Kevin Pilley flies on Buddha Air for a close encounter with the Goddess of the Sky. Well, almost ...

There was a long queue of unmistakeable Americans with large apertures checking in for "Buddha Air" Flight 120.

John introduced himself and his hand-held, black "Samsung F90". Joe had brought along his wife, daughter and their pet "Panasonic HX-DC1".

All wearing "I Didn't Climb Everest But I Touched It With My Heart" T-shirts, they stood in front of the small "close encounter flight-seeing plane" and pointed their velours and veneers into the camera.

They were living an adventure and looking forward to sharing it with their followers on "Facebook" and "You Tube". Like all modern vacationers, they were intent on capturing some stunning cinema-quality footage and providing their friends back home with a truly immersive experience.


They were all powered up and ready to roll.

While in Kathmandu we all wanted to see Everest the easy way. It takes forty days to climb the world's highest mountain. "Everest Experience" flights last an hour. Mountaineers pay up to $10,000 each to climb Everest. The flight costs $200 and you see the highest place in the world from five nautical miles at about 25,000ft.

Depending on visibility. Which largely depends on the sun, snow glare and how many on board are wearing silver, self-litigating twin-bracket and potentially blinding orthodontic braces.

And how many cameramen's behinds block your view.

Seats were allocated but ignored with the film crews fighting for the seats on the left-hand side of the plane. The stewardess, who had seen it all before, smiled benignly and assured everyone that they wouldn't miss Everest. The plane would be turning around and coming back, she reminded us. Therefore the people on the right would see just as much as those on the left.

It made sense to me. But not to anyone else.

We took off over the Royal Nepal Golf Club and the two fabled cities of Patan (Yala) and Bhakatapur (Klopa). As soon as the belt sign went off, the people on the left got up and moved over to the right, unapologetically bending over the people sitting there.

At 10,000ft, I had a very good view of John's forearm. You can't say you have travelled if you haven't seen an American ulna in close-up and in narrow field.


Five minutes into the flight Joe was also at full zoom length and unashamedly invading my body space with his auto-focus. Suddenly, I felt like I was breathing 66 per cent less oxygen.

From beneath his armpit, I caught a brief glimpse of the Swayambhu Stupa. Rice terraces soon gave way to open countryside and the Bagmati and Manohatri rivers.

Sadly, these were soon lost behind the polycarbonate exo-skeletal housing of a "Go Pro Hero 3" and a matte black "Sony CX410" handcam owned by the people who had drawn the seats over the wings.

My window quickly became a popular and communal one.

The 19-seater "Beech 1900D" plane tilted. The optional intelligent image stabiliser of a "Canon Legia" grazed my nose. The Americans returned to their seats. I got a great and exclusive view of some clouds.

The plane pitched and yawed. We banked.

"There she is!" said an awestruck voice. I turned. And there she was. Right in front of me.

I have never had such a close, crisp image of a pair of US XXXL Big Jeans. It was an unforgettable sight. You don't know the meaning of HD until you have come face to face with some giant buttocks encased in washed denim.

Next to them all I could see was some equally memorable grey heather drawstring fleece pants. And next to them some XXL go-anywhere, wear-wherever, do-anything board shorts.

Which were simply breathtaking.

The Nepalese call Everest "Sagramantha" (Goddess of the Sky) and the Tibetans know it as "Chomolungra" ( Mother of the Universe"). All I saw of the 60-million-year-old, 8848m "Peak 15" was the huge burgundy velour backside of a 50-year-old mother from Kansas.

As the video bloggers jostled, the co-pilot told us we would only be able to get 16km from the peak because of the strong 112km/h winds. The plane rocked as it hit heavy turbulence in the form of John and Joe changing their shooting location once again.

There were only two of us on the flight without camcorders. The lady opposite me had turned the colour of "aloo tama", the local bamboo shoot and potato curry.

Gripping her armrests as we lost altitude, her face disappeared into a sick bag and she involuntarily provided a running commentary of the passing mountains.

"Phurbi-Ghyachu," she retched. "Chhoba-Bhamare."

We had each been given a map showing us the mountain range. The stewardess helped us to identify each mountain. The Himalayas has eight of the ten highest peaks in the world. A hundred and fifty three are climbable. Twenty one, including Kanchenjunga, are seen on the "Buddha Air" mountain flight.

The plane-sick lady repeated "Kanchenjunga" several times into her barf bag. As if committing it to memory.

Then the stewardess pointed right and said "Yeti!". We all rubbernecked. It was the daily "Yeti Airtines" flight to Pokara.

The stewardess smiled. The plane lurched. The flight attendant kept on smiling. Bob and Joe kept on filming and obscuring most of the Mahalangur range. A huge pair of nylon wind pants stared at me, cloaking Everest.

The lady opposite was now the colour of "thon", the milky rice wine of the region. "Karyolung," she said. And then "Cho-Oyu." Still into her sickbag.

"It sure looks a lot like Denver," observed the reversed baseball-cap in the seat in front of me as he looked down over the land of Magurs and Gurungs. He was wearing earplugs which meant he shouted when we came over Nepal's "International Monastery Zone".

The stewardess announced that Everest was coming up on our left. I readied myself for an eye-level view of the famous massif.

And then, there it was. One of nature's most awe-inspiring creations. John's massive backside.

Crestfallen is not the word.

We circled and Joe was leaning over me again, his zoom grazing my nose and his musk in high definition.

Image quality was extremely good. Primary colours were deep and vibrant with clearly defined edges and good levels of contrast. There was balanced by realistic handling of natural hues and skin tones. Joe's arm was really sharp.

Cameras whirred. I gasped as Joe's daughter stepped on my foot.

She smiled and the sun hit her braces, blinding me for a few seconds.

"What you working at?" Bob asked Joe.

"24mbps. At fifty fields per second."

"Good low light performance?"

"You bet. The best."

Then came the sight I never thought I'd see. Bob started to film Joe's camcorder. "She's a really beauty. The folks at home won't believe it."

After we landed Joe started to upload to "You Tube" As he edited, he let me see Everest on his flip-out LCD screen.

I really felt immersed. It was some sight. It was almost like I had been there with them.