असार ९ गते २०७४, शुक्रबार | June 23, 2017     18:00:00

Purpose Driven Trip to Lo Manthang: A Personal Reminiscence

(Bhaju Ram Takhachhen Shrestha)

Honoring Sona Roka with traditional Tibetan scarf, the leader of the restless youth from Kaping village, that is about 80km east from Kathmandu and 30 km toward Kodari, China border, the Tibetan Lama said,” We like to thank you for coming and teaching us. We learned many things. Please come to Boudha and teach our children there what you have taught us.”

Yes, today youth are restless. They have so much to contribute to the community, but their wanting to contribute has been shadowed due to the various circumstances and lack of encouragement from so called old and wise people. As a result, youth lives disoriented life, purposeless and some even deteriorated life seeing no future due to the lack of visionary leaders who not just give borrowed promises to win the office but lend their heart, mind and hands to brighten the future without having to vanish in Gulf countries to keep up their life in existence in Nepal. The author of this article is not fabricating the fact because one time during his youth day, he and his friend contemplated to commit suicide seeing no future to hold them. Sadly, his friend hung himself from the ceiling of the roof to end hopeless hope that he possessed.

But the seven young high school students (five girls and two boys) of Kaping did not just want to spend their time playing in the swing and hanging around the village or even culturally licensed gambling during the high festival of Dassain and Tihar, especially in between these festivals. (If Dassain means victory over evil, the Tihar means joy of celebrating hard work of earning money during the year). One day they put their heads together and decided to go to what they thought was a Shangri-la place called Lo Manthang, the capital of Upper Mustang, the furthest from their home and share their energy to some children there.

So, on October 18, 2016 accompanied by another young man name Pukar Shrestha, and the author, the date expired youth left Kathmandu to Beni by a microbus. They arrived in Beni and lodged there and the next day, on Oct 19, they took a bus to Jomson the dangerous, ever under destruction and wheel unfriendly road. The bus could not tolerate the cruelty of the road and decided to break down after going a part way. The travelers walked for a couple of hours ahead while the rescuer came to fix the bus. However, this introduction to walk by going ahead to wait for the bus was an orientation to a long walk later. It was also a beautiful nature walk viewing the gigantic waterfalls wishing that it could be recorded in camera and download the water in Kathmandu where water is one of the luxurious commodity. They arrived in a lively town of Jomson that has the airport that one has to have more than one heart when the aircraft rider takes off because the runway runs down to the deep valley and the plane soar over 26,000 Annapurna range to land in 20 minute air away to Pokhara. The team (Together Everyone Achieves More) took a bus to Muktinath from Jomson, passing by Kagbeni, and driving over the river and the Desert Mountains while the Himalayas looked down teasing the dry and mountainous landscape. The team lodged in a hotel and the next morning scouted around Muktinath where some pilgrims were taking self baptism under the 108 taps and the two ponds in front of the Muktinath temple where mythically believed that the forehead of Sita fell from the shoulder that Shiva was carrying mournfully. It is also a Buddhist holy place. Many Indian pilgrims come even by barefooted regardless of cold weather. Hungry for salvation or Mokshya was dearer than the freedom from the cold weather.

After the breakfast of good dalbhat provided by the local restaurant, on October 20,the team left Muktinath without a guide. Up to Muktinath, bus was their guide. Then they followed the trail meeting hardly anyone on the way and taking risk of getting lost. They did not even have a proper trekking map since trekking was not the part of their vocabulary but the part in their gene. They did not think they were trekking but just walking as they do in their mountainous village every day. To make a long story short, they arrived in a village called Lete where only one hotel was there for the trekkers. (By the way, the team was joined by two wonderful Muslim cousin brothers who fitted like peas in the pod). The few Western trekkers were lodging in different rooms, the 11 member teams got one big room and hurdled together with no complain after over ten hours of walk from Muktinath.

The next day on October 21, the party left with a good breakfast of just apples provided by the kind host. They had no idea of where they were walking into. After an hour of walk, they came to Chhosang village from where the party was tempted to take a jeep to Lo Manthang but resisted their want by walking on. On the way they met several trekkers from the West. One came eighth time to Nepal for trekking. He must have been tired of going to office by car from home and use car to go even a block from his house. He was responding the anatomical call to activate his body than just having marathon of sitting.

The team passed wide Kali Gandaki river, then climbed up the mountain where fossils of sea shells were quite common proving the Biblical account of worldwide Noah’s flood over 5000 years ago, when the whole world was under the sea. Passing by huge hairy mountains for there were hardly any trees but just a couple of feet or so height of thorn bush, passing one grand canyon after another, walking on the most dangerous pathless path, walking down over 5 miles and walking up, the group arrived in Shaybrubesi tired of 12 hours of walking, some of them looked as if they were prisoners of war. But the shelter and good rice and curry refreshed them. The next day on October 22, they took a jeep that ploughed through another most dangerous, winding, up and down and heart sinking road that one makes him to sing, “Nearer to Thee my Savior.” Avoiding three days walk to Lo Manthang but arriving by the jeep in about 4 hours to the destination, which is also destination for over one thousand trekkers a year.

The next day on October 22, they took a jeep that ploughed through another most dangerous, winding, up and down and heart sinking road that one makes him to sing, “Nearer to Thee my Savior.” Avoiding three days walk to Lo Manthang but arriving by the jeep in about 4 hours to the destination, which is also destination for over one thousand trekkers a year.

A river down, wall city in the valley, dry and windy mountain protected by the Himalayas was certainly a fascinating place. It did look like the lost kingdom of Shangri-la depicted in the film “Lost Horizon”. It is called a little Tibet because of Tibetan culture, Tibetan Buddhism and Tibetan atmosphere reigns there. Once king of Mustang ruled there, the present king too faced the same fate as Gyanendra after Nepal being declared republic in 2008. Though his linage ruled since 13 century and has an old palace in sorry state, he lives in Kathmandu as the author of this article was told.

After settling the team in a hotel, they went scouting around the place, entered into a monastery and met the lama appraising of purpose of arrival.

The next morning, the lama gathered over 60 students from monk school in front of the main monastery to see what those strange young people from far away village of Kaping would do. Over one hour the team held the captive of those Buddhist monk students. They sang songs, taught them, they shared the health message, they performed street drama, they had the children play lively games, the health worker Pukar taught the ingredient of good health NEWSTART- proper Nutrition, regular Exercise, drink enough Water, have proper Sunshine, practice Temperance, breath fresh Air, listen to the body by giving it Rest and Trust in Divine power, even the author of this article told his childhood story in which he learned that grown up people were not always good to take for example. At the end of the program, the Lama received some gift of pencils and other things for the children. After garlanding the entire team members, the happy Lama invited them for a reception of tea and bread.

Elated after the program, the youth leader Sona said she did not want to the place. Everyone was happy and smiling for the contribution they could make to those monks and students through teaching good health habit and sound mind.

The same day the team returned to Pokhara via one day stop in Beni, to enjoy the fruit of their labor by watching the beautiful sun rise on the Macchapuchere on next day determining to have more suns in them to shine for other.
November 4, 2016

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