28 hours til Kathmandu
04.12.2013 - 06.12.2013 9 °C
Today, December 4th, 2013, is the big day that we have been gearing up for! Almost two years ago we started talks of our next big adventure and it feels amazing for all our planning, research and efforts to finally become a reality. Just behind us in Calgary we are leaving behind a recent 'blizzard warning' and a temperature of -29 degrees Celsius with windchill (good riddance) and now flying west towards Vancouver where each mountain peak is lite up pink by the sunrise. As beautiful of a good-bye visual by our Rocky Mountains My mind is thinking how the mighty Mount Everest would actually be another 4500 feet higher then our present altitude of 25000 feet. I know during these flights I usually recollect about my wonderful family and my amazing friends to the point of an emotional sadness but this time I feel so different. I am so excited for our trip and I know that everyone is supporting us and equally anticipating our adventurous stories...I know the 'missing' will come but today my thoughts are full of promise and positive anticipation.
As our day is broken up in different cites, countries and continents this blog post was written in 3 different stages of this travel day. Because of this it may seem as though it jumps from emotion, vision and possibly past and present tense so bear with my inexperienced writing techniques.
Our next day +1 is going to be a full day of the not so glamorous side of travel of airports and LONG flights. When we booked this flight back May we were so excited to find a flight that was only 25 1/2 hours consisting of a short hop to Vancouver with WestJet, a casual three hour layover where we can get a picture with Santa Claus, before the inevitable longest section across the Pacific Ocean. Today we are flying China Southern Air from YVR to Guangzhou, China for 14 hours another two hour layover before the last five hour jaunt to Kathmandu, Nepal.
As mentioned in our first blog post here we booked our own flights with cheepoair.com and in doing that you always take some risk by not using a travel agent however, experience from previous trips has taught us there are some key points you must consider when booking yourself...first of some of you may think "good lord 25 1/2 hours seems like an helluva long time" but actually we choose this flight for two main reasons; price and speed. It was easily the quickest flight by nearly 8 hours available at the time and when you are on that long stretch of 14 hours reducing this much time from your journey is like gold! Of course one of the most expensive parts of any journey is the flight so being frugal as we are, the less we have to pay the better. Before purchasing this flight we researched about the airlines also; South China Air (SCA) has a pretty bad reputation in the aviation world. We asked around and also googled reviews and read dozens of comments of rudeness, bad service, shite food and zero amenities. Very few positive comments were expressed for SCA, so if we relied on other peoples comments we would not have booked this. But world travel isn't about the flights so much as the destination! in this case we went with our gut, took a chance and opted for the time and cost savings. Now that I am closing in on the half way point of the long leg I can say a few things about SCA; all of the flight attendants appear with a lack of experience and travel in groups around the plane attempting to serve a decent selection of drinks and typical airplane food, their rookie actions proved quite comical at times but never were they rude. There are no electrical plug ins of any sort which for everyone in this world with electrical gadgets like the iPad mini I'm writing on now poses a challenge but meh! Although there is a tv screen it's tiny and the clarity is not good, also you do not get a lot of choice of what to watch but I still managed to watch the two movies they offered on a continuous loop. When we booked you can pay an extra cost for flight insurance (which we did must in case an issue should arise) but I also paid a little extra to reserve seats. This is essential for these long hauls! One tip I'll share is that at the back of the big Boeing 747 or 777's there are usually 3 rows of only 2 seats wide, if you are a couple getting these seats is a big positive because you don't have any strangers to excuse yourself by to go to the washroom and you generally get a little more leg and arm room. But like every flight you just never know who your neighbours are going to be and on this 14 hour jaunt ours literally ended up being the family with two young, fussy, crying kids...at times the shriek that explodes from the youngest has made me double check to see if my earplugs have fallen out...oh the joy!
Yes earplugs are a must! Other items are those funny u shaped travel pillows. Like toilet paper I suggest you spend the extra few bucks to purchase a quality one...Amanda found one brand named Cocoon that is remarkably comfy but it also compacts down to the size of an avocado. Hand sanitizer, especially as there is no soap in this CSA lavatory. Your own headphones are always better then the cheep ones they try to sell to you, of course don't ever forget your iPod with your favourite music so you don't get stuck listening to the 3 channels of karaoke favourites. Gravol (Canadian name of motion sickness pills) which is basically ginger based is a smart preventative for bumpy flights. On this trip we are trying something new also, we are taking pills to help us prevent jet lag, they are called No-Jet-Lag and I will be sure to tell you the results at another time. Comfortable shoes; as we are doing some trekking in Himalayas, solid and well worn in hiking boots must be taking with you. Being that the last thing you want to lose on a flight, we wore our big heavy boots with the intention to take them off while flying, in my carry on daypack I brought my north face bootie shoes and Amanda chose her Sannuks to be more comfortable. Also in our daypacks we brought good quality BPA free water bottles so you don't have to rely on bottled water served by the absent flight waitresses also you can fill them up as many airports have drinking water stations. We also have our sleeping bag liners in case the flight was cold and blankets didn't cut it but this hasn't been a problem on CSA. Gum can help with passing time and relieves any head pressure you experience with the always present 'ear popping'.
Our last post , I spoke of the travellers anxiety I was suffering from...this has been replaced with giddy excitement. The last week was a blur of activities, family, friends, last minute purchases and of course packing! Our packing list will be a complete separate post but I was happy to say the next 15 weeks of our life have been stuffed into two separate bags for each of us. Our main travel backpacks (75 litre) have a zip up flap that encloses all the shoulder straps and waist belt. And a small day pack zips onto the main body turning it into a standard looking suitcase both of these packs came in around 34 pounds. Our carry ons which are our Everest Base Camp (EBC) day packs are around the 32 litre size and weighed in at 14 pounds for E and 20 for A. Amazingly I found packing this time extremely easy and seemed to have room to spare which of course made me wonder what I have forgotten...i credit the success of this packing to the multiple backcountry hikes we do, as it trains you that every gram of gear adds up and less is always more. That said we have planned it to buy or rent a few required items in Katmandu such as hiking polls perhaps and sleeping pad. We also plan to mail home approximately half of everything we are brought after completing our 18 day trek as we won't require alpine gear for the remainder of the trip.
Looking out the window now I can see we are now on the other side of the ocean and we are now following along the shoreline of where North America ends and Asia starts. Right now it's time for a much needed stretch and walkabout on the plane as my ass has turned to stone and those adorable little kids screams are even louder then I thought humanly possible...
I can honestly say that we have never had such a smooth travel day...after leaving our home in Calgary at 6am Wednesday morning we have just now checked into our room at the Hotel Ganesh Himal in Kathmandu and its 1145 Thursday evening. After a unpacking our bags into our tiny little room for the next 6 nights and some quick catch up with social networking I'm ready to finish off this post. Being that our bodies are presently going through a state of shock of being awake for 28 hours with three 2 hours bouts of sleep on various airplane seats, not to mention that its a 12 1/4 hour time difference ahead (yes 1/4 of an hour, I'll explain that another time) our sleep patterns are messed up so we are wide awake at 1 am while friends back home are getting ready to go for lunch yesterday!!! Confusing much? Hopefully that made sense, I'm not sure if it did for me yet or not. But i digress back to the ease of our day; every single flight was in time, all our pre reserved seats a success, navigating through the airport in China although highly inefficient was a piece of cake, getting our 30 day tourist visa at the Kathmandu airport took less then 20 minutes and even had a driver from the hotel holding a sign with my name on it in a sea of hundreds of eager taxi drivers. We got into his super compact micro van and pulled out of the airport into a mass of semi 'organized chaos' (I'm fairly certain I will be saying that many times in the next 15 weeks). The streets of KTM are narrow, full of hills, twists, turns, piles of gravel and garbage, completely independent street dogs and consistent honking of horns and this is when most everyone was asleep.
The best news however is We Are Here!!! It's really official now. We have 5 days on our own to adjust to the Nepalese way, get lost in strange culture, discover new foods, get introduced to the locals smiling happy faces and then it's trekking to EBC time...
If the pasts 28 hours are any indicator as to the rest of our time in Nepal then we should have nothing to worry about...but that would be boring! I'm not a fan of boring...
Let the adventures begin and our curiosity's never end!
Evan & Amanda