Another bid for freedom, and a flight to Bhutan, commenced at 5am on Wednesday. Weather had cleared up in Kathmandu after two solid days since we arrived of continuous drizzling rain.
It was a great relief to board the plane after such delays – and an even greater thrill when we finally landed in Paro in Bhutan. The highlight of the journey was the magnificent view of the Himalayan mountains, as we flew along a parallel route to the south of the main peaks. The pilot, quite a senior Australian man, gave a running commentary as we passed, and viewed, all the major peaks including Everest as well as some less well known peaks. It really was a wonder to behold. On the way back only Kanchenjunga was visible as Everest was shrouded in cloud.
The group on board the plane had got to know each other during our incarceration in Kathmandu – I made the acquaintance of a group of affluent American trekkers including a Cancer Surgeon, a Psychologist and a Harvard Business School Professor. There was also a fun group of Mexican Travel Agents who were enjoying the perk of their job by testing out all the hotels and so on which they recommend to their clients.
landing in Paro is an experience that many would prefer to miss. It is classified by Airbus as the most difficult international airport in the world, requiring a high level of precision to avoid clipping the mountains which are on both sides of the valley into which the plane threads its way down. The Airbus 319 has oversized engines so as to be able to deal with high winds and manoeuvrability challenges. The pilots are given twice the hours in training as normal pilots to cope with the challenges. So it is the sort of place where one says a prayer of thanks once safely on the ground.
The rains in Bhutan were the worst they have had since 1968 and many roads were blocked or even washed away. The trip from Paro to Thimphu is about 50km and at one point, I needed to get out of one car, climb over the landslip rubble blocking the road and hop into another waiting car before proceeding to Thimphu. All very eventful. I finally arrived in Thimphu on Wednesday lunchtime, more than 50 hours after leaving Bangalore on Monday morning. What a relief!