Off to Lukla

We could see high peaks from the runway in Kathmandu the day of our early morning flight to Lukla to begin our trek. That’s a rare thing now that the city has grown to more than a million and the Kathmandu valley has become very polluted.

The flight to Lukla is as spectacular as I remember from my last trip here, except this time the forests below us are dotted with large patches of variegated pink where stands of rhododendrons are blooming. Nearly from the start, the spectacular Himalayan peaks are on full display: towering and formidable, set off by the blueness of the sky and the low angle of the sun on this early morning. They rise impressively, higher than the plane’s flight path.

On the 13-passenger plane, besides Ken, our trekking guide Lakpa and me, there is a group of Swiss trekkers. They get quite agitated when the impossibly short Lukla landing strip comes into view on the right side of the plane, down a steep-walled valley. Even in Lukla, air traffic can be an issue.

Our plane continues up the valley past the strip, making a wide circle to give another plane the chance to take off. Then we make our approach and land – it’s fast, up the inclined landing strip towards the rock wall with Welcome painted on it and then, still at speed, a sharp right turn to the tiny apron that can hold only four planes.

Before we even have time to deplane, our bags are being off-loaded and the passengers heading back to Kathmandu are standing by the plane waiting to take our places. We hurry off the plane eager to start our adventure.

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