Preliminary pictures

I haven’t had time to do anything more than just to flip through my photos from the trip after transferring them off the SD cards, but I’ve started to upload a subset of the ones from Nepal unedited. You can find them as a set on Flickr. It includes some of the cellphone pictures I’ve used in blog entries as well as around eighty shots from my camera.

More from Nepal will be forthcoming, but I need to do a little editing, stitching together a few panoramas and attempting some tasteful HDR to bring out the contrast between the white mountains and the dark foreground. In addition, I have a couple hundred from my stop in London to sort through and upload.

Boarding for the last leg

Business Class is boarding now, so it seems we are reasonably on time for a departure forty minutes from now. That’s a heavy contrast with this flight yesterday, which seems to have been delayed fourteen hours. The route had a bad history of delays, so if I get to Chicago tonight sometime I’ll be happy. Will check in from there when we land.

…with boarding pass

It took an hour, but the agent helping me seemed to enjoy the challenge. Thankfully, this was not a quick layover. Though Etihad is operating the flight for my last leg, I’m book on it through American, despite my having flown Etihad for the previous three legs of this trip. It shouldn’t matter, one would think: I had the same situation with AA and BA on my first leg leaving Chicago a month ago, and I checked in with BA with no issues.

Here, however, it was a problem requiring much glaring at the reservation computer and a few phone calls. Eventually I ended up rebooked directly with Etihad, and they threw in a couple of meals during the layover for my trouble.

I had a real, beef burger for dinner, trying to eat on Central Time now. That’s my third of the day, actually, but the other two were veggie burgers at Peace Eye and in the Kathmandu airport restaurant, respectively. I held back from any type of burger until today, but the thought of going home to easy food decisions swayed me.

I slept on the flight here, and now I’m trying to stay awake for a few hours or, probably, until my last flight starts. The first half of it roughly corresponds to when I should be sleeping in Chicago. If I can sleep a little then and wake up over the Atlantic I should get a little head start on the jet lag, though I imagine I’ll be in bed early, back home, on Saturday evening — which, it’s weird to think, is today here. I’ll be home this afternoon.

Back in Abu Dhabi

Flight was on time, so I’m back in the desert for a layover. Hopefully that’s all it is. Working now on getting a boarding pass for my final flight back to Chicago, since they couldn’t give me that in Kathmandu.

If all or most goes according to plan, I should be on the ground in Chicago in around 24 hours.

Kathmandu airport waiting

After a delayed flight in the plane pictured below, I’m sitting in the ticketing area at Kathmandu TIA waiting for the Etihad desks to open in two hours. From there it’s another four til my flight leaves. I could run into Kathmandu for early dinner or something, but the thoughts of lugging my gear around and of getting more rupees when I’ve carefully run down my stash make me content just to sit here and follow the news from Massachusetts.

Saw most of one peak around halfway through the flight out the left window, thanks to open seating. I have no idea which one, and we were probably forty miles from it and just above it, but it was a beautiful pyramid rising above the clouds, more black rock than white snow and ice on the south side that faced the plane.

Walked over from the domestic terminal down a path alongside the terminal entrance road, though it turned out there was a dirt path between their parking lots where some of the locals walked.

So it ends…

I’m at the Pokhara airport waiting for boarding time. Nice second-story airport cafe here, choice of full view of the runway or partial view from the shade. Devendra drove me here on the scooter, saving a taxi fare but putting the fear of dying right in me. That’s my second ride on the back of a bike this trip, and at least this one was on a paved road — and we didn’t drop it this time. I just don’t sit steadily enough to be a good passenger. I warned him of that, and we made it, despite me flying up and nearly off when we hit one dip in the road.

Spent the morning packing and trying to interpret questions from the US parents of one of the other tourists here who had to spend the night in the hospital. He’s fine, it seems, but he couldn’t talk on his phone from his hospital room, and you can imagine their stress when calling his cell phone and the guesthouse staff answers. They speak English well, especially Devendra, but it takes a while to catch to the accent, especially over the phone and trying to ask medical questions.

All of my purchases fit into my main bag, and the Nepali backpack I bought here as storage during my trek makes a slightly more able carryon than the tiny one I brought. Main bag weighed in just under 20kg, so no extra fees for this trip, it seems. Of course, I jettisoned a lot of food during the trip, energy bars along with backpacking meals for my planned trek, and I left my little REI tent behind weeks ago. Since it became an unused pain in the ass swinging from the bottom of my backpack, I’ll gladly spend $100 back home to replace it. Most of my toiletries were expended, and the Tevas I bought here to rest my boots were trashed and smelly, so they stayed behind.

Just waiting now for a Yeti Airlines plane to land, then boarding, then back through security at the TIA international terminal in Kathmandu to wait for my nighttime flight to Abu Dhabi, where I’ll switch SIMs and see what’s built up in my normal mobile account. A somewhat lengthy layover there, then a final, fifteen-hour haul to flooded, Chicago, customs and immigration and the Blue Line home. Sad to be leaving…very much so…but I like the act of traveling as well, so here we go.

Beautiful, final morning

If anything, it’s even more clear out than yesterday. Lovely to get a clear, last look at my mountains before I have to go. They seem so much closer now, even from Pokhara, because of the trek. It’s no longer an interminable series of ridges that stand between here and the base of the mountains…it’s just a few, a known walk, a few days work. Done in health with a little less hurry, it’s even an easy trek.

I will be back. Can’t stay away from this much snow and ice and elevation for long.

This leaving thing

Last full day here, and I spent it seeing the mountains, breakfast, shopping at Bhat Bhateni (new, small chain of supermarkets), mom at Once Upon a Time, a walk along the shore of Phewa Lake, and a nap. It was a beautiful morning, and in the last couple of hours the clouds and lightning have rolled in again, with some light rain.

Yesterday and today I’ve gradually lost the settled peace of just being here, because tomorrow will come so soon. It’s happened in little fits of realization, which I try to push from my mind, with limited success but that have built to a strong knowing that this is nearly over. I wish I could find a way around it, but I have to go back. As long as paychecks kept being direct-deposited I’d be content just to go on living here, but somehow I doubt that would continue long if I didn’t show on Monday.

So, back to work, to the problems still in need of solutions and the backlog of tasks that could carry me through 2015. Back to the land of the constantly dinging BlackBerry — I even get an upgraded model when I get back.

Back to people I miss, the redeeming factor of returning, though the connectedness through this blog, Facebook, cheap cell minutes and mobile data that was absent last time I was here has kept me feeling close to that part of home. Homesickness certainly hasn’t been a problem, and I’m given to it, so I think I have global communications and readying this blog beforehand to thank, along with the quiet peace of this place.

Actually, living remotely most of my close relationships, those with my family, has made me used to telecommuting in that area, and most will attest that we’ve been more in touch for the past weeks with me on the other side of the world than when I’m back in busy real life with nothing much to report. Too bad it isn’t work, instead, that functions that way.

Visibility

I’ve given up the idea of flying in a small plane in the mountains here, because visibility has been really poor for the last several days, morning til night. Even the evening showers haven’t revealed the mountains the next morning, beyond a hint of their shapes if you know where to look. It’s been humid, but also there has been a rash of wildfires burning uncontrollably, on top of agricultural field burning.

But today is clear, and I’m back on the roof. Everything is out, from Dhaulagiri through the Annapurna range. If this is my last good sight of them before leaving tomorrow, I’m satisfied.

Edit: Seems like cheating, but by the time I walked there the haze and clouds would move in. Taking a taxi up to Sarangkot right now to see the whole range before it disappears.

Edit again: Added a photo taken from Sarangkot.