Namaste! We have heard this greeting almost non-stop since we arrived in Nepal a week ago. Our Indian Visa's expired on the 8th March so we decided to make a run for the boarder on the 7th just in case there were any problems. First we had to say a sad fairwell to Darjeeling and head down the mountain by very uncomfortable and dangerously fast (is there any other?) shared jeep to Siliguri so that we were close enough to make the trip to the border the next day. The trip to the border involved another shared jeep, only this time it turned out to be a normal car as the jeep wasn't filling quickly enough, to Indian Immigration, then a cycle rickshaw across the river and finally into Nepal. Luckily the whole thing was very smooth and efficient.
We were orginally planning to take a couple of days over getting to Kathmandu and travel by bus however it transpired quite early that the bus was going to be a lot more painful then we were expecting and we bumped into an English couple at the Nepali imigration desk who advised us that the bus to Kathmandu was false economy and told us to fly instead. We thought about it a while and chatted to a travel agent but in the end gave in to the comfort of flying from nearby Bhadrapur rather then the pain of a bus. This turned out to be a great decision as we flew though the mountain ranges and saw Everest for the first time. What an awesome sight. It felt like we were flying below the mountain tops (although in reality I'm sure we weren't). Even the other passengers on the flight seemed to find it mesmerizing even though I am sure they had seen it before.
We arrived in Kathmandu and were checked into our hotel about 3 hours after arriving in Nepal. The smoothness of the process and the friendliness of the people was a great welcome to the country and a refreshing change from our experiences in India (although it should be noted that we are a little more aware of things now then we were when we arrived in India and there was certainly no sense of culture shock to be experienced here). We knew when we arrived that we would be spending a bit of time in Kathmandu in order to sort out visa extensions, trekking permits and registering with the British Embassy (another tip for safe trekking apparently) so we were mentally prepared for a few days of city madness and I'm not sure either of us was really overly excited about it. However Kathmandu instantly started to feel like a friendly and (relatively) calm city and we relaxed and started to enjoy ourselves.
The area around the hotel (Thamel) is crowded with shops selling trekking gear (all fakes of course), restaurants (selling wine, beer, steak and momos. Heaven!) and the usual tourist clothes and junk but somehow of better quality then we had seen before. Spending a week here is no problem at all. It also turned out my knee was a lot more painful then was safe to take trekking so we were forced to rest it for a while before we risked starting a three week trek.
So after a week of internet, shopping and form filling we are now (almost) ready to head to Pokhara and make the decision whether to start the Annapurna Circuit Trek straight away or rest my knee for a few more days and do other things first. First though... to Pokhara.