Friday, 2 April 2010

Helicopter ride to Lukla with some pre-flight sightseeing in Kathmandu

After catching up with friends Saran (Nepalese mountain guide) and Steve (ex-pat Aussie and Nepali language scholar) in Kathmandu for lunch it was great to meet the trekking group. A lovely traditional Nepali welcome dinner with great food (royal dahl bhat) and traditional dancing we all got acquainted with Emma (swede), Mats (swede) and Steve (Aussie) over some Raksi (local rice wine). The group were all planned to trek to Everest Base Camp, with Steve heading off to Gokyo Lakes, Emma & Mats returning to Namche and Sarran and I to climb 6119m Lobouche Peak with support from expedition Sherpas. Interestingly Lobouche is a classic 6000m peak used for acclimatising for Mount Everest expeditions and is one of the most technical trekking peaks with 250-300m of steepe, fixed rope ice climbing. I had bumnped into legendary Kiwi mountain guide 'Woody' who was working for Russell Brice's Himalaya Experience and they were planning to summit Lobouche in preparation for an Everest summit attempt. If successful this would be Woody's 14th Everest summit - pretty full on! 

A city tour was planned the next day and we met up 9am setting off in the mini bus to Boudinath Stupa, a short drive from thamel in Kathmandu. It's an amazing stupa with the characteristic 'buddha eyes' and huge white dome-like body surrounded by temples and yes the commerce side of things - tourist shops! We were given an excellent talk and tour by our guide Nabeen and learnt about the wider history of Buddha and how this related to Boudinath. We learnt about the traditional Thanka paintings - mandalas and the wheel of life and how they are painstakingly crafted over months and sometimes years! 

After a good look around it was off to Durbar Square in old Kathmandu. An ice cream and a look at some of the beautiful temples, one of which had some rather intricately carved sexual positions from what they call'lion style' (doggy style to us Westerners) to 'the wheel barrow' and so on - a good laugh had by all. That night we chilled out and made last minute purchases of supplies (snickers and bounty bars for me) and had a nice relax over a few beers.

The airport over the next couple of days was the usual chaos and we found ourselves waiting, being pushed back because of delays (the day before) and losing the 'calm weather window'. So by midday the wind had risen above the 12knots in Lukla(apparently this is the benchmark of wind knots they won't fly over). Frustration was starting to mount after being put on the runway bus several times and returning to the departure lounge. It was obvious it was not our day and better to try and secure a morning flight slot. Off to 'fire and ice' for the best pizza in Thamel and to Kilroy's that evening for more comfort food feasting! 

Take 2 and things went from bad to worse with a plane breaking down and not much action of planes flying to Lukla at all. Classic disinformation and time was ticking for clients on an agenda - we needed to get out of here! Mats (Swede) decided enough was enough and hired a helicopter (knowing the rest of us were not in a position to fork out the $600USD each) he spoke to us saying there was no obligation but there was however, 4 available seats on the chopper if we were keen! Of course we took up this very generous offer and bailed from the dysfunctional mess humming our way to Lukla on the giant mechanical insect. As thanks I bought him 'touching the void' by Joe Sumpson as I had discovered, in previous conversation he hadn't read it and he was delighted by the gift.

We were off buzzing over the dry, mountainous landscape with cut gorges from silky relecting rivers - what a way to start trekking to Everest Base Camp by an adrenaline filled 50 minute chopper ride! We touched down in Lukla and we were finally on the trail tramping our way to Phakding , sucking in the clean mountain air, taking on the dramatic environs of the Everest Highway and soon slurping on tea as we pulled into our teahouse! Thanks again Mats - hero of the day! Rock on!

Vids to follow on Sunstone Facebook page.

No comments:

Post a Comment