It’s been a while since a tragic plane crash has happened in Nepal. There have been a few helicopter crashes but nothing quite like the plane crash this week, where all 19 people on board have so sadly died. I feel for the families of those Britons on board, and genuinely my condolences go out to them all, but I really feel for the families of the Nepalis who were on the plane, as not only have they lost a loved one, but they have likely lost the main breadwinner and are pretty poor to begin with. I am hugely relieved that none of my dear Nepali friends were on that plane, as they are all trekking guides, and could so easily have been.
The flight from Tribhuvan airport up into the himalaya to Lukla is terrifying. The kind of terrifying that makes your bowels loosen, your heart quicken, and your eyes screw shut until you land. And you don’t want to see the landing, because the landing strip is an uphill stretch of tarmac cleeved into the side of a mountain, and is about the size of a football pitch. It’s more like stopping without crashing, rather than landing. I know this because I’ve been on that flight, and although the scenery is magnificent you have to keep saying to yourself ‘I will not die, I will not die, I will not die’ to get through the experience (not one I’m in a hurry to repeat). The Nepalis are good pilots, and there are hundreds of these flights going backwards and forwards to Lukla without anything more dramatic happening to anyone other than wimpering with fear (oh and an American I met who had his rucksack stolen from the tarmac. He was truly enormous and Nepalis are quite diminuitive so I was looking out for Nepalis wearing a giant pair of underpants as a cape while I was on the trail. The man had to order loads of new clothes online, but I’m not sure he ever received them).
Taking off from Lukla is equally as horrifying, as the plane seems to drop off the end of the runway like a stone before it eventually gains height and soars, rumbling into the mountain vista. I am pretty brave, but still closed my eyes on landing and taking off. If I was going to be plunged into an imminent death I didn’t want to see it coming. I will tell you something though, if the plane I had been on had crashed and I had died, there is nowhere I would rather be. My family know that Nepal is my spiritual home and my love of the mountains and the people runs very deep. I get a sense that those Brits who lost their lives this week were doing something they love, and were excited about being in such a beautiful and friendly country, and that’s some consolation to their families I hope. ‘You never can tell when a bird is going to fly into your engine’ is probably just another way of saying ‘sieze the day, life’s too short’ and that’s what they were doing after all.
May the souls of all 19 rest in peace.