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Archive for October 12th, 2009

Flight to Lukla Nepal

October 12, 2009: KTM – Luklaa- Phadkimg 2610

The international terminal in KTM is a model of absolute sanity and efficiency compared to the domestic terminal. There are about 600 people in the terminal with a even mixture of westerners and locals.  We have had our bags on and OFF, the scales 4 times in the last two hours and each time someone touches my bag they ask for a tip; I just told Angin that no one else is allowed to touch my bag because if they do I will not have any tip money left for him; he is now protecting his tip like a lion protecting her cubs.  My flight is actually not listed on the intermittently working flight status board, and another couple I talked to who are scheduled for the same time and the same airlines, left on a shuttle bus to the tarmac 10 minutes ago; oh wait, they are back.   We are now on another shuttle bus together; oh wait, I am now being ushered off this bus to the great laughter of everyone. Is that our plane?  “No”.  That was simply a plane that you were supposed to get out of your latest bus and look out…back on the bus. Another plane and it is ours; I would sure feel better if they kept that grounding cord attached while they fueled this relic up.
pil.ot
Is that a car GPS?

The signed said “We guarantee all seats to be window seats”.  That is a rare promise that will actually be kept in Nepal.  The plane holds 14 people – 7 on each side. My window has a big crack in it that looks to be repaired with Shoe-go.  One thing for sure, they do not need to remind everyone to fasten their seat belts as we are all ratcheting ourselves in tight.  What is this?  Cotton for your ears and a piece of hard candy; how nice- welcome to first class.  Engine one fires and the propeller whirls to life.  Number two – cough, wheeze, belch of black smoke – but she fires; no worries, I know this bird can fly on one engine.  Is that a automobile GPS on the dash?  Is the co-pilot really tapping the instruments to get the needle to move?  The pilot turns towards us, gives a half salute, revs the two big jets, releases the break and we barrel down the runway….we are in the air.

out the wing
One engine is all we need

We are very late (1400 hours) in the day to be flying into Lukla – where  last year a similar plane hit the nose of the runway due to limited visibility killing all passengers on board. I can see that we are fully equipped with instruments and they seem to be working, but I also notice that we are flying a cloud avoidance route. As we approach the typical starting point for Mt. Everest,  I immediately see why – we are flying in between two mountains; one on each side. And “shit” that is a mountain in front of us. WOW, we just landed on a very short  runway that extends to the edge of the bench before falling into the abyss. What? The runway actually runs uphill at about a 6% grade. One thing for sure, if you take off from here and do not have enough air speed you will either drop to the earth or hopefully glide into a mountain.

lucka air

Upslope runway of Lukla
luckla sign
Welcome to Everest region

Hope this cough of mine gets better



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