Friday, 25.10.2013, 04h00
we are getting ready to drive to Paro/Bhutan airport 1.5 hours away, we are the first one to depart on this fresh crisp morning. As we arrive we pack, pay at the airport office, clear immigration and leave. And then we wait for clouds to lift. With us wait two airliners, and eventually 9 small aircraft. Eventually at 10h32 we got our departure clearance. Dietmar had been worried all along regarding the climbing ability of our aircraft departing from an altitude of 7300 ft and the high ambient temperature we might experience if we leave later than 09h00. That is one of the reasons why we got up at 04h00 to depart early.
Our departure was terrible. The aircraft did not want to climb, we had the use of 2,000 meters of runway and we battled to come off the ground and gain height. I was terrified, we had mountains around us, instead of the ground going further away it seemed to come closer. Terrain warning signals were going off, eventually, after what seemed a life time, the aircraft started to climb. Very, very slowly we were gaining height. We circled in a narrow valley, to gain altitude. Soon we were able to turn back towards the airport to circle overhead, gaining sufficient height to follow our planned departure route. Then we proceeded visually along valleys to stay clear of mountains. There are no instrument departures out of Paro and the idea is to climb visually until one is high enough to safely enter clouds. That point was soon reached, and the flight was continued in instrument conditions, clouds, rain, slight turbulence, icing conditions. Those conditions lasted until we were close to our 1st destination for the day, Varanasi in India. In Varanasi we refuelled and cleared immigration.
Arrival at 12h45, local time, 30 Degree C
Departure at 15h00, local time, after a very efficient turn around, we had calculated 2 hours, which is said to be a good time for India. Our next destination for the next three days will be Udaipur. I sincerely hope we have a better and more pleasant departure and flight than we had earlier today.
In the afternoon
The flight started off okay, then into clouds again, then okay, altogether 3.7 hours
After landing we chased away 12 people with one van and one car. Handling agents, who wanted $850 for carrying luggage into the arrival hall and out on the other side. We got rid of them and carried our bags ourselves. When we entered the arrival hall we saw 2 security guys in army outfits and big guns waiting for us. I thought: Oh my God, what now, stay with us... Avery friendly, "Good Evening, How are you?" from our side brought on a big smile... and we were out... On the road side a Hotel Bus was waiting for us and 50 Minutes later we arrived at our Hotel. We are exhausted, mentally and physically.
Here are the first pictures taken on the following morning:
We stay in a place which use to be a "Palace".