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….
This Post Has 8 Comments
Chuck O'Rear3 Apr 2010
What the Druk are those pilots doin’ anyway? So close to Bhutan, and yet so far. . . Stay good, pal.
Bob3 Apr 2010
Chuck: Great to hear from you! I’m carching up on some rest in Bangkok for a couple of days and then off again. Getting too old for this stuff! Bob
Jeffrey Chapman3 Apr 2010
Bob, you have to get out of central Kathmandu – to places like Boudhanath, Swayambu, Pashupatinah, or, a bit further out, Bhaktapur. Anyhow, I’m glad we’re not seeing your final video!
Aileen Ah-Tye4 Apr 2010
Taking a rest break to refuel your energies is Good. Forgettabout any final video. Please be like a cat with nine lives. It’s in your contract.
arun5 Apr 2010
You might have to start carrying your own parachute in that camera bag –
Be safe now.
Diego6 Apr 2010
Hi Bob! My name is Diego and I know about you through ISLANDS magazine (February 1989). My father bought this magazine in the 80s. These days, returning to them, I found your name in the section “PHOTOGAPHER ISLANDS.
Since my childhood I was surprised to see exotic locations in ISLANDS magazine. Later, in my 25 years I found the art of the photography and learned a lot by watching books like ISLANDS and NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC. Then I found that many of these pictures belong to you. I never had the opportunity to travel the world taking photos, I would like to work as a photojournalist like you. Thank you very much to feed and enhancing my imagination, my dreams by the Islands are grateful. From Buenos Aires, Argentina.
gastropoda6 Apr 2010
Wow. For a lensLuddite, you are really opening up the world to those of us whose jobs take us to the four corners of our home offices. Stay safe. And stay funny.
Bob7 Apr 2010
Hi Regina! Hope you guys are well and that we can get together when I get back. Say hi to Bob….tell him I’ve been trying to do video and sound, but there’s not much time at each stop. So it’s usually just stills and a little sound. See you in May? Maybe for the Bobs’ birthdays? BK