Downhill to KTM

It is a bright, beautiful day. I have been told that I am scheduled on a 7:00 AM flight on Tara Air. Apparently they have replaced Yetti Air. Buddha Air no longer flies here. I suppose I should find it ironic that a boy from Georgia is flying “Tara” Air. But, frankly I am feeling pretty Rhett Butler about it just now. The 6:00 AM Tara flight comes about 7:00 and loads up the first 12 or 13 lucky people and roars out. I probably should point out that Lukla in addition to having the distinction of being the most dangerous airport in the world probably also has the quickest turn around times. In fact they normally only shut down one engine while they unload cargo, luggage and passengers. Since their can be 4 planes on the little ramp at any one time, all with at least one engine running, passengers are escorted past the spinning props by soldiers with whistles. You do not want to hear a whistle. Of course better a whistle than a bunch of thumps.

We are once again issued Tara boarding cards. There really isn’t a need to get into to big of a hurry though because we just saw the 6:00 AM flight leave and since Tara only has one plane it is a good bet he want be back for a while. I know how long it takes to get to KTM and back so I check my watch. I am not going to sit out here two hours today. After a while it becomes increasingly evident that either my calculations are off or Karma still isn’t done with me. But eventually we hear the drone and our ride has arrived. Apparently it is getting late in the season for trekkers with the monsoon coming and many of the flights are returning without passengers. Instead they are hauling cargo. In the case of Tara, construction materials, which explains some of the delay. They proceed to unload steel pipe, 2x4s, plywood, concrete bags and beer. Everything you need for a construction project in the Khumbu.

I think my seat is full of concrete dust but after six weeks in the Khumbu I am not to worried about my hiking clothes getting dirty. I’ll haul them home because I am cheap and that is who I am and my wife will probably take one look at them and throw them away because that is who she is. It works for us. We pull out on the runway, lock the breaks, run the engines up to full power and suddenly we pitch over as the runway slants San Francisco style downhill. With at least a 100 feet to spare we fly off the end of the cliff and we are KTM bound – all downhill. Cheated death again!

We quickly descend from the crystal clear blue to the dusty brown skies of lower Nepal. We exit Tara Air next to a big pile of construction supplies and head for the gate in the fence. It is so hot here that even the monkeys are no where to be seen. These are not the cute cuddly circus monkeys but obnoxious little brutes. Last time I was here I watched one sitting on a garbage can. He would lean over and whack every stray dog that went by. Kind of like Everest has been doing me. I kept wondering if I could bean him with a rock without losing my place in line. Unfortunately the non-dog people thought it was funny. Besides we are in Hindu country and who can keep up with what is sacred?

We stop at the Qatar airline office and there is one poor guy in there and two dozen people waiting. I figure I’ll be waiting here forever but it seems that every person ahead of us has half dozen spectators with them. So in no time I find out that “yes you can leave tonight, but after all the layovers you still want get home till next week”. I am not kidding. This is Saturday and I will not get home till Monday. I seem to have nothing better to do at the moment so I whip out my credit card to pay the fee for “expedited” carriage. Time to spare, go by air. Soon I’ll be in one of Qatar Airlines nice new jets with touch screens and movies and news and screaming babies in all quadrants. Still I am headed west racing the sun and west is home.