"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

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Kailash 2014 Day 04 : Nyalam, Sunday Sep 07 2014

At 9 in the morning, we heard the Sherpa team announce tea, coffee and Bournvita. Breakfast was served past eleven. It was past noon when we started our acclimatization trek.

raring to go

yatra leaders

starting the acclimatization trek, walking from the hotel to the mountain slope we have to climb

Most people had smartly kept their backpacks and gear light, though we were all wearing 3 or 4 layers each. All the symptoms of non-fitness were at the fore again. It is one thing to be modest, it is quite another to be confident in your objective evaluation that you cannot complete the task on hand. I told Swamiji this was a good time for me to quit, I need not try the acclimatization trek, and magnanimously added that I was not bothered if I could not do it. He said simply - Amma, you will do it. Of course, I was listening to a professional motivational speaker. This is the person who has convinced me that I can work towards salvation, never mind my many constraints and handicaps. An acclimatization trek was nothing in comparison.

climbing up the mountain

the acclimatization trek
I have actually reached the top

In trekking in the mountains, the rule is to climb to a higher elevation and then climb down to a lower altitude for a comfortable sleep. This is counterintuitive to the rule of life where people who have seen highs find it very difficult to sleep comfortably when life hits a low.

As I started the climb, I was breathless in the first few minutes. I had thought that once I got my breath back, I would be able to make the rest of the climb safely. But I realized soon enough that I was not going to be able to breath properly at all. If I climbed this face of the mountain, it is because of Anup who stayed at less than half their speed, goading me on to take the next step up the mountain side, and Anish a few feet away encouraging me to keep climbing. With all the tips from friends and family, I had climbed a hill at 12K feet. This was a feel-good exercise, and not an indication of my ability to circumambulate Kailash. But if one cannot make this, one should not plan to walk around Kailash for sure.
Swamiji holding Anup up, this is scarier than climbing up or down

the town of Nyalam below
The return down the hill was no less painful for me. Sunil, the Sherpa whom I had seen earlier today and recognized as being the person helping me in the circumambulation around Kailash, appeared from somewhere and held my hand. He has to be my son from a prior life. That simple act of holding hands was sufficient to increase confidence in the ability to cross mountains, and I pretty much walked down after that. Not sure why I had recognized him specifically as the person who would help me down the mountain, but my little prophesy had come true the same day.
I was amazed that I had been able to make the acclimatization trek. Shiva was working his magic to make me climb mountains, who was I to disagree? As he weaved his will into the actions of all around me, my ΓΌber dad who makes the world spin, would take me around his home, Kailash.

resting after the acclimatization trek

In the two hours before tea, many of us walked a couple of kilometers to the Nyalam market to buy things we had forgotten to pack. Again the bargaining with the talking calculator that had intrigued me when I first saw it four years ago - the storekeeper puts a price on the calculator and gives us, we delete it and put a price on the calculator and give it to them, till we arrive at a price that is mutually acceptable. Anish enjoyed the bargaining, and we bought the satin sashes that we would honor the Sherpa team with, when we return. We also bought plastic containers in which to carry back the jal - holy water, from Manas Sarovar.

A little kid entered the shop and looked at the camera in my hand, pointed at himself and asked - photo? I smiled at him and said - sure, took his picture, and showed it to him on the camera monitor. The would-be salesman struck his hand out and said - money. I asked Anish to give him some yuans. He grabbed the money, put it on the counter of the shop and asked for candies.

offered face for photograph

instant purchase of candy

my sweet Bhairavs in the Nyalam neighborhood

cutie cow baby in Nyalam

We hurried to the hotel for the planned satsang - a spiritual discourse, from Shivayoganandaji, to be followed by an interactive question-and-answer session with the audience. We met Swamiji on the way back, he was out for a walk. He said he would come back in a while, he would speak a bit to whoever was around, it should not be a formal meeting - once I told the Chinmaya group this, there was nothing unofficial about it. Every person stuck around to hear him speak.

Swami Shivayoganandaji

much-awaited satsang
For many people in our group, this was their first interaction with Shivayoganandaji, and I had told them that he has such a hypnotic effect on his audience with the soft-spoken speech in simple words, unraveling life truths eloquently, that at the end of his speech, if he asked people to jump out of the second-floor window, we would line up to do that. And it is not an exaggeration, three people came up with tears in their eyes after his sermon and thanked me for letting them know he would be speaking today. People would not stop asking him questions, till finally the Sherpa team announced that tea was served, and Swamiji took it as a welcome break. He was reluctant for this session, he wants the group to spend less time praying and chanting and singing hymns, and more time in introspection, channeling the inner spirit.
As tea and biscuits are served, we saw the Travelorg/Travelorg India agent. Again, I have the same question - what is the plan for tomorrow? The Sherpa lead answers - tea at 7 in the morning, breakfast at 8, we leave at 9. I asked the Travelorg agent why we were late today - he said, well it was a free day, and they needed to rest too. I reminded him it was the first morning at work, and he needs to confirm a time that the Sherpa team can keep. It is not OK to ask the group to be ready and to keep them waiting - this was the fourth day into the trip that we were asking this basic courtesy from him.
When I ask him that we would like to go see Milarepa's cave the next day, the Travelorg agent said it may be closed. Also, I reminded him that 3 buses needed to be the Chinmaya group as planned in Dallas, with a Swamiji in each bus. His extra folks could be in another bus - he said that would not be possible either - China required US passport holders and India passport holders to sit in separate buses. This conversation was getting annoying, so I sought out the Chinese guide - from Zhangmu, the two Chinese guides had joined us, they would stay with us till our return to Nyalam, they were responsible for keeping our group on track, no straying outside the route, the same headcount comes back as had left, etc. The Chinese guide said - yes, we could go to Milarepa cave first thing in the morning, it is open, why would it be closed? And yes, we could have three buses for the Chinmaya group, there was no requirement from China for US and India passport holders to sit in separate buses. So here is our travel agent's credibilitiy shot through the foot. I told the Travelorg/Travelorg India agent that the Chinese guide had confirmed what I had asked for, he nodded without batting an eyelid, no embarrassment that he has been caught in a bold-faced lie.

Travel tip for the yatri - we did not have a good travel experience with Travelorg/Travelorg India, and we would not recommend them for a yatra. Besides a lack of knowledge about the region, inability to do group briefings, etc, there is a lack of customer service, the attitude of not even trying to get the customer what they want. 

Tomorrow, the cave of the fascinating Milarepa, that I was not able to see four years ago.

AUM Namaha Shivaaya!

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