Man On The Silver Mountain

14 Jun

(and Tigger and Snuff, four Australians and a Canadian)

That’d be this mountain, by the wayDSCF6288……

 

 

 

 

 

 

Up early for a walk, before the sun is up. It’s cold, and wolves howl in the distance. I am surprised by a Tibetan jogger, but it’s a great time for quiet contemplation on just how wonderful my life has turned out to be. Some thoughts about the future – and a real certainty about what I have left behind me, too.

We’re on the final push to Mt Qomolangma (that’s Mt Everest to you and me). Immediately we pass the first police check for entry to the park. Everything is painstakingly written down, and there’s no sign of a computer. My passport proves troublesome, but eventually all is resolved. (To stop a recurring theme before it starts… there are three more checkpoints today, all with the same longwinded process. Exactly why there are three is unclear, as it’s impossible to get to the second checkpoint without passing the first. The second one does have a computer, but they are watching TV on it.)

Almost immediately, the metalled road disappears, and we are onto a dirt road that will take us the 120km to Everest Base Camp (I’m not sure I can type Qomolongm twice). We’re enveloped in clouds of dust from the lead vehicle as we climb twists and turns that would test an Alfa Romeo driver.

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At the top, we reach the pass, and in front of us the mountains are revealed, all of them over 8000m – Mt. Lhotse (8516m), Mt. Everest (8848m), Mt. Qowowuyag (8201m) and Mt Mayalu (8463m). It’s an incredible sight, and my eyes fill with tears at the sheer glorious beauty of the snowcapped views. I can’t believe that I have come this far, and seen this sight – a sense of wonder and awe enfolds me, and I truly feel God’s presence as I stand and let my whole being take in the sight, the feeling, and the sense of windchill in my bones. In fact, I am so much in awe of the moment that I pay a prayer flag vendor 5 Yuan just to let me have that moment to myself.

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(By the way, sometimes I wonder if I should share these thoughts with you – but these are as much part of the journey as the sights I see and the people I meet.. this is a journey of the soul, too – so forgive me the occasional insight into my heart)

It’s an incredibly precious moment – and a voice seems to whisper to me “Remember that very moment is precious – and every journey is made up of precious moments”

We drop down through little hamlets – the road unfolds beneath us like a Scalextric track designed by the Marquis de Sade as we wind through little hamlets, prayer flags waving in the breeze. Each section of the paddy fields has a little cairn or a prayer flag to bring a good harvest. The horse is king out here, with horse drawn carriage the principle mode of transport – we pass a wagon train exodus crossing the river bed. It’s a hard, arid and dry land unless it’s deliberately irrigated – little patches of cultivation are scattered across the landscape.

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And finally we end up at our destination – the Ronghpu Monastery Tents, a ramshackle collection of traditional tents, each with their own little name – we are glad not to be staying at the Holiday Inn tent though. We’re at the Happiness Hotel (formerly the Mount Everest Happiness Hotel, but for some reason the Mount Everest bit is covered with cardboard). The monastery itself is the highest monastery in the world, and the camp site has the highest post office in the world. Which is shut. The shared camp facilities are even worse than last night…don’t ask. Just. Don’t.

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But there are wonderful views of the mountain. After lunch in our cosy tent, we set off on the final leg of our adventure – Everest Base Camp. It’s a bumpy trip by bus up the path to the mountain, and another checkpoint at the end. But we can’t get to the viewpoint – apparently some American was photographed waving a Tibetan flag on it a few weeks back, and so it’s off limits to Westerners. The best shot I can manage is through the prayer flags while lying on the floor. Bob makes a brave attempt to move the ‘tourists cease step’ sign but to no avail. Sadly, it’s a bit of an anticlimax – the better views are down at the river.

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Later, the clouds clear and we all rush out for more photos – it really is a very beautiful sight, and the early evening light is gorgeous, throwing the mountain and cloud into beautiful relief.

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Back to the tent, and then I go out for a walk and a think, a little time to connect, to dream – and to let go of so much stuff from my past that I no longer need. Part of this trip has been about letting go of old things – things that are no longer serving me, letting go of failures, fears, old habits, old behaviours, disappointments and family traits… freeing me to step into something new. New life, new success, new adventures, new journeys. When I do this, I like to burn the list of what I am letting go of, and so under the massive peak of the highest mountain in the world, I take the list and burn it in the tent’s fire. It’s incredibly freeing as the old stuff drifts off into the sky.

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And so to bed. It’s really cosy in the tent, although it’s incredibly cold out there under the mountain, so it’s a brave man who ventures out at 3am to look at the stars. Everest is lit by a strange light, framed in the darkness of the mountain pass. The Milky Way arcs overhead, a billion stars creating a ribbon of sparkling light from horizon to horizon, while stars I have never seen come together to create vivid constellations. It’s a beautiful, wonderful night – the sort that dreams – and new futures – are born in.

Up early before dawn the next morning. I wander by the river, deep in thought and contemplation before sun rise touches the peak, spreading a rosy glow across the eastern face of the mountain. Again, it’s a glorious, magical sight…and by the time we leave, reluctantly, the mountain stands bright and shining in the sky, for once free of cloud… certainly a sight I will never forget.

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And so we begin the trail to Katmandu… but that, perhaps, is another story…

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