Along the Himalayas to Bhutan
Up at 3:15 this morning to meet the group for a 4:30am departure from the hotel.
Through the Indian version of silly security then sit and wait for our 7:30 flight. When we asked for a window seat on the left side of the plane, she told us they were all taken, but we could get aisle and center on the left. Better than nothing, we said sure. When we boarded, no one was sitting in the window seat, but he came eventually and asked if we wanted to move over and sit on the window. Turns out, he was in a group of 20 and wanted to move around the plane chatting with his friends.
Shortly after takeoff, we saw some mountains. This flight went parallel to the Himalayas for most of the length of Nepal at a distance of who knows how far, but we could see them quite clearly. We landed in Kathmandu to exchange some passengers, then took off again, this time much closer to the mountain range, mostly well over 20,000 feet. Within a few minutes, Mount Everest came into view, and it was quite close, we could see clear details. 29,002 feet, more than 5 miles above sea level. After Everest, the mountains were lower, then we crossed into Bhutan which marks the end of the mountain range. We had flown past most of the ten highest mountains on earth.
Then the descent into Paro, Bhutan, one of the most challenging airports to land at. The pilot took us along a winding route through mountains that were only hundreds of feet away on each side. The wind buffeted the plane. Then we caught a glimpse of the airport, way too close, way too short, we were way too high, and pointing in the wrong direction. He took a sharp turn, made the steep descent, touched down and slammed on the brakes. We stopped about 100 feet from the end of the runway, did a U-turn and taxied up to the terminal.
Tenzin, our trip leader met us, loaded us onto a Toyota minibus and we drove through mountain valleys and rural villages that looked very Tibetan, to Thimpu, the capital city. We checked in to our very nice hotel and set off walking around the city.