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Himalaya

Day 46: Kathmandu to Lekhani

Michael Palin - HimalayaKathmandu airport is busy. Next door to the long, modern, red-brick sweep of the international terminal, domestic flights are checking in at a functional, concrete building with yellow-stained walls. The slip-slap of sandals mingles with the ring of discordant announcements as tiny Nepali porters carry in the bags of strapping Western hikers bound for the mountains. We're travelling to nearby Pokhara on Buddha Air, one of a string of local carriers with vaguely unconvincing names, like Cosmic Air, Shangri-La Air and Yeti Airlines. The crowds here this morning, indeed the existence of the airport itself, are still a relatively new thing for Nepal, which was only opened to foreigners in the 1950s.

A twin-prop Beech 1900 carries us out over the Kathmandu Valley, the widest valley in the Himalaya. Over a third of Nepal's urban population lives here and more are moving all the time; from the air the buildings expand along the main roads like concrete tentacles squeezing the green out of the rice paddies.

On our starboard side the peaks of the high Himalaya drift tantalizingly in and out of cloud cover, and by the time we begin our descent the cover is burnt off and the long, irregular, snow-capped ramparts of the Annapurna Ridge define the northern horizon.

In the days to come we shall be walking up there but today, as we skim down over the glittering lake, which, combined with the mountains, lures the tourists to Pokhara, we have only time to transfer our bags to vehicles and move on.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Himalaya
  • Chapter: Day 46: Kathmandu to Lekhani
  • Country/sea: Nepal
  • Place: Kathmandu
  • Book page no: 102

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