For most people trekking to the Mount Everest Basecamp, the journey begins in Katmandu. The City is ancient and full of rolling alley ways with restaurants, bars and all other kinds of shops. The tourist district, known as Thamel, is in the center of the city and is party central. It’s full of trekkers and an odd assortment of other tourists looking to party hard. Many of the trekkers get totally wasted given this is their last chance before beginning their trek. Although I don’t drink, I wanted to “experience” the scene so I went to two well-known bars, Buddha Bar and Purple Haze. I’ve got to tell you, the Thamel scene rocks!
I had a really good time and met people from all over the world. The only problem is drinking and altitude don’t mix. The next morning I saw many of the same people at the domestic air terminal waiting for flights to the mountain region and other parts of Nepal. Their bloodshot eyes and faint look told the story of their night (or nights) out in Katmandu. If you are looking for an alcohol free activity, high-altitude hiking or mountain climbing is for you. Given the pressure on the body in high altitude and diminished oxygen, even small amounts of alcohol results in hospitalization. Hopefully the partiers got it out of their system. Last night didn’t look like so much fun this morning. I remember those mornings very well, hungover and totally miserable. Seeing some of the same people from the last night at the airport made me grateful I no longer drink! I woke up rested and ready to trek for the next two weeks.
The scene at the airport was what one should expect at a domestic terminal in a very poor third-world country. The place was packed, flights oversold and the atmosphere pretty chaotic. We arrived at the airport at 9 a.m. for our 10 a.m. flight to Lukla. At 2:30 p.m., we are informed that we may not be able to get a flight today as all the flights are overbooked and one of two planes to our destination is out of service.
That’s how it is in Nepal, your flight may or may not happen. It gets worse though as we are then told the airline has oversold flights for tomorrow as well (starting to see a pattern here 😂) and even if we come back tomorrow morning and wait again all day, we may not be able to actually get on a plane. That’s when our guide recommends we hire a helicopter. It only costs $400.00 a person. Only $400.00 a person! It’s either that or drive all night for approximately ten hours over unpaved mountain roads to Lukla. What would you do? So we hired a helicopter. The only thing worse than dealing with this crazy third-world bullshit is doing it with a hangover. I am once again reminded of how fortunate I am to have stopped drinking. As no helicopters were available, we headed back into Katmandu for the night. The day challenged my patience but reconfirmed the benefits of meditative practice based upon Buddhist principles. I never blew a gasket, never got the urge to drink or smoke, and took deep breaths in and out with the out breath symbolizing my agitation and the in breath symbolizing patience and loving kindness.