Gear Night in Kathmandu

By STEPHEN REGENOLD

The airports went by like a foggy dream — MSP, LAX, BKK (Bangkok), and, finally, the destination, KTM. It was four flights, two movies, ample book-reading time, seven hours of sitting-up sleep, 9,000+ miles in the air, and over 30 hours of travel time. But Gear Junkie is now in Kathmandu! Expedition Hanesbrands kicked off last week when Jamie Clarke, the lead climber, and his family began a trek toward Everest Base Camp. Scott Simper, the expedition’s videographer, and I will be playing catch up on the Everest Trail this week. But first, Simper, our guide Min Magar, and I have a bit of time to explore Kathmandu.

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Gear Junkie in the Thamel District

It is 4:30am as I type this post. Jet lag has me up early, though I feel rested and well. Last night, Simper, Magar, and I explored the crazy narrow alleyways and streets of the Thamel District, a shopping and tourist area 10 minutes’ walk from our hotel. The scene mixes beggars with trekking guides, tourists and locals. Stores sell live chickens, fabrics and jewels, or Mountain Hardwear expedition gear.

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Pedestrians beware! Motorbikes and tight crowds.

Trucks and taxis push through people in Thamel. On the tight streets, motorbike drivers rocket and weave, roaring inches past your heels. They honk and accelerate, pedestrians leaping and fast-stepping to get out of the way. Kids thrust their hands in your face, begging for change. Incense and fried-food smells stream from stalls, thick smoke mingling with exhaust and garbage decaying in piles out front of book shops and places that sell beads.

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Thamel streets

We browsed the gear shops in Thamel. The knock-offs are plentiful, from duffel bags and down pants, to shell jackets, fleeces, and assorted climbing gear. Almost none of it felt authentic to me. “Look out for rip-offs,” Magar had warned. At one shop, I unzipped some authentically-branded climbing pants to inspect their quality. Thin nylon that looked sun-faded served as the outer fabric. “Waterproof! Good!” shouted the shop owner. He offered them for $35, a steal had they been authentic. But they were junk. The zippers were cheap. The fabric would shred on a climb. I tried them on but left without a sale. The shop owner shouted “$10, please, you buy!” as I walked away.

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Trying on gear in a Kathmandu trekking shop

Scott needed some medication for the trek, and so we went deeper into Thamel for a pharmacy. Horns, shouts, pleas for money, and happy “hellos” or “namastes” overloaded the senses. Buildings propped high, precarious structures connected by electric wires and prayer flags. The streets are canyons below. Pigeons roosted, cooing on the wires, then taking off in group flutter as lightning started to crackle in the sky.

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Street canyons and teetering buildings

We ran back toward our hotel in the rain. The motorbikes were slower, drivers shielding their eyes from the big drops and truck spray. I wrapped my camera in a shirt and stuffed it in my pack, praying it didn’t get wet. We jogged, stopping to dodge cars and play “Frogger” at each street crossing. “More dangerous than the trek to Everest,” Simper yelled.

continued on next page. . .

Commenting on post : Gear Night in Kathmandu
Posted by liquid astronaut - 03/31/2010 08:27 PM

what it god’s name are you wearing? was there some sort of flood that necessitated that outfit?

Posted by stephen regenold - 04/01/2010 09:37 AM

Them be “man capris” and a biker cap paired with flip-flops and my fav adventure-racing pack. High style in KTM!

Posted by BOB - 04/01/2010 10:12 AM

High Water- run !! Oh well- you look comfy

Posted by jason wade heflin - 04/01/2010 10:17 AM

Style goes out the window when you’re traveling overseas. :)

Posted by Hiking Lady - 04/01/2010 10:21 AM

haha, the man capris look stylish :)

I am looking forward to hearing more about the Everest trek :)

Posted by brett french - 04/01/2010 10:31 AM

I like the way the mom on the scooter is wearing high heels and a helmet while her kids are helmetless. Actually surprised at how many scooter riders are wearing helmets.

Posted by Sara - 04/01/2010 11:24 AM

Safe travels, Stephen, and regards to the whole team over there. If you haven’t already left the Yak and Yeti, savor a little chana masala for me next breakfast…

Posted by Melissa - 04/01/2010 05:26 PM

Ahhhh….Thamel. This brings back great memories! Enjoy every second!

Posted by Bfeltovi - 04/01/2010 06:44 PM

Some of the gear is real. Expeditions are required to give Sherpas equipment (provided by sponsors) and much of it gets sold in Thamel as income supplement.

Posted by roy Wallack - 04/01/2010 10:14 PM

Stephen—
Everest will be a warm-up for Iceland. See you there!
-Roy

Posted by Tomer Ullmann - 04/02/2010 02:28 PM

most of the gear you’ll find there is made by “The North FAKE”, but for many one-time trekkers in the more travelled treks in Nepal it’s good enough. My Father still uses a Fleece Jacket I Bought in Pokhara Back in 2004.

Posted by brenda - 04/04/2010 11:06 AM

if feel as tho i’m right there in the middle of all the lovely chaos- thanks for taking me back, i can hardly wait for the rest of the adventure! i’m going to go look at my pictures now…again..

Posted by Boo - 04/06/2010 11:39 AM

Hi Stephen,
Check out the Sherpa Adventure Gear flagship store on your way out – it opened it last fall, as well as the Terrace, a B&B right on top! Holler if you want a tour of Sherpa Adventure Gear’s manufacturing headquarters… safe travels! Boo

Posted by GJ mom - 04/07/2010 07:13 PM

Hi there! Just catching up on your blogs. You know what has kept me so busy for the last few days. Great blogs not what I thought the cities ,etc. would be like. Travel safe!

Posted by suburban bushwacker - 04/24/2010 03:08 AM

re man capris
here in blighty they’re called long shorts or short longs – are they not worn stateside?
SBW

Posted by Jeff Botz - 05/03/2010 11:49 AM

I thought they were called ‘petal pushers’.

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