Welcome to Nepal

Welcome to Nepal

Saturday, 14 April 2007

Lukla to Monjo [Day 3]

Thrilling flight

The alarm goes off at 0312hrs... after so little sleep it is disturbing to be woken that early. Mike disappears into the bathroom for a quick shave - with me shortly after. Quickly dressed, we are down early for our morning tests. After other residents have kept us awake until 0130hrs (Nepali New Year celebrations) I don't feel to concerned about being quiet for our morning testing.

We walk round to a small quadrangle at the rear of the hotel, where the equipment is waiting for us. I place the blood pressure cuff on my arm as the Kathmandu bird life tweets in the early morning light. A dog wanders over to see what we were doing.

We must be a strange spectacle, doing steps whilst monitoring O2 saturation and heart rates. The dog settles down in the yard, only occasionally looking up and yawning. I know how he feels. My results for today are: Resting - O2 96; HR 96; Breathing 11. BP 118/90; 128/81; 129/79.  After Exercise: O2 92; HR 131; Breathing 18.

A rickety bus takes us through the deserted streets towards Kathmandu airport, to pick up the domestic flight to Lukla. After a scrum to get our baggage through to the departure hall, we finally board the aircraft - a twin prop 16-seat. This is cosy... one seat either side with just enough room for the aisle. I sit near the back... the stewardess brings us cotton wool for our ears and a boiled sweet to counteract air pressure. It iss a smooth take off with a great flight between towering mountains as we fly up the valley towards Lukla.

Call sign 9N-AHE
Studying the emergency evacuation plan
Lukla (2,821 metres)

The landing is something to remember. There cannot be that many landing strips where the plane is nosing down, but the runway actually goes uphill. All very unnerving, especially as there is a deep valley and steep hillside just before the landing strip starts.

Lukla Airport - safely disembarked
Lukla landing strip - an outgoing flight
First awe inspiring view of the mountains

We disembark and wander up to the first lodge to await the rest of our party (there are two individuals who have to get the next flight). Hot lemon drink is given out and we have the first experience of Nepali loos... a stone hut with a tin roof and a hole cut in the floorboards, with a mound of excrement below... nice.

We have a lovely walk up the Khumbu, through Nurning (2,492 metres), Phakding (2,610 metres) and Benkar (2,630 metres), calling regularly at teashops to wet our thirst. Already one guy has bowel issues and my headache returns with a vengeance. Much of the blossom has fallen from the shrubs and trees at these lower levels... but hopefully will be more intact higher up.

Yak transport for our surplus kit
Mani stones

One of the many suspension bridges

The iconic Buddhist 'Chorten' or 'Stupa' of Nepal
The well maintained trekking trail

I decide to take 1,000mg paracetamol to alleviate the pain in my head as we climb ever higher towards Monjo (2,835 metres). On arrival the usual hot lemon is served by our attentive porters... and already the temperature is starting to fall, requiring a top layer and hat. There are very basic washing facilities... two sinks outside with cold water and basic loos (porcelain holes in floor).

Practice makes perfect

A nice evening meal is served up (dhal - lentils) with rice, mixed vegetables and potatoes... with hot lemon drink for fluids. Two of my fellow trekkers entertain with a heavy discussion on how to calculate the pressure of water in a pipe, moving on to how to calculate the capacity of the Jagged Globe holdalls... very cerebral!

Refreshments

I retire to bed at 2030hrs and have a good nights sleep... that is until I wake to a loud bang and high-pitched squealing next to my head. Rats scurry up and down behind the wooden walls of the room... and two must have met head-on in a one-way system, as they seem to have a right scrap. Ah, the joys of sleeping in lodges.

Footnote
Agni Air - Dornier 228-101. Registration 9N-AHE

In August 2010, Agni Air flight AG-101 departed at 07:04 on a normal domestic flight from Kathmandu (KTM) to Lukla (LUA), Nepal. At 07:18, the flight crew received reports that clouds were closing in on Lukla. It was decided to return to Kathmandu. A diversion to Simara Airport (VNSI) was impossible because that airport was closed because of bad weather.

The pilot attempted to fly a visual approach to Kathmandu runway 02, but the last radar contact was at 07:25. There had been a tragic accident - the Dornier Do 228-101 [9N-AHE] crashed into a hillside near Bastipur, Nepal and all fourteen on board were killed.

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