Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Dancing with Shamans! Story for Gosainkunda trekking

 -By Asha(Yun Mi SEO) 

On the full moon day in August every year, I heard, a special kind of feast is held around Gosainkund, the lake of the god Shiva, who is beloved most out of the three major gods in Hinduism.
Gosainkund, the spring of Trishuli river, the main river in Nepal, is believed that Shiva having swallowed venom(that is why Shiva’s face is blue.) made the water springing from the ground to cool down his throat. Hindu worships the water and visit there to bathe themselves and to participate in the ritual Pooja during the feast Janai purnima (purnima means the full moon).

But Gosainkund is located in Rasuwa state, where the population of the Tamang tribe and Tibetan-Yolo, not Hindu, is the greatest than any other tribe. They preserve Tibetan culture of Mongolian descent and their own legend of the lake related with their own god Avalokitesvara, not Shiva.
For Tamang, the shaman Bompo, who can be found in every Tamang’s village, leads the feast, shepherding the villagers to Gosainkund and involving them into the feast. This makes the feast so unique. You can experience Hinduism and Tamang’s Shamanism at once on the same day.
In rainy season trekkers are scarce, not only because of the bad condition for walking and also because they cannot appreciate Himal, which means mountains covered by snow. But, unable to give up the alluring feast, in spite of worries and dissuasions from my friends and family, I ventured to reserve nine-day trekking tour at Social Tours, a responsible tourism agency in Nepal.

For Rasuwa state, Tamang tribe, and the feast Janai Purnima, I ask your patience. I will tell you about them in the next articles and here I’d like to start with my guide La Ma. If it had not been him, if it had not been his wise, professional guide and his warm heart towards people, I could not have finished the arduous journey.
It was one of the days left before leaving when I met La Ma. He educated me about the trekking plan and checked the route on the map. In the morning of the day before the date of departure, he said he could help me with packing, sending me a list of articles I need to take. But I had to work through that evening, so I could only said that I would pack my bags as best as I could. Next day, I found him waiting near my house.
Asha with the guide LaMa
La Ma, a female porter Da Fui, and me composed a team and stepped off towards Sundarisal, the starting point of our journey. As La Ma suggested to call our team name my Nepali name Asha, meaning ‘hope,’ we arrived at the entrance of Sundarisal, which belonged to Shivapuri National Park, one of the ten National Parks in Nepal. Sundarisal is also source of water supply for the capital city Kathmandu.
We drank Nepali tea Chia and had a bite of Selroti, a crispy rice donut. La Ma is a Tamang tribesman. Then I came to know that there are a hundred of tribes at most which consist of various smaller units of tribes under the larger units. To be exact, La Ma can be called a tribesman of Bomjan, which is a smaller unit of Tamang tribe. I could see La Ma speaking Tamang language a lot during the trip, for most of the people we encountered on the way were Tamang tribesmen.
He explained that he as a Tamang tribesman, believed in Buddhism, but also in Hinduism, about which he had no choice but to because he was born in Nepal, the country of Hinduism. He accepts what he can from Buddhism, and Hinduism in proper harmony and regards them as his part of life.
Unfolding the map, he double-checked the course we should finish that day. We shouted spell to cheer us up and began our journey. La Ma handed each trekking pole to Da Futi and me respectively and for himself insisted to walk without them.
The destination of the first day was Chisopani, 2,141 meters above sea level. At the entrance was an information board of Nepal Environment and Tourism Initiative Foundation(NETIF), where the regulations tourists should follow and the description of a variety of flora were written, stood. As soon as I found the name NETIF on the board, I was so glad to see it again. I remembered the day I had been invited as an instructor to Sustainable tourism guide training held in Nepal last year. 
Marijuana farm planted here and there by villagers nearby came to my eyes all the while climbing up. It is said that Shiva was fond of smoking it. During rainy days, after the sun rises, it shortly sets down in the middle of the afternoon at about three to four. Then it becomes usually foggy accompanying rain. Coming after the sun’s cycle, we had to keep having breakfast at 7 a.m., departing before 8 a.m., and arriving at the destination around 3 to 4 p.m. everyday. Arriving at Chisopani, we warmed our cold bodies with hot Chia and La Ma briefed the others on the tomorrow course, spreading the map and compass he brought.

“Asha, I don’t want Da Futi live as a porter for her whole lifetime. Buddism taught me to share with others what I learned. I believe I should make Da Futi keep learning,” he said. Then he had Da Futi set next to him and began to teach how to read a map, how to use compass, how to measure the distance from a map and so on. His lecture beginning from the first day continued day and night until the trip was over. At the end of our journey, Da futi seemed to stir herself to study harder reviewing what she had written down on her notebook.
Da Futi was a twenty-year-old girl, a Sherpa tribeswoman from Solukhumbu of Himal area. Following her oldest brother who had been guiding Himal climbing for a long time, she had also come down from Himal a year ago. She had been working in 3sisters, the famous social enterprise for training female porter and guide, in Pokhara. Then she had recently moved to Kathmandu and were living with her little brother who was a clerk at trekking equipment store in the tourist district Thamel.
The second day’s destination was Kutumsang, 2,470 meters above sea level. It was not before long we came across a Tamang family heading for direction of Gosainkund. They were walking and resting in turn to get to the village stood before Kutumsang where their friends live. This time they asked where we are heading for today. As we answered, the father of the family turned to me and said, worrying, “how can that daughter finish it?” La Ma was cosy up to the family, interviewing, filming, and taking photos.
As closer to 2,500 meters above sea level, there appears no shower booth and no electricity. The village around there used solar power, but due to rainy season no sun, so no electricity. My cell phone turned off finally. The higher we go up, the worse we got. I couldn't take a shower during four days. Being messed up with sweat and soaked, I continued to walk until the day I arrived at the lake.
I was worn out. As I was about to gulp down cold beer, La Ma whipped out that it was the last beer he can allow to me because tomorrow we should climb up to 3,690 meters above the sea level. He ordered a soup, saying it was much better for us. How can I cross his words?
The third day had come. We left for Tharepati and entered Langtang National Park. As the altitude sharply went up, biological diversity changed. La Ma pointed at some tree for me to observe how it looks. The natives kept directing at the point where we should reach and informing us that it would take several more hours to get there. La Ma covered my eyes and ears, saying playfully not to listen to them. The only word I learned exactly during the journey was ‘Ukalo,’ meaning an ascent. I cannot even count how many times I heard ‘Ukalo.’
I could not remember how I had come so far. Anyway, it was the day we had to get Phedi, 3,730 meters above the sea level. Then tomorrow we would finally arrive at Gosainkund. A Nepali man seemed to get high on his joy and cried out loud. That unending noise was hard to listen to. At that moment, La Ma asked him to refrain himself from making noise and to have a sense of respect towards nature and other tourists. I was walking wearing a raincoat because it had unceasingly been raining since yesterday. As I reached almost about 4,000 meters above sea level, I was so out of breath and panting that my feet scarcely off from the ground. Heavy rain was falling. I swayed this and that way with my legs loosed.
At the lodge not far from Gosainkund were there crowded with people already. The Nepali, each of whom had walked at different speed from different place, came across all together. The Tamang family we had met on the second day was also there. They did not know each other, but they united together in that all had met each other on the same way and in that all were heading for the same destination.
At a high altitude, with rain, it was so cold that everybody got together around fire. They took out traditional Nepali Khukuri Rum, watered it, knocked it over, then unified into one, and celebrated their feast, dancing and singing. I was also dying to down the hot rum, but I had to restrain myself, for La Ma insisted stiffly lest I would suffer from mountain sickness. They interjoined as one like they had known each other, after small talks coming and going such as where they were from, which tribe they belonged to. La Ma was dancing in the middle of them as united with them and heightened the gayety.
That night the three of us slipped into a room and had a chat with each other when everybody else was feasting outside. La Ma started his story. I came to know his dream, and it made me hard to wait to see the future he would make.
He is a young man with his own dream, having worked in trekking field for four years. It is common that Nepali both study and work at the same time since they are young. The classes at undergraduate and graduate schools begin at 6 a.m.. When the classes are over, they go to work. When they are home, they feed their little siblings. They study, do household chores, and work at the same time. So it is not strange for them to start their own business in their early twenties.
La Ma is talented in different activities. He goes rock climbing and thanks to which he appeared in a TV commercial of Nepali Ramen. He is a singer and a drummer in his band The Boyz Next Door. He acquired general certificate of trekking guide and now is trying to obtain professional certificate of mountaineering guide needed for guiding to climb high altitude himal mountain .
He has just finished the basic course. He will expand his experience following Himal climbing as a porter. It will take four years to acquire the certificate. Then he will try to get International climbing guide to broaden his stage into the globe. He is also interested in mountain bike. He is learning rock climbing to achieve its certificate in February next year. He, though young, knew his calling. He was a marvellous young man who was ambitious enough and understood that he needed to take steady steps to realize his dream.
“Asha, I think it is my job to do my best for my parents. When I was young, I answered phone calls from clients at a website production company for six months(there are a lot of companies locating call centers in English spoken countries like the Philippines, India, Nepal to cut down labor costs.). I was in Nepal, but I had to lie to clients I was in America. I went to work at midnight. I was so exhausted. Mountain Everest(Sagarmatha in Nepali)is stood in Nepal. I think Nepal is a country full of potential. I love teaching others. Later I’d like to build an school teaching outdoor activities. I will teach how to pack a bag, how to do first aid, how to cook in the wild, how to set up a tent. But I think I should control my desires and interests. Because I can’t do everything I want. I always try to keep positive energy and I think it’s most important.”
He was a man whose heart was filled with pride towards his country Nepal and was dreaming his specific future. During the journey, he was willing to lend his hand to kitchen, took care of people suffering mountain sickness, giving them medicine, preparing hot water for them, and even making room in his tent for them. For nine days, he treated everybody smiling with a sense of hospitality all the time and I never saw him frowning. It was the night before the day arriving at Gosainkund and I heard a priceless story. Tomorrow, we will go to the lake.

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