Our flight to Lukla was scheduled at 9:30AM. We were at the airport well ahead of time. There were efforts to renovate the domestic terminal which at present looked like an old bus stand.
|Kathmandu domestic terminal|
The Lukla flight system does not have a transparent way of working. As I mentioned in the earlier post, there is no easy way to book the tickets online. Travelers have to depend on Nepal travel agents. Though departure time is printed on the ticket, airline has their own list and issue boarding tickets accordingly. With Jugad, influence and bribe one can get an early flight!! As westerners pay more, they get the preference. There is no point to become emotional here. That’s the way things work.
|Our flight at Lukla Airport|
But if the weather is good, there is nothing to worry. Flights take off at regular intervals and everyone gets to fly at the scheduled time. In fact, we got tickets to board 9:20AM flight. It was an experience to fly in those small aircraft that has only 16 seats. Plenty of sound, turbulence and rattling.
|Inside the cockpit|
The Lukla airport being on an edge of the hill is one of the most dangerous airports in the world. The runway is not level but has a gradient of 12%. After landing, the flight has to climb uphill!!
|Runway at Lukla|
Our flight landed successfully and at 10AM we were out of the airport. My first job was to hire a porter. The back pain does not allow me to carry load for several days. Hence I had to depend on porter for long walking. I hope that I will be able to carry my load in future.
As we got out of the airport, we were surrounded by porters. After some discussion and bargaining, Sameer agreed to help me out for 1000 NPR per day. We made sure that he did not have the habit of smoking and drinking. We had some unpleasant experience in Annapurna Circuit trek with bad habits of our porter and certainly we were not looking for similar experience. Sameer claimed to be a clean person and he did in fact lived up to his word. He was at the height of innocence!!
Lukla is a big village. The ‘luxury’ of the trail was evident as we passed though a Starbucks Coffee shop!! At a check post, we had to register ourselves. Let me digress a bit here to describe the permit process for EBC trek.
It is necessary to have TIMS (Trekkers Information Management System) card to trek to EBC. There are two types of card. One is for individual trekker and another for people travelling with guide. While travel agents can get the group card, for individual card the person has to present himself to get the card. The card is available at Kathmandu but one can also obtain it on the trail itself at Monjo. Indians need to pay INR 375 for the card. Westerners had to be pay more.
EBC is inside Sagarmatha National Park and a permit is required to enter. It can be obtained either at Kathmandu on the trail itself. Indians need to pay NPR 1500.
Back to the check post at Lukla. We had no TIMS card; we were just asked to show the passport for entering our details. Monjo, where the card was available was further away. Hence, it is fine to just show the passport and continue.
Our destination of the day was Phakding. Lukla was at 9383 feet and Phakding being at 8560 feet meant that we had to walk downhill for most of the time.
|On the way to Phakding|
As we crossed Lukla, we encountered several yaks carrying supplies. At one point of time, we were struck behind them slowing our journey!!
|Yaks on the way|
At the first hanging bridge, we had to wait for the mules carrying empty gas cylinders to pass!!
|Mules also carry heavy load|