by Dilrukshi Handunnetti
Suddenly there is awed silence. Strange, given that every passenger just moments ago were busy chatting and positioning their cameras. We all have boarded an unusual flight that circles around the world’s very peak.
Yes, we were passengers on the mountain flight- to Everest!
We have just boarded the tiny Buddha Air aircraft. Unlike the regular passenger aircraft, here is a 16-seater with window seats for all. How else can you view the Himalayan peaks otherwise?
The weather had been bad for a few days and suddenly that morning, the sun began to shine, and so were the passengers who scrambled on board the tiny flight. Their excitement was visible and the sense of surprise that the weather gods have decided to be kind to us. For a couple of days, there had been cancellation of the famous mountain flights.
Touching the clouds
The Nepali people say that one’s experience of their beautiful country is never complete without a trek to the Himalayas. I was convinced long ago that I would never trek it to the Himalayas. The good thing about Nepal is that it offers the faint-hearted like me, and there are thousands of such people, an option to view the mountains. The natives believe that one’s inability to climb should not deny them the mountain experience. So we all found ourselves ready to circle the magnificent peaks, and learn their individual story.
An excited passenger, the only Nepali on board told us that one’s experience of Nepal was never complete without the opportunity to view sun rise over the mountain peaks. A few passengers have trekked up to Base Camp but did not wish to give a miss to the flight that glides over a river of clouds. As for me, it was to be the only way to ‘conquer’ the glorious mountains.
On board the most “fascinating flight in the world”, we quickly turned towards the east and anticipation grew making the passengers restless and crane their necks to get a better view. One did not have to wait for too long though. I was prepared for a panoramic view. After all, it is the Himalaya Range. But the awe-inspiring sight I beheld, robbed me of my power of speech. I sat, awe-struck as the first rays of sunlight touched the snowy peaks covered in a haze of blue-grey clouds.
It was a clear Monday morning, a day that sparkled with dew, after a few days of rain. The flights had been cancelled previously due to bad weather. As the mountains emerged from behind the clouds, their peaks sheathed in silver blue, I was transfixed.
We didn’t disbelieve the guide on board when he described the flight as the most fascinating flight in the world. We were convinced as the flight glided over the mountains, offering us a closer view.
Anticipation grew as we reached the first peak, and nearer to it, I heard audible gasps from fellow passengers. “Awesome” an excited teenager, strapped to his seat, cried out.
It begins with the mightiest of the Himalayan Range, the Shisha Pangma a majestic mountain that stands at 8,013 m. immediately to its right was Dorje Lakla (6,966m), a stunning mountain that resembles number eight and derives its name from its shape.
Next is Phurbi –Ghyachu and Choba – Bhamre (5,933m.), which loomed over the spectacular Kathmandu Valley that dazzled in the morning sun.
Circling magnificent peaks
We circled further to reach the magnificent Gauri Shankar, standing at 7,134 m. Gauri Shankar is also my personal favourite, given the folklore that is associated with it. It is a sharp steep peak that defied definition. Nepali people believe that this peak is specially protected by Lord Shiva and his consort Gauri.
Next we saw the plateau like mountain, Melungtse (7,023 m.) and Chugimago (6,297 m.). Chugimago is the virgin mountain that is yet to be climbed and hence a curiosity for many people. The Number Mountain standing at 6,956 m, our guide insisted resembled a woman’s breast, symbolizing the maternal source that provides milk to the Sherpas, the mountain people of Nepal.
Then there was Karyolung (6,511 m), Cho-Oyu (8,201 m.), Gyachungkang (7,952 m), Pumori (7,161 m) and Nuptse (7,855 m), four mountains that appear in quick succession.
Excitement grows inside the tiny flight as we slowly circle the very roof of the world -Mt. Everest. At 8,850 m, it is the highest peak in the world. Though popularly known as the Everest, in Nepal it is lovingly referred to as” Sagarmatha” or the spring of oceans. Many other mountains appear thereafter including the famous Kanchanjunga, one of the most picturesque mountains and one of the most photographed.
For a closer look at the majestic Everest, flight takes the passengers on a ride to Lukla, the gateway to Everest. The gigantic Everest inspires a deep sense of appreciation among the visitors. The tour ends with a closer look at the Everest’s popular Base Camp, without which a tour remains incomplete. The aerial tour is humbling and makes one appreciate nature’s bounty. And then we head back, having climbed the world’s highest peaks- just in one hour courtesy: Ceylon Today