|random Buddhist procession passing by in Lukla|
I woke up with a headache but for the first time in a long time it wasn't because of the elevation. This time I had chhaang to thank. Chhaang (not to be confused with the Thai beer of the same pronunciation) is the local Sherpa brew-- it literally means "nectar of gods". The previous night my friends and I had a few too many celebration drinks and now it was time to get on an airplane back to Kathmandu. We were able to move our flight up so that we wouldn't have to wait around in Lukla for another day. After breakfast, I packed up my belongings and paid the bill at our lodge. The four of us made the short walk over to the airport, eager to get off the mountain.
I should've known as I walked up to the Tara Air counter that there would be bad news. Even though the weather in Lukla was clear and calm, so was not the case at our destination and our flight-- the last flight of the day-- had been canceled. The airline rep pushed back our reservations to the second flight out the following morning. This is exactly what happened when we began the trip, trying to get from Kathmandu to Lukla.
Frustrated, we checked in to at a hotel across the street. I killed the rest of the afternoon in a small internet cafe/ coffee house that had a huge TV playing movies. They sold Budweiser tallboys-- the first I'd seen anywhere in Asia-- and I took full advantage. I sprawled out, taking up the long couch in the common area, and drank beer while watching Tron 2 on the big screen. It was in 3-D, but I didn't have the glasses. By my third Bud tallboy I was able to see the missing third dimension.
The next morning I woke up with fingers crossed. Luckily, the weather was great and everything went as according to scheduled. At 7:30 am, we boarded our flight out of Lukla back to Kathmandu. I was excited and a bit nervous as the plane set for a brief pause at the top of the runway-- then it made it's charge. We rapidly approached the end of the runway. In Lukla, when the runway ends... so does the ground. If the plane doesn't have enough speed to take off, it will go face first off the edge of the runway (and mountain), plummeting into the valley below. We charged for 100 yards and just before we reached the edge of the cliff, our pilots pulled up and we took flight. As we soared through the Himalayas like a badass terodactyl, I soaked in the last views of the magnificent mountain tops peaking through the clouds. (Watch my video of the sweet takeoff below...)
THIS. IS. SWEET...
Once we were in Kathmandu we cabbed it to the backpacker district of Thamel where we'd stayed before. My friends and I checked back in to Traveler's Home, one of the best guesthouses I've ever stayed at in all of my travels. They greeted us with hugs and congratulations and quickly opened up two rooms for us. I took a much-needed hot shower and happily changed out of my awful trekking clothes.
|back at Traveller's Home (Thamel-Kathmandu, Nepal)|
My first stop was the barber shop. I got a haircut and a shave for the first time in over a month. Finally... clean. The rest of the afternoon was spent walking around Thamel, doing some light shopping-- a few souvenirs and gifts. As we walked, shop owners through buckets of water on the dirty streets to keep the dust down. Relentless honking from the city traffic made me anxious. It had only been a few hours and I already missed the mountains and their quiet. My friends and I decided to get out of Kathmandu immediately and we booked bus tickets to Pokhara for early the next morning.
Pokhara is known as Nepal's second city. It's a small lake-side town sitting at the foot of the Annapurna mountain range. I looked forward to getting some rest and relaxation and sitting lakeside with a beer in hand for a few days. Pokhara seemed to be just what I needed.
|the chaos that is Kathmandu|