As soon as I exited the small plane and stepped outside, I started feeling a slow, throbbing pain at the back of my neck, a common effect of sudden altitude-gain of over 5000 feet. At an altitude of around 10000 feet, Simikot is located on a high plateau in Nepal.
From Simikot, our group of 43 had to take a Helicopter to Hilsa, a Hamlet bordering Tibet and Nepal before proceeding further for our Kailash Mana Sarovar Yatra.
After walking a few steps on the tarmac, I looked around, searching for the airport. It was nowhere to be seen. There was only the tarmac and a small, dilapidated building on a peak a short distance away. This building, as it turned out, was the airport.
A few hundred meters away from the tarmac I saw three helipads and about fifty people waiting. When our group arrived at the helipads, we were each weighed along with our luggage. There was an upper limit of eighty-five kilograms and if a passenger and their bags exceeded the limit, they needed to pay the fare for a second passenger. Mamatha and I both passed.
The Simikot departure zone was constructed of odd-sized boulders that also served as a barricade around the perimeter of the airport. Stone slabs and blocks of various sizes and shapes piled up and held together forming a stony seating, perfect for sitting. I made myself comfortable on one of the slabs as Mamatha sighed and sat next to me.
The exchanges between the pilot and the control center added to the exciting experience. From my seat, I had an incredible view of the Himalayan ridges and the rivers flowing in the narrow valleys. I saw an entirely different landscape and a diverse Himalayan terrain. The ecosystem of the lower ranges varied from pine trees on the heights and lush forests in the valleys. Some peaks appeared to pierce the sky and were surrounded by deep valleys and flowing rivers.
I have been on many helicopter rides abroad but the one Helicopter ride that is unforgettable was the one I took to Hilsa during my Kailash Yatra. The way the pilot deftly maneuvered the Copter within the narrow valleys between ridges was like real lie scene from Mission Impossible.
After being threatened by a Bangalore mob boss, retired Indian businessman Mohan Ranga Rao takes a vow to trek around Mount Kailash, a holy Tibetan Mountain revered by over a billion people. What starts out as merely a challenging high-altitude trek soon becomes a life-changing adventure. With a blend of humour, honesty and keen insight, Mohan journeys toward a deeper understanding of the world around him. A memoir of a road less travelled and a true story of self-discovery at 19,000 feet.Know more | Buy on Amazon