“Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” – Ibn Battuta
Ibn Battuta known by many as the greatest traveller who ever lived, couldn’t have summarized travelling better.
But sometimes one needs an impetus, that little extra nudge to really get flowing.
That nudge for me was a flight to see the highest peak in the world -Mount Everest! If you are living / visiting Nepal – Kathmandu, then this is MUST DO! As grand as it would have been to scale this treacherous and marvelous peak, we got the opportunity to do the next best thing – a mountain flight to get the closest aerial view of this magnificent natural marvel.
At the break of dawn my sister and I were off for our fantastic adventure. We checked into our Budha Air flight and got to meet the very warm and knowledgeable crew of our flight.
This one-hour flight can best be described by some of the photographs we took along the way. And so here goes our picture story-
The flight was quite comfortable with all passengers enjoying a window seat and an open cockpit. After a round of sweets by the flight stewardess we taxied out and were up, up and away by 7am.
This was the route map we followed. It’s interesting to see how even the route kind of takes you through some great mountain ranges to finally climax at the Mount Everest and then we turn around.
Kathmandu was engulfed in its usual smog and once we cleared above that, we started to see the tall mountain ranges. The sun was playing a bit of peek a boo but we still managed to see the snow laden mountains. Our first peek! 🙂
What was exceptionally nice was that each passenger got an opportunity to visit the cockpit and see the view from there. That’s when I got my first glance of Mount Everest. We were still some distance away but it was just marvellous to see this peak. The peak above that line of cloud – Thats the ONE! Its like the line of cloud is underlining Mt. Everest.
Then once everyone had got one chance in the cockpit, we were free to walk back in again to get some great views and shots. And that’s when I saw it as close as I could possibly have. That unmistakable sharp pointed triangle was standing there so majestically and I just kept gaping at it. I didn’t even want to blink and just wanted it etched in my mind forever. We would love to have flown even closer but the air is so periliously thin there that nothing really can fly over it. And to think that some brave humans have scaled this peak! Utmost respect for them.
After all the passengers got their fill of the Mount Everest, the flight finally turned around. And the flight back turned out to be just as exciting. With the sun now shining in all its glory on the mountain ranges we got to experience some breathtaking views of the Himalayan ranges. The part snow covered- the part blackish barren mountains were such a beautiful sight!
And then I saw my second most favourite part of this mountain flight. The Gauri-Shankar peaks. They were not as high as Mount Everest but something about them just instantly drew me to them- Maybe the way the snow had covered Gauri, the softness of the snow akin to a soft cloth and the sun playing with her snow and giving it a unique grey hue; maybe the way Shankar stood tall behind her like a protective figure; maybe that they are Hindu deities (thought not particularly religious it just struck a chord); maybe that climbers are banned from climbing it (though some have scaled it too). Not sure what the appeal was but they had a magnetic draw and I kept looking back till they were long gone.
Then came the Ganesha peak. The unmistakable trunk and face! I guess it helped being Indian on this flight. Because Mount Everest peak was not the only awe inspiring peak we connected with.
And with that ended our lovely hour-long tour of these stunning ranges. This enchanting journey ended with a certificate for each of the passengers and the quote on it summed up the whole trip ‘ I did not climb Mt. Everest…but touched it with my heart!’
If this blog post has enticed you to plan a mountain flight then these notes may help you further-
- The flight is completely weather dependent. There can be days till the weather improves and even then once in the flight the cloud cover maybe quite high that you may not be able to see the lower peaks. Just like if you were to attempt a climb of Mt. Everest, the weather Gods need to be completely by your side; the same holds true for this flight.
- When buying the tickets please do ensure you make your nationality known to the agent or airline. SAARC country nationals pay approx. 9000 Nepali rupees and other country national’s pay 201 US $. Even if you are an Indian by birth but hold another country’s nationality you are considered as non-SAARC.
- It’s a regular check in progress. So do report on time. Kathmandu can be notorious for sudden roadblocks caused by a fallen pillar or just bad infrastructure.
- If you are flying Budha Air ( not certain if the same thing applies to other airlines but no harm ensuring all this during check in to get the most out of your flight), then keep these pointers in mind
- At the check in counter please do ask for the smaller aircraft. Apparently they have 1 smaller aircraft with 16-20 seats and another bigger one. The difference I just learned is that the smaller aircraft can fly higher than the larger one.
- Once you are confirmed on the smaller aircraft, ensure you get the first 2 rows or the last 2 rows. If you get stuck in the middle you will be on the wing and it’s inconvenient to keep manoeuvring around the wing to see the peaks.
- Should there not be a choice and you have to fly in the bigger aircraft, then ask for the last couple of rows. This is because in the bigger aircraft the wings are on top and the propellers block the view if you are sitting in front.
- Once you have checked in there is a possibility that there will be nothing much on offer to eat. And if you are one of those who need a bite in the morning, then do carry your own tit-bits. If not, your next meal is likely to be post 9-9:30am.
- If you are at the wing or the propellers are bothering your sightings, do not feel shy to ask for more cockpit rounds. The air stewardess will happily oblige.
- Pay attention to the air stewardess who walks around and lets you know what peak you are looking at that time. Makes the flight a whole lot more informative.
HAPPY MOUNTAIN FLYING