Nepal Pt2: Flying to Lukla

Chaos at the airport waiting for flights to Lukla

Mt. Everest is quite remote. It's not that people don't live in the area. There are villages near the mountain. There just aren't any roads. Only trails. All travel is by foot and goods are carried from place to place on the backs of people or animals. It's like taking a step back in time. From the end of the nearest road it takes about ten days to walk to the foot of Mt. Everest.

But these are modern times and people are in a hurry, especially western tourists who are willing to pay money to save time. So the Nepal government built an airport in the village of Lukla. For a price, tourists can fly into the mountains and save themselves several days of walking. It's the standard itinerary for an Everest trek so that is what I was going to do as well.

Tasi was going to pick me up at 6 am. An early start wasn't a problem for me. My internal clock was so messed up after flying all the way around the world that I was up at 4:30 and ready to go by 5:15. There were others in the lobby waiting to be picked up, who were flying to also Lukla this morning. I spent some time talking to Rory, a young paramedic from Melbourne, Australia who was on his first trip to Nepal.

Tasi and a friend picked me up and we drove to the airport. There were a lot of people there already. There must have been a hundred people lined up to go through security. Tasi's friend grabbed my stuff and just walked right up to the head of the line with Tasi right behind. I felt badly but I followed sheepishly. We cut into the line and were through in a few minutes. I was expecting a riot but we didn't even get a dirty look from anyone. It turned out to have been waisted effort anyway. All flights to Lukla were delayed by weather.

Tasi camps out at the first spot in line

Tasi somehow managed to get to the front of the line for our airline, which was Tara Air. It's good to be with a pro. He set our stuff down right in front of the counter and camped out there so we would be first in line when they started to process people for the flight. But that didn't happen. As the delay got longer and longer, we took turns. First he stayed at the front of the line. Then I did. Then we both did. But it didn't matter. The weather didn't clear. The departure hall just filled up with more and more people as time went on. It got warmer and warmer, more and more uncomfortable. After six hours of waiting, when they finally said that all flights to Lukla for the day were cancelled, I was actually glad. At least we could get out of the crowd.

We took a taxi back to Kathmandu Guest House. Now we had another problem. All the people who had flights cancelled were back there asking for a room. That was in addition to all of their normal guests. It was the high point of the tourist season. The manager just listened to everyone and said to leave him alone, he would figure it out. He came back after an hour and doubled a lot of people up in the various groups. I actually got an upgrade. I think that he gave it to me because it he gave it to one person from a group, the others would want it too. But since I was a single that wasn't a problem. I can't complain because my upgrade room was less than my regular room the night before. I'm definitely a fan of Kathmandu Guest House.

Selfie waiting in line - me and Tasi

Although at least I had a room, the prospects for the next day didn't look good. Normally the weather in Nepal clears in early to mid September, at the end of the monsoon. We were already in October and it was still not clear. The flights to Lukla had all been cancelled the day before. All of them had been cancelled today and the forecast for tomorrow didn't look good. Tasi said he would change our bookings to tomorrow but we would be behind everyone who had already booked flights for tomorrow. I even suggested that it might be better to walk in from the road instead of waiting many days to fly to Lukla.

That evening Tasi called me. He said that flights to Lukla were all full and he didn't know when we could fly out, even if the weather cleared. He said that per my earlier suggestion, we could take a bus to the end of the road and walk from there instead of flying. It would take longer but we would be trekking instead of sitting around. Now was when trekking solo was a real advantage. There was no group meeting or difficult decision process. There was just me. I told Tasi that the bus was good. I just wanted to trek.

He said he would make the arrangements and pick me up early the next morning.