After our first trip to Xi’an, we headed to Kathmandu, Nepal. We completely didn’t expect to see Everest until we arrived in Nepal.
We boarded our flight, and I was feeling a little better after having quite a bad fall in Xi’an. To help with the travel sickness I often get, I’d asked for a window seat at check-in and we were near the front of the queue so I got my wish.
Our plane took off and on the ascent, we went straight through a thick, white cloud that stayed with us throughout our journey. We were travelling in early July 2018. Summertime in Nepal is the height of the rainy season. There are few tourists at this time of year, since most go to Nepal in the (northern hemisphere’s) winter months in order to capitalize on the dry, cooler temperatures for mountain expeditions to Everest and Annapurna.
FYI, rainy season = cloud cover. All the time. The skies are SUPER grey in Nepal at this time of year and it rains pretty much every afternoon, you can almost set your watch by it.
We hadn’t gone to Nepal with any intention of doing the infamous Everest Base Camp trek. We just wanted to see Kathmandu, for itself, as a destination in its own right, so there was no real plan to see Everest at all on this trip. Some people will be outraged by that or see it as a waste of an opportunity.
What can I say? As I said in my article on 17 things to do in Xi’an, I’m not a fan of box-ticking travel, to go somewhere just to do one thing then to leave again without taking in the culture. I had to go to Xi’an twice before I saw the Terracotta Warriors, haha.
I had hoped to see Tibet from the air, as we hadn’t been able to organise travel there, due to needing time to apply for the travel permits (even with a China residence visa, you still need a permit to visit Tibet as it is a conservation area).
The whole flight was cloud cover. But as we got to the border between China and Nepal (which is exactly at Mount Everest), the pilot made a surprising announcement.
“This is your captain speaking. We are about to fly past Mount Everest on your right,” he said.
There was great excitement. And by some incredible stroke of luck, we were sitting on the side of the plane that passed Mount Everest.
At first, little cones of mountaintops poked through the clouds like puppy noses. Then, into view came this huge behemoth, surrounded by the little puppy noses but dwarfing them.
The mountain was almost as high as the plane, and we got so close, I felt like we could have stepped out of the plane and glided over there if we’d only had a hang glider. The distance was probably an illusion caused by the sheer size of Mount Everest.
People say it’s the highest mountain in the world, but from the ground, every mountain looks huge. It’s difficult to explain how different they looked from the air, especially since the clouds were so thick.
But if the clouds hadn’t been covering the ground so much, we wouldn’t have been able to see Mount Everest projecting so clearly and majestically out of the biosphere, with a background of delicious blue sky.
Fun fact: Mount Everest is the only part of the Earth in the whole world that occupies the troposphere, the layer of sky above the biosphere, where no mammals can actually survive.
The total cost for two plane tickets from Xi’an to Kathmandu was about 3300RMB (about £350) one way for two people. When we arrived in Kathmandu, we saw several “travel agency” places advertising a chartered flight over Everest for the equivalent of £1000 (8000RMB) for ONE person, so our flight over Everest was about 1/10 of the cost of the chartered planes.
It was one of the greatest travel experiences of my life. Here are some of the incredible photos I took: