October 17, 2014

Kathmandu, Nepal

I woke up today with a lot to take care of in order to prepare for the Annapurna Circuit; therefore, I decided that I will sight-see Kathmandu after I get back from my trek, while I am trying to get an Indian Visa (this should take four or five days I think, so I will have plenty of time to tour the Kathmandu Valley when I get back); this means that today will be another day devoid of pictures. I first walked to the National Tourism Board building to get the permits I’ll need to trek the Annapurna Circuit; along the way I met a group of French and American hikers who were looking for the building to get their permits as well (their taxi had dropped them off in Thamel, well away from the actual location); I told them I was walking there now and so they followed along. Near Ratna Park, along the way to the permits office, it looked like the local communists were out having a rally (the world’s population needs to be educated, maybe then communism will disappear for good) and many police were there to make sure they didn’t take their right to assemble too far. When we finally arrived at the building, we went to the office to get our Trekkers’ Information Management System (TIMS) card; inside the office, I met the three Canadians who were on the same flight from New Delhi to Kathmandu (one of them was assigned to the same room as me, but ended up sleeping with his other two friends instead). After filling out the form and receiving that card, I walked around the outside of the building and to the Entry Permit office to receive my Annapurna Conservation Area Project (ACAP) permit.

After about ninety minutes at the National Tourism Board, I walked to the Immigration Office to extend my Visa for fifteen days (get it out of the way now so I won’t have to worry about it after the trek); this was a long process involving three separate lines that had no clear signs posted to let people know which one to visit first (they were not lined up in order); I asked a Western guy where to go first and he pointed me to the correct line, then told me I would have to go to the Payment line before going to the center line to receive my Visa (it’s a good thing he told me because the guy working the first line didn’t indicate where to go next); while waiting there I met a French woman who visited each line completely backwards, before doing it in the correct order; the best thing about the Immigration Office was that even though they say they close at 13:00 on Fridays, they worked until everyone who had entered the building prior to 13:00 received their Visa extensions or whatever they all were getting (not a common thing to see in Asia; if this was Laos, they probably would’ve shut down at 12:30).

After receiving my Visa extension, I visited many banks to find one that could give me a lot of cash (more than the 15,000 rupee limit you see at most ATMs here) to build up a nest egg for the Annapurna Circuit since there are no ATMs along the route; I ended up at Nabil Bank which has ATMs that dish out 35,000 rupees each time you use it and they have a 100,000 rupee limit per customer per day; so I grabbed as much cash as I could.

I then walked back to the North Face store to buy some more gear. Afterwards, I visited a nice shop in Thamel named “Shona’s” that is run by a Birmingham man and his Nepalese wife to find out about his gear rental policy (they rent down sleeping bags and jackets that they also make themselves; the other gear inside is reasonably priced as well, and (best of all) the staff speaks English and they are very knowledgeable when it comes to trekking in Nepal. I decided I would come back the next day for the gear.

I then walked back to the hostel and met up with my German roommate; we talked for a while and then I had one of the employees at the hostel walk me to a pharmacy on the side of an alleyway where I bought all sorts of drugs to help me just in case I get Altitude Sickness or some gastrointestinal ailment from contaminated water; after returning to the hostel, the German roommate and I went out for dinner and we met up with a Swiss man the German had befriended on a Tibet and Everest Base Camp tour they did together; we then walked to a small Nepalese restaurant and I had Coca-Cola, vegetarian momos (Nepali dumplings) with a spicy sauce, a Nepali Vegetarian set which included rice, dal, a large chip, cooked potato chunks with herbs, steamed greens, and yogurt – it was all very tasty and I especially liked the momos. After dinner, we all walked back to the hostel to meet up with some Nepali staff to go hit the bars (I made sure to go easy tonight). We first had a beer at the hostel before we walked to Sam’s Bar, but it was too crowded there; then we walked to Tom and Jerry’s, which was nice and we had some drinks there; next we walked to the Reggae bar, but that was too crowded and loud, so we left; we then went to De La Soul Bar, but that establishment was too empty; after that, our Nepali guides left us. We then ran in to the three Canadians I had met again this morning and they told us that they each took ecstasy purchased from a Nepali man, but they doubted that it was real deal since they hadn’t felt any effects yet – they were very drunk though, drinking vodka from a water bottle. We then walked to a bakery that was still open and the German and Swiss guy each had some food there before we moved on; we wanted to go back to Tom and Jerry’s, but it looked like it was closed (despite music coming from the building), so we went to Full Moon Cafe instead and we each had a beer there. We then called it a night and said goodbye to the Swiss man. Back at the hostel, I had one final beer before calling it a night (some time after 02:00). Only four beers, not bad.

I wonder if the ecstasy ever kicked in for those Canucks.

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