"Full many a ray of purest ray serene the dark unfathomed caves of ocean bear:
Full many a flower is born to blush unseen, and waste its sweetness to the desert air."
from "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard" by Thomas Gray

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Kailash 2010 Day 12 : At Dongma past Paryang, Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Phone booth at Paryang

We started the journey from Chiu Gompa in the morning at 3 am, to reach Paryang before road blocks were put up by construction crews. Beyond the excitement of getting into a car that early in the morning, there was nothing outside the car to sustain my interest. It was too dark for me to see anything. And maybe I should have thought of lowering the glass. No idea how the drivers drive on these unmarked trails in pitch dark, but I slept most of the way, comfortable with their expertise.

We had to stop at Paryang around 2pm because our supplies truck slowed down, or got stuck, or whatever it is that happens to trucks that size. In the sweltering heat, in a non-air-conditioned car with windows closed to avoid sand from coming in, I took the opportunity to get some fresh air. The car had stopped near a telephone booth. I made my call to Anish after 10 days of non-communication - "Do not cash in on the insurance, I am coming home". He took it very well, considering it was 1:30 am in Dallas.

Finally, we got news our truck was doing OK, and the cars moved another 500 yards, and stopped in a meadow. The temperature difference between the town and the meadow was amazing - there was a cool breeze, people sat on the grass and chatted. Why we could not have waited here for the truck remained a mystery. A group started antaakshari - a song contest, with bhajans - hymns. I moved fast as far as I could from the spot, they were enjoying the game, they didn't need tone deaf people like me. I used the time to take pictures.

Magical afternoon outside Paryang, on way to Dongma

Unforgettable afternoon outside Paryang, on way to Dongma

Moments of sheer bliss outside Paryang, on way to Dongma

The scenery was out of this world - the green meadow, the clear water running in the stream, vast expanse of sand beyond which was the snow, clouds all around like cotton candy and the blue skies beyond. Suddenly, two tall birds were seen in the far distance, walking on sand dunes on very long legs. I don't know where they came from or what they were. They walked slowly over the dunes, and were not seen again. Nor were there others like them around. It was like a dream sequence in a Hindi movie. There was magic in the air, it was an enchanted afternoon. Standing in that meadow, as I took pictures, I felt a surge of sheer joy. I was at peace with the world, and life felt extremely good.

Kal Bhairav outside Paryang, on way to Dongma

The last car of our 18-car cavalcade came into the parking area with extremely sad news - one of the cars from another group of Kailash trekkers had just had an accident at Paryang, that killed two locals riding a motorcycle. The dead bodies were lying by the accident site and the taxi driver was waiting for the police to show up while the passengers had been moved into another car.

With the usual prayer, we started our super-late lunch. Dongma was 3-4 hours away. Again, I savored my half a cup of steamed rice and spoonful of dal water. It was my Fruit & Nut bar and Frooti that kept me going. Some of the people who ate early on, started serving so that the Sherpas could sit down to eat. One more reason I am glad I am a part of the Chinmaya Mission organization - people from whom I learn each day.

Rajeev, Venkatarao-ji, Gaurav and serve food to the Sherpas

Tibetan children with whom we shared goodies
The village children ate the goodies we shared with them.

Coated with sand and dust, without a shower for a week now except for the two sets of immersions in the lake, I was lucky that I had over-packed and had fresh sets of clothes every day, only my dirty ski jacket and dirtier rain coat/pants needed to be put on as the last layer in the morning - many people had run out of clean clothes. Lifting me high above the grime and discomfort, the magic of that afternoon will stay with me forever. I don't recall ever being so happy before.

One more view of the divine Brahmaputra
After lunch, we drove along the peaceful Brahmaputra. The average height of this river for the next thousand miles is 13K ft, making it one of the highest rivers in the world. Being a trans-boundary river for China, Nepal and India, it assumes critical importance for energy generation. After years of denial, the Chinese have announced recently that yes, they are building a hydro-electric plant on the Brahmaputra but it should not bother India. The serenity and tranquility and bliss of this river transforms into disastrous floods and catastrophes in the springtime.

I needed to hold on to my perfect mental state of peace and bliss of today that I see reflected in the river, to be remembered when life goes into turbulence and tumult in the days to come. The day had been enchanting and the road continued to be so. It felt like I had achieved a major milestone for this life though I was not yet sure what it was, and the world around me appeared to acknowledge this. Life is supposed to be this beautiful.

Tibet grows more stunning before our eyes
The world is beautiful when the heart is happy

This is how life is supposed to be - vast expanse, blue skies

Laid-back sheep walking off slowly to let us pass

At one point, the road was blocked, and the car driver reversed on the "highway" into the sand and then drove through a series of fields. The sheep grazing there appeared quite disinterested and moved slowly a few inches here and there to let the car pass. They reminded me of the herds of snowy white sheep I had seen at Uttarkashi, moving at their own sweet pace, lazily, regardless of the urgency of car horns.

On our way to Kailash, we had lunch at the Yak Hotel at Dongma a week ago. Today, we planned to spend the night there - five people to a room. My room did not have a finished floor, it was the ground with creepy crawlies moving around. I went to sleep without changing, with my shoes on, couldn't bear the idea of something crawling into my shoes at night. The electricity will flow and stop by itself - the sole bulb in the room will let us know that. There were the usual hole-in-the-ground restrooms here but such is the comfort level of some people with using open spaces now that they prefer them to the stinky restroom.

After the much-needed tea and then the very-welcome soup, Swarn came to the room to say that the Sherpas were making aloo parathas - pan-roasted potato-stuffed bread, to be served at 11pm. Could the day get any better? I had not cooked anything in 2 weeks, I so badly wanted to make the parathas myself. It was the first time in the trek that I had felt like actually doing something active instead of flopping in bed the moment we arrived - that was in itself a good sign, back to my hyper energy level. Of course, the Sherpas were already hard at work, as always.

Everyone in the room was napping, and around 10, I went to bed as well. Seema was awake when the Sherpas came by with the paranthas, and woke me up - we took two paranthas each, and kept a look-out for more :). The others in the room were sound asleep. When the Sherpas came by again, they were very surprised - do aur? CHAAR aur?, - two more? FOUR more? I knew then and there that Seema and I were friends for life - anyone who can stay awake till 11 pm to eat four aloo paranthas without once bringing up guilt about butter and calories, is my cosmic twin.

Back to the mud house at Dongma, check out the well in foreground for drawing water to wash face and hands
This blog is incomplete without a mention of the well seen in the picture above. We drew water from this well, about 50 ft deep, to wash the sand and mud off. Even on the return journey, there were new things to be learned each day. The mud house had a series of adjacent rooms. We were worried about ventilation till we realized there were cracks in the wall, parallel to the frame of the door as well as the window - no worries about fresh air.

Night stay at Dongma, will always remember the passage conversations and the aloo parathas
Tomorrow, we need to start at 3am again to dodge the road-block time windows to reach Saga - the last place where we had switches for light and sometimes, water. But today, my mind was in a state of bliss that I have never felt before. Life had changed forever.

Aum Namah Shivaaya!!

1 comment:

  1. Those are blacknecked cranes on the lake bed. Those are very rare and your photograph is awesome.