20,000 leagues under the sky, 2004- travel blog

Window or aisle?


The plane.

The runway.

Namche Bazar.


Tengboche Monastery.

And again.

Ama Dablam.

First view of Everest (with trailing cloud).

Kathmandu to Tengeboche.

Ok, hands up anyone who has been the sole passenger on a scheduled commercial flight! I just have and it was pretty amazing flight too, along the Himalaya back to Kathmandu, just me, my stewardess, pilot and co-pilot. Including the check-in person and baggage carrier, the flight dispatcher who personally collected me and took me to the plane, the ground crew on arrival who still insisted on checking my baggage ticket (who know's the invisible man could have been on the plane and got our bags confused) and the bus driver, I was fairly well looked after.

But I'm getting ahead of myself, that is the end of the trek, lets get back to the start... my intention to do the full trek from Jiri in the lowlands all the way to Everest Base Camp following Hillary's route was thwarted by everyone insisting that it is too dangerous due to Moaist activity so I splashed out on a flight to Lukla at the start of the high trek. This flight was an amazing experience for me too, my first flight on a prop driven aircraft. For some reason I did my usual of checking in early to ensure a good seat but unfortunately forgot to ask for a window seat. After a verbal fight with the fascist security people at the domestic terminal who seemed to deem everything I was carrying in my hand-luggage dangerous, refused to let me carry a lighter and wanted me to tip them a packet of cigarettes I finally made it into the departure lounge which was full of Russian engineers - smoking! My flight was the first of the day to board and when I got on I realised that every seat had a window, all 20 of them. As a foreign guest I was given a seat on the left of the plane to get the best mountain views. The first 20 minutes of the flight were fairly cloudy with a few glimpses of white peaks in the distance but then as we started to approach Lukla the views became stunning. The whole of the Everest Massif was in view as we descended into the mountain valleys, skimming ridges and rooftops before the final steep descent to crash onto the Lukla airstrip. I couldn't call it a landing, with a 30 degree short (STOL) runway they basically just fly into it with a thud and let gravity stop the plane.

Having arrived in Lukla at the bright and early time of 7am I thought I might as well start walking straight away and then stop for breakfast at some point along the route. I walked and walked but no-where was open so I ended up walking until lunch-time when I reached the official end of the first day's trek. I had a first Dhal-bhat of the trek and then carried on to Namche Bazar, the suggested 2nd night stop and the main town of the Khumbu area. The walking was great until the bottom of the hill before Namche where I met the scariest bridge I have ever crossed (photos in Part 4) and then had the 1000m 2 hour climb to the top of the ridge and Namche. The climb was such a killer that the second I rounded the last bend and saw the town just ahead I sat down for a rest for 10 minutes, whereupon the skies opened and I had to walk the last 10 minutes in a downpour.

The usual thing is to spend two nights in Namche Bazar to help acclimatisation, however, having recently been to over 5000m in Tibet my aim was to get high quickly before I lost my acclimatisation so I moved straight on. Day two was similar to day one in that it was walked in overcast conditions with the permanent threat of rain and no real views. At least it was fairly cool which helped when I hit the second major climb of the trek up the hill to Tengboche monastery. Why do they put everything at the top of the hills?

On arrival in Tengboche I had a minor panic as all the Guest Houses were closed and deserted, the next town was another half hour walk away and it had started to rain. Then as if by magic a Guesthouse owner appeared and opened his place up, made some tea and lit the fire. I was later joined by Emma, her guide Sera and their porter so we had a cosy night around the fire (Yak dung I must point out, not trees).

I woke up early the next morning (which isn't difficult when you go to bed at 8pm) to find that the clouds had lifted for a while and there were some great views in all directions. By the time I'd eaten breakfast and was ready to move on again the clouds were back and the views had gone.

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