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Kathmandu - Dhaka 30 November

As Nepal has no borders with Bangladesh, we were forced to fly over a little bit of Indian airspace. While we had the Nepalese and Bangladeshi clearance numbers since several weeks, we only got the Indian YA number the evening before departure. We aimed for a reasonably early departure, got up as usual with the sun at 6:30 am, and were ready to leave the Kathmandu Guest House by 8:10. Bir Singh had organised transport for us to the airport, but unfortunately the driver was almost an hour late due to traffic. Rush hour traffic in Kathmandu is a slow diffusion process of bicycles, rickshaws, cars, smoking three-wheel two-stroke taxis, all immersed in a thick cloud of dust and pollution and with an odd holy cow mixed in here and there to complete the picture.

We eventually arrived at the airport, but due to the state of emergency declared by King Gyanendra last Monday, there were lots of armed soldiers and policemen surrounding the airport as well as inside the airport. Thanks to our pilot shirts with gold stripes and crew card, we nevertheless had little trouble getting through the security barriers. Due to a significant distance between the terminal duty officer, where the landing and parking fees had to be paid and the briefing office where the flight plan had to be filed we wasted almost two hours getting through the red tape as it somehow was necessary to go back and forth several times between the two offices. Kathmandu was the most expensive airport we have  used to date: the landing fee was US$ 265 of which $210 was the parking fee, $200 to the local clearance agent, $44 for departure taxes, as we had to pay both for crew and the empty seat.  Altogether $510!   Thank god we did not have to pay US$ 1200  in addition for Royal Nepalese handling!!

After all the red tape and thorough security checks due to the recent Maoist attacks (430 reported dead within the last week!!) as well as 11 September events, it was almost noon before we took off. However, the Indian FIC (air traffic control) and ADC (defense) clearance numbers were immediately available when we requested start-up.

The SID's (Standard Instrument Departures) of Kathmandu all involve going around the Kathmandu VOR in tight 4 DME arcs until reaching 7500 feet due to the surrounding mountains. The 'headwind' we had on the ground was somewhat compensated by marvelous blue skies and tailwinds once we reached our cruising altitude of 11500 feet. They use the quadrantal cruising altitude rule in Nepal and India below FL150, while the semicircular rule is used in most of the rest of the world.

We were flying along the Himalayas for the first hour of our 2 1/2 hour flight to Dhaka in Bangladesh and had a great view of Mount Everest and other 8000 m plus peaks. Over India and Bangladesh we flew on top of a layer of haze going up to about 9000 feet, and we could barely see the ground looking straight down. Air traffic control was purely routine and non-radar except for the departure and arrival where radar was available. On our descent we were completely in IMC once we were below 8 - 9000 feet. Dhaka reported 4 km visibility, sky clear and 26 degrees, the warmest we had seen since we left India 12 days ago. On short final (ILS approach) , we noticed the characteristic wetland of Bangladesh with lots of  rice paddies, lakes and swamps.

We knew from phone calls and faxes we made from Jaipur that AVGAS was available but only in 200 liter barrels. After arrival, we spent about two hours trying to refuel the aircraft without succeeding. We first advised the tower to ask the fuel company to send the barrel of fuel to the aircraft, then waited for 45 minutes in vain by the aircraft. Then we called the fuel company by mobile phone and were asked to come in person to their office. Had great difficulties in locating their office, but succeeded finally. It then only took 5 minutes to get the message across that they did not have a pump, and that such a pump was available at the aeroclub at the field and that we had to take full responsibility for the transfer of the fuel to the aircraft. We were told that nobody was available at the aeroclub until the following day. Patience, patience!! There was no major hassle or red tape with immigration and customs - just a General Declaration in 3 copies.

When we finally left the airport building, a driver with a large IOM sign was waiting for us.  Md. Shahidul Haque, head of the IOM Regional office in Dhaka had very kindly booked us into the Marriott Guest House and asked the hotel to send a driver to meet us.  The driver had been waiting several hours for us, but smilingly said it didn't matter.  The Guest House is a cosy hotel of only 15 rooms in the quiet diplomatic district of Gulshan.  The IOM office is only a minute's walk away.

1 December.  After a good night's sleep, Flemming phoned the head of the aeroclub this morning.  He said that the aeroclub was closed today (Saturday) but tomorrow it would be open since Sunday is a working day in Moslem countries. Then they would be glad to help with transferring the fuel from the barrel to the Mooney.   Flemming then phoned the oil company and asked them to deliver the barrel to the aeroclub.  So all should be well.  The only snag is that we have to be there before 6 am as all the roads will be blocked from that time due to a strike by the opposition party.

After breakfast, we had the pleasure of meeting Shahidul Haque who kindly arranged for IOM's driver, Ziaoul Haque, to take us on a sightseeing tour.   Ziaoul told us that he had been a freedom fighter in the 1971 war of liberation from Pakistan.  He drove us to the memorial gardens and we took a photo of him in front of the monument which is at present being spruced up by men on bamboo scaffolding in time for the 30th anniversary of the liberation of Bangladesh 2 weeks from now.

We understand that we are not allowed to enter Myanmar with any instruments of communication, so we take that to include the computer.  We will be staying in Myanmar for 5 nights from 2 to 7 December, so no more updates during that time.   Normal service should be resumed from Thailand.

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Great views of Mount Everest from a distance

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Short final at Dhaka, sorry for the pollution haze!

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Our driver Mr. S.M. Ziaoul Haque , ex-freedom fighter by the 1971 liberation memorial monument.

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River scene in Dhaka

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Rickshaw traffic in Dhaka

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Angela by the IOM office in Dhaka

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