Thursday, 29 October 2009

A Friendly Nepali Shouts Me lunch - Annapurna Circuit

A friend recently asked me - how is your Urdu? Not particularly good I had to admit but hey I always give it a shot, my Nepali and Hindi are probably a little better - especially when it comes to ordering chai, chang or Dahl Bhat. I have to say the Nepalese people are great for a bit of banter, always offering a cheeky smile and wanting to interact. They love it if you make an effort with soeaking Nepali and it is a sure way to get a good giggle. It really is one of the great parts of the many experiences I've had trekking and climbing in the Himalayas - the people. Also in mainland India and the Kashmari Himalaya - the people are fantastic but they tend to mello when you're in the more rural or less populated areas as in any culture! My first trip some years ago to trek the Annapurna Circuit was a particularly touching memory of a young cookboy (maybe 17 or 18 years old) I met on the bus ride from Kathmandu to Besisahar. We got chatting and (as often is the case) he was enjoying trying his english skills out on me and finding out about this Bideshi (foreigner) and what this mad kiwi was doing in a bus packed full of locals on his tod. We hit it off and I learnt he was on the long haul, for 8 hours, with me to Besisahar which is where the Annapurna Conservation Area Project and the legendary Annapurna Circuit start. On the way we stopped for lunch - Dahl Bhat (lentils with rice and whatever local veges are in season with chilis and various mouth-watering garnishes) and he was absolute insistent on paying for me despite my protests. "You in my country now" - what a great pride these people have of their culture & country and the enthusiasm they have for tourits! He returned with a huge plate of Dahl Bhat which I tucked into heartily as I sat taking in the local chat and watching life go by. Further on into the bus trip I repaid the compliment buying him a lemonade and a samosa. The bus trip continued through the spectacular countryside, albeit a bumpy ride, it was passed with a new friendship that put a big smile on my face! We were nearing those Himalayas......

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Joe Simpson - Storms of Silence

I'm currently re-reading some of my fave Joe Simpson books as I ready myself to return to the Himalayas. He really is such a good 'down to earth' writer that I can really relate to. Mixing up epic mountain yarns, some excellent historical interest of where he happens to find himself and hilarous accounts of pub brawls. Someone you could sit down and have a pint with, someone who comes across as real.

I thought i'd quote an excellent passage from his book 'Storms of Silence'.

"The prayer wheels must be passed on the left and spun clockwise. The very action of doing so is both a mark of devotion, an affirmation of faith, and bestows spiritual merit both on the passer-by and by the person who erected the symbol. They affect how you travel through the land. Nothing seems to be done by chance. Shapes and colours, everything bears some significance. On the fabric of the prayer flags and painted mani rocks the colours are also symbolic; green for water, blue for sky, red for rocks, yellow for earth and white for colours. Inside the spinning water-driven prayer wheels and printed on the flags are mani prayers. The wind and water, rain and sun speeds their invocations throughout the world. Even the design of the chortens, or stupas, reflect abstract Buddhist concepts. The square lower plinth represents the earth, the rounded dome is water, and the spire is fire, often in thirteen circular segments to indicate the thirteeen steps to enlightenment. On top is the symbol of wind and sun.
Rocks, trees, streams and springs are believed to be dwelling places of secret spirits. Even the mountains have gods. Each of the twenty-one Sherpa clans has its own mountain or area as its deity. Pumori, Kantaiga and Thamserku are all sacred mountains, as is Chomolungma, the Tibetan name meaning Goddess Mother of the World, or Sagamartha, the Nepalese name meaning Mother of the Universe. It is also and less imprssively known as Mount Everest, named after the Surveyor General of India who never even saw it.
When I arrived at Phakding (Everest Base Camp Trek) I settled into a friendly lodge on the banks of the Dudh Kosi and was again entranced by the sense of mysticism, the exciting feeling that anything could happen. I sat in the sunshine, drinking chang, and admired the display of flowers on the balconies of the lodge. A cooling breeze came up from the icy surge of the nearby river. I knew why I kept coming back, kept saying yes."

This kind of sums up why I too just want to keep going back to the Nepalese Himalaya.

Monday, 5 October 2009

Mani Rimdu Festival in Tengboche

My girlfriend's father recently showed me his Everest Base Camp Trek photos, which of course were great! I was pleasantly surprised to see some fantastic photos of a festival taking place in Tengboche - the Mani Rimdu Festival!
For some great shots of the festival check out:
The most important festival in Tengboche is called the Mani Rimdu. It consists of nine days of ceremonies and meditation (Drupchen). This is concluded by a special blessing ceremony given by Tengboche Rinpoche to the public and the world renowned Mask Dances performed by the monks at Tengboche Monastery.
The following are the approximate dates of Mani Rimdu events this year based on the Tibetan lunar calendar.
23. Oct. 2009: Preparations including making the sand Mandala and Tormas (symbolic offerings made of coloured butter and barley flour)
26. Oct. 2009: Drupchen ceremonies start and continue uninterrupted for 8 days.
2 Nov. 2009: Monks practice dancing without masks
3 Nov. 2009: Giving the blessing to the general public (Wang)
4 Nov. 2009: Famous Mask Dances preformed by the monks in a special day long ceremony. Afterwards the Sherpa community sing and dance the whole night long.
5 Nov. 2009: Concluding Fire Puja.
(NB this dates were confirmed by Tengboche Monastery on 18/3/2009)
The most likely dates in 2010 are 23rd October for the Blessing Ceremony and 24th October 2010 for the Mask Dances. To be confirm in Feb. 2010.
30 May to 7 June 2009: Dumje puja and celebrations in the Khumbu area including specal ceremonies at Namche, Thame, Khumjung, Pangboche and Pakding.
These dates may vary by one or two days depending on local events. They are based on the tibetan lunar calendar.
For further info please see the Tengboche Monastery Development Project website: