Certain experiences and sights stay with a person all his life and one such moment that about tops my list is my experience of seeing Mount Everest. Ever since I studied a lesson on Mount Everest in my high school second year, my little heart craved for a glimpse of the highest point in the world, and I guess my soul made a tryst with Everest.
Mamatha and I were staying along with a group of 45 members at Kathmandu on our way to Mount Kailas trek in the Himalayas in June 2016. We booked our tickets for the Everest flight operated by ‘Buddha Air’ for the next morning. The receptionist at the hotel instructed us in understandable Hindi that we should be at the reception by 05:15 a.m. sharp since the Everest flight that took off before 6:00 am.
As I got into the aircraft, a Beechcraft 1900D’s 19-Seater, I was delighted to see that each person had a guaranteed window seat. With two parallel rows of single seats, everyone could enjoy the view from the window stains on the windows notwithstanding
The sky looked cloudy from the ground when we took off but fortunately became clear as we ascended and at a cruising altitude of 8000 feet the view was clear, and the landscapes were breath-taking
I had no idea about the artistry of the landscapes that would be revealed within minutes of take-off from the Kathmandu Airport. We were in the white landscapes of the mighty Himalayas even before the aircraft attained its cruising altitude. The picture of Lord Shiva with the background of snow-covered Himalayas was so firmly embedded in my mind from the thousands of Calendar images from my childhood that an involuntary divine and the natural feeling arose in me at the view of the snow-covered Himalayan mountaintops up close.
Within minutes, the snow-covered peaks became more visible with the stronger rays of the rising sun.
As the plane moved closer to the mountains, the landscape outside became more and more spectacular. Any view of the Himalayas certainly has a humbling effect on you and takes you into a different mental zone. Gauri-Shankar, spiritually a significant mountain for the Hindus came into our view right after a few minutes of attaining cruising altitude. I realised why these mighty mountain ranges have mesmerised poets and authors since the early ages.
“You will see Mount Everest in a couple of minutes” the pretty flight attendant said in her Nepalese accent. I looked at the mountain range with my hunting eyes and did not see any towering mountain standing alone. But once we located it between the other peaks, my eyes were transfixed on it. Everest suddenly dwarfed everything else amidst the white background.
Everest looked conspicuously more divine and nobler than all the other peaks. There is something magical about that moment you first see Mount Everest, or Sagarmatha, to use its Sanskrit name. It was like sighting a celebrity that you have adored all your life.
‘How far are we from the Everest?’ I asked the flight attendant. “About 5 miles” she said. I felt that we were at least 20 miles away.
Everyone was allowed inside the cockpit for a closer view, and it was an additional icing on the cake. Luckily the day was bright and sunny, and we had a beautiful view of the Everest tip. The flight attendant claimed that we were a mere five miles away from the highest peak in the world, but I had my doubts.
The flight from Kathmandu to Everest takes you past more than half of the ten highest mountains in the world. We were fortunate since the remaining flights for the rest of the day to Everest were cancelled due to inclement weather and very poor visibility.
Back at the hotel, I wondered about my ultimate destination of that trip, a place sought after by over two billion people worldwide, Kailash Mana Sarovar.
To read about my incredible experience read my book “INNER TREK – a reluctant pilgrim in the Himalayas”