Trekking in Nepal Everest Trek Schedule 16
Thursday 9th November
It was good to have a lie in until the late hour of 7:30 a.m. PD Sherpa wished us a good trip on our departure. Today is the second day of the Mani Rimdu festival and some dancing is taking place. On the approach to Tengboche we saw a musk deer. It is a most peculiar looking animal whose head is similar to that of a kangaroo.
The trekking group from Lobuche were at Tengboche to meet us. The dancing was due to start at 10 a.m. and the monastery was already filling with people. Just before the proceedings began a group of us made our way into the monastery courtyard. It was absolutely packed and we were at the back behind all the other spectators. Peter and I edged into the doorway that led to the balcony in order to get a decent view. This was near to where all the leading Buddhists were seated. They looked very sombre.
Mani Rimdu consists of a fourteen-scene masked dance drama inspired by Tibetan Buddhism. It lasts all day and is acted out in the gompa yard. The masked dance drama is an offering to various holy figures. Through their dancing, the priests protect, purify, and pray for good fortune and longevity on behalf of the multitudes.
The dance drama started with the first scene: the Dance of the Golden Nectar. We only caught some of this as most of the time was spent jostling through the crowd. Someone closed the door after the dance had finished, blocking off our view. This meant we had to look for somewhere else to view the proceedings. After a bit of shoving and pushing, I was able to make my way to the centre of the courtyard. This was the ideal location to watch the dancing from because all the dancers entered the courtyard here. Suddenly I saw Romina whom I had met several weeks ago. We waved to each other.
Peter managed to bluff his way across to the balcony on the other side. He beckoned for me to join him but I indicated that I would stay put. The second dance, Messengers of the Guru Rinpoche, began. These are the tutelary spirits assigned to the four cardinal directions. Four holy figures – those in a green mask and blue mask carrying small drums and those in red mask and yellow mask holding cymbals – dance around the altar. At the end, the four holy figures become one and attain enlightenment. I noticed a man and woman with fancy photographic gear having a few cross words with Peter.
The next dance was the best and the most dramatic: Defender of the Faith. A monk came out dressed in colourful robes and a fearsome mask. The dance is a wrathful manifestation, one of the eight transformations of Padmasambhava. Wielding a vajra (thunderbolt) in his right hand and a purba in his left, he crushes the evil spirit of the native Bon religion. According to legend, this had the effect of converting the people to Buddhism.
Dance of the Drums was followed by an interval, where trays of food were handed out to the audience. Peter signalled that he was leaving and I gestured that I would meet him outside in ten minutes’ time.
Masters of the Cemetery, the fifth dance, was the last one I saw. The two Masters of the Cemetery, dressed as skeletons, are the helpers of Yama Rajah and pull around a ‘corpse’, in which dwells an evil spirit. At the end, they hurl it to the ground. Two Tantric priests then join in, removing the evil spirit from the corpse and interring it. This shows that, through the benevolence of Buddhism, even an evildoer can enter paradise after death.
When this dance was over I met Peter on the steps at the front of the monastery. I asked what happened with the photographers. He said that they wanted the whole place to themselves and everybody to move out of the way – they were American! Peter told them exactly where to go – they didn’t like this one little bit! By now the sky had turned very grey and there was the first inkling of snow.
It was time to get moving so we started the steep descent to Phunki Tenga (3250m), a drop in elevation of 600 metres, just before midday. On the way down there was fine rain. Fortunately the canopy of the forest acted as our shelter. The wide trail took us through a blend of forest and shrub. En route, a young boy chased after a yak that was trying to escape. It was hilarious and we collapsed in fits of laughter.
Phunki Tenga was reached just before 1 p.m. A short stop was made for tea and biscuits. When we were ready to move on it was raining heavily. We donned our waterproof jackets and trousers, and covered our rucksacks. My waterproof gear had come in useful after all. At around 1.30 p.m. we left the warmth of the teahouse and ventured out into the rain. Shortly after, there was a swing bridge over a river that had become a raging torrent. We had a photo shoot here! The next hour or so saw us ascending the mountains again, and I thought we had seen the last of the steep climbs.
Not long after leaving Phunki Tenga the heavens opened, but we doggedly carried on. At 2.30 p.m. it was time for a breather at yet another lodge in Sanasa. A whole crowd of sodden trekkers were sipping tea and eating biscuits when we trundled in. Among them was the trekking group from earlier. One lady who did not want her boiled egg or her cheese and onion spring roll offered them to Peter and I. We promptly wolfed them down! A crowd began to gather around the window that looked out on to the backyard. I went to see what the commotion was. It was a blue winged pheasant with beautifully coloured markings.
Half an hour passed and it was time to make tracks again. Peter and I waltzed past the trekking group and this with our heavy rucksacks, whereas they had porters. Only a young Australian woman kept up with us. The downpour continued and we came to a rather steep slope that was now a mud slide. There were about four or five trekkers struggling to get to the top. They slid back down every time they went forward. It looked very tricky and rather dangerous because it was on the edge of the mountain. Eventually they formed a human chain and with great difficulty managed to get to the top. I opted for the longer route over some rocks and did not encounter the same problems.
We walked from ridge to ridge and with each bend I thought I might see Namche Bazaar in the distance. After what seemed an eternity, the National Museum at Chorkung came into view. There wasn’t far to go so I quickened my step in anticipation of the warm fire at the Himalayan Lodge. But there was still one more obstacle to negotiate, the steep descent to Namche. The path down was like an ice skating rink and fortunately I was descending, not ascending. Because it was extremely slippery, I cautiously made my way down and managed to stay on my feet.
Tired and weary, I entered the kitchen of the Himalayan Lodge and asked for two beds. At first there was no room at the inn. But the young lady, on recognising me from my previous stay, said she would sort something out for us. This was a relief as I had no desire to step out into the rain again. She found a single room, got several mattresses and put them on the floor to make up another bed. I was really grateful and expressed my thanks.
Fifteen minutes later Peter came down the hill. I waved to him from the balcony. After dumping our baggage, we went into the dining area and sat by the fire to dry and to get warm. Peter went down into the village to return the down jacket he had hired. While waiting I had a lemon pancake.
By now I was very hungry and treated myself to yak steak, roast potatoes and vegetables. The meal was delicious. It was followed by rice pudding, Toblerone and beer, thus satisfying the huge appetite I had worked up. Who should walk in as we were finishing our meal but Paul. He had walked all the way from Gorak Shep yesterday. Today he was having a rest day, writing letters and catching up on his diary. Marci, Paulo and John stayed here last night but had moved on today. John had flown back to Kathmandu by helicopter via Shyangboche, the lucky devil.
As night fell, the rain showed no sign of abating. I hoped vainly that the lull of the storm would pass us by during the night, and that it is not as miserable again tomorrow.