At 5.00pm on Friday I walked out of the office door, with the fantastic feeling that it would be another 17 days before I returned. However, today was the day we’d been waiting for, when once again we would be jetting off to exotic locations and exciting adventures in our 84th country – this time, Nepal.
We spent the morning pottering around at home, doing our last-minute packing and other pre-holiday things, like completing our Nepalese visa forms. Then, at 12.15pm, our taxi arrived to take us to Durham railway station to commence the first leg of our journey, the train to London.
The train was on time and we happily made our way to our reserved seats, stashing our luggage in the racks and making ourselves comfortable. As soon as the train pulled out of the station, we cracked open a chilled bottle of champers, which we dispensed into some plastic beakers before toasting each other and the start of what we hoped would be another fabulous holiday.
The train sped through the brightly sunlit English countryside on its way to the capital. The weather had been glorious over the weekend and the forecast was for it to continue for another week or so. Nothing brings the great British public out more than the (relatively rare!) sunshine, and everyone seemed to be attired in shorts and sandals, bright summer dresses and cropped tops.
On our arrival into London Kings Cross, we proceeded to the London Underground Piccadilly Line for the hour-long tube ride to Terminal 4, Heathrow Airport.
The temperature in the train was predictably uncomfortably warm, but at least it wasn’t too crowded, and there were several empty seats. Every time the doors slid open, especially when travelling overground, we enjoyed a welcome breeze for a few seconds.
Eventually we arrived at the terminal and made our way to the Jet Airways desk to check in. Jet Airways is India’s second-largest airline (after Air India) and its headquarters are in New Delhi, so the first part of our flight would be via India’s capital.
We didn’t have to queue at the check-in desk and we were able to check our bags right through to Kathmandu. We hadn’t flown with Jet Airways before, so we didn’t know what to expect, although I have read some pretty poor reviews of it.
Once we’d got rid of our bags we made our way along to the executive lounge, as we had about three hours to while away. Going through security was very quick, so we arrived at the Plaza Premium Lounge in good time and settled down in some large, comfortable chairs in very pleasant surroundings. From here, we could look straight out at the arrival/departure gates and see the aircraft coming and going; a Boeing 737 Royal Air Maroc plane was being prepared for its next flight, and we watched the luggage being loaded onto it as well as the catering supplies.
We enjoyed some Indian snacks washed down with some cold Chang beer. I had some chicken tikka masala and rice, with a couple of samosas and some lime pickle. I followed this with a selection of cheeses, and we then had a couple of refreshing gins and tonics with ice and a slice. During this time, the Morrocan plane was pushed back and turned around, and we spotted our own Jet Airways 777 aircraft arriving from Delhi around 6.00pm.
We spent about 2½ hours in the lounge before we were called to board at Gate 2. We didn’t have far to go and were able to board the aircraft straight away. We were in the middle set of four seats; Trevor was in the aisle and I was next to him. We were seated next to an Indian couple who were flying out to spend some time with relatives in the Punjab region. Not surprisingly, most of the passengers were Indian, with only a few British scattered here and there.
It was very hot in the plane and I immediately removed my denim jacket before settling down on the somewhat-hard seat. We had around a nine-hour flight to get through so I hoped there would be no delays.
We took to the skies 30 minutes later than the scheduled time of 20:45 hours but it was absolutely ages before they came round with any drinks or snacks. Meanwhile, the hot and foetid atmosphere inside the aircraft was very uncomfortable, and this was only relieved slightly by turning on the air blowers.
Eventually the drinks trolley appeared and I asked for a glass of cold water along with my usual can of beer (Tiger). We were also given a packet of some sort of spicy Indian corn snack. I had a look through the in-flight entertainment programme but there was nothing I wanted to watch, so I just turned it to the Skymap so we could keep track of our journey.
Anyway… long-haul flights (especially night-time ones) are a pain in the proverbial, but necessary if we want to get to these exotic and unusual locations. It was after 11.30pm when they brought the meals round; we thought it was going to be Indian food but there was chickpea salad to start, followed by chicken arrabiata and a pistachio dessert. We were only given water to drink; no sign of any more beer or wine coming round.
After dinner I tried in vain to sleep. I cannot sleep sitting up at the best of times, and they were not the most comfortable of seats. It wasn’t helped by the bloke in front reclining his seat back and cutting into my space; also the lady next to me had a number of bags on the floor and on her lap, and she was determined to spread them, and herself, out as best she could. So I just had to sit there, rigidly upright, and count the hours and minutes slowly passing.
Eventually we touched down in Indira Gandhi International Airport, Delhi, at 9.30am local time. We now had to sit around and wait for our two-hour flight to Kathmandu, Nepal.