunder storm had appeared and I really feared for the poor people, already scared to hell by the earthquake now having to deal with this too. Luckily it seemed to clear pretty quickly, but not before quite a lot of rain had been deposited.

There were quite a few cargo planes bringing aid to Nepal coming and going and the police and army in attendance. Here's a pic taken at the departure gate with an enormous El Al cargo plane that looked like it was going to come into where we were standing. A scary moment!

El Al cargo plane not quite stopped!

Then we were called forward and into the plane and there we were, airborne, some 3 hours after we were supposed to have taken off. But I have to say not one passenger in the very crowded airport showed any anger or frustration. Everyone was patient and trying to share water and snacks. It was heartwarming.

The flight was good, with no problems and I succumbed to a gin martini with olives... it was just the best! When we landed in Bangkok again I had no problems and my bag... my trusty Beast... was 4th onto the carousel. I made a quick exit to grab a cab and at 10pm I arrived in my room at the Sukhothai Hotel. I was given the details of this place by my friend Nok and I managed to wangle a great deal if I booked 2 weeks in advance paying only 30% of the actual price. I'm so glad I did.

I've gone from a garden in Pokhara feeling the earth shaking under me to the lap of luxury. I had a bath and a glass of wine and got into bed at almost midnight having answered emails and posted that I was fine on Facebook.

My bath filling up... what joy!

Today I went to my favourite massage place, Health Land, which was about half an hour walk from where I am and for the grand price of 500 Baht (£10) I had a 2 hour, very painful, but very welcome, massage. Then off to Silom Centre for lunch and a walk around then time to get lost on my way back to the hotel. I eventually made it back in time for a swim and a relax by the pool for an hour.

I have to say that floating in a pool in a luxury hotel in Bangkok after the strange days before did strike me as being so far apart in experiences it was hard to make sense of it all.

And now? All I can hope for is that all the people in Nepal are safe. It was an awful experience but I'm so privileged to be able to come away from it and that's not lost on me.

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