We were up this morning at 5:30am for our early morning flight from Kathmandu to our trek starting-point in Lukla. Our guide picked us up at 6 am and a 20 min white-knuckled van ride brought us to the chaotic domestic terminal of Tribhuvan Airport. Our guide Dip navigated us through the terminal, through security to the waiting area, where we proceeded to wait. Just it time, the thick smog of Kathmandu lowered visibility and they closed the airport. For a while it looked like we would not get out today, but suddenly it was hurry hurry hurry. We were hustled on to a bus and driven out to the small planes (19 passengers) parked on the tarmac. The planes that fly into Lukla are special purpose planes capable of landing and taking off from short mountain runways. After another short delay as we waited for our plan to taxi in, we were hustled onto the plane and took off for Lukla.
We quickly climbed above the clouds and the high Himalaya filled the horizon. After about a half hour of flying, the plane banked steeply and navigated up the steep valley leading to Lukla. The landing at Lukla was more of a controlled crash. The runways is literally built on the side of the mountain. Nowhere is flat, so the runway slopes at a precarious 10 degree angle. We landed uphill and slammed into the runway and screeched to a halt in the small parking area at the runway’s highest point. We had arrived in Lukla.
We piled out of the plane and walked with our gear over to a lodge next to the airport. We relaxed in the dining room of the lodge, and Tom learned about the effects of reduced air pressure on sealed boxes of Pringle’s. As Tom cleaned Pringle’s crumbs from every nook and cranny of his backpack, I purified water. Soon our lunch came (fried noodles for me), then it was time to hike up the Dudh Koshi Nadi valley toward Pakding. The route was familiar to me because I saw it both coming and going last year. But this year it seemed much easier. Last year I came from much further down the valley and came on the day after my nightmare-filled night. Appropriately enough our lodge in Pakding is the Beer Garden Lodge. Tom enjoyed a beer, but I am tee-totaling until our descent. Tomorrow brings the strenuous hike up to the rarefied air of Namche Bazaar. Hopefully I will sleep well tonight.