Getting out of Lukla
Getting back to Kathmandu from Lukla is as much of a challenge as getting to Lukla in the first place. It’s not just the weather and the fact that the pilot needs line of sight to land on Lulka’s mountain side airstrip. Air traffic control is a mess in Kathmandu with only one runway serving both domestic and international flights.
Yesterday there were clear skies over Lukla and Kathmandu and still not all the flights made it. With stranded passengers in Lukla, our chances of catching an earlier flight, we have tickets for the 24th , the day after tomorrow, were not good.
At dinner the owner and some other guys that worked for the airlines suggested that we fly to Ramechhap and then take a 4 hour van ride into Kathmandu. It was this option or we take our chances with “maybe” an 11 a.m. direct flight to Kathmandu. Not wanting to spend another day waiting at the airport not knowing if our flight would go or not, Ramechhap seemed like a good alternative.
We were to have breakfast at 7AM and then wait for the call from the airport about our flight. We went down a bit early and our breakfast came out of the kitchen even before we sat down. Someone was in a hurry. We were happy to see things moving, it beats waiting around. We finished our breakfast and were out the door for the 5 minute walk to the airport.
The airport was already a buzz of activity. Four or five flights had taken off before we arrived, but I’m not sure where they were going, early flights into Kathmandu or more diverted flights to Ramechhap? We waited around some, but got our bags checked, were on a flight by 8:30 and landed in Ramechhap before 9.
It was a clear morning with views over the steep slopes of Nepal – snowy peaks in the background, cultivated terraced fields in the foreground dotted with sparse villages. With a landscape like this it’s no wonder that they don’t have good roads and that transportation is such a challenge.
Ramechhap was even busier than Lukla. Masses of trekkers were waiting to board a flight and start their Everest adventure. I wondered what time they must have left Kathmandu or if they had to spend the night in Ramechhap. According to Indra there are no tourist guest houses in town.
Ramechhap to Kathmandu
The parking lot was filled with small tourist vans although there were few drivers around. Indra left us at a waiting area with a wooden bench and set off to find us a ride to Kathmandu.
We piled into a tourist van with comfortably spaced seats. They did stop twice to add passengers, the second time in a jump seat in the back next to the luggage, but we were not overcrowded. The non-tourist busses and jeeps we passed on the road were crammed with locals.
It’s a long slow road to Kathmandu following the river from the hillside high above. First down the river then across the bridge and back the way we came. It’s much hazier at this elevation, with distant views more obscured than in the high mountains.
The rice fields are green to golden with many of them close to or in the process of being harvested. Rice is planted on any and every level surface, no matter how big or what it is next to. Some other crops as well.
Around 11AM we stop at a road side eatery. Indra announces “dal bhat time” a simple feast of hot pickled bits, a dal soup and rice, one of the best meals we’ve had in weeks.
The sprawling urban area of Kathmandu begins more than an hour before we arrived at our destination. In the outskirts rice grows between the buildings. More evidence of earthquake damage where buildings damaged beyond repair have been abandoned.
We finally arrive in Thamal, back at the Ambassador Garden Hotel, shortly after 2pm. A good bye beer and pakoras with Indra to celebrate the end of trek.
October 22, 2018
For links to all the posts in this series see the 3 Passes Trek page.