Another fortnight has gone and I have been rushing around Kathmandu trying to catch up with the teams I need to interview for Miss Elizabeth Hawley’s Himalayan Database. Kathmandu’s tourist district Thamel is noticeably filling up with trekkers and climbers, bars are getting busier and mobile phone shops are making big bucks selling SIM cards, which will be working at Everest base camp – and maybe even beyond.
Coming back here after five months living in the clean and luxurious environment of Switzerland has required a little bit of adjusting – especially concerning the traffic, which seems to be getting more chaotic every day. However, the Nepal police are trying to reduce the chaos on the roads by cracking down on drink driving – in typical Nepali style. Up until a few days ago the traffic cops were forced to stick their heads into people’s cars and smell their bad breaths to find out whether they had imbibed alcohol or not. But this bad practice is supposed to be over now as the Kathmandu police have finally received 50 (!!) breathalysers. Whether or not these 50 machines will be enough to filter out the violators of the law in a city with a population of about one million remains to be seen, however, since they were introduced on 28th March 2012 more than 950 offenders have been caught.
Road construction and house demolitions are still ongoing and apparently the big road leading to Lazimpat (where I live) is due to be turned into a six-lane road, which is huge step up from two-lanes. Unfortunately, the Kathmandu authorities will not include a bike lane, which could make biking a challenge on this newly constructed ‘motorway’ that is supposed to be 22 metres wider than the current road. Last year, a much-needed four-lane highway was built leading from Kathmandu to neighbouring Bakthapur but sadly, 24 cyclists have been killed there so far. I guess the Nepali capital will never be a bikers heaven, however, I hope that with these new roads the drivers will not speed beyond their abilities so that we can continue to get around on our bikes reasonably safely.
Riding safely through Kathmandu is pretty important to me as I seem to be spending most of my time on my bicycle rushing back and forth from meeting expeditions for Miss Hawley, and doing other chores, which certainly takes much longer than back home in Europe. If you need a photocopy, for example, you have to make sure to find a shop in a district that currently has power or a generator, which can be quite a challenge at times. We are still suffering from around 10 hours of ‘load shedding’ every day, which is due to the fact that the country does not produce enough power to serve its population.
However, despite all these challenges it is a great to be back, especially during the climbing season. The usual suspects as well as newcomers are in town climbing everything from Everest to Annapurna, Dhaulagiri, Makalu, Baruntse, Ama Dablam etc. It is always great to meet old friends again and this year, I was pleasantly surprised to see the Iranian climber Farkondeh Sadegh again. In 2005, she was part of the first expedition of Muslim women to Mount Everest, which I covered for The Guardian.
Like every spring season, I will be writing the newsletter for Himalayan Experience and I am looking forward to doing so as this year could be an interesting one. Apart from 24 Everest climbers, there are six Lhotse contenders and four Nuptse aspirants on our expedition, which will certainly give me enough material to blog about. If you are interested in the Himalayan Experience Newsletter, click here.
Of course, another Everest season will take me away from Kathmandu for about six weeks, which means that I will not be able to continue teaching my CORE FIT classes at my friend’s Pranamaya Yoga Studio in Thamel. I am very much enjoying this new challenge of teaching in an unknown environment and I will be sad that I will not be able to continue – until I come back in June.
I will do my best to keep you posted on base camp matters, however, you will find more regular updates on the Himalayan Experience website.