Kathmandu Guest House credit: Mark Bibby Jackson
Unfortunately the old building, which dated back to the turn of the last century, was destroyed in the April 2015 earthquake, but it has been replaced by a beautiful garden – unique in Thamel. A Hollywood style pavement celebrates the many celebrities who have stayed here, including Ricky Martin, Jeremy Irons and George Harrison who popped in during his Beatles flower power heyday in the late 60s.
Although Kathmandu is the administrative capital, the trekking capital is Pokhara, a six- to eight-hour drive – or 25-minute flight – away. We chose the road to stop off en route for rafting in Trisuli. The traffic was horrendous as colourful trucks and buses ploughed their lonely farrow up and down the hills leading from the Kathmandu valley.
Somehow, I had never been rafting before so I stood with a little trepidation in my bright red life jacket as our guide went through detailed safety instructions. Once in the boat I found it a thrilling experience, especially when we went over the rapids – each one was the hardest according to our guide, until the next one. While unlikely to make the next Boat Race we did manage to survive in tact. Only once did I find myself slipping over the edge and even then I managed to pull myself to safety via a handily placed rope.
The heat was intense as we set off from Bire Thanti shortly after 10am the following morning. The first day’s trekking started with a misleading stroll through a couple of villages and then into deserted countryside following the path of a river with the occasional goat to keep us company. More than once I ventured into the river in order to keep my cool. However, this proved to be the calm before the storm, quite literally.
Predicting the weather while trekking in Nepal is notoriously difficult. Blistering heat quickly changes to steady rains, and by the time we approached our tea house in the tiny village of Tikhedungha, where we would spend our first night – the heavens had opened. Wet clothes were strewn in all available spots as we ordered a well-deserved Gorkha beer or three, and our evening’s meal.
One of the major changes since my first Annapurna trek is the food. Then, the diet was an unrelenting succession of dal bhat – a Nepalese thali with rice, dal, vegetable curry, poppadum and pickle – for lunch or dinner and Tibetan bread and honey for breakfast that I adored, with the occasional Mars bar as a treat. I even picked up the nickname of Dal-bhat-man in part due to a passing hairstyle similarity to the Simpsons' only son. However, most of my fellow trekkers soon tired of the cuisine and by the end were craving western food, particularly pizza.