After waking up this morning, the first thing I noticed was that it had stopped raining … and that it looked pretty flyable (see pic above). My flight was scheduled for 9:00am and while I was walking over to the airport building I saw two planes land and take off again.
I was so sure that I would make it out, that I called our guide (who is in Kathmandu with the girls) to arrange him getting me from the airport with his motorcycle. But after another 30 minutes, I noticed the cloud base dropping lower and lower until the final approach from the other side of the valley was no longer visible.
Like the last time I was stuck here, there was absolutely no statement from the airline or airport … everyone just kind of stood around for a few hours, hoping that something would happen or that someone would say something.
After a bit of back and forth with the owner of the lodge that I’m staying in (who seems to be well connected to the airlines), the options are:
1. Wait it out
Get on the end of the waiting list and hope that the weather improves so much that the scheduled passengers all get out tomorrow … and that there are additional flights to start clearing the waiting list. If the weather is bad again, the waiting list builds up … and up … and up. In 1988 I was stuck here for a week and two years ago the situation was so bad that Lukla ran out of food and the army flew people out with helicopters.
2. Walk out
It’s about five days of walking to the next road (and possibility to take a bus). I’ve hiked it before and it’s endless up and down through dense forest with absolutely no views. Would REALLY like to avoid doing it again.
3. Charter a helicopter
Not a bad option. The word on the street is that a seat in a Russian built larger helicopter would go for about US$ 350 (if we find enough people to fill it up). I could get a refund for my plane ticket … which would make it an additional cost of about US$190.
4. Charter a private plane
Apparently there is a pilot here in town, who has a small 6-seater (I’ve seen it on the runway) and is willing to fly people out. He is asking US$200, only about a $40 surcharge if I get my original ticket refunded. He would leave at first light … the most likely time for flyable weather.
After a bit of asking around, I found four others (3 Croatian climbers and a German trekker) and will go with option No. 4.
Wish me luck 🙂