I arrived safe and sound in the chaos of Kathmandu late on Monday afternoon. It is as much fun as I remember it, and I feel at home here. The place excites me and I have been thrilled at the reception I received from my Yak Attack friends. All smiles, hugs, handshakes, and copious amounts of sweet milky tea.
It has an atmosphere like nowhere else I have visited, I love it here.
My transfer, by train, from Derbyshire to Heathrow Airport-London was simple enough and I duly met up with fellow Yak Attacker Steve Edwards from Wales (It’s not his fault! Hahaha) near the check-in desk
Etihad Airways had decided to embark upon a systems upgrade over the course of the weekend, (Of all the possible weekends in the year to do this they chose this one!) and there was an almighty queue! We joined it and patiently waited our turn. We had a few conversations with other travellers curious about our huge bike bags and interested in what we were about to do. After a short while a very polite young Etihad employee pulled us from the queue and took us over to the business class check-in, I guess to speed up the process a little and to get our huge bags out of the way. Of course you can’t help but wonder if an upgrade is on the cards?… it wasn’t! 😀 We were then escorted with our bags through to a different area; “curiouser and curiouser thought Alice”.
It turned out that customs had decided we were clearly unscrupulous characters and wanted to do a full bag search! Now I had, nicely bagged in to perfect sized little packages, 1.5kgs of Torq Fitness carbohydrate/hydration powders that would look suspicious to even the most naive of people. This could take some explaining!
And so the entire contents of each bag had to be unpacked onto the floor and inspected. Whilst one customs officer meticulously swabbed the bags for traces of who-knows-what everything else was passed through X-ray, including my Osprey pack containing the offending sachets of white powder. They never said a word! Perhaps the aroma of Lemon & Lime flavour gave it away? And even more fortuitously no bending over was required either!
On our arrival at Abu Dhabi we were informed that our flight had been delayed for 24 hours and we were to be put up in an hotel in the city. Now I’m not the kind of traveller who gets stressed about stuff like this, it happens, and you might as well roll with the punches but I was a little disappointed not to be going straight on to Kathmandu. However the chance to spend some time in a new, for me, city with free accomodation isn’t going to worry me too much.
24 hours in Abu Dhabi then. It turned out to be about 23 hours longer than you really need. With apologies to anyone who loves it I found it to be quite the dullest place I have ever visited. It has zero charisma and by morning both Steve and I were glad to board the bus to the airport and get out of there!
Next stop Kathmandu, Nepal. Yeehaw!
I would like to add a short postscript here before carrying on. Etihad Airways were exemplary in every way; we were treated very well and kept well informed at all times. I will happily fly with them again.
We were collected from the airport by the always polite and patient staff of The Kathmandu Guesthouse and driven to our oasis. Home at last.
We dropped our bags, bumped in to a couple of fellow Yakkers, and then headed off around Thamel to seek out my Nepali friends at the various bike shops around Thamel.
The rest of the week has been a blur!
A bunch of us (Nepali’s and Internationals) hit up some of the trails around the Kathmandu Valley for a ride one morning and had a blast. The hills are big and the trails are dusty and it reminded me a little of what is to come over the first few stages of the race.
Whilst drinking tea and socialising with my friends at Himalayan Singletrack I was introduced to the ex-international rugby player turned adventurer Richard Parks. He turned out to be a really nice guy and we ended up arranging a spin out on Thursday morning. Myself, Welsh Steve, and Richard ended up taking a leisurely ride out to Bhaktapur City. On some local advice we took a rather scenic route avoiding the main highway and took about 2 1/2 hours to get out there. It was worth it. It is very different to Kathmandu, a lot less traffic and much more tranquil. We ate lunch, had a few laughs, fell off a couple of times, and found a much quicker way home via a short section of the highway which wasn’t as bad as predicted. We called at Patan for ice cream and then spent our time dodging in and out of the Kathmandu’s crazy traffic. It was a heap of fun! Like being in a Playstation game! (but without the extra lives! :D)
Today we have the race briefing and rider registration in the beautiful garden at the guesthouse.
My nerves are starting to shred a little; it will be nice to get under way and let it all disappear. Nothing focuses the mind like a 10km climb in searing heat of the valley!