Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for September 28th, 2009

Sacred sites

9-28
Lanbrina yak to Gosainkundo 4300m
It rained hard and we awoke to spectacular views of Langtang, Annapurna, and the other massive mountains near and far. We walked the short 2 hours to the sacred lakes of the Hindu people and the site of a massive holy man pilgrimage during the monsoon season.  Beautiful place, but has nothing on the Sierra Nevada lakes of my home land.
Along the Langtang route we passed thousands of stone tablets that had the background rock chiseled away leaving only the raised letters of Buddhist mantra found throughout the region. They look like museum pieces each one, but here they are used as pavers, and line walls.  Prayer wheels/drums also containing  the same mantra are also prevalent throughout the region. The water prayer wheels are my favorite; a structure is built over a creek and a prayer drum is placed inside. The drum is attached to a shaft that is attached to a small blade at the bottom and placed in the moving water.  The blade is propelled by the water, thus turning the shaft and the prayer wheel – naturally and appropriately in a clock wise manor thus providing a constantly turning prayer. Some are painted beautifully in bright blues, reds, greens, and yellows and some are cast from rich brass.
Most tourist I have met have been delightful but there are exceptions.  Like Sara pointed out in Skorea, most of the young American military guys there are uneducated, culturally rude jerks.  Seems like there is a trend (age, military?), as I have ran across several groups of young Israeli men who have just completed there compulsory military service.  With notable exceptions, they seem to be low on money, high on expectations, and short on cultural respect.  Apparently this has not gone unnoticed and some lodges actually and, if they can afford it, refuse service; culturally this is very difficult for a Nepalese and they are a very warm and excepting culture – thus you know it is really bad behavior.
Differences do abound culturally.  For example, while Nepal language has a word for thank you it is used reservedly, whereas we use it all the time; even more so here as most tourist truly appreciate and are thankful for the service they receive.  Along the main routes it is not so noticeable but if you say thank you for a small thing in the more remote areas you will likely get some funny looks.  Conversely, if you expect a thank you, you may be disappointed.   We ran across a young man, that had a pretty nasty infection on the edge of his mouth.  Anjin, ask me I had any medicine, and we proceeded to doctor the guy up pretty well given what materials and limited expertise I had. When finished, he simply stood up and walked away.  So expectations can get you. I am pretty certain however, that that same man would do anything he could to help someone as well; that is the real expectation minus the niceties.
9-29
When Angin awoke me from a short nap before dinner, I was shaking violently.  I sat up and immediately threw up all over the floor – the hand hewn logs had ample vomit gaps and the mess disappeared to the earth below. Not sure what was wrong with me but the combination of poor diet, high altitude, and walking in the rain for 8 hours may be a factor.
At some point the rain always penetrates your best defenses. Sweating from the complete humidity, It first hits you neck like a squirming ice cube, follows you spine as you brace, runs down your ass crack for a second cleaning, and ultimately ends up in your shoe. Like New Zealand, in Nepal you have to be careful as you can go from so very hot to so very cold, so very quickly.
Playing with my diet and simple is good.  Oat porridge or a hard boiled egg for breakfast along with black tea.  But be careful as the very tasty oats are unrefined and will most likely have several rocks mixed in.  For lunch I have been sticking to noodle soups and like everywhere the soup is as good as the kitchen it came from. Some contain homemade noodles and are seasoned beautifully and some are literally the Asian version of Top Ramen.
Bamboo, Cedar, pine, a type of Madrone, and ferms all within meters of each other.  What a diverse flora; and species so far up the slope (at home, this is above timberline).
Down slope to a smoked filled tea house with “dinare hool” printed above the door, we stopped for warm liquids. Above the stove hung strips of meat that I had seen throughout the region in limited quantities, but had never seen on a menu or up close. I inquired out of curiously and was indeed told it was meat as I took a photo; no kidding. As I finished my tea and got ready to leave the women took down one of the strips and with a curved knife and brute force cut it into corn kernel sized pieces. Heating oil over the stove until it smoked she added onions to the black skillet, then seasoning, then a splash of water and ultimately the meat. Complete, she, surprisingly,  brought the plate of meat to me. I had decided, largely, to not order meat on this trip, but if it was offered out of kindness I would accept. The smaller pieces of meat and onions were good in that salty greasy way and the larger chunks tasked like old dirty boot leather. Actually really dirt boot.  After a lot of going back and forth I understood why.  The meat was specifically:  an old, male, water buffalo.
Regarding meat.  I LIKE it. I like it a LOT. But I have come to understand that the way we raise, produce, and distribute it in the states can only be described as environmentally sinful and morally wrong. That does not mean I do not eat it, I am just trying to be honest about the decision I am making; my like of meat out weighs my objections to how it get to my mouth. Interestingly, in Nepal meat is very limited and therefore it is used quite sparingly and in a sustainable manor. The diet here is dominated by plants. They have no choice, the land will not support a lot of meat production and thus that limited land must be used to produce the greatest (plants) return.
Witnessed high living trekking yesterday that a month ago I would have scorn. An older German man with a younger – drop dead (actually I was hoping he would drop dead….I wanted her) gorgeous French girlfriend or wife were traveling with 8 Nepalese; three porters, one guide, 2 cooks, 1 server, and 2 assistance.  Excessive?  Certainly, but this couple was providing good jobs for these local people; job good enough to support an extended family in a place that many live on less than $2 per day. I met another solo traveler who had three people working for him.  “What is that about?” I inquired.  “It is about giving back, sort of my way of sponsorship.  I employ this same family each year I come to Nepal, my friends here are brothers, and he is a son in law.  I go on a trek, go to their village, and pay for their children’s education….everyone wins and I feel good about it”.  Besides he continued “ If the children of these men are not educated, they will fall further prey to growing world economic gap and will be exploited further.  I am not advocating they give up their culture, just the opposite, but without education other will simply take their culture from them”.
9-30
Kutumumsang to Chisopni 2180m
“Good no rain, we can take the local route” proclaimed my able guide. I have been on ladders that were not that steep, but I resigned myself not to let those 7 year old girls who were carrying 15 kilo of millet each beat me to the top. I should have left my ego at the bottom of the dry water fall that was the local route. Two thirds up and my shirt poured rather than drip sweat off the tail.  At the top I was on my knees not sure whether I should ask for salvation or simply death.
I finally figured out our plan.  After studying the miniature map in the guide book and piecing information together, I realized we were walking back to KTM-or nearly so.  Up a ridge to a saddle, down a ridge to a saddle, repeat. But the landscapes are amazing and we are now into a new caste area that is dominated by Hindu rather then Buddhist of the high elevations. While brutally hot and humid these low lands are dotted with homes, people, cows, goats, chickens, ox, dogs, buffalo, and even a non-black cat.
In Nepal when you are trekking a route, you are simply following an ancient route that has been named as a trekking route. The PCT this is not, and to call much of the last several days a trail is quite optimistic.  Rather, a landslide clears the vegetation and that slide, as if ordained, becomes the new route up or down. Six hours of this and your knees are begging for salvation.
Having a local guide is great and given that Angin is so well liked along the trail, I get the benefit of traveling with him, and thus receive excellent treatment and service.  And when we walked into the local bar tonight, as we grow near the end of our trek, I felt at home playing pool on a table with felt so thin you could see through to the slate below.
This town has some limited road access to vehicles (motorcycles only) but I am unsure as to why.  Never mind, I am sure.  If three young men can get a bike here why wouldn’t they.  One runs the clutch, one pushes or holds the bike back on down hills, and one pulls on the assents and try’s to slow the bike while not getting run over on the descents. Yea, I would try to get my bike here. Standing around we diagnosed the bike’s problems and get cheers from the local crowd when we get her to fire – only to hear moans as she dies when the clutch is let out. I know just enough, thanks to Dan my friend mechanic man, back home to know that the problem is fuel/air; oh if I  only had a different needle for this carburetor to compensate for the altitude, I could be king for a day.
Sometimes food just shows up. Today as I write a plate of spicy curry and potatoe

Lanbrina yak to Gosainkundo 4300m

prayer flags at Hindu holy lake

Holy Hindu lake

It rained hard and we awoke to spectacular views of Langtang, Annapurna, and the other massive mountains near and far. We walked the short 2 hours to the sacred lakes of the Hindu people and the site of a massive holy man pilgrimage during the monsoon season.  Beautiful place, but has nothing on the Sierra Nevada lakes of my home land.

Along the Langtang route we passed thousands of stone tablets that had the background rock chiseled away leaving only the raised letters of Buddhist mantra found throughout the region. They look like museum pieces each one, but here they are used as pavers, and line walls.  Prayer wheels/drums also containing  the same mantra are also prevalent throughout the region. The water prayer wheels are my favorite; a structure is built over a creek and a prayer drum is placed inside. The drum is attached to a shaft that is attached to a small blade at the bottom and placed in the moving water.  The blade is propelled by the water, thus turning the shaft and the prayer wheel – naturally and appropriately in a clock wise manor thus providing a constantly turning prayer. Some are painted beautifully in bright blues, reds, greens, and yellows and some are cast from rich brass.

Most tourist I have met have been delightful but there are exceptions.  Like Sara pointed out in Skorea, most of the young American military guys there are uneducated, culturally rude jerks.  Seems like there is a trend (age, military?), as I have ran across several groups of young Israeli men who have just completed there compulsory military service.  With notable exceptions, they seem to be low on money, high on expectations, and short on cultural respect.  Apparently this has not gone unnoticed and some lodges actually and, if they can afford it, refuse service; culturally this is very difficult for a Nepalese and they are a very warm and excepting culture – thus you know it is really bad behavior.

Differences do abound culturally.  For example, while Nepal language has a word for thank you it is used reservedly, whereas we use it all the time; even more so here as most tourist truly appreciate and are thankful for the service they receive.  Along the main routes it is not so noticeable but if you say thank you for a small thing in the more remote areas you will likely get some funny looks.  Conversely, if you expect a thank you, you may be disappointed.   We ran across a young man, that had a pretty nasty infection on the edge of his mouth.  Anjin, ask me I had any medicine, and we proceeded to doctor the guy up pretty well given what materials and limited expertise I had. When finished, he simply stood up and walked away.  So expectations can get you. I am pretty certain however, that that same man would do anything he could to help someone as well; that is the real expectation minus the niceties.

Read Full Post »