26.01.10 – 4.20pm (10.41am UK)

There’s a bang on the door. The cheery tones of ‘Hira, Diamond Geezer’ penetrate my consciousness with the words ‘morning tea’. I open one weary eye to see the pane of glass 6 inches away from the end of my nose has ice on the inside & my breath is a cloud. I struggle with my sleeping bag zip as usual, still requiring much thawing, as Rob gets his undone with the speed of an Olympic athlete & bounds to the door before the second [& increasingly irritating] bang & elated cry comes…

It’s the last trek day. The official last trek day. In the words of the song, this is it – this time I know it’s the real thing. I want to shout at the top of my voice “I’m a Christian, get me out of heeeeeeeeere!”… but I’m too cold to do anything. So I sit there, upright in my sleeping bag, feeling sorry for myself.

As usual, Rob’s good humour is infectious & before too long we’ve slipped into the comfortably chummy banter – John’s joined in through the wall, coughing along in time with our tunes, Bob joins in from the other end of the corridor too with his cough that has a remarkable likeness to the mating call of a cuckoo & Mike doesn’t do mornings. It turns out that all is good in our world today after all!

Breakfast at 6.45am & walk up to the airport about 8.00am. The usual tight security measures seem to be in place:

“Do you have a lighter in your pocket?”, reply “no”.
“Do you have a knife in your pocket?”, reply “no”.
“What country are you from?”, reply “Tim”.
“OK, you can go through.”

??!! Is it me? I actually didn’t hear him properly, but even so…

Squash onto the plane, various chairs arms & bits fall off as we clip ourselves in, pilot’s foot goes down, we collectively pray, the plane drops off the end of the runway &… phew, we’re airborne.

45 minute journey, flying at around 3500m. Pah! We’ve walked higher than that! Tee-hee.

Back to The Royal Singi &, well, it’s like we’ve never been away – except everything seems so mystical! Oooh… chair, oooh… bed, oooh… person without beard, oooh… hot drink, not luke warm! We’re opening our little plastic wallets of valuables left behind before the trek like they contain precious diamonds! I switch on my mobile & have a charge & reception – result! Being the considerate husband I am – & bearing in mind it’s 3.45am in the UK – I immediately text Polly! Sorry love x

We’re given back our passports too – I think this may be to remind us what we should look like. It seems to work for everyone as glimmers of recognition go around the group – except Mike of course, who was born with a beard. & Judith of course, who doesn’t have one. & Ruth of course, who also doesn’t have a beard, but she does have a Norman.

Anyway, after we have the customary welcome tea, it’s straight to the room for showers & clean clothes! Sadly, the shower was only luke warm as the sun hadn’t been up for long & the solar heater was still ‘working on it’. However, it was great to be able to have a good scrub – & be warm when I got out – & to have a shave!

With clean clothes on Rob, John, Mike, Bob & myself headed into Kathmandu town on foot for a ‘butcher’s hook’. Wow, what an experience. Not only is the whole place awash with colour, the richness of sounds is amazing! Sounds prick your consciousness from every angle – & your eyes just can’t keep up with what they’re seeing. I’ve tried to take some photos which I intend to upload, but I’ve no idea whether they’ll communicate the overwhelming ‘being there’ experience. I have some other photos too which I tried to upload at Namche by the way, but they kept failing – I’ll try these again now we have a stable internet connection at the hotel.

As we struggled to blend in with the locals, we were inevitably bombarded by street sellers. We could have bought just about anything I reckon, probably even a child – they’re everywhere. We even passed children & young teenagers lying on the pavement, full length, just asleep.

There’s litter everywhere – huge piles of it. John read that there is a litter collection strike at the moment, but the problem looks beyond this. It seems more like a way of life.

We walked to the buildings formerly occupied by the royal family here, before they fled – I can‘t remember why now… I think I got distracted while I was being told! The building would have been magnificent in its time, but for now looks derelict & unkempt. We had some lunch at a roof-top restaurant from which we were able to gain a far better view & it was still very impressive. From our position we could also see a whole barrage of activity from drills at the nearby army barracks, a bridal selection parade, the hubbub of street commerce & a cow [a sacred animal in these parts] causing havoc at a three point traffic junction because it refused to move & no-one was allowed to move it!

Back at the hotel now, I’ve blogged up to date & our plan is to meet downstairs at 6.30pm (about 1pm your time) where Psang will be taking us to a local Nepalese & Indian Restaurant. Looks like the eastern wind may be following us from the valleys… as it were!

Anyway, signing off for now. I’m looking forward to a real night’s sleep – the first for nearly 2 weeks. Let’s hope the weather doesn’t keep us awake…

Catch you tomorrow. 2 sleeps…