Yes, I finally am sharing the end of the trek Cary and I took last December in the Helambu/Yolmo area of Nepal. Like the rest of the world, I don’t know where the year has gone, but here I am on the cusp of a new trip to India and Nepal, where we may return to this same area. It has been greatly damaged by the earthquake of last April and we hope to be of some use, if only in bringing news and photos of the rebuilding and the need for more help from the world community. Nepal has made amazing progress in its efforts to rebuild its infrastructure. I cannot wait to report back to you the work of these valiant people.
At the end of this blog post I will share photos of Upper Melamchi right after the earthquake, from photos posted on the internet. It is shocking and it is heartbreaking.
You may remember that we had just arrived after a day-long hike to the beautiful village of Upper Melamchi, having starting that morning from Tarke Gyang. The trail crisscrossed a road-in-progress, which the earthquake, I’ve been told, has completely obliterated. Sometimes the trail just ended and we had to climb over sandy boulders in our search for a new entrance.
I can never describe the feeling of serenity I had when I was back in the forest surrounded by trees and bushes, and climbing over crooked rocks laboriously placed along the way and weathered by years of rain, snow, and use. There were old stone walls that seemed to lead to nowhere, and ancient moss- covered stupas with overgrown, narrow paths around them.
Our first sight, when we reached the village, was that of children playing football (our soccer) in the school field near the temple.
Later we witnessed a large group of men and women standing in the courtyard of the temple. They were gathered in small groups, excitedly expounding opinions and arguing among themselves. First the women were standing on the steps and the men were in the courtyard arguing. Then they broke into groups of about five and continued in heated discussion. It was like an open-air council meeting, with each group speaking in turn through a selected spokesperson.
We could see the progress of the meeting from the porch of our guest house, The Himalayan Lama Lodge, but neither the owner, Khi-mi, his wife, Ka-mi, Ram, our guide, or Saila Tamang, our porter, seemed the least bit interested in the weighty discussion or in telling us what was transpiring. So we decided to do kora, mixing among the people as we made our way three times around the complex.
After the gathering at the temple, we watched the sun go down. This is a sight I never tire of, as I watch the sky deepen, silhouetting the trees against the mountains.
Our guest house was quite luxurious…two beds, a large window, and a western toilet down the hall. Hooray!
Needless to say it was cold as witness the snow in the morning light on the mountains and frost on the trees and the hills behind the temple.
Breakfast was a riot! Cary decided to make tsampa al la Shawo, the Tibetan student in the TCV school in Bir, who had taught her. So she mixed the roasted barley, yak butter, sugar, dried cheese, and Tibetan tea like this….
Believe me, it tasted better than the eggs I ordered. How did I know they used sugar instead of salt when they scrambled them?
The day was spent visiting the Rangjung Nyida cave, where Guru Rinpoche meditated with his consort, as well as a smaller cave, Khandro Sangphuk, the secret cave of the dakini (enlightened female). We also wandered through a protected old growth forest that made me think of a magical fairyland, several small gardens, and a backyard stone quarry where the rock was laboriously cut out of the ground and used to build houses and walls.
And what a joy it was just walking around the village! All the houses are made of stone with different designs. Some are painted and others not. Roofs are bright-colored and some are the old slate. Beautiful rock walls separate every pasture or farm and line the stone paths that make a labyrinthian pattern throughout the village. In late afternoon we drank hot milk or tea while our hostess was busy cutting up vegetables in the kitchen. Everyone else hovered around the fire, which was my favorite kind…made by pushing wood into an opening at the bottom of the stove. Here are some photos to give you a feeling for the area.
But as we mentioned, Nepal was devastated by a massive earthquake on April 25, 2015. The Yolmo we visited no longer exists.
The temple where the community gathered in front was destroyed.
The community gathered in the meadow behind, instead of in the once beautiful prayer flagged-lined courtyard in front.
The guesthouse where we stayed was damaged.
The kitchen where we all gathered completely lost all its walls, as you can see from the tin roofing now enclosing it.
To our deep relief, Khi-mi and Ka-mi survived, their village now rubble.
We will be returning to Nepal on November 22nd, and hope to return to the Yolmo.