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Everest Gokyo Ri Trek - Journey to Katmandu

We got up early, had breakfast at the hotel and then were picked up by our driver. He seemed very happy to see us, so he must have been happy with our tip even at 1/3rd its original amount.

The airport was fairly easy to figure out, but they were quite serious about security as well as excessive weight (we were charged about $30). In addition, they wouldn’t let me carry on the tripod and then when I went through the final security the confiscated my batteries. This of course spelled disaster for me. I had about 30 AA rechargeables and headlamp's battery was a special type. Security claimed if the ground crew approved it they would let it go, of course the ground crew pointed to security. I was willing to check it in my small bag, but that wasn't acceptable to them either. After all, "it could get lost." I countered back, “What’s the difference, if you take them all now I lose.” The excuse then evolved to, "it would take too much time;" aka he was lazy. So in the end, after arguing, I negotiated being able to take some of the batteries on board.

Trying not to be too upset by it, we got on the plane. I sat next to a lovely couple that was doing language research in India and headed to Nepal because they had to leave every six months to keep their visas valid. We landed in Katmandu without a hitch. Even getting through customs was really simple, however when we got outside I could not find our guide Padam. We were immediately swarmed with people willing people wanting to help. I was more than content to just wait as I had faith in Padam to show up. One guy tried to say his friend was Padam. Eventually, I let someone help me make a call on his cell. His phone didn’t work well, but I was able to hear Sushma (Padam’s wife). She said, “Hello Jeff”, before the phone cut out, so at least she knew I was there. After a while the phone guy wanted me to walk with him off the airport. I wouldn’t. Which was the right choice, because I was navigating back through the sea of people to Chuck the man’s phone rang and it was Chuck. Padam had found him.

As we rode to Thamel, the tourist area of Kathmandu, very little seemed to have changed in four years since my last visit. It seemed to be the same fun friendly place as before. Padam found us a clean quiet out of the way place for $16/night. We unpacked a little and went out shopping for souvenirs for Chuck. I had little intention of buying anything until later in the trip, other than batteries and maybe a camera release I accidentally left mine at home. Chuck on the other hand was a buying fiend. I quickly taught him the art of negotiation. You shouldn’t pay more than 60-70% of the asking price in most cases. We had dinner at the Thai restaurant Keri, Heather, and I ate before. The soup was good, but the meal was not. No worries, plenty of dahl bhat to come. We navigated back to our hotel and packed our bags for the trip. We went to bed early, but woke up many times.

Darkest Day of my Travel
We got up early to head to Padam’s. We caught a cab and rode to a place close to him where we were to call and have him pick us up. When we got in the cab, I made a big mental mistake. Mental mistakes on the mountain, assuming you are a climber, cost you your life. This is why I don’t climb mountains and just trek on them. I didn’t see the cab drive pull my camera bag forward into the front seat. As we got out of the cab to get things out of the trunk, he pulled out before I could get the bag. I freaked. I couldn’t believe I let him steal it. I tried to be calm, but that wasn't working too well. To top this off, I still had to figure out how to call Padam. I found a nice man, in ironically a camera shop, who dialed Padam. Padam said he would come immediately, but waiting at the corner was an exercise in pain. Pacing back and forth I tried to think all that was lost. My best camera, the wide angle lens, and an incredible 48 gb of camera memory (back when it cost a considerable sum) as well as my travelers checks and camera filters. This was a huge loss, but at least I had my backup camera.

Padam came and was great. He called the police and the hotel. Apparently they had a system where the hotel guard writes down the number of every cab that picked someone up. There was hope! First we went to Padam’s for some food and waited until 10 when supposedly we could go to the police. As an added perk, I got to see a Nepalese jail. This was not exactly the real life experience I was hoping for, but least I was on the right side of the bars. Turns out we had to go to another station, so we caught a cab and eventually got to the right place where we were able to look up the drivers of the cab and look at their photos. Turns out no one seemed right.

Padam said there was a good chance we would catch they guy and that the hotel guard was sure he got the number correct. The book had the number of the owner of the cab, so Padam called. Listening to the conversation in Nepalese was killing me. It was impossible to tell what was going on. I couldn't even sense if it were going good or bad. Eventually, I found out the cabbie would come. We worried they would switch the cab driver. It was over an hour and he hadn’t shown. This couldn’t be good. When he did finally show, it was obvious he was definitely not our driver. The cab did not look right either. There was a luggage rack on this one. Could he have put it on while we waited? Maybe, but then I noticed the meter was a red LED not a black one as I remembered. It appeared sealed by the government, so the hotel guard must have been wrong about the cab number.

The guards came, but it did not help. We filed a police report and then the electricity went out before we could get an official copy. Next we had to go to the Amex office to get new travelers checks. I couldn’t believe the effort it took. The women on the phone, from India, was accusing Chuck of stealing it, then insinuating there was a conspiracy with the hotel and the cabbie. She said she wouldn’t start to process it until I got the police report. I asked for her supervisor and she wouldn’t put them on. I said to put me on with someone in America, not realizing it was 3 AM there.  She said to call back in fifteen minutes. So we went to get some lunch. Chuck and I got some chicken and Cokes, while Padam had ice cream. He claimed that the service, that we unfortunately interrupted, was not finished so he couldn’t have real food. Apparently dairy was OK, and therefore ice cream was OK. Gotta like that justification system.

As my mind was completely fried, I picked the Coke up and the lid popped off and soda went everywhere. Shortly after Chuck did the same thing, so I felt a little better. I went back to the Amex office for round two. The same girl answered and again was giving me more crap. I did manage to get to a manager and after quite a while he agreed to give me my refund that day.

Went to bed after 1:00 AM as I had to got shopping for camera equipment as well as call the insurance company.

The story continues...