Having been here for a little over two weeks now with very little by way of downtime, and even less of consistent internet (sorry about getting cut off on skype last night mom), I suppose it’s well past time to start documenting at least part of my experiences here. A little bit of house-keeping first:

1)     Due to the aforementioned lack of internet, and thus excruciatingly slow speed, there will probably be an unfortunately small number of photos in my posts. I’ll do my best, but I can’t make any promises.

And:

2)     Because of my busy and often chaotic/disorganized/last minute schedule, I have no idea how many posts I’ll be able to put out here. We’ll see.

And now on to the rest of the post:

Getting here!

I left Flagstaff on October 26th at 8:30am. After packing Thomas and Christinas Volvo with an 8’6″ creek boat, plus paddle, plus backpack, plus Huckleberry Finn, we realized that due to a logistical error, the keys to that particular vehicle were already on their way to California. Fifteen minutes and a search for what we thought was a lost and wandering Huck later (who turned up in the passenger seat not wanting to be left behind), we were on the road heading south. We somehow managed to avoid Phoenician rush hour traffic, and made terrific time to the airport where the second monkey wrench of the day presented itself in the form of “airline regulations.” Chances are, most of you reading this saw my post on Facebook cursing American Airlines, but for those that didn’t here’s the long version.

Upon arriving at the airport, Thomas and I unloaded the back of the truck onto the sidewalk and I set out to find some sort of luggage cart for my obscenely large pile o’ stuff. The only cart immediately available was at the SkyCap stand 50 yards from where we parked, and the attendant was kind enough to let me use it as he stared in disbelief that would actually be able to check everything onto the plane. I made a temporary farewell with Thomas who would park in the cell phone lot for the next hour until I either got everything checked onto the plane or needed him to come back around and pick up the boat in case plans went south. Making my way inside the airport and up to the American Airlines check-in booth, I received skeptical stares from everyone, and sighs of relief from other airline check-in employees that I wasn’t headed their direction. The looks I received from the AA booth however, were disheartening. At first, the agent I spoke with was simply curious, and after explaining to her that the object in question was a wave-ski and that AA and Quatar Airways would actually allow it on board, she inquired as to my final destination. When she didn’t quite understand where Kathmandu or Nepal were (she thought I meant Naples) and thus couldn’t find my reservation, the odds seemed to stack higher against me.

“Well I’m just not sure it will even fit on the plane,” she said to me as she picked up the phone to call the head baggage handler to inquire about the actual opening in the belly of the plane. After getting confirmation from the baggage people that the opening would indeed be big enough to fit the boat, she took out the measuring tape to get a semi-accurate measurement of the boat.

“It’s 127″ total” she kept repeating, “I don’t think we can take anything that large.”

“Well I know that I’ve checked this boat before, and have other friends that have done the same,” I replied confidently, knowing full well that it was at least 20″ over their limit.

“Let me check with Quatar to see what their maximum is, and I’ll need to talk to baggage again to be sure that it will actually fit on the plane,” she replied now getting somewhat flustered. I tried to assuage her frustration as she dialed the general service number for Quatar Airlines, where she got three different measurements as the “maximum” all of them being different, and none of them seeming like anything close to a maximum limit.

At this point, I had all three check-in agents working to get me and my boat onto the flight, one continually taking measurements, the other trying to wrestle it (with the assistance of the SkyCap) onto the scale, and the original on the phone with two different people at Quatar Airlines trying to get a definitive measurement from them.

Final Weight: 69.8 Lbs (Limit 70 Lbs)

Final Size: Length+Width+Height 124″ Limit 3 meters = 118″

“Do you have anyone in town that can come pick it up from you here?” she asked hesitantly. And for an instant I considered lying and saying that no, I didn’t and that the boat was the reason that I was going in the first place, and that all would be lost (and maybe the world would end) if I couldn’t bring the boat. But my honest side got the better of me (having lied through my teeth on more than three occasions already).

“Yeah,” I replied, “I think there might be someone I can call.” And with that I picked up my carry-on, dragged my pile of stuff around the corner, and sank into one of the hard plastic airport seats out of sight of the check-in counter. More stares ensued as I pulled the boat out of the bag, and emptied the boat of all of the gear that had been carefully weighed and placed inside re-wrapped all of that gear back into the boat bag, strapped it all together, and went back around to check everything in.

Still not wanting to give up the fight, the check-in agent had called three more numbers at Quatar and had come back with slightly higher numbers, but still not large enough to let the boat on. I presented my bags and she offered that if I could somehow re-pack again I’d be able to avoid the 3rd checked bag fee, so back I went, again to repack, and was able to get everything down to two bags, and both under 50 lbs. After all of the hassle, they were able to check all of my bags in for free, however I was still going to be without a boat on the other end.

A quick call to Thomas and the boat was back in the truck, a quick goodbye was made, and off I went!

Travels went smoothly for the most part, although an overly long overnight layover (14 hours) in Doha, Quatar made arriving in the sweltering and humid airport of Kathmandu that much more interesting. After the longest visa application line ever, I made my way out into the bustling pick-up area, found myself a taxi, thoroughly overpaid, and found my way to my hotel room. Dinner and a couple beers went down all too quickly and I passed out anticipating a 6 hour bus ride the next day.

Needless to say, morning came much too soon, and with the help of another international Paddle Nepal employee found my way onto the correct bus and settled in for a 6 hour ride. In the US when one thinks about a 6 hour drive/bus ride, one thinks about distances akin to Flagstaff, Arizona to Santa Fe, New Mexico, just over 380 miles or 615 km. The distance from Kathmandu to Pokhara is about 100 km. Needless to say, the average speed for that kind of trip was 16 kph…just under 10mph. Since then, it would appear that most vehicles have a top speed of about 40 mph (90kph).

Once in Pokhara, my hotel for the next three months was found, I met most of the folks I’d be working with and had a chance to settle in for a bit before getting out and paddling! More on that in the next post!!

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