To get to the Khumbu region you can take a 10-day walk, a very very long ride by road … or a 45-minute plane ride. I chose the latter, as do most people. That said, you are in a 12-seater prop plane and the weather can make the ride one that isn’t for the faint of heart. You also have to go early in the morning because Lukla (about 2800 meters up) has no lights on the (very short) runway and so they just close it when the weather isn’t fine, which it often isn’t.
This means that you get up early and join a scrum of others all trying to get on the earliest flight possible as those are the most likely to leave. Since I was warned that there was a serious 15kg weight limit for both checked and carry-on baggage I spent quite a few hours playing with a scale and various combinations of gear until I got what looked like the right weight (if not an ideal gear composition; I had to jettison all sorts of things …
Yours truly duly arrived at the airport at 0530 having had just over 4 hours of sleep, courtesy of the kindness of the proprietor of my Kathmandu apartment who insisted on driving me himself rather than letting me take a taxi (which was kindness beyond what you could ever hope for in the West, but in Nepal, that sort of generosity of spirit is much more common.)
You then join the scrum at the airport door, waiting for it to open at 0600 so you can present your ticket, get your bag scanned, and then run to the counter of your airline to try and get a seat. This process, I learnt very quickly, is greatly facilitated by working through a locally connected trek organizer. Doma Sherpa and her husband Lhakpa met me at the door and got me through the whole check-in process much faster, very clearly, than would have been the case had I done it on my own.
Here’s a picture of me in the departure lounge. You will note it is a rather bad one, in every way, but it does give you a pretty clear picture of why 0530 AM isn’t my finest hour – but that I’m really excited about what the adventure I’m embarking on.
Then onto the plane and what turned out to be a very comfortable and quick ride. Zoom in on the photo below, which I took from my seat. That line on the horizon under the engine? That’s a number of the world’s highest mountains – and Everest of course.
Landing in Lukla is interesting. It reminds me very much of Baguio airport in the Philippines; when I was around 7 my mum and stepfather and I took a family holiday there – exactly the same short airstrip with one end being a cliff-edge and the other being a rock wall.
Here’s a shot of the plane I landed in, and below that, the “Arrivals Lounge” of Lukla’s airport.
I was met at the airport by my guide for the rest of the trip, Tashi Sherpa, and porter Bikram Rai – and off we went!