Thoughts and Adventures From Greenlite Heavy Industries

Monday, February 7, 2011

Manaslu Part 16

After making a full lap of the Gompa – all Buddhist sacred sites are passed on the right, so often the shortest path is not the correct path – Tashi turned down an alley and led us to nondescript cinderblock building. The stairs, tacked to the exterior like a fire escape, led to a rooftop landing where Tashi handed us each a maze-colored silk scarf. This would be the first of many kata scarves I would receive during the course of this expedition. To give a kata is to give the recipient one’s best wishes and to transfer to them positive good luck energy.

We removed our shoes, entered the concrete building through a small door. Once inside we were ushered into an unadorned room we met His Holiness Tengboche Rimpoche, a high ranking spiritual leader, and the abbot of the well-known Tengboche monastery near Mount Everest.

The aged though fit Lama sat cross-legged on a cushion in the corner of the room. A thin arm extended from his simple burgundy-colored robe motioning us to sit down. We were served tea and Tom, who sat nearest the holy man, began polite small talk. His Holiness only responded with calm smile. Some people are set on edge by silence, fortunately I’m not such person. Often it is enough to simply be in the presence of my friends and family; pointless talk can get in the way. I was very moved and very comfortable simply enjoying a little tea and a little time with this calm and reassuring presence. In hindsight I believe that this was the purpose of our visit: simply to spend some peace and quiet with a holy man, and to put us into his thoughts and he in ours.

His Holiness Tengboche Rimpoche didn’t question us, or try to convert us, he simply took us as fellow creatures trying desperately to find our way though our individual lives; he wished us safe passage. Though I didn’t know it at the start, the trip to Manaslu would become a spiritual journey for me, and the acceptance, tolerance and genuine caring spirit I found in Tibetan Buddhism felt as fresh as a snowmelt stream and as clean and free as the thin mountain air.

Tom spent the remainder of the day wandering through a bureaucratic labyrinth while the rest of us wandered the streets, drank beer and ate. Brian and I spent much of the afternoon at a rooftop restaurant eating naan bread, drinking Tuborg beer and watching unusual scenes on the streets below. Kathmandu so thoroughly held my gaze that I nearly forgot why I had come here. The next day when we boarded the multicolored bus which would take us and our gear to the end of the road somewhere near Arughat Bazar I continued to exist in a kind of blissful daydream, an ephemeral world in which I marveled at the fantastically alien scenery while ignoring the big mountain on the horizon.

The Kathmandu bus took us as far as the first washout where half a dozen porters transferred our mountain of gear, to an equally colorful bus waiting on the opposite side. The driver ground the gears up a narrow, switch backing dusty road cutting across the steep green rice terraces. Occasionally we would pass a thin-legged man working knee deep in the mud. The road bed was hard-packed clay that had cracked in the heat and occasionally the bus would sway dangerously in the deep ruts. Krishna had packed a lunch of cold chicken and yak cheese, which we ate at a small mud and thatch village. We ate at tables owned by an old woman who squatted over a chimney-less open fire and sold us lemon-lime soft drinks.

At the second washout there was no bus waiting on the other side, so we shouldered our daypacks and began walking – the rest of our gear, packed into a Chinese four-wheel drive, followed behind. We set our first camp on a boulder-strewn sandbar in the middle of the wide stinking Buri Ghandaki river. This would be the only uncomfortable camp of the trip; it was like sleeping on bowling balls. The driver of the blue truck delivered our gear and then buried his rig up to the axle in the soft sand fifty yards from our camp. I pantomimed pushing a car to Kusang who shook his head and said, “no problem sir.” When I went to bed the truck was still there, its rear end buried and its headlights pointing like searchlights into the night sky. In the morning it was gone.

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