Highest Violinist in the World

3 October – Touchdown

Today is the day that I have been both looking forward to and dreading at the same time. Our adventure begins and we’re heading into the mountains, leaving the hustle and bustle of Kathmandu behind. But to do so, we have to take a small, local plane up to the village of Lukla, which is perched on the side of a mountain, cut off from any roads. Nepal’s air safety record is notoriously bad, with a tourist plane crashing on its way to Everest just the week before. So as we drive towards the airport in the dark, I nervously try and scan the sky for clouds from our minibus.

Weather windows to get into Lukla are famously tight and when we arrive at Kathmandu airport before sunrise, it’s already busy with other groups trying to catch an early plane before the inevitable build-up of clouds that would close the route.

Having selected a local company to organise the logistics of the trip though, we appeared to be getting preferential treatment. We’re rushed to the front of the queue and through the bag scanners almost at a jog, but perhaps not quite fast enough to avoid the disapproving expressions from onlookers as our guides muscle their way through. Before anyone can complain though, we’re inside, and leaving my kit bag with a porter, I start to think about the flight again. But before I can start to worry, a ticket is thrust into my hand and we continue our brisk pace down a corridor to another security station. Here I meet a security officer who either has an incredible talent or was in a hurry to finish his shift. Taking an interest in my violin case, as I pass through a metal detector he holds it to his ear, shakes it and with a word of approval, passes it around to me.

Less than half an hour after arriving we’re already on the tarmac walking towards a small, ungraceful looking Dornier Do 228 twin-prop plane that has been commandeered for our whole group. But despite our breakneck speed through the airport, our kit bags have still arrived ahead of us and are already being loaded into the small compartments dotted around the plane. At the door I’m greeted with a smile by an immaculately dressed stewardess in red and white, and stooping for the low ceiling, I head down between single seats on either side towards the front where I can see out through the cockpit.