We had an early start today to get to the domestic airport to catch our flight, flying from Kathmandu to Lukla, which is infamous as one of the world’s most dangerous airports. Our taxi pulled up to the airport and we made our way into the departures lounge which consisted of four or so desks and not a whole lot else. The woman at the desk checked us through weighing our bags on a very old-looking, non-digital weighing scales and then handed us our handwritten tickets. Walking through the security check I glanced back to see our bags being taken away to our plane in what could best be described as a wheelbarrow, this airport was in need of some serious modernising!
We checked our tickets, gate one was our gate; that was the one on the left, easy to locate really with there being just two gates in front of us.
A half hour or so later and we were called through and the twelve people on our flight, us included, boarded the bus to the aircraft. “Your flight to Lukla has been delayed due to poor visibility at Lukla Airport” a lady in uniform announced. This is not something you want to hear when about to fly into the world’s most dangerous airport! So it was back to the airport before we were called again and brought nervously to our plane once again.
Walking onto our twelve seater propeller powered plane we each unfolded our seats and sat down, casting uneasy looks at each other. The doors opened, the propellers fired up, the plane started and we took off down the runway. Looking straight down the centre aisle of the aircraft, I watched as the pilot pulled back on his levers and we launched into the sky. I have always been interested in flying and without any door to the cockpit, I was getting a first-hand view of how this small aircraft was being operated. Seeing all the instruments, levers, buttons and dials at work was a real treat, however, the small GPS device mounted on the ‘dash’, the same as that in a car, was a little unnerving, to put it mildly. The pilots looked like extras from ‘Top Gun’ in their old school leather bomber jackets, I just hoped they weren’t relying on their car’s GPS to get us to Lukla!
One of the well-advertised trips out of Kathmandu is a mountain flight and I knew now why it attracted so much attention. Gaining altitude the flat lands and low-lying green hills faded away as we passed through the clouds. We emerged through the top of the clouds and the views were amazing from the windows of our small aircraft. To the left we could see snow-capped mountains poking through the clouds and you could feel the excitement levels in the plane rising.
The plane suddenly banked hard to the right, the pilot had to make another round before it was safe to land. While I’m sure the pilots would have preferred to land first time, I as a passenger was delighted to take one more pass at the spectacular views of the mighty Himalayas which continued as far as the eye could see.
My ears popped as we descended through the clouds and looking through the cockpit window the single runway at Lukla airport came into view. A huge mountain with the smallest runway I had ever seen lay ahead, a mere speck in the distance. So this is why this plane was so small! The pilot negotiated the landing, dipping the aircraft from left to right making everyone a little more nervous. Moments later we touched down and dropped speed fast as we coasted up the hill to the end of the runway. We had arrived safe and sound. This was certainly not a flight any of us were going to forget in a hurry exhilarating and nerve-racking, it was great preparation for the three-week independent trek to Everest Base Camp that lay ahead of us.
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