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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Day 23 - Bonus Day in Lukla!

On instructions, from Komi - the Lukla Namaste Lodge owner - for a 9am checkin at the next door airport, I came down from my room for a 7:30am breakfast. The place was PACKED with a huge crew of trekkers that had just flown in. I was seriously concerned that my trekking duffle was going to get mix up with all theirs and make it's way back up to Everest base camp, so I stood guard over it while I waited for the masses to hit the trail and clear the smallish dinning room.

After my eggs and toast, I headed to the airport with my new friend, Tsering. Yesterday, we met at the Namaste. He works for Jiban - the Kathmandu-based outfitter that everyone seems to use - including Alpine Ascents. Tsering is 22 and is studying in Kathmandu. He is from the Lukla area. He told me that he has made countless flights back and forth from Lukla to Kathmandu. He was nice enough to help me carry my heavy and awkward trekking duffle the 500m to the airport. And his English be really good.

The airport was a buzz with activity. About five flights landed and loaded up with outgoing passengers between 8:15 and around 9:30am and then things mellowed. There are like three different airlines that are flying - mine has planes that are painted green. Leaving Lukla is a bit of organized chaos. Only a few of Nepali seem to know what's going on. Komi is there running around and getting everyone through the process of paying the airport tax, checking the bags, getting the tickets, etc., etc. It's best to just go with the flow and everything naturally comes together.

Finally we hear a plane approaching so we jump up in the chilly, shaded "departure lounge" hoping to get out into the sun on the tarmac and be ready to board. The plane touches down, and it's a green one!! Okay, here we go. At the door to the tarmac, the guard says "...flight three..." My boarding pass is stamped "2". Crap! More waiting, but just then we hear another plane approaching. Well, all right. Yeah, but it's a blue plane and then comes another blue plane.

By now, the place is pretty cleared out and everyone left is waiting for the same green #2. After a bit, they finally let us out onto the tarmac and take our boarding passes. Clearly the plane is about to land. As we stand out in the warm sunshine, we see our plane coming in. Suddenly just as it seems to just about to land, it flairs off to the left and aborts the landing (I wish I would have gotten a picture). This is not good. At first, I think that it is going to fly back a bit and try again. But it's starting to become clear - with the help of Tsering's translations - that the plane is, in fact, not going to land and is headed back to Kathmandu. This is shortly followed by the reason for the aborted landing: wind. And to top it all, that's it for the day --- no more flights! Like I said, "It's best to just go with the flow and everything naturally comes together."

So bonus day in Lukla and I have a newfound appreciation for including contingency days. I actually kinda like this better, the air is WAY better here at 9,800 ft. in the Khumbu than in super smoggy Kathmandu. Now I'm scheduled to be on the earliest flight tomorrow (the best time to fly). Of course if that doesn't go off then I'll start to worry about my Friday 1pm flight home. But you can't control the weather, so best to just go with the...

I just finished a lunch of chicken pizza and vegetable/egg spring rolls after hanging out at the "Starbucks" having a "latte". Free Wi-Fi, however. :-) Ten minutes more to kill before The Wave bar starts happy hour!

If anything exciting happens this afternoon (could be beer involved), I'll report in. Namaste.

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