Quiet,, Peaceful, Stunningly beautiful

Trip Start Oct 16, 2008
1
14
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Trip End May 01, 2009


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Where I stayed
Lawudo Gumpa

Flag of Nepal  ,
Friday, December 26, 2008

My Sherpa porter, Happah, and I waddled into the monastery around 1 PM.  The trek was tiring but not too bad.  The last hour was straight up the mountainside..

We were immediately given a warm greeting and a hot lunch after which I bade Happah farewell and got settled into my cabin.

Lawudo (pronounced Laudo), has an interesting history.  The Lawudo Lama, a very famous Sherpa Buddhist monk, meditated in the cave here in the 1020's-40's.  There was nothing else here at that time, just a cave.  3 years after his 1944 death, his reincarnation was found in the neighboring valley.  Lama Zopa Rinpoche, 3 years old then, insisted in sleeping in 'his' cave.  Lama Zopa Rinpoche resumed meditating in that cave and built the monastery around it.  He has since built 134 facilities worldwide.  His sister is the Nun that runs the place and Norbu is the monk.  They also have 2 helpers, Sangmo a 19 year old female apprentice, and NemaSundo a Sherpa laborer of friendly character.  There is one other retreatant, a 26 year old Slovenian man named Arpi.

The monastery sits at 12.700 ft altitude and faces south.  Across a very steep valley rises the majestic Mount Kunde at somewhere shy of 20,,000 ft.  The several structures include a small Gompa (Temple in Tibetan), a kitchen/ living facility, a few stand alone cabins for retreatants, the cave and some structures for laborers and again some for the 5 cows.  All are separated by steep stairs because of the sharp slope of the terrain.

I find my cabin the lowest of the group and quite solitary.  It is a perfect 8' x 8' with a finished wood interior, typical wood frame foam matress, a small window, and a stack of blankets.  Cozy, except, wheres the thermostat???  As for washing oneself......."Ani-la, can you please boil a liter of water for me this morning?"

Also to my own is the 'outhouse' which is as you would expect, simple, austere, with a hole cut  in the wood plank floor.

The thermostat.  It turns out this is the week-lnk.  Wood is precious here and is used very sparingly for cooking only and is always supplemented by Yak dung.  There is no heat.  No refuge from the cold other than my sleeping bag or the hot tea in the kitchen.  I chose the month of January because I was already here, not because I like cold.  The advantage of January is no crowd at all up here.  The disadvantage, well, get a hot water bottle and slip it into your sleeping bag at night.  It did not snow while I was there but it regulary went into the teens outside and low 20's in my room at night.

From sun-up until it dropped below mount Kunde peak at 3:30pm it was usually pleasant.   Warm (40's), beautiful, inspiring, peaceful, peaceful peaceful.  No noise, no engines, no horns, no sirens, just the sound of the Tibetan prayer flags flapping.

It is like watching a movie as incredible images come and go before me.  The contrast intensity of the sun on the peaks fluctuates as the sun changes angle.  Clouds swirl in the valley below me mixing white clouds with grey.  Without notice the wind shifts bringing a grey cloud charging up the mountainside and within minutes wrap around me as if pulling a comforter over my head in bed.  At sunset the peaks stay lit after most else darkens.  |An extrordinary image of a mountain peak appears above me as a soft window breaks open in the white clouds just a sunset is happening in that 'other world' above the clouds.  I have to fight the tendency to always pull out my camera.  It is all beautiful.  It is all photoworthy.  Stop.  Watch.  Take it in.

I find my home in the cave.  It is even more quiet than my cabin.  It is most protected from the wind and it has that 'holy' energy.  I spend a large portion of my time here.  Arpi jokingly says I am the 3rd Lawudo Lama.

It is not really a cave anymore.  It has been nicely finished with a wooden plank floor, nicely painted wood sides, and a beautiful alter with pictures.  The front has been enclosed and provided with a 4 ft high door.  The inside is only about 8' x 15'.  Perfect!!

The food is great.  Roti bread (similar to Nan) and jam every morning.  Lunch is the big meal and can be Mo-Mo dumplings, a thick potatoe soup, potatoe pancake with Sherpa seasoning, Dal Bat or Sherpa Stew.  Dinners are similar.  Always, always with a tasty sweet milk tea.  That is unless you want the salty, Yak butter tea that the Sherpas drink.....no thank you.  The portions are surprisingly large and the 'family'pushes seconds on you.  I do mean 'pushes'.  Like my grandma did, they always quickly approached my plate with more and I had to be insistent to decline.  But it was not because they had abundance.  They did not.  They did not take more until they were sure you were done.

Food is expensive up here for the same reason as it is on islands. Most of it has to be carried up from Lukla or from the lowere valley where it can be grown.  They only grow in Lawudo in the summer.

You all know that I need exercise to function as constant sitting is no good for anyone. I decide to exercise by hiking.  Some days I hike down the mountain to take dirty clothes to the spring to wash them.  Once a take a lateral hike over to a neighboring family monastery of sorts situated at the inset base of a large cliff.  Sometimes I go up to get better views.

I tell Arpi that a I scoped out a way to hike ridge of a mountain a few miles away.  We can get  a view of the valley on the other side.  Arpi, a muscular, snowboarder, windsurfer was quick to jump on the idea.  We set out at 8 am with 2 liters of water and some extra garments for the wind.  we expect a 3 hour hike.  We pass another monastery in a wooded ravine....no one home.   Up one steep incline and wrapping around a huge outcropping we get inspired by a steep but manageable alpine meadows extending upward.  'We can manage that' he says.  Off we go.  At the top of that slope it gets rocky with a large steep cliff.  However, on the side of the cliff is another manageable rock pathway.  Again we pursue the greater height.  Then we come to a difficult area-too steep.  We split up scoping out the situation.  Arpi says ' I found a path' and cimbs forward.  I start to follow but froze when I realizee this 'path' is 6" wide dirt patch with a 30ft cliff  to a rocky bottom below.  To the other side of the clif is 70 degree slope of dry grass with nothing to hold onto.  I think I can make it up but cannot imagine how to get down it.  Here I had to admit to my younger hiking friend that I was 'chicken'.  A gentleman for sure, he agreed and we backed down.  

Then we did find another route higher.  And then another beyond that.  And even one more. In the meantime the clouds rolled in.  The view was gone, the wind was kicking up and it was cold and clammy.  Our water was almost gone. We were both hungry.  We both had a slight headache and I just got a slight nosebleed.  Arpi, said he thought we could go higher but for safety sake we need to turn around.  We were in agreement on that one.  The altimiter said 14,918.  Can I round up?? 

One thing about mountain climbing/ hiking I found out.  It is a lot like cave exploring in that things look totally different going the other direction-down.  We were unsure of the right way.  Sure, down is down, but remember there was only a few selections going up that were navigable.  A wrong approach going down and on finds oneself atop a cliff with the only alternative of going back up and trying again.  I was glad Arpi was with me.  He had a sharp memory and two is better than one.  It was tense at times. 

We were worried about getting hurt.  "Dont slip Arpi, we are a long tough trek back to Lawudo.....too long for a broken ankle" I said with concern.  "From there it is a longer trek to Naamche from Lawudo.  And it is a longer, steeper hike to Lukla.  And then theres that flight.  We must not get hurt." Our new mantra was "must not get hurt".  Each and every step was oh-so-carefully- placed, and double checked and then I recite my new mantra as I slowly transferred load.

The other thing I learned is that when climbing the eye is trained on your next grasp and you get this feeling of control from focusing closely.  However, going down with each step is seen your next footplant as well as the steep decline and the valley a mile below.  I found it most difficult to focus closely with that sigt of  such a huge drop in my face. 

It was a more exciting adventure than either of us bargained for.  Nonetheless, it ended with a great lunch of hot MOMO back at the monastery.

The time ticked by too quickly.  I became attached to those friends at Lawudo.  I admired the constant hard work of milking the cows, cooking, hiking miles to town every week to get our food and carry it back in on their back,  the daily trips to the spring to carry back 30 gallons of water for the people and cows,  tending to the Yak, caring for the monastery.  As they do all this they either sing Religious inspirational songs or they chant a montra.  With all that hard work they face, never, never would they hesitate to do anything for me.  Always would they assure Arpi and I are satisfied before they satisfy themselves.  Never would they accept an offer to help-I had to insist.

I already miss them all.
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