Mission to Tibet, Part 6
By Jeff Baggaley <firstname.lastname@example.org>
December 19, 2002
Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8
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 shelter.
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.....
It was just a little test.
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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