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Episode 1 - Mucking about in and above Kathmandu

A thing of Beauty - Hot-air ballooning in the Kathmandu Valley

The Story so Far...

But where to begin? At the party, I suppose. After weeks of increasingly frantic preparations, Greg and I miraculously managed to get everything done a few minutes before the party started on Friday afternoon. Quite a coincidence, really. Anyway, it was a great time. I was enjoying myself, and if you weren't - that's OK coz I was too blotto to notice. (If you were one of those nasty people who didn't actually go to the party, then you should probably skip this bit, because it will make you jealous.) A big thanks to Christel for playing that song "I Hope You Have the Time of Your Life." So fitting and very thoughtful. It also managed to get everyone together for the inaugural shaving of the Dutton head. I was pleasantly surprised. I knew he was planning this, and was worried that with a Number One he'd look like a criminal. Thankfully he only looked like a thug. I also got to meet Greg's lovely dad Ross, who is to accompany us on the trek, but didn't get his head shaved for some reason.

The goodbyes were eventually completed and the limo was eventually filled with the appropriate bodies, and we glided (glid?) off to the airport, with Bob Seger's "I'm Going to Kathmandu" blasting through the stereo. After a teary final goodbye with a couple of special people who had sneakily followed us to the airport (you know who you are), we were hurried through check-in and customs only to have to wait for 45 minutes before we could board. "Hurry up and wait" will soon be the motto of our trip, I suspect.

Meandering down the gangway we met Andrew Hampton from Manly, who, for want of a better way of putting it, seemed to be me all over again, but with glasses and blonde hair (click here). Basically he was doing the same thing as me for the same reasons in the same style, and we instantly recognised a kindred spirit in the other. It's a shame he wasn't going directly to Kathmandu, but I have a sneaking suspicion we'll see each other again - maybe India, maybe Manchester, maybe Bolivia. Who knows? We exchanged email addresses (isn't that weird? How times have changed since I last did that backpacking thing (1986)).

Bangkok was Bangkok - five hours there is more than enough, and then the three hour sleep to Kathmandu was equally dull. After the obvious hurry-up-and-wait at Kathmandu airport customs, we were met by a smiling Gerry, and whisked off in a taxi through the streets of Kathmandu, every sense being assaulted the whole time by the odour and cacophony that is Kathmandu. Dad has a long-standing friend who owns a new, very fine hotel in Thamel (the tourist area), and there was never a possibility that we would be staying anywhere else. If ever you're looking for accommodation in Kathmandu, check them out. You can get more info at

And so we ventured boldly into the bustle of Thamel. For any of you that have been, you'll recognise the constant:

Changemoney? Changemoney?
OneRupee? OneRupee?
Rickshawtaxi? Rickshawtaxi?
Hashyousmoke? Hashyousmoke?

and the never-ending offers for you to buy violins, chess sets, Tiger Balm, flutes, trekking permits, hotel rooms and Barbie and Ken doll sets. All at the "special price for my friend," which is actually likely to be about 5-10 times higher than the price they would sell it to their friends for. You can't really get Barbie and Ken doll sets - I just threw that in to see if you're paying attention.

This morning was truly special. At 7:50am the bus arrived at the hotel to take us to the soccer field outside town where they were unrolling the - wait for it - Hot Air Balloon! For the mere price of US$195, or free if you are the ex-director of the company (or his son), you get a tranquil two-hour sail 2,000 feet above the picturesque Kathmandu Valley, silently floating past a panorama of the highest mountains in the world, periodically getting the top of your head nicely grilled from the heat of the three gas burners that are all that stand between you and a graceful plummet to your death. Not to be missed. If you have any desire to do this yourself and you feel like spoiling the surprise for yourself, we have quite a few photos to check out

Tomorrow we're off to Sagarmatha (Everest) for some trekking (and no, we're not going to the top - in fact, not even half way up). We're gone for three weeks, so keep those emails piling up in our inboxes while we're gone.

Until then,


Mark and Greg.


November 25th, 1998.

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