Hem, Our Guide and Leader

Hem, at Festival in Capitol: Lomanthang

We were moved and motivated each day by Hem’s confidence in us and his delight in and acknowledgement of, our accomplishments.  We were never told enough to fear what was to come or we would have worried, sapping our strength, determination and enjoyment.  We always knew we’d make it. He is a brilliant trek leader who completely loves his work. He has everything it takes to have a trek be successful, from knowing the territory and choosing an excellent crew, to flawless planning and seamless adjustments to current realities. We were necessarily pushed hard, but with his constant vigilance, we were not endangered. What was most delightful was his low-key wisdom, thoughtfulness, even temperament, and subtle sense of humor. Continue reading Hem, Our Guide and Leader

Kagbeni to Muktinath

Washing Away Sins

Today’s long uphill hike was from Kagbeni to Muktinath and back. This was a major, sacred pilgrimage site for Hindus.  It still is, I’m told, but it looks to me to be more akin to a circus.  Everyone seems to be trying to make a buck, from the two minute, $10 motorcycle rides from the village up the hill to the shrine, to the trinkets, promises of Nirvana, and hard bargaining Sadhus (Holy men).  The scene was made absolutely perfect by having a dozen or more super-prosperous (read: fat) men running around in their tiny skivvies dunking themselves in holy water. One Indian man was repeatedly dunking his wife in the cleansing pool. It went on much longer than was seemly. This dipping is normally a voluntary act of submission to the Gods in exchange for having ones past wrongs and evils washed away.  Apparently, this gentleman thought his wife needed a bit of extra help in the cleansing process. Continue reading Kagbeni to Muktinath

Day XI, The Challenge

108 Prayer Wheels Surrounding the Monastery

As we start the long walk back toward “civilization” I laugh as I say, “This is the best morning of the trek!” The problem is, it was the best, just like yesterday. I feel twenty years younger.  We climbed mountains today with such ease and strength.  At the highest pass of the day, after a short rest, I challenged Hem to a race to the top of a small knoll above the pass. We didn’t make it because we were laughing too hard at our madness. Oh! To have the energy and playfulness to sprint uphill at a 13,000′ Tibetan pass. Continue reading Day XI, The Challenge

Trek Day IX, From LoManthang to Thoser Village and Jhong Caves and Back.

Preparing for Horse Trek - One Day Only!

Today’s plan was simple: take a horseback ride to some ancient caves, have a picnic lunch and then ride back.

I’ve found each day the pain endured roughly matches the reward.  The horseback ride from 12,300′ up to 15,200′ was for me a continuously excruciating reminder that the Buddhists are right, life is suffering, at least that part of life spent on a somewhat competitive, ornery, bony Mustang pony with a thin blanket for a saddle. Continue reading Trek Day IX, From LoManthang to Thoser Village and Jhong Caves and Back.