Arriving into Kathmandu for the first time is an assault on the senses.
Walking off the plane and heading into customs you’ll notice the antique feel of the airport, old furniture, air conditioning units loudly chuffing out cooling air and the unmistakable smell of dust and grime in the baggage area. Inspiring images of the Himalayas – the summit of Mount Everest - can be spotted everywhere, adding to the excitement that you have arrived at a very special destination.
For me the very word Kathmandu evokes romanticism; the famous gateway to the Himalayas which has been visited by the classic pioneers of a century before, countless expeditions and adventurers have since followed.
As you roll into the city, bumper to bumper in the snarling traffic and along the dusty streets you are likely to pass by the Royal Palace, home to the now extinct royal family whose demise stemmed from tragedy and murder. An event which happened on the grounds of the palace as recently as 2001.
Your first port of call in Kathmandu is likely to be the district of Thamel, a name synonymous with every traveller who comes to Nepal. Thamel is a haven for travellers, an area of the city which has been pulling in the crowds since the 1970’s when rice fields and huts were more commonplace than new buildings.
Today, it is still a fascinating place to explore, jam-packed full of shops, cafes, bars and restaurants. It is a mecca for everything adventure – detailed mountain maps, books, sleeping bags, full down suits, tents, boots, ice axes and rope – alongside the mountain shops, incense fills the streets and hundreds of colours prayer flags flap in the wind overhead.
What I like most about the city is that each and every adventure starts and finishes here.
As you stroll down the streets you can’t help but notice fresh faces of travellers yet to embark on their own adventure, picking up last minute snacks and supplies, taking out wads of cash from ATMs and wearing sparklingly new outdoor gear which is yet to earn its stripes.
On the flipside, the weary and worn can be found, with unkempt hair, bushy facial hear, sporting deep bronzed tans and carrying stories which we can’t even begin to imagine.
On clear mornings the snow-capped mountains of the nearby Langtang National Park will have you brewing with wonder about your onward journey.
With time spare before you head off, there is plenty to keep you occupied – a must is to visit the city's ancient Durbar Square, as well as not forgetting the Monkey Temple of Swayambhunath and the cremation ghats of Pashupatinath, just a selection of dozens of places worthy of visiting either side of your adventure.
In our opinion, Kathmandu is without question the adventure capital of the world; the city where a story of your own is waiting to begin.