Monday, June 19, 2000

We need to return the yaks today. We walked just shy of Darchen. There are surprisingly few sore muscles among the group. We get no view of Kailas as we walk to the east of it. Rocks are much more varied here than over the high pass. With head down out of the sun, I can’t stop picking up the green ones, pink ones, streaked ones. Lobsang explains that they will bring protection from fire, earthquake, etc. He collects a pocketful, too.

There are many stupas along the route. We decide to build a lingham and hang our official Sivananda Millennium Peace Mission flag. We wonder how long it will remain… 

Lunch was in a field in front of Milarepa’s Cave. We agree we should come back on a karma yoga trip to clean up the garbage. Parvati and Vishwakarma buy Cokes somewhere. Sellers tell them just to throw the empty cans outside!

Though I was tired, I decided to join those climbing up to the Cave of Miracles—a small, not-terribly-well-kept structure. It was small and dingy inside, with once-colorful banners and small butter lamps.

What a welcome sight to see the cars and drivers at camp! Back aching, I sat down to rest. The ground was a bit gravelly. Wondered where the tents would go, as only the kitchen tent seemed to be up… but, down a steep hill on a grassy strip of ground, right by the rushing river, stood the nine blue tents, plus food tent! So welcoming!

Tuesday, June 20

We load our bags on the truck this morning and begin the final leg of the parikrama. No Mount Kailas in sight. The terrain was basically flat with some gullies to wind down into and up out of. I try not to collect more rocks.

We’re given ten minutes to shop as we pass through the makeshift town of Darchen. We recognize the women vendors under the flapping, striped plastic tarps from the Saga Dawa festival. When we don’t make enough purchases in their shops, they follow us with their bags of wares. “Looky, looky.” As long as one person is slightly interested, they will not give up.

Finally, the Saga Dawa pole came into view. One very boggy field to cross and we’d made it! We had completed the 52 km (32 mile) parikrama route. (Fit local Tibetan people can make Kailash Kora in a single day in 15 hours.)

Lobsang produced a simple lunch from his pack which we ate right there. Then, happy to be reunited with our drivers, we headed to the holy Lake Manasarovar. Camp was already set up near Chiu Gompa Monastery and adjacent hot springs.

tWednesday, June 21

After breakfast and a trip to the monastery, we packed up and set off for a better lakeside camping spot. We took walks and most people took advantage of the afternoon sun to do laundry. It fluttered everywhere.

I taught the 4:00pm yoga class. What a privilege to teach in this spot! Mount Kailas cleared in the distance, so we faced that direction for sun salutations. Not everyone felt up to doing pranayama and we took long relaxations between poses. It was still hard to catch my breath, despite having been at altitude for two weeks already. Three graceful ibis strolled by and then flew away.

After Satsang, we emerged from the tent to an amazing sky. On Peking time, it gets dark late. The snowy mountains at the south end of the lake were perfectly clear. There were strips of glowing clouds in the western sky. Mount Kailas was obscured by gray clouds. In the north, big angry clouds were blowing away, shadows deeply darkening the mountains below. And to the east, the sandy mountains were topped by a luminous pink sky!

When I got up just after midnight to answer the call of Nature, I wanted to wake everyone up—the stars were amazing, a thick layer absolutely filling the sky…

Thursday, June 22

What a luxury to stay in the same place for another day! Lobsang and Tenpa were concerned we’d have trouble at the border and recommended we leave a day early. Five of us had flights to catch from Kathmandu on the 27th.

We did yoga at 8:00am and 4:00pm. The wind blew me over in headstand! I did my last batch of laundry. So nice to wash it in a stream. The sun and wind dried it quickly.

We all walked down to the lake, where Swami Vasishtananda made our final offerings. We collected water, pebbles and sand to distribute to all the Sivananda Ashrams and Centers.

Friday, June 23

On the road again—retracing our steps for maybe 8 hours. Yak skulls and jaws were strewn here and there. We camped outside Prayang, just past a checkpoint.

Saturday, June 24

This was the coldest morning yet—with frost and ice. Another full driving day. We passed familiar gravel fields of magenta flowers. At one point, a large herd of sheep decided to charge across the “road” in front of our car! “Om Mani Padme Hum” seemed to be floating in the air. We camped just outside Saga. There was not much flowing water. Swami Vasishtananda was singing, “No bath today” to the tune of Namosthute. The local Tibetans were very curious about us and had no qualms about sitting near and staring into our tents.

Sunday, June 25

We took a car ferry at Saga, then headed south to Nyalam, then further south on the secondary road to Nepal. We climbed and climbed toward magnificent snowy mountains. Hard to drink it all in. We had our last picnic lunch on the blue tarp. The road climbed some more before beginning to descend, winding its way back to… trees! We saw trees! And agriculture and villages. Life! It was bittersweet to be back in civilization, but I slept through the night for the first time in weeks.

Monday, June 26

We head for the border, following the powerful river. Waterfalls cascaded on both sides from high up in the mountains. A spectacular sight. We drove right through a torrent of waterfall! The road got muddier and rougher, and then… we were stopped. Road construction! The road was impassable. Before we knew what was happening, eight porters were hired to carry the luggage from our four cars. (That’s about four heavy pieces per person.) Our bags were grabbed and we ran after them! I didn’t take my eyes off my bag. Such chaos. Down precarious stone steps, dirty steep slopes… down, down, down… My legs were shaking, knees wobbling. We rested just shy of the Chinese immigration in Zhangmu and waited for the others. We pass through with no problem, ride in an open back truck, then walked across Friendship Bridge to have our Nepali visas stamped. Then a bus drove us down through small towns, more waterfalls. Terraced mountains brought us to more traffic and… a paved road.

Back to Kathmandu. Back to Los Angeles.

I am forever blessed and humbled by the Holy Mountain.

Om Namah Sivaya.

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