One can’t really describe the feeling of waking up at 4am, knowing that in a few short hours you would be boarding a plane and starting the trek of a lifetime. It was happening, the day was finally here, and I ignored the fact I had been awake the majority of the night as I showered for what would be the last time for a few weeks.
The hotel lobby was filled with nervous chatter about the flight and our 10kg weight limit, I knew we would be fine, but I couldn’t help but wonder what would happen to all the extra snacks I shoved in last minute if we were a little over. I wasn’t sure if the airport would have WIFI so I quickly sent those last-minute texts to all our family and friends letting them know the date they could expect us back in Kathmandu as we patiently waited to be summoned by our guides. Another guide had joined us too, Kashi, we would get to know more about him later but for now, we wait.
The G Adventures minibus pulled up outside and we all piled in. I sat silently watching Kathmandu slowly come to life, holding Robbie’s hand and praying that we would be okay on the mountain. This was my first ever high-altitude trek and a lifelong dream so naturally, my emotions were running high.
We pulled into the airport; the carpark alone was hectic. Our guides told us to pick up any bag and follow them into the departure hall. We had no idea what time our flight was or what exactly to expect, so we followed instructions carefully. Once inside all the black trekking bags were weighed together. The whole plane goes on a collective weight – we passed! Next minute they want your 7KG hand luggage. I quickly stripped the water bottles and camera out from the pockets and passed over a considerably lighter backpack. We must have passed this too as everything was handed back along with a ticket.
We were told to wait in the seating area next to the check-in desks before moving through security and into the departure lounge. I nervously asked if I had time to run to the toilet, Shankar told me plenty. I glanced at the board on the way back and Tara Air had planes departing for Lukla at around 9am, it was currently 7.15am, plenty of time to grab a brew and mentally prepare for the flight. Hours passed and we still sat waiting, some of the group napped on the floor and others checked in with their loved ones one last time. We spent a ridiculous amount of money on overpriced biscuits and tea from the café and watched the hours roll on by. Shankar and Kashi, sat just a little away from us on their phones, later telling us they were sat receiving updates. 11am ticked over as did the news that we may not fly today. My stomach and my heart dropped so hard, I was instantly devastated. Apparently, the skies were clear, and the wind was low, but a huge white cloud was covering the runway. Shankar had a friend in Lukla who was sending regular updates down to Kathmandu. We were told if the clouds didn’t clear then we would be taken to a hotel and brought back to the airport tomorrow to try again.
Another hour and a half passed, and groups were slowly starting to leave the airport, we soon joined them, jumped back on the G Adventures coach and headed to the fancy accommodation provided for the night. We were greeted at the door with sashes and cucumber juice drinks, given room keys and told to come down for dinner at 7pm. Here we would find out the plan. Not being ones to sit and mope around, even though that’s all I wanted to do we recruited Siobhan and went on a hunt for Momos. We tried two places and they both were out of the veggie ones… Siobhan googled a place and we walked to what felt like the outskirts of Kathmandu, up a back alley and some stairs to a pretty local looking place. They were as shocked as we were to be ordering but we did and damnnnn were they delicious. After stuffing our faces with food, we made the 15km walk back to the hotel, a few wrong turns later and I was again showering for what I thought would be the last time.
We had a very somber meeting with our guides and group. Basically, explaining that if we couldn’t fly tomorrow, we would need to think of other options, Annapurna being one of them. I pinned all my hopes on flying to Lukla Tuesday morning as I settled into the King Size bed for the night.
I woke at 4am, not through excitement, but because the sound of thunder and lightning crashed around what felt like my headboard. I cried, I honestly thought our Everest dreams were over, this time. Robbie had already contrived a little plan if we couldn’t fly but I didn’t want to think of second options, I so desperately wanted to be there. We arrived for breakfast, ate up and jumped in the van to the airport, despite the rain. Shankar said the weather might clear and Lukla could be okay. We followed the airport procedure and waited in departures. All I could see were red canceled signs flashing on the screens. Four hours passed and all flights had been grounded. The whole team felt deflated; we left the airport on the minibus on route to the hotel.
Over the sound of silence, Shankar announced we should go to the temple to walk around, we all agreed as it was better than sitting in the hotel all day watching the rain. The temple we visited is called Pashupatinath.
Pashupatinath Temple is Nepal’s most sacred Hindu temple. Located on the outskirts of Kathmandu, near the airport. You will need to jump in a taxi to get here and pay the entry fee to walk around. The temple is the oldest Hindu temple in Nepal and people travel from afar to worship here, it also attracts elderly followers of Hinduism who come here to die & be cremated.
The temple is an open-air crematorium, the podiums are prepared for the dead and families can hold a ceremony for their loved ones, their ashes are then pushed into the river. This river meets up with the Ganges in India, and ultimately paradise. When we arrived, we walked around, distracted by the monkeys and cows wandering through the grounds.
We also spoke to the beautifully decorated men who happily posed for portraits. While we were in the temple, we witnessed the beginnings of a ceremony, we watched the family cover the deceased in flowers and transport them to a podium, we left shortly after out of respect. It was a beautifully, humbling experience to see how other cultures celebrate life and death.
Back at the hotel, we were welcomed with cucumber mushy drinks, we could see the sympathetic faces of the hotel staff, knowing that once again our Lukla efforts had failed. But we got to shower again and sleep in a bed fit for a king, we lapped up the luxury while we could.
Another somber dinner with the team, some members choosing to retire to bed early and see what tomorrow brings. I was one of those people. I sat in bed and planned out Plan B because if we didn’t fly Wednesday morning then our Everest dreams may come to an end and I was determined to not let that happen.
I fell asleep to the sound of rain hitting the roof, dogs barking below and the occasional crash of thunder. I squeezed Robbie’s hand hard and prayed for a clear day in the mountains tomorrow, we just had to get to Lukla.