The flight left Istanbul on time and was half empty. It was a comfortable 4 hour flight and after catching up on Desperate Housewives we made our descent into Sharjah which is a budget airline terminal for Air Arabia just outside Dubai.
As we flew over the coast and with it being about 9pm it was dark and the lights of Dubai looked amazing, the man made islands were illuminated, it was infinitely better than Blackpool illuminations. Once we landed we went to the transit desk and given our connecting flight wasn’t until 7.25am the following morning we left the airport. The Emirates offer a Visa on Arrival for no cost. Once we’d got stamped into the country my munchie radar picked up Dunkin Donuts and so the donuts were on me.
The taxi to our hotel in Sharjah was 43 AED which is about £7.50 and given the driver was doing about a hundred miles an hour took only ten minutes. We checked in and went straight to bed after sorting a few things out. Watching Terminator 2 the whole thing was so surreal. The kids were asleep in minutes and I wasn’t long after. The alarm went off way to early and before we knew it we were back at the airport and boarding the flight to Kathmandu, Nepal.
I seemed to be the only one that was exhausted and since there were only about 20 people on the flight, as soon as the seat belt sign went off I booted the kids off our seats and laid down and slept. I thought I’d slept for about half hour and so when I woke saw the kids were playing and so put Deadliest catch on the laptop. No sooner had it started and the stewardess was telling me to put my seatbelt on and turn off the laptop. I asked why and she said we were in our final descent. The flight was four and a half hours long and so literally I must have slept for about three and a half hours.
As the flight descended I could see mahoosive mountains in the distance and the approach into KTM was a bit drastic. We were flying high and then suddenly made a sharp descent. I looked to see how the kids had handled it and they were laughing with their hands up like they were on a rollercoaster!
I shared a little concern to myself since air safety in Nepal is amongst some of the worst in the world and visiting a mountain you had not intended to head on, at altitude is not uncommon as pilot’s in Nepal have a knack for finding that nice white fluffy cloud is not as soft as they’d hoped when they entered it.
The airport is like an old school and is tiny. Citizens of the UK can get Visa’s on arrival for $25, all you need is a photo and patience to fill the form out. Suddenly I realised our photo’s were in our checked luggage that we hadn’t seen since Istanbul. There is of course a photographer who will flash your mug for 250NPR (Nepal Rupees) I went to the ATM and tried to withdraw 10,000NPR which is about a hundred quid. Card was returned and receipt produced saying thanks for your custom. No cash came out and I realised I’d been done. Piece of shit cash machine had
Skanked me. I had no cash and was stuck in no man’s land. I called for help and was basically told unlucky. Then I get a phone call from my piece of shit NatWest bank who had decided to block my card – After I’d been scammed!!! A few security questions later (all automated) and I was told my card would be live within 2hrs. I had a guy waiting outside the airport for us and so mission to get some cash was on. A text to Gemma “I need £100 on my fx asap, will explain later” and I was let out the airport to use a different ATM. I got some cash went back up and did the whole Visa thing which was basically queue here for a stamp, then get in that queue for a stamp before going to the other queue for a stamp. $25 later (kids are free) and we were through. I picked up my bag and realised someone had nicked my karabiner’s.
Outside the airport was the usual hustle and bustle and seeing my name was a relief, the guy had waited for us for almost 2 hours. We jumped in his Toyota from the Stone Age and of course it didn’t start. He tinkered under the bonnet and we were off, I could hear the wheels grinding where the bearings should have been as we hit town and swerved to avoid Yak and Buffalo that were just chilling in the road. It was hectic. There were of course no seatbelts and just when I wondered if it could get any worse it rained. Not a bad thing, but of course the windows in the back didn’t wind up and every hundred yards the driver had to stop, get out and clear his windscreen because he had no wipers.
We finally got to our hotel and were greeted with cold drinks, smiles and a relief that we were here. In many senses the trip really begins today, I am a little excited too. Lonely Planet says about children in Nepal “Few people take children to Nepal” and any info I have searched for has left me wondering. It seems that few children visit this immensely poor country and there may be reasons for that. Or, as I suspect it may just be that no one has such resilient children that thrive off history and culture as I do. We’ll see, but after a quick walk round one thing is for sure – They certainly have the enthusiasm for it.