Trek Day 14

Escape from Lukla

Friday 24th November 2006


We were woken well before dawn as our plane would be the first Sita Air flight out of Lukla.  As we sat shivering in the unheated dining room we watched the dawn break and the clouds roll up the valley.  Our spirits fell as the clouds swirled outside the lodge, things were looking ominous.  Planes fly to Lukla using line of sight and if the visibility is poor at either Kathmandu or Lukla then they don’t fly.  We should have been leaving at around 6.45am but that time passed and we ordered more tea.  We saw Lakpa talking to a guy with a walkie-talkie and he came over to tell us it was also cloudy at Kathmandu.  He shrugged and said we would be ok.  It got colder the longer we sat and eventually someone lit the tiny stove and we pulled chairs up close.  A girl wandered into the room and talked to Lakpa, asking what time we were due to fly. She was crying and said she had been stuck in Lukla for 5 days and couldn’t get a flight out, did we have any room on our plane?  Lakpa said that our party and sherpas filled the 16 seats and she sat down staring miserably out of the window.    

The hours passed but we remained in the dining room as instructed.  We should still be the first flight out, if there was one of course.  If there were no flights today then tomorrow we would join the other trekkers hanging round the ticket offices looking for seats.  As is the case everywhere, the scheduled flights take priority.



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The end of the trek - Lukla

Lukla - air terminal at front

A tiny ribbon....


Suddenly at about 10.30am Lakpa ran into the dining room and shouted that our plane had taken off from Kathmandu.  We grabbed our bags and ran from the lodge, puffing in the altitude as we made our way up the road to the air terminal where we were greeted by a scene like the evacuation from Vietnam.  Scores of trekkers were packed into the transit lounge and we followed Lakpa, fighting our way through and holding our tickets above our heads like badges of office.  There were stairs from the lounge down to the departure lounge and that was as far as we could get.  We stayed on the stairs looking down into the lounge full of excited trekkers.  We heard the drone of a plane coming in but looking out of the window I saw it was Yeti-Air, not ours.  During the next hour another five flights landed, three Yeti Air and two Royal Nepal – where was our Sita flight?   We watched the weather nervously, clouds still scuttled across the sky but higher now and there was a cheer from our group as we saw the little Sita Air turbo-prop pull up outside the lounge.  We would escape to Kathmandu after all. 

The turn around was less than five minutes.  The engine on wing nearest the door was switched off but the other propeller kept going as we and our bags were unceremoniously dumped into the plane and as the last passenger sat down it was moving.  We slowly picked up speed as we watched the end of the little runway approach and suddenly we lurched skywards and we were off through the mountains to Kathmandu.   I had been last to board and sat on the rear seat with Lakpa and the stewardess.  The weather made it a bumpy flight and Lakpa was not very happy, beads of sweat showing his tension as the plane seemed to move up and down and side to side at the same time as it flew slowly between the mountains.  On the credit side the stewardess spoiled us both with a constant supply of coca cola and boiled sweets.

Three hours later, showered and in clean clothes, Carole and I sat in ‘Fire and Ice’ in Thamel, eating pizza and talking with Sue and Clive about the hardships of the trail, the yaks and the mountains.   It had been a good trek and we would have wonderful memories of the last two weeks.


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Lukla - clouds lifting

Another world... Kathmandu

Reward at Fire and Ice

Hope you enjoyed the trek!

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