So in the great race from New York City to Katmandu, a race to the other side of the world, there is now a clear winner: me. How did I achieve such a feat? Let me tell you it wasn’t easy.
From the start the journey presented challenges. Tearful goodbyes are tough, and despite the fact that my girlfriend Amy and I are well experienced at airport farwells, this time I still find myself confronted with the difficult “guy-lemma” of whether or not to wear my sunglasses at ten o’clock at night to mask a little eye-redness. Still pondering, I join the check-in line comprised of an unexpectedly high number of moustachioed gentlemen apparently intending to check the entire Bed, Bath and Beyond catalogue onto the plane. There, a guy with an entire dinner set on his cart, there, a family pushing an American Standard toilet… Inevitably, this took time. Still, aided by a set of rigorous security questions at check-in consisting only of “doing anything interesting in Nepal?” we board our plane punctually. I sit next to a woman on her way to Kerala whose conversation topic moves rapidly from the lack of space in economy class to the death of her brother
(and this is before we’ve even started taxiing). Totally unprepared for this, I am relieved when she exchanges seats.
The flight to Doha is long – 12 hours – and punctuated by some rather astounding screaming from a couple of two-year-olds on take-off and landing. After, we disembark to enter the very terrestrial purgatory of the airport transit lounge. For hours we await final judgment, to be delivered by loudspeaker summoning us to the departure gate that corresponds to our final destination. While in limbo, I spend time resisting the urge to buy the tacky, absurd and perhaps slightly oxymoronic camel in a snow globe. I also take the chance to stretch my legs, circling the lounge passed the highly securitised zone for those travelling to the US – an easy metaphor perhaps, although one could twist it in many ways.
Finally, judgment cometh and I board the four-hour flight from Doha to Kathmandu. On flying through the misty mountains and landing in the hazy Kathmandu valley, I complete the trip and earn my victory. But it did not come cheaply. While I spent 20 hours in transit I arrive some 32 hours after I took off: 12 hours of my life sacrificed. But then, such dedication is arguably the mark of a true champion (although champions probably handle the accompanying jetlag a little better than I am). My prize? I get a few days extra to acclimate myself to this labyrinthine and slightly intimidating city before getting down to work. Here goes.