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Dogs howling, muffled voices and mouse-like footsteps shuffling around upstairs. We’re in the Moonlight Hotel in Thamel. The air is warm with the smell of spices mingled with the heat of the day.

Arriving at Kathmandu airport we were greeted by a team of porters wanting to carry our bags and Dil, our guide while we’re on trek.

A garland of fresh marigolds was placed around my neck at some point before I entered the minibus. Thick with bushy orange flowers and a subtly fresh scent, it was actually quite cooling against my skin.

In the confusion of bags, people and marigolds I made the mistake of not getting to grips with the local currency quickly enough. The tips that both Jim and I gave we’re at least twice the amount they should have been. Ah well, it’s all part of the experience!

At dinner in a nearby restaurant with Basu and Ram, who own the trekking company, Nepal Social Treks, we discovered that we’re only the second group to have ever been granted archaeological permits for the area of Mustang we’re heading to in the second half of our trip. It looks like we’ll have a government civil servant joining us there to monitor and report on our activity, but that’s still to be confirmed.

(There’s a National Geographic article that comes up fairly high in a google search, if you look for ‘Mustang’, ‘Archaeology’ and ‘National Geographic’, if you’d like to see more about the type of archaeology we’ll be looking at there.)

‘Ram squared’ joined us for part of the evening, so called because, also called Ram, he is friends with our one. It transpired that he was part of the first expedition to kayak down the Ganges from the Himalayas to the coast, having had some interesting experiences at gun point along the way…

It all feels like another world out here, but I suppose it is.

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