Call me crazy. I’m headed to Kathmandu. With my 73-year-old father. And I need your help. I would like to collect Kathmandu travel stories as part of my preparation for this trip. And, soon.
Weekly Reader Inspired Dreams
No, I’m not trying to satisfy some unfulfilled hippie yearnings. This is my dad’s bucket list trip. The thing dreams are made of since he first laid eyes on the story in his grade school Weekly Reader of Sir Edmond Hillary summiting Mount Everest.
My role in this is simple. I owe my adventure spirit to my dad. Accompanying him is the perfect homage to that penchant for adventure he instilled in me. The whole reason I wound up working in remote Native American villages in Alaska in my twenties was because my dad got us there in a pickup truck–from New York–when I was a kid.
Recently, I returned to the Yukon River village where I lived do some memoir research. My father’s instilling of an adventure spirit has been the gift that keeps on giving. Check out these photos of me departing a remote Alaskan village in the Fall of 2007. Which one makes me look like Jesse Ventura?
Dad’s long said he wanted to get to base camp (the Mount Everest climb staging area)… and well, with his limited walking abilities, we’re going to get as close as we can–short of me being his Sherpa. After acclimatizing to Kathmandu, we’ll attempt to make a flight into Lukla–the climber’s base camp airfield–which in and of itself–is not for the feint-hearted.
Treacherous ? Base Camp Flight
Googling Lukla also pulled up some videos that show how you land at one of the highest, most remote, most rugged airports in Asia. Carefully.
No longer than a football field, Lukla airfield is built uphill lengthwise into the side of a mountain. It should be called the airport of no go-arounds, if you’re familiar with aviation lingo.
My research revealed that you often wait for days for enough visibility to get in. Then you’re in line behind all the other climbers, mountaineers, trekkers and bucket listers like us who want to get there. Russell Banks in his Men’s Journal article titled “Old Goat or Old Fool,” about trekking to base camp at age 72, describes landing at Tenzing-Hillary as follows:
The stomach-churning flight from Kathmandu deep into the eastern Himalaya dropped suddenly between terraced green ridges outside Lukla. Minutes later, the DHC-6 Twin Otter skidded to a stop at the Tenzing-Hillary Airport, a landing strip the size of a football field with a steep, rock-cluttered hill at one end zone and a 1,000 foot drop-off at the other.
Check out this video of approaching and landing at Tenzing-Hillary Airport (click name), at Lukla You can hear the stall warning going off, and people hollering because of the uncomfortable angle and rate of descent. Looks like fun!
In researching this trip, I kept looking up Mt. Everest, base camp, Kathmandu… until finally I tripped over the name Lukla in a trekking guide and googled it. Apparently base camp is not such a ubiquitous term as I thought. It has been for me because it’s been a dinner table discussion topic since I was a kid. So my dad’s a little out there. I’m glad for it. I wouldn’t have had the adventures I’ve had without his penchant for adventure.
Hoping to See the Worlds Highest Peak
Hopefully the weather will be clear enough for getting some photos of Mount Everest. Just as a flight is a great way to see the world’s highest peak, the fabled Mount McKinley or Denali as the Natives call it, surprisingly came into full view on that return flight to Fairbanks from the bush.
It’s Just Crazy
People have long associated my father with Jack Nicholson… No wonder. He looks like him and can imitate him from Cuckoo’s Nest to Bucket List whereby, Nicholson’s character takes a trip to Kathmandu. In either movie Nicholson’s character is crazy by different standards. So here we go.
The Turkish travel agent kind of chuckles every time I ask him about flights filling up to Kathmandu. “Not many people go there.”
Perfect. Isn’t that what adventure’s about? Going where so few have gone. Isn’t that what Hillary did? Isn’t that the crux of adventure? Dad’s ready. I’m ready.
And What About Mom?
Well, at least she knows. Finally. So, she’ll get her own side excursion accompanying dad and I to visit an old friend in Istanbul on the first leg of the trip. She’s already sending me vignettes of her first childhood taste of Turkey: Turkish Delight. Weekly Readers, Turkish Delight, Alaska. As my husband likes to say, “It all goes back to a childhood thing,” doesn’t it?
A special thanks to my husband for helping make this possible in so many ways. His bucket list trip: he took his father to where his grandfather was held by the Russians on the Volga River as part of post WWII’s Operation Paper Clip, which used German scientists against their will to develop aircraft for the Russians.)
You can help us out by sending me Kathmandu stories and putting me in contact with travelers and trekkers who have been there. With dad’s limited mobility, we will at times be moving around with a travel wheelchair outfitted with tundra tires.