By Adam Capelin
Well another day coughed into life over Kathmandu. A pale dull light that fails to inspire or suggest the actual time of day. The Sun was caught somewhere between 7am and 8am and climed no higher in the sky. A good day to leave Kathmandu behind, or so we thought.
We headed to Kathmandu airport to catch a domestic 14-person twin otter flight to Lukla at 7.45am. The airport terminal is an unassuming single-story red brick building, that wouldn’t look out of place in a budget starved public school back at home. My bag was dragged by a stranger from the boot of our depcrepid 35 year old Toyota Corolla Taxi before my feet could exit the back seat. Bloody little merchants – always on the look out to make a rupee from an unsuspecting tourist. We chased our bag on the back of a stranger into the terminal building and kaos greeted us at the door.
Giant archaic imperial weighing scales stood guard on either side of 8 basic wooden check-in counters while pigeons controlled the airspace above. We stood back and waited as our guide, Binod, pushed into people waving stubs of paper who were in-turn pushing themselves against the check-in counters as if trying to topple them over. The people at the front of the crush were leaning over the counters and shouting at the frantic people behind them. Bags were haphazardly stacked like a Jenga tower on the scales before being heaved onto a discard pile behind the counters. We sat on an unclaimed whisky box packed with something else – an island in a sea of mayhem. There were unclaimed bags and parcells strewn everywhere accross the unswept black and white mosaic tiled floor. People stood in groups for security in numbers while others wandered aimlessly climbing over the baggage landscape. “The perfect scene for a suicice bomber” I whispered to Keira. “Don’t say that!” she replied sharply and tucked behind me. One women sat on maybe a dozen sheets of plastic corrugated roofing material wrapped in rope. I wondered if this was her carry on luggage…
Our flight was delayed due to cloudy pollution haze conditions in Kathmandu. We waited with nervous anticipation in the busy departure room adjacent to the check-in baggage room after passing though separate male and felmale security pat downs. The nervous anticipation subsided into boredom and then a gradual acceptance that we were going to be here for days. Our existance was a crowded room with a dusty floor, restless people, and PA announcements in Nepalese. The view outside to the tarmac revealed grounded planes and the uninspiring haze in the distance.
A glimmer of hope. At 11:03am an announcement was made that the second flight to Lukla had been given clearance to depart. We walked outside and climed onto a small bus with 11 other hopeful trekkers. You could smell the relief in the air. We were the lucky ones. We’d been given a chance to escape from Kathmandu. The cabin door on the small plane was open, the ground crew were moving off, the pilot was testing the trimming gear – but we’d been asked to wait on the bus. Long minutes passed by as we held our collective breathe. A flight hostess emerged from the cabin door and shook her head. What does that mean! Our plane wasn’t going anyway. All flights to Lukla had been cancelled due to windy conditions in Lukla. The first flight to Lukla that had left Kathmandu 45 minutes earlier had been told to turn around mid flight within minutes of arriving at Lukla.
The bus turned around. We returned to the departure building despondant. Other passengers watched us re-enter the departure gate we had just left in and whispered quickly to each other. We were going to spend another night in Kathmandu and try again tomorrow…