There are a number of things that make the Everest Base Camp trek a completely iconic adventure and I think its fair to say that one of those is the transportation to and from the trail – i.e. the flight from Kathmandu to Lukla / Lukla to Kathmandu.
Chances are you’ll stay somewhere in central Kathmandu before your trek to Base Camp; I stayed in Thamel when I was the tour manager for our Everest Base Camp trek in October 2012. From Thamel it was a short drive, approx. 25 minutes, to the domestic terminal at Kathmandu airport for the flight to Lukla.
We had organised to take one of the first flights out to Lukla as in general the earlier you fly in the morning the more stable the weather is, reducing the risk of the clouds coming in and making landing in Lukla impossible.
At Kathmandu airport we lined up outside in the pitch black of the morning, passports, tickets and 200 Rupee airport tax payment at the ready. Our bags went through a rudimentary scanner, while each of us were patted down by the secuity staff. Then to ‘check in’. Our bags were put onto the luggage scales and weighed together as a combined amount. Some of the bags were overweight so it was arranged that they would follow the passenger plane on one of the freight planes (we were there just a few weeks after the fatal aircraft crash at Kathmandu so all manner of security and procedure was stricter apparently).
To get through into the departures area, we were patted down again and continued through to the large departures room for the long wait to departures. To board the 15-seater plane we were transported to the runway on a rickety minibus. Upon entering the plane we made a dash for the seats on the left hand side (for the best views of the Himalayas as you fly over) and the cabin stewardess came through with a tray of boiled sweets and cotton wool for the pressure and the noise respectively.
Despite being amped up for a scary roller-coaster of a flight it actually went very smoothly, landing gently and uneventfully. It was a good flight with nice views of the mountains during the 35 minutes in the air. Can’t complain really – nothing major to speak of!
The reverse journey was pretty much the same; with a physical inspection of your checked baggage and more pat downs as you come through into Lukla terminal, then a small room with souvenir stands that you wait in for your flight back to Kathmandu. Again, no drama to speak of on the flight although the second half of my group who followed on the next plane had a bit of a hairy landing with a bit of a bounce and wobble on the runway.
I’m certain it’s more about the look of the runway in Lukla, and the reputation for danger (and of course the numerous crashes that have occurred) that makes people worry that the plane journey is trecherous. The thing to remember is it’s a 35 minute scenic flight or a 7-day walk!