Mt Everest Trek: Day sixteen

By Ian Connellan 7 November 2013
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Busy Kathmandu perfectly punctuates the final day of AG editor’s expedition.

Read more about the AG Society supported Ama Dablam Everest Trek in Nepal, run by World Expeditions.

Just like that, we’re down from the ranges. Our flight’s smooth and everyone’s quiet and reflective; it’s only as we descend into the appallingly grubby air that cloaks Kathmandu that most of us start to energise.

Back at the Radisson Hotel we check into rooms and shower or bath ourselves back into urban mode. Around midday Alistair, Lincoln and I wander down Lazimpat Rd seeking coffee. Kathmandu veteran Alistair is going to take me on a tour of some of his favourite places, while Lincoln is simply delaying completing some work.

We eat and drink, then continue down Kanti Path to Thamel, the city’s main tourist area, which is crammed with shops, bars and restaurants. Our first task – helping Lincoln find an ATM that works – takes a few attempts; there’s been a blackout, which is not an uncommon occurrence. Next, Alistair and I wind through the streets to the old centre of the city, Durbar Square. We sit on the steps of a temple and watch the utterly beguiling human maelstrom of the Kathmandu streets: men and women, beggars and hawkers, rickshaws and tuktuks, cabs honking motorbikes honking delivery trucks honking pedestrians – and everywhere conversation, smiles and laughter.

After two weeks in the high Himalaya you’d think it an odd way to end the trip, but Kathmandu has an irresistible charm. Over the next day I’ll visit the city’s spiritual centres – the stupas at Boudanath and Swayambhunath (the “monkey temple”), and the Hindu temple at Pashupatinath – eat out, shop for gifts and mingle with this fabulous city’s friendly people.

But this afternoon at Durbar is the end-of-trip image that sticks in my memory: the frantic workings of a developing city surrounding a complex of ancient temples and palaces. And not far beyond, hidden from view by the haze, the icy spires of the world’s highest mountains.