At two o’clock in the morning, 30 hours after arriving in Kathmandu, we were on a bus speeding (literally) towards an airport at Ramechhap. The four hour ride took us along some truly unnerving stretches of road hanging over cliffs and fording rivers. At dawn we suddenly found ourselves in a world of tourists at a small, remote airstrip.
Catching a flight at a small airport in Nepal is unlike anything that you would experience in North America. The airline offices (there were three) each consisted of a few plastic chairs and tables set outside. The air was filled with the roar of aircraft engines and heavy with the smell of burning av gas from the frequent flight arrivals and departures. The airline staff generally ignored the passengers and provided no information that would give some structure to the chaos that prevailed. We each had a flight time (ours was 9 am) but this bore little relation to actual departure times. Bruce and I left on the last flight of the day, at 11:30. Later flights are less likely to go because of developing turbulence and cloud cover, so we were worried we would be spending an unanticipated night in a town in rural Nepal.
The actual flight was a treat, though perhaps not for nervous flyers. The pilot revved the engines to a deafening pitch before releasing the brake and shooting down the tarmac. We were airborne in seconds, and then climbed wildly, barely clearing a ridge. The landscape was spectacular, with so much terracing for rice paddies that it looked like the hills were built of contour lines. The final run was up a canyon, with the growing sense that there was no way out. The resolution was a sudden landing on the end of a short runway with a pronounced uphill pitch. I was grinning like an idiot throughout the entire 20 minute flight.
We stepped out of the plane … into rain. It didn’t rain a single time on our last trek, so I don’t actually have any rainproof clothing with me. Fortunately it was relatively warm, so the three hour hike to Pakding was not uncomfortable. It is wonderful to be trekking in the Himalayas again.