The start of my journey did not go as planned. On 28th August 2011, I stood by the check in desk at Tribhuvan International Airport, Kathmandu, mentally trying to comprehend what I’d just been repeatedly told: ‘No madam, you cannot fly to Pakistan today. You must have a return ticket.’ After endless months of planning a bike ride – the big one – and having just led a month-long trekking expedition in Nepal, to aid my fitness and acclimatisation at altitude, this was not a conversation I had anticipated. Not what I had ever imagined. Upset, angry and impatient, it was taking time for my brain to compute. I’m not going to Pakistan? Is that what she said? Why did I need a bloody return ticket when I wasn’t coming back!? Can’t you see I have a bike box! I have to go – it’s all planned and my friend is waiting!
I’d traveled extensively up to this point, leading adventurous expeditions during holiday periods – how could I not know this critical piece of information? I refused to cry, feeling hurt, foolish and decidedly alone among the throng of other travelers. The Pakistan International Air (PIA) representative was adamant: it began to sink in. Without a return ticket, PIA were not allowing me to travel with or without my bike, today or any other day. The piece of paper in my hand with flight details held no value: further conversation made that fact ultra-clear. Struggling to control the intensity of conflicting emotions within, I knew I had no choice. I turned my back on the check-in desk and headed instead for the mayhem outside.