Friday, August 28, 2009

Nepal Trek 2009 - May 20, Lukla to Kathmandu

The last morning in the mountains of Nepal dawned bright and early. We had a 7 am flight to catch and so we were up early for breakfast. I snapped a picture of the kitchen as we were on our way to the dining hall.

Our wash bucket was just outside the dining hall. This was one of the essentials all during the trek - hot (or lukewarm) water, soap and a towel. Up in the alpine zone, it didn't take long for the boiling water to cool to lukewarm or frigid, but, regardless of the temp, hand washing was critical for keeping the gastro-intestinal issues under control.

After breakfast we gathered outside for the short walk to the airport terminal.

L to R: Jon Miller and Sonam Sherpa

A short walk up the hill to the airport terminal, and we were on our way.

It's a short runway on a hill. Very exciting for take-off and landings. The morning was sunny, but the clouds were gathering and the weather was turning bad all through the Kathmandu valley. We were playing, "beat the clock and the weather" on this morning.

Lukla airport entrance.

Check-in was a bit chaotic. Tendi and some of our other Sherpas that would be returning to Everest Base Camp came to say goodbye. Tears were shed, that's for sure. I was certainly sad to say goodbye.

The view of the tarmac as we were waiting for our flight to arrive. We heard an alarm go off and there was a cheer. That was the signal that the plane had taken off from the Kathmandu airport and was on its way.

We had heard that there was bad weather in the valley and that it was uncertain as to whether there would be any flights out of Lukla, so it was reassuring that they were allowing planes to leave Kathmandu. We were scheduled for the first Yeti Airlines flight out.

Jon Miller, waiting.

Chris Marquardt and Jon Miller look bored.

They were playing to the paparazzi.

My boarding pass.

The first flight out was a different airline. The efficiency of unloading and loading is amazing. The turn around is 5 - 10 minutes.

That's our plane arriving. Notice the clouds rolling in over the mountain.

We were already lined up and ready to go. As soon as the plane came up to the terminal, we were rushing out the door.

The plane was quickly unloaded and our gear was rolled out as we were marching to the door.

A swarm of workers quickly transfer the goods and baggage.

Whew! We're on and ready to go.

This is the next flight's passengers, awaiting their turn. They were the last group to leave Lukla on this day. The weather rolled in quickly and the airport was shut down. We were lucky to be able to make the flight out.

Everyone had their cameras out to take a video of the take-off. It's definitely an exciting one.

The wheels leave the runway just before the runway ends - at the edge of a cliff. Very exciting, indeed.

My last glimpse of the Himalayas. I cried all the way to Kathmandu.

After being in the mountains, it was a real change of scenery to see the Kathmandu valley from the air.

Flying over Kathmandu, it was a real shock to see the buildings and motor vehicles, also.

Touchdown in the rain.

We loaded onto our bus for the drive from the airport back to our hotel in Thamel. We passed by a street market on the way.

Our rooms weren't yet ready for us when we arrived so we had a cup of tea in the dining room. After drinking from aluminum cups for the trek, this was a bit of a luxury - ceramic cups are definitely nicer to drink from.

Several of us went to the New Orleans Cafe for lunch and this was my comfort food of the day - a cheeseburger that was very tasty. After not being able to eat for days on end, and being so very tired of curried cauliflower, I devoured this very quickly. I'm not much of a carnivore, but I have to admit that this was delicious!

Everyone got out their iPhones and iPod touches to check email. The New Orleans Cafe has free wi-fi - another huge luxury.

L to R: Thilo and John

L to R: Jeff and Megan

Hearty appetites all around.

L to R: John, Kyle, Steve

Culture shock - back to the noises, smells, and sounds of the city, not to mention the heat and humidity.

Thamel street photography.

Steve and I went to the embroiderer's shop to pick up our order. We had some stuff put on our fleece jackets.

We also went to a jeweler's and had some custom work done. I got a kick out of their metal scale. The price for a piece is according to the weight of the metal.

Steve and I had to wait until late afternoon for our room to be ready, but it was worth the wait. We had one of the nicer rooms in the hotel - plenty of room to spread our gear around and get organized.

The added bonus was a shower that worked - HOT WATER - hot damn! I can't explain how nice it felt to get clean, really clean, after the trek.

Back to the roof at sunset to see the spectacular thunderstorms brewing over the mountains. We were, indeed, lucky to get to Kathmandu on this particular day.

My post from this day can be read here: Back in Kathmandu

No comments: