After five days in Nepal in three different cities we still hadn’t seen the mountains due to fog and haze. With shaky weather forecasts ahead, we decided express transport was in order to ensure sun and mountain-viewing in Pokhara, a hotspot for outdoor activities near the Annapurna range in western-central Nepal. We made this snap decision over breakfast, so after finishing our banana lassis and veggie momos we raced to the travel agent and bought plane tickets for that day 2pm. Henry in particular looked at the tiny puddle jumper flight as a potential mountain sight-seeing opportunity. This is going to be fun!
Our taxi dropped us off and identified a ramshackle building ahead as the domestic terminal. As we approached, we wondered what airport security might be like and when Henry made a joke about monkeys getting through I giggled. Then he pointed just to my right, “no, seriously, there’s a monkey right there.” Sure enough, there were monkeys all around us, climbing the trees and sketchy power lines, even in the airport arrival lounge.
We viewed the terminal building skeptically. It was a literal construction zone. Is this really the right place? Without the help of signage, we picked our way through the rubble and found the departure area.
Security was lax and check in a mess: “the weather is bad, flights from earlier were cancelled and are backed up, we *think* your flight is delayed so just wait for a while.” A woman next to me said relative chaos was the normal state of things and happens every time she flies through this airport. Pigeons roosted and fought above our heads. In the jam-packed boarding lounge, we watched as a comical spreadsheet projection displayed flight statuses: “bad weather, all flights delayed, Pokhara airport closed, next update @15:00”. They began updating when we could expect the next update. We overheard that planes can’t land at the Pokhara airport after dark because there are no lights… great. A group of older British gentlemen began scrambling a helicopter. Henry got us snacks and beer.
By 4pm our flight and all others to Pokhara were officially canceled due to storms. We collected our bags and refunds, actually in good spirits as it was an interesting experience rife with opportunity for snarky remarks. But lesson learned: flying domestically in Nepal sounds quick (30 minute flight!) but is not always a safer bet than ground travel, especially when you don’t make any forward progress. Then again, let’s give this another try to fly again tomorrow, this time escaping the bad weather of Nepal completely and heading internationally to Delhi!
* All photos courtesy of Henry Whitehead.