Fortunately for us after my last entry the weather began to change – the rain stopped and the clouds slowly broke up. I took the opportunity to take a little walk to scope out a few shops around the hotel and shortly thereafter I felt the ground suddenly shake! The 4.7 earthquake was over in a few seconds and all the shop owners ran into the street to make sure everything was alright. I guess small aftershocks are still quite common in the city. I returned to the hotel to a nice surprise – flights from Lukla ended up coming after all and some colleagues from Leeds were on the plane! They had just completed fieldwork on the Khumbu, where they’re doing some great work, so it was great to catch up over dinner.
I woke up this morning and immediately took a peak outside hoping for clear skies only to find anything but. It looked like it was going to rain and when we got to the airport that’s exactly what it did. On past trips, I haven’t had the best of luck flying out to Lukla (which is fine I’d rather be safe), but this had the feeling of waiting around until noon before returning to the hotel and trying again tomorrow. Hence, I was very surprised when we boarded the 20-person plane in the rain and took off shortly thereafter! The first 6 minutes, and yes I know it was 6 minutes because I was anxiously checking my watch, was a complete white-out. We were flying in the clouds and you couldn’t see a thing. Fortunately, shortly thereafter the clouds broke up and we safely landed in Lukla 20 minutes later. I guess it wouldn’t be a typical flight to Lukla if there wasn’t a little excitement! Lukla’s runway has a fairly significant grade such that incoming planes slow down faster and outbound planes pick up speed to take-off. The runway is quite short and carved into the side of the mountain. It’s an impressive sight, but with its reputation of one of the world’s most dangerous airport it’s always nice to plant two feet on the ground.
Shortly thereafter we began our trek to Phakding, which is only about 3 hours away and mostly downhill. After a nice big plate of fried rice, I took a few hours of rest and could barely keep my eyes open. Now I’m relaxing in the lodge hearing an eclectic mix of American music (from Shakira to Backstreet Boys to 50 Cent) coming from the kitchen as I eagerly await a nice hardy meal of dal baht. My dad always ends his AT journal entries with a short and sweet statement of how grateful or lucky he feels; in similar fashion, I couldn’t be more grateful for the safe flight out of Lukla and feel incredibly lucky to be working out here for the next month. Let the trek begin.