"Full many a ray of purest ray serene the dark unfathomed caves of ocean bear:
Full many a flower is born to blush unseen, and waste its sweetness to the desert air."
from "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard" by Thomas Gray

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Kailash 2010 Day 1 : From Delhi to Kathmandu, Jun 25, 2010

Unexpected luxury at the Indira Gandhi International airport in New Delhi - free massage chairs at the gates!!!
The massage chairs make the Indira Gandhi airport the best there is (Pallavi's collection)
Free massage chairs, that the trekkers-to-be take advantage of, at Indira Gandhi International Airport (Pallavi's collection)

The immigration counters in Nepal are mind-boggling - "visa" "no visa" "Nepali citizens" and anyone can stand in any line and yet have papers processed. The informal atmosphere allowed Swamiji to walk up and down the lines and to make sure that we got the correct stamp on the passport else we would be sent back from the Chinese border. 

Off to the hotel through the streets of Kathmandu that appeared to be more of a temple town than a capital city.
Mallik and Srihari outside the Kathmandu airport, Suhasini/Shailaja/Swamiji/Jayanthi at the back

Kalpakkamji at the back, Pallavi and Alka outside Kathmandu airport
Alka, Moti Aggarwal, Srini and Usha Amble - all excited to be in Kathmandu!!

The rooms were comfortable, and the hotel campus was pretty with little gardens, fountains and sculptures.
Beautiful Buddha garden at the hotel in Kathmandu
Sculpture in the hotel garden

Br Uddhav Chaitanya in the hotel at Kathmandu
If this was a B/W picture, it would look like a strategy session for WW II - Gaurav, Alka, Pallavi, Param-ji

Regardless of the concerned expressions above, food was plentiful, though I was not quite sure I wanted to eat the rich Indian food. The yogurt was pre-sweetened, and the restaurant insisted there was no plain yogurt to be bought, they apparently bought tins of this sweet stuff and we would find the same thing in the market. The sweet yogurt killed the taste of my steamed rice and yogurt meal, but there was chai, I was counting my blessings.

Bhavna to whom I am ever obliged for motivating me to prep for this trek, with her daughter Kaveeta
The Appajis came later during the day. They have had challenges from the beginning with their flight from Chicago getting cancelled, the British Airways people losing their bags in the new flight, the lost bags not arriving in time, things missing from the lost bags once they finally arrived, etc etc. Considering this, not only the parents but even the children - the youngest in our group, are bearing this stoically with a very positive attitude.

Swamiji gave instructions that nobody was to leave the hotel. Only the people from Dallas were in the hotel yet, more people from different parts of India were to arrive at different times during the day. And once all the groups had freshened up, we were to have a pre-trip meeting for the entire group.
Logistics meeting organized and planned by Swamijis without whose leadership this trip would have fallen apart
If it were not for Swamiji's appointed :) volunteers - Yogananda, Rajeev, Srihari, Motiji, not sure how we would take the next step at any point. The scene would have been quite chaotic at the logistics and planning meeting. The moral of the story is: go with Chinmaya Mission or some such organized group to Tibet with an authoritative leader, and do your own research. The travel operator takes care of food, transport and hotel booking, and Diamox - the medication for Acute Mountain Sickness.

One of the things that emerged in this meeting was that there were people who did not have travel insurance for the journey. The medical facilities and the terrain in Tibet do not allow instant medical care. There are blogs on the Internet of people who have gone through bad experiences. My travel insurance purchased in Dallas cost less than $30 to insure me for the 15-day trek - and this included being airlifted. My recommendation is to consider this mandatory. The cost is negligible, considering the expense of this trip.

I had already started on Diamox once I landed in New Delhi, thanks to the advice from Alka - half a tablet in the morning, and another half in the evening. From Kathmandu on, the travel agency started providing it to each person in the group. There were a couple of people who knew they were allergic to it. Diamox should not be taken on an empty stomach, it caused nausea to a couple of people that I know of. I had already checked with my doctor in Dallas, he had written a prescription for me. I had ultimately purchased it in Delhi, and it had suited me for two days already. My recommendation is : talk to your doctor and be sure you can take this medication, way before coming to Tibet.

Aum Namah Shivaaya!!

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