Upon arrival in Kathmandu I was greeted by some local IMG staff who placed a necklace of chrysanthemums over my head packed my bags into their truck and drove me from the airport, through the dry, dusty and noisy streets of Kathmandu to our hotel.

I have been to places before which have questionable driving but Kathmandu is something else! There are cars, buses, trucks, motorcycles, bicycles and pedestrians everywhere going in every direction. The line in the middle of the road means nothing. Even small children come walking down the middle of the road. Each driver then beeps their horn to notify the rest of their presence which leads to a constant buzz of car horns. Absolute chaos!

View from our hotel looking at the Boudhanath temple

We eventually arrived at Hotel Tibet which has a traditional wooden decorative interior, checked into my room and slept a few hours after being awake for 24 hours.

That evening more team members arrived including my tent mate and friend from Mt Aconcagua, Paul.

We reviewed our gear with the guides, ate some local cuisine and let the jet-lag send us into slumber. Luckily the hotel was away from the screaming chaos of the main road so we slept in peace.

The next day was when we met the rest of the team. Great bunch of people good team dynamic and lots of laughs, exactly what you want on an expedition team.

IMG guides preparing gear to be sent ahead of us to Lukla


After a run through the itineraries, documentation, money and Q&A we all hit the streets to collect any remaining gear and also to buy Nepalese SIM cards for our phones which should give us fairly reliable cell service over the next two months. The chaos I had seen a day earlier on the streets only got worse, the pollution is incredible. There is a combination of typical motor vehicle pollution mixed with a fine dust which engulfs the entire city. If you breathe with your mouth open then clench your teeth you hear the grains of dust crunching. Visibility is maybe a few hundred meters, your lungs feel heavy with gunk and breathing deeply feels risky. I have to say Kathmandu although having absolutely lovely people, is not for me.

Nepalese artwork in our hotel
During our shop that afternoon, the heavens opened up and an almighty downpour flooded the streets in minutes. This was a blessing in disguise as the rains managed to clean the city of the airborne pollutants at least for a little while and breathing was not so tedious.

We went to sleep early that night as the next morning was a 4am wakeup when we would check out of the Hotel Tibet race to the Domestic airport to join the queues of climbers, trekkers and sightseers flying towards Lukla and the mountain region.

We got to the airport in darkness, walked along a muddy path into what seemed like an abandoned terminal building. I was not sure if it was in the process of being demolished or once being built and now forgotten. We hopped over puddles and jumped over conduits towards a small door which was the security screening for access to the first part of the terminal. We checked in our bags, got our tickets, passed through another poor excuse for security (they said no water or metal in our pockets yet let us through alarms beeping all the way).

Passing through the ‘pre-terminal’ at Kathmandu domestic airport
We waited in the ‘secure’ part of the terminal for around 4 hours for a weather window to open up at Kathmandu and Lukla at the same time. Seems this is not as simple as it sounds. We got the call, boarded the bus and drove out to the back of a twin propeller plane. Spirits were high. We were finally doing this! We waited in the bus for around 20 minutes to then be told Lukla is closed. The driver ferried us back to the terminal where we waited another 2 hours before being told Lukla is closed for the day. This meant collecting our gear and heading to the other Hotel Tibet which was right near the airport and doing it all again the next day.

I didn’t have a huge problem with this as it meant another night in a hotel with a bed and shower and in the grand scheme of things, one more day was nothing on an expedition so long. The second hotel was nice.

Most of the people walked down the road to see a very famous and important Buddhist temple however I did not join them as I did not want to face those streets again.

Paul got some amazing shots of this temple which can be seen here.

Early night that night and the next morning we were up at 6am where we went back to the airport to do it all again.

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