The visa formalities are made easy with the new computer booths - just answer a few questions, scan passport and pay the fee. Even the immigration lines are short - one doesn't often find this kind of efficiency in Nepal. As usual a big welcoming crowd loitering at the terminal entrance, eager to relieve a weary traveller of a little cash. That initial " Hello sir, welcome to Nepal" is going to cost, and any currency will do. 1 guy holds up your name while his friend shows you to the ATM and as if by magic, another friend pops up to take you the few steps to a taxi, oh and there's a fourth guy wanting to take your baggage and they all want your cash - yes, welcome to Nepal indeed. Personally, I don't need the ATM and I'm keeping hold of my bags thank you. And as for the guy holding up my name, perhaps he'd like to make better arrangements with the guesthouse!
Noticeably less traffic on the road to Thamel this time, not quite as much pollution even though it's rush hour! Just as well because I forgot to bring my pollution mask! Apparently there's trouble at the Indian border crossings where supply lines to Nepal are severely restricted. What fuel there is has to be obtained on the black market at hyper inflated prices explains the driver - yes, I feel this ride from the airport is going to be pricy. On a more positive note, rubble from last years earthquake has been cleared and a few less tents on the street. The atmosphere though is as colourful and vibrant as ever, folks huddled around little bonfires as the winter sun sets and the cold Himalayan air begins to bite.
Tomorrow, it's that 6 hour bus ride to Pokhara and hopefully the guesthouse has secured me a ticket - but there's just a certain degree of anxiety as to how much I have to pay this time - I've only been in the country less than 2 hours and already I'm hearing about black market racketeering. Well, let's worry about that tomorrow, right now I have to eat, pay the guesthouse and sleep!
A quick rundown of the expense account thus far then comprises:
1. £486.66 Oman Air Return London to Kathmandu
2. £10 train ticket Norwich London
3. £1.50 2 pies from Morrisons
4. £2.20 Costa-lot-Coffee
5. £11.70 London Underground train to Heathrow via Tottenham Court Rd.
6. £2.75 Sainsbury's cheese salad roll
7. £2.50 Costa-lot-Coffee Heathrow Terminal
8. £3 (approx) Costa-lot-coffee Muscat Airport
9. £8 Private transport to the guesthouse, 25 minutes.
10. £1.50 veg curry, Nepali tea, Kantipath, Kathmandu.
11. £5.33 Double room, Stupa Guesthouse.
12. £5.33 Bus ticket to Pokhara
Here, a sequence of images as the plane descends into the Kathmandu Valley before landing at the international airport.