Today we leave Lukla. Alex and I had a bit of a late start; we set our alarms too late so we had to hurry with our bags up to breakfast. When we got there we had our morning noodles waiting for us. It was by far the best ramen noodles I have ever had. We left the lodge by 6:00am. The sun was just breaking some of the mountains and there were several tourists flooding the streets hurrying to the airport to make sure they were on the first flight out of Lukla. The weather was crystal clear so we were not worried about not being able to leave Lukla.
Chhiri guided us through the airport and we were going to be on flight 1. Come to find out later, flight 2 and 3 landed first. The airport terminal was larger than I expected. It was a larger warehouse looking building with several windows allowing the tourists to look out when the arriving planes made their daring landing on the 12% incline grade runway. When the first plane landed, the plane did not hesitate to pull in to one of the four unloading areas. Right after the first plane landed and took off three planes landed within only 2 or 3 minutes of each other. We never felt rushed, yet the entire process of getting on the plane felt like an evacuation of the entire city.
A landing crew member would rush into the terminal calling out the flight number, all the guests would line up and the last plane was quickly unloaded with all passengers and baggage. The pilots never turned off the engines as we loaded up onto the plane only seconds after the last person disembarked. As we sat in our seats they informed us to buckle up and hold on! I don’t think any plane was on the ground for more than 10 minutes, at most!!
The tower gave the pilots the go and we rolled quickly to the runway. We made a 180 degree turn and faced the 12% grade decline. The pilots engaged the brake, throttled up the engines and waited for the engines to reach a high RPM. When we reached the right RPM they released the break and we shot forward off the runway cruising faster than most roller coasters. As the runway edge got closer I thought we would just go straight off the cliff and drop. I couldn’t even see the runway when the pilots finally decided to pull up as I was looking through the open cockpit.
As we cleared the cliff and we were obviously airborne the entire passenger section clapped and applauded. We knew what we just did was not easy but the pilots seemed to never lose their nerve and had everything under control. The rest of the flight was fantastic. We were able to see lots of the distant peaks and several villages as we neared Kathmandu.
We landed around 800am and we got to the hotel to drop our things off with plenty of the day to spend wandering the city, dodging in and out of shops and getting to try some of the local city cuisine. We had great food at the Ying Yang restaurant and Third Eye restaurant. After dinner we had a few drinks and played cards at a great bar called Phat Kat. It was a tree house bar that had everyone sits on the comfy pillows lying on the floor. We also had fruit trees hanging just over us bearing fruit. We stayed until they closed.
The past few weeks have been fantastic and such a wonderful experience. Our adventure was definitely one of a kind and we truly enjoyed even the most cloudy and/or cold days. The Nepalese people have made us feel like family taking care of anything we need and making sure we always felt like we are at home. Even with almost two weeks of hiking I am still not ready to leave. This country is fantastic and I do plan on coming back to hike and visit again.