After a wonderful day spent touring the ancient Nepali cities of Bhaktapur and Panan, we got a good night's sleep in order to catch our early flight to Lukla, the starting point of the trek. We were airborne at 10:15, after only a two-hour delay! The Himalayas loomed up on our left, distant continents hanging in the blue air. After forty minutes or so, we made our descent into the Lukla landing field, which caused a major acceleration of the collective pulse rate on board. (Everybody agreed that the descent could be captured in three simple words: "OMG! OMG! OMG!" ) The Lukla runway is basically built into the mountainside; angled upwards, it is about 300 to 400 meters long and essentially stops at the mountainside ("Heartly Welcome to the Everest Region!" announces a sign not far away). But the pilot brought us in with no problem (applause) and after a quick lunch, we wound our way through the town of Lukla to begin the trek. For this part of the journey we were actually descending. The landscape was indescribable. Everything--trees, air, mountains--seemed newly created. We passed mighty fig trees, rhodendrons, and a strange shaggy pine whose branches curled gracefully as a candelabra. And of course, there were prayer wheels everywhere, one with this sign: "Please, turn round this thrice. You get rid of sin. You can obtain religion and the period of life. Please take part and use up." We did take part, and we did use up. At about five or so, we ended up at the Khumbu Traveller's Guest house in the town of Phakding, where after a hearty dinner of garlic soup and vegetable fried rice, we hit the sack. Sleep was fitful--we were at about 2,610 meters--but ther were plenty of dreams, as there often are in these places.