Day 5 Start of the trek Kathmandu – Lukla
My alarm went off at 05.20 which left me enough time to get ready and leave by 05.45. At 05.40 I was downstairs ready and waiting for Aashman. Having not turned up at 0545 and after various phone calls from the hotel, at my panicked request, he finally turns up at 06.20, our flight departure time was in 10 minutes and it was a 15+ minute drive to the airport so it seemed an impossible task to make the flight. When we arrived the plane had thankfully not left and had no intention of doing so, the ‘fog’ (air pollution) grounded our flight until 10, something which clearly happened every day and something which Aashman was aware of but forgot to pass this information onto me.
The time went quickly in the airport because I got chatting to an Aussi father and daughter who are heading to Everest Base Camp (EBC). The flight itself was pretty dull right up until the moment the mountains came into view, a truly stunning sight however I was repeatedly hit over the head by an SLR camera wielded by an over keen Japanese man behind me trying to take pictures through the front window (luckily I had got the front seat). Sargamartha (Mt. Everest) was just visible above the ridgeline, identifiable by its distinct peak and then came into view, perched on the hillside, Lukla which is one of the most dangerous airports in the world due to its very short (uphill) runway which ends at a cliff face. A rather gentle landing was met with cheers and clapping by most the plane (I was not included). The arrivals lounge was non-existent and the baggage claim was 2 guys behind a large counter passing your luggage across, hardly hi-tech by Western standards.
Later on I tucked into some veg momos at our lodge, just 20m from the airport and I was first introduced to the mountain prices, the momos were 9 times the price of the street vendor of yesterday, I can see that the next 2 weeks aren’t going to be cheap. Lukla is a reasonably well-established place there are many bars and restaurants catering for foreign tastes, including 2 Irish bars. There is also a police station (nothing more than a glorified shed), a post office, 2 banks, a ‘Starbucks Coffee’, 5 snooker bars and my personal favourite, a YakDonalds! It seems that the temperature range is catering for all foreign tastes too, in the sun it is t-shirt wear but in the shade there is ice on the ground.
After exploring Lukla I went and watched some football (apparently a major local tournament). Quite frankly all 4 teams I saw play were rubbish, I have honestly seen 8 year old English kids play better football down the park than these guys. I was also the only non-Nepali in the crowd, maybe because I was white or maybe because I was more interesting than the football I attracted a lot of attention.