It was by sheer force of will that we kept going that day, such was the
struggle on the upward climb. A massive Tibetan hawk put in an appearance,
circling overhead and bidding us well. And then the wind picked up, coming
in full force at our backs. At times funneling up one of the sides of
the gorge and up and around somehow, smacking and blasting us in the face.
We would take cover in crevasses, behind rocks, under ledges- but always
the wind would find us out, driving us onward. We had but to reach Dira-puk
Monastery before sundown in order to bed down for the night within its
Man-o-Man at times that was one BIG BUT.
Eventually we made it to Dira-puk, at the base of the north face of the
mountain. It took about an hour to cross the river and struggle up a good
200 meters to where Dira-puk lay ensconsced. Panting and puffing hard,
we arrived at the door. It was locked, barred and bolted.....
Not a half hour after we arrived at Dira-puk, a guy comes
of nowhere-- and would you believe it-- indicates vehemently that the
monastery is closed- to be off with you!
Just great. Be off with you!
Then he just smiles and signals us to follow him, which
we do with alacrity, believe me. He takes us back across the river at
Tibetan pace, looking back every now and then and simply smiling that
Tibetan smile that I so grown to love. Then it comes into view- a motel
at the base of Kailsh. Well, it's not quite a motel. The prison in which
the Chinese imprisoned their Tibetan , mostly monks, prisoners during
the Purges. Our motel. Better than dying of exposure, lying out in the
open, I think to myself.
He assigns us our room- cell number 7. One last little test though. There
are locks on the doors- and for a few moments --ok, ok, for about an hour--
my imagination runs riot with scenes of rotting in the jail into which
this White Brotherhood agent has lured us. All quickly dissolved when
I finally see that the metal encased door is only hinged in the middle-
the other two, top and bottom having been snapped off- and that any sort
of shove on the door would send it flying open. PHEEEW!
Then the Tibetan pilgrims begin arriving- in droves- to bed down for the
night. We are invited to share a meal with them and make our plans to
depart with a number of them first thing the following morning; actually
about three hours before dawn, leaving around 6AM- timed so that we arrive
at Drolma-la Pass as the sun is dawning.
And indeed we are underway at 6AM sharp. About 15 of us
snaking our way up the Mountain over ice covered rock by flashlight in
the dark. With glistening moon-glowing snow-capped Kailash to our right.
And a sky so filled with stars overhead, it beggars description. It was
awesome beyond words.
The terrain grew increasingly steep until the vertical was in front of
your face. Still, we moved on with periodic stops to catch out breath
in the increasingly rarefied air- about 62% oxygen of what there is at
sea-level. Step after slow step, following along the steps of the coutless
pilgrims who came before. The stepping itself was our prayer, unified
in our common humanity.
I was later told that the God Kailash graces those whose motives, while
they are on the kora, are pure with ease of ascent. Others have great
difficulty in the ascent. A number every year die. Trust, pray, and step
was the order of that wondrous nightime ascent to Drolma-la Pass, as indeed
we were all graced with a good ascent.
Then the final push up to the Pass. Looking back on it, I really don't
know how we made it. At the time however, following in the Tibetans' steps,
we were mountain goats.
And the Pass itself: all adorned with fluttering prayer flags, sun just
over the crest straight ahead, and ready to breach. I sit down on a rock
while Sam and the Tibetan who had been leading our little band (I never
knew his name) put up their own flags along with the rest.
And then- oh wonder to behold- there are swallow-like birds
fluttering and flying and swooping around my head, At the very sight of
them my spirit begins to soar and my heart to fill with joy, Then one
of the little buggers fairly whaps me up and down the side of my face,
his wing tips brushing my face as he wings by-- oh yes! The HHg! This
is the spot!
And there at Drolma-la Pass, I put the first of the five
super-de-duper-now-you-see-me-now-you-don't HHgs Angela had cooked up
back in Halifax.
Job done I head out to catch up with my companions who had
since taken off down the other side of the Pass. I'm heading down what
if anything is an even more vertical descent than the ascent. And then
the sun breaches. And the bowl- shaped area down which I've begun my descent
glistens and gleams with the sun reflecting off the ice covered rock.
Simply dazzling. And the swallows are fluttering and swooping around my
head. The upsurge of emotion catches me totally unaware as I crumple to
the ground and break down, crying perforce at the unbelievable beauty
and sheer bliss of it all.
A few hours later, after the bulk of the descent from the
Pass had been made, the path opened out into a valley following alongside
a glacial river. We camped alongside that river for a couple of hours
enjoying our first meal of the day. If ever there was a Shangri-la that
was it. Relaxed, energized and full of joy, that rudimenatry meal of tsampa
(barley flour mixed with yak butter tea) and tea was the best meal I had
the priveledge of enjoying in Tibet.
And then another 25 kms or so back to Darchen, arriving back in town as
the sun was setting.
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