A window seat to Everest
By Tim Chong
I was covering the Singapore F1 Grand Prix over the weekend.
Sunday was race day and as usual I woke up a bit early to check the news. I saw on my twitter feed that a plane carrying tourists to see the Himalayan range and Mount Everest had crashed in Nepal.
I was on a similar flight a year ago myself and the tragedy felt especially personal because of its proximity.
Four airlines in Nepal operate these one-hour long mountain flights that allow travelers with limited time in Nepal to see a panoramic view of the Himalayan ranges and Mount Everest itself. I remember the day clearly, having arrived early at the domestic terminal of Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan airport. The aircraft was rather new; a twin-engine turbo-prop plane and I felt instantly relieved. Like any other flight, the usual routine applied. There was a safety demonstration, and everyone was made to buckle their seat belts.
Unusually in a post 9/11 world, the cockpit was open for everyone to visit during the flight. Tourists armed with their cameras walked in freely, chatting with the pilots in a throwback to the glory days of flying of the 1960s.
Everyone leaned over to the windows with their cameras, ready to take pictures of what must surely be one of the world’s most stunning sights. On clear days, as most days tend to be in the Himalayas, the mountains stretch for as far as the eye can see. The scenes vary widely throughout the flight, from the rugged peaks of Everest to villages with yaks on an empty plateau. Nobody cared for the in-flight service, partly because there wasn’t any to begin with, but also because everyone was too busy taking pictures.
You see the Himalayan range just minutes into the flight and the world’s tallest mountain Everest appears about midway through.
This journey was the closest to heaven that I’ve ever been.