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The gateway to the Himalayas, and to the world's highest peak no less, Lukla is the starting point for treks into the Khumbu valley. There are no roads, so the traveller must either walk to Lukla, or arrive by turboprop aircraft at what has been described as the world's most dangerous airport. With your feet safely on the ground however, there are a series of guest houses and facilities, everything the hungry trekker could need.

Our trek started and finished in Lukla, which is at an altitude of approx 2800 metres so not high enough for any effects to register. We stayed in a guest house right next to the airport runway before flying out, and were treated to some interesting but very noisy musical sounds from the monks next door at nightfall.

Welcome to Tenzing Hillary airport

Lukla's airport is named after Tenzing Norgay and Sir Edmund Hillary, who both not only summited Everest first in 1953, but were instrumental in the construction of the airstrip here for later access. It has the quickest turnarounds of aircraft I have ever witnessed - mere minutes.

With the fantastic mountain scenery behind, a Tara Air Dornier aircraft roars down the 12% slope of the runway. All landings take place in the opposite direction, gravity giving a helping hand to slow down.

Rolling down the steep Lukla runway

View down the short runway

The runway itself is barely a quarter mile long. With an enormous Himalayan peak at one end, and a mile-deep gorge at the other, there is no margin for pilot error.

In the morning sun shortly after landing the high peaks looked beautiful.

Jagged Himalayan peaks

Gateway to Mount Everest

The gateway to the Khumbu valley path, going all the way to Mount Everest.

In recent years the valley has been well developed, including steel suspension bridges making it much easier to cross the fast rivers and deep ravines.

Suspension bridge


With no roads, mules and horses are an invaluable means of transporting goods and equipment up the steep mountain paths.

Where four-legged power is not available, gear is carried by hand in lots of up to 100 kilos. Here these two chaps remind me of leaf cutter ants, carrying flat boards that almost completely obscure them.

Carrying building materials by hand

Local washer women

Local washer women dealing with the day's laundry, the natural way.

A local kid eyed us with part suspicion, part interest as we trekked past.

Local kid

Old monk in doorway

From the old monk in the monastery doorway, I think it was mostly just suspicion…

Even in the high Himalayas you don’t have to go without your morning caffeine fix, assuming there is electricity. Although I have my doubts as to the authenticity of this branch of Starbucks.

Starbucks Lukla

Scottish pub, Lukla

Ah, now here's what I really came for. A small taste of home out in the wilds of Nepal.

The reason the people come - a gigantic Himalayan peak looming over Lukla.

Great Himalayan peak

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Copyright © Ross Wattie 2013