Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Fly like an eagle

In the hall of the mountain king

I took the famous Mountain Flight - the flight that goes parallel to the Himalayan giants, and makes a turn at
Ama Dablam just before Everest, then doubles back the same way. But I don't remember a lot of it. Bad timing meant I was trapped till about 1.30 am at an event that shall remain nameless here. Then I had to get up at 4.30 am to be at the airport at 5.30 for a 6.00 am flight that didn't leave till 7.am.

I suppose I shouldn't complain...to fly past Gauri Shankar, Lhotse, Cho Oyu, Shishapangma, and the other granite titans is no small thing. I just wish I had been awake.

There are now at least four airlines offering the same route for the Mountain Flight, all with names from mythology and legend - such as Yeti Air, Buddha Air, Agni Air and Sita Air. I was on Yeti Air.

Every passenger gets a (brief) turn in the cockpit looking over the pilot's shoulder, and mine came fairly early in the flight - which meant that I got the contrast of the cloud ocean below with the ice castles looming ahead. Not a bad thing to see first thing in the morning. Mountain Flight Pilot would be a pretty cool occupation.

Some suggestions for the Mountain Flight: -They advertise that everyone gets a window seat - true enough. But all window seats are NOT created equal. Since it's a 15-seater plane, several seats are located directly over the propeller or wing. I got a propeller seat. It did give good scale to my photos.

-As it turned out, it would have been cool to sit way in the back. Reason: Everyone gets a turn in the cockpit as I mentioned, but the penultimate one is the best. That is, as you get close to Everest, there are just a few minutes in which Everest is straight ahead before they make the double-back U turn. THAT is the best time to be in the cockpit. I saw it over someone's shoulder.

-The Mountain Flight is now $120 (just 2 years ago, it was only $75). If you are fortunate enough to be flying to Lukla or another location in Everest Region, you will see quite a few of the same mountains. In that case, the Mountain Flight might be not quite redundant, but less necessary. However, if you have a very limited time in Nepal, or if you are not well enough to physically get closer to the big mountains, it's a must-do.
-If you're going alone, force another hapless passenger to snap your photo getting on-off the plane or posing with it (as above). Whenever I get off an STOL plane onto a runway, I feel like a character in a 1940s black and white drama. Or maybe Clutch Cargo.

-Oh yeah, and it most definitely does NOT fly right by Everest as depicted in the (heavily Photoshopped) advertisements! (One friend was disappointed to find it didn't do donut-rings round Everest.)

-And go to bed early! Especially at the current prices, you don't want to be half asleep (as I was).

1 comment:

The Bananafish said...

You're right; if you have a chance, take it. I was in Kat for a few days several years ago and didn't take it. I'll always return, right? That turned out to be a one time opportunity and I missed it.