Tuesday 25 February 2020
The refurbished Sacred Valley Home is comfortable and warm and we sleep like teenagers until the myriads (murders) of crows break through with their raucous calls as they hunt down breakfast. Then the builders start up and down the street with various tools and we are shaken loose from our room by 8am when we climb to the roof and have breakfast. The refurbished kitchen comes with a chap who knows how to use it and we enjoy bacon and eggs and very good (very, very good) Nepalese coffee.
Our trek requires us to have a pass for the Lantang National Park because a very small part of it encroaches onto it. And if you are trekking in Nepal you need a trekking permit. The TIMS card. The Lantang Pass is gained at the office of Tourism and costs us NRP3000 each. It is a quick process. You hand over your passport and a clerk fills in a ‘cheque book’ of passes. No photo required. Its cheap at half the price but is especially of value given the fee primarily goes to support conservation efforts in the park.
The TIMS application takes two forms. Actually you only have one form but there are two processes. If you are trekking without a guide you apply for and pay for the TIMS at the same tourism office, but at a different ‘window’. You need to provide two passport photos. One is attached to the application form and the other to your TIMS card. The application requires you to provide insurance and emergency contact details as well as entry and exit points to the country together with start and finish points of your trek. The cost is NRP2000. If you are using a guide the TIMS had to be provided by the guiding company. Any attempt to do otherwise will be met by an energetically negative response from the Tourist Office. The guiding company and the guide need to be licenced to guide – it’s a good idea to ask to see that permit. The cost is the same as the other process – NRP2000.
We actually came prepared to not use a guide but the argument that we are on the tail end of winter with potential track obstructions proved compelling. Someone who can engage the locals about these sorts of details would be valuable. The cost is more than acceptable and everything spent here is easily considered an investment in the lives and wellbeing of someone and their family. So we opted for a guide after a short chat with Nabin.
The general advice about travelling to Nepal is to allow a day in Kathmandu to purchase gear you have left at home. Third visit to Nepal and this advice still holds good. Despite careful compilation of checklists I’ve left a jacket at home. That is seriously annoying but best to realise it now than when out on the track. Thamel is full of clothing places which knock off gear. There is a single stretch of road housing shops which sell the genuine thing. They are the few among hundreds. I will pick up something which will be good for at least one outing in the Himalayas without breaking the bank.
A light rain has started to fall at 1930. The forecast was for thunderstorms and 80% chance of rain . The morning started sunny and was pleasantly warm, sufficient to warrant T-shirt only. But early afternoon at lunch the clouds rolled in and did in fact look like thunder storm material. That didn’t eventuate but by 3.30 the day was cool , gloomy and overcast.. We made a point of getting out of Thamel and away from the artificial focus on the tourist and pushed into the surrounding lanes (after buying a rain jacket and pair of trekking pants for Kavitha). We were immediately rewarded by the beginning of a wedding procession which was discordantly noisy and colourful and potent enough to stop the ever pushy, buzzing motorcycles. The procession clogged the lane we planned to traverse but this is a peripatetic outing so we merely nose down another and uncover more of the Nepal I love and Kavitha is admiring.
We settle payments for the transport tomorrow and the guide for the week so with all that now aligned we walk up to the ‘Aloft’ and have a coffee in a very non Nepalese environment and retire at 2000. Well, I have retired. Kavitha is sorting her pack for our 0800 departure tomorrow. My exploded pack awaits my attention tomorrow – I’m in bed writing this. Nighty night.