It was the second aborted landing that really put my heart in my throat. In the best of conditions, landing at the short strip of Paro Airport, the only airport in Bhutan, is roughly equivalent to trying to land a jet on a bowling lane, with that lane being strategically placed in the middle of Sixth Avenue skyscrapers.
Strong crosswinds were vexing our Druk Air pilot on the Airbus approach. We couldn’t use our regular chartered 757, only Druk, the national carrier can fly into Bhutan, and they use specially equipped Airbus models to deal with the, um, insanity of trying to to land there!
Our pilot warned us we might have a tough go of it, but we were only a couple of hundred feet off the ground when he had to gun it, and bank hard to avoid the Himalayan mountain at the end of the runway.
Ain’t travel grand?
He gave up after a third pass, and we headed to Kathmandu. In the meantime, I was shooting video out the window with my little Kodak Zi 8 video point and shoot, and composing the headlines for the story in my local paper: “Photog documents own demise in final Kodak moments.”
I wondered what the repercussions would be of spending my last moments as a sentient being shooting video? Is this any way to move up the karmic chain and attain Nikonian Buddha-hood? What has the world come to?
We did have time for a quick walk round Kathmandu in the late afternoon, and that was all I needed to convince myself I was still either in this world, or purgatory. I’m sure Kathmandu was cool in the sixties and seventies, but it’s pretty much a madhouse now.
So when we flew out again at “oh-dark thirty” the next morning for Paro, I was happy to say “adieu” to Kathmandu.
I’ll keep you posted….