50+ Hours to Nepal

It wasn’t all that long ago that I was hanging out with chameleons in Madagascar!

Wow! That was a long trip. I’m finally in Nepal where it’s currently 12:35 p.m. on a Tuesday in Summer. Back in Antananarivo, it’s 9:50 a.m., also Tuesday, but in Winter. (Nepal is one of the few places on the planet that observes an off hour time zone. North Korea is also in that bucket.)

Why am I telling you this? Well, because it means it took more than 50 hours to get here.

That’s Mount Kilimanjaro under the wing. It’s the tallest free standing mountain on the planet and the highest point in Africa.

I looked out the airplane window a couple of days ago in Africa and saw Kilimanjaro. On the approach into Kathmandu this morning, I saw Everest. What a mind bender. Kind of like the Celine Dion Christmas Album playing on full blast in this restaurant. It’s July. In Nepal.

The engine of the 787 that carried me from Nairobi to Guangzhou. Earlier this year, a woman threw coins into an engine just like this in Guangzhou for good luck. I didn’t have any change.

Last night, facing a 15 hour layover in Guangzhou, China, I opted to take advantage of one of China’s new 72 hour visas for US Citizens transiting through one of their main airports. It’s easy and free. At one point, I had grand plans to check out Guangzhou during the layover, but it was the middle of the night and I was tired, so I opted for a hotel room instead.

And, boy am I glad I did. It meant I was wide awake for the approach into Kathmandu. It was breathtaking. There’s something absolutely magical about mountains. I know most people are “beach people,” give me the mountains any day! I’ve been fortunate to see the Appalachians, the Rockies, the Alps, the Andes, the Pyrenees… This was the first time I’ve confronted the Himalyas and even from (not so) high above them in an airplane, they’re daunting. Something about a jagged, snowcapped peak is just intimidating.

As we approached, the ground quickly got closer, not because we were descending very fast, but because these mountains just appear out of the earth. It’s rice paddies for miles and then…boom! Peaks thousands of feet high. It’s unbelievably beautiful.

Wait. Remember that Celine Dion album I mentioned? It turns out it’s actually just one song – “The Magic of Christmas Day” – from the album playing on repeat. 

Sorry, that’s distracting.

Back to the mountains. The air is remarkably clear, making it possible to see for miles and miles. And then suddenly everything disappears, enveloped by Kathmandu’s smog.

I’d love to have pictures of just how beautiful this was, but my words will have to do. Chinese airlines forbid the use of cell phones in flight and since my cell phone is my camera, I have no pictures. I have no evidence of the experience other than my memories.

However, there’s hope…high on my list of must see countries is Bhutan, Nepal’s neighbor to the East. The approach into Paro is one of the most perilous in the world – only a handful of pilots are authorized to make it. I’ll definitely do my best to get that on camera when the time comes!

That’s not something you see everyday! We were held back from disembarking while these UN Troops marched away from their plane.

But for now, it’s all about Nepal!

Thankfully, someone just realized what was happening and changed the song. Now I think it’s some kind of Indian grunge song on repeat. Variety: The spice of life in Nepal.

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