Nepal was recently in news for one of the worst earthquakes in the history. Thousands of people died in this natural calamity. This earthquake paralysed the beautiful Himalayan nation & it was a major setback for the tourism industry of this landlocked country. Many heritage structures of Kathmandu valley were completely destroyed in this disaster. Though the epicentre of the quake was approximately 225 km away from Mount Everest, the tremors & aftershocks caused a series of disastrous avalanches on & around the highest peak of the world. There were hundreds of mountain climbers from across the world, many Sherpas in this region at the time of the earthquake. This created havoc at Mt. Everest & its base camp. Many of the climbers got killed & many were reported missing. Nepal is recovering from the aftermath of this earthquake with financial & medical help from across the world. Nepali people are known for their kind, peaceful & innocent nature. These simple people are fighting back to recover from this devastation. I was in Nepal in May 2014, almost a year before the earthquake. I visited this Himalayan nation of immense natural beauty, snow-capped mountains, wild life & many rivers. Everest Mountain Flight was one of the highlights of my Nepal trip. So I am writing this post about this memorable experience as a tribute to this beautiful country & simple Nepalese people.
Everest mountain flight was part of my travel bucket list since my childhood. During my Nepal trip of May 2014 I got a chance to tick it off. We had kept the second morning of our Nepal itinerary for this flight. We booked the trip with Buddha Air.
It was a The Beech 1900D- 18 seater aircraft. It’s a 50 minutes flight with every passenger having a window seat. This flight offers panoramic views of Himalayan peaks & glaciers.
We left our hotel early at 4.30 am for domestic terminal of Kathmandu airport. The weather was not good with occasional rains.
The humble terminal was full of passengers travelling to Pokhara, Nepalgunj, Biratnagar etc. This small terminal reminded me of small suburban railway stations of Mumbai. We could hear the announcement that the airport was closed & all the flights were delayed due to bad weather.
I was a bit stressful as a similar flight named Buddha Air flight 103 had crashed on 25th September 2011 killing all 19 passengers & crew on board. The culprit was unpredictable bad weather of high Himalayas. It reminded me the quote of a pilot from a Nepal guidebook- “We don’t fly through the clouds because in Nepal the clouds have rocks in them”.
After almost an hour’s wait we boarded our little dream liner- Buddha Air flight 102. As the flight took off, we could see the Kathmandu Valley below with green fields & hills around.
In few minutes we were in clouds & nothing was visible. The pilot’s quote was still lingering in my mind. Then the picture become clearer & we could see Himalayan snow capped mountain ranges in clouds. The airline had provided a map of these ranges with their names & altitude.
The pilot & air-hostess were making announcements regarding these ranges. We could see the mighty Himalayas with peaks like Lhotse, Makalu, Chamlang etc. till the horizon. Then came the moment for which everyone was waiting eagerly. The mother of all mountains- Mount Everest was in our range. Everybody was taking as many photos as possible. I tried to save the picture in my eyes.
This was really a ‘Life Mein Ek Bar” experience. It was a close encounter with Himalayas especially Mt. Everest. Nothing compares to the beauty of Mt. Everest- the mother of all mountains. It was so close that we almost touched it (20 miles).The date with Mt. Everest was more significant to us because on the same day (25th May 2014) Malavath Poorna, 13 year old daughter of poor Indian farmer became the youngest girl to climb Mt. Everest. We were there almost at the same time. Each one of us was taken into cockpit one by one. It was also a first for me. I even took few pictures of the console & the 360 degrees view of the mountains from the cockpit was one of the best sights.
After landing we also received certificates from Buddha Air as memento of our flight. We took few group photos with our aircraft in the background. It was an experience of which you can tell the stories to your kids & grandkids. Someone has rightly said that, “One should spend money on experiences, not things.”