The Communist Chinese forbade the Bhakha Buddhist monks to travel with us. Ian Baker counts the group’s cash. Certainly a bribe will change their minds.
The head Lama of the Taksham Monastery bears a remarkable resemblance to Yoda.
At the Taksham Monastery (the, “Tiger Skin Monastery”) we find a most unusual mural depicting five tigers devouring a corpse.
An elderly Ani (Nun) looks on in knowing devotion as Buddhist monks conduct a divination ceremony known as a "prasena" to manifested a rainbow to guide us to our trailhead.
The Rainbow of “Divine Guidance.”
Driving out of Pome, we passed this sign claiming the Communist Chinese as the protectors of the Himalayas.
The Himalayan scenery from our first camp is other-worldly.
Seemingly out of nowhere a Lama - Kaba Tulku (pronounced Kawa) - and his small entourage arrive. What a gift!
The enigmatic Kaba Tulku (the “Cloud Lama” ) with his tell-tale red hat. This represents his adherence to the Nyingma or “Old School” sect of Tibetan Buddhism. The ethereal Lama was to become an integral part of our pilgrimage and the mystery of our journey.
We are surrounded by massive Himalayan glaciers.
Double loads equal double pay. Here our “Gentle Giant” carries over 120 pounds.
Finally we are hiking! Our group moves as a multi-legged centipede wending its way along and across the glacial spillway.
Soon the climbing begins. At first I feel bad – me carrying 25 pounds and the porters carrying from 60 pounds to double that. I soon get over it. That is what they are trained and paid to do.
It is a dream come true. Hiking the Himalayan “Hidden Lands” with the two people I can count on the most – my brothers Troy (left) and Todd Gillenwater (right).
Camping at the base of the Dashing La Pass. At an elevation of 12,850 feet, we have half a mile of vertical climbing to reach the pass. Then we will descend into the depths of Pemako’s “Hidden Lands”.
Following a dip in the glacial stream, Gil Gillenwater and his “Buddha Eyes” survey the Dashing Valley.
Finding a dead bear incurs no negative karma. Our food shortage is solved. We will eat like Kings! Kaba Tulku guides the bear’s soul to a better rebirth.
Gutting the bear in search of the prized gallbladder. Soon we will have meat aplenty.
Roasting the meat takes all night. We have over 200 pounds of bear steaks.
The butchering and tribal incantations go on for hours. The Guardian Spirits are pleased. They’ve given us this gift. The porters chanted their gratefulness.
The porters play with the bear’s head throughout the night hoping to embody its spirit. They keep the head for several days.
At 14,000 feet in elevation, climbing up and out of the Dashing Valley is a formidable task.
95 #44 & #45
The Sherpas and porters are super-human.
95 #46 & #47
Stopping to soak in the scenery. At times it is overwhelming.
Hiking the ice fields is treacherous. Especially with a 100 pound load.
One final look back into the Dashing Valley.
Todd reaches the Dashing La Pass.
Troy and Pasang Sherpa reach the Dashing La Pass.
A pony caravan emerges from the roiling Pemako abyss.
With Mr. Zang well ahead I offer Dalai Lama photographs.
Dropping off the Dashing La Pass and negotiating the ice fields at the head of the Chimdro Valley.
Hundres of waterfalls cascade into the Chimdro Valley. Waterfalls have special significance in Pemako.
The throat of the Chimdro Valley.
This cabin has wall to wall porters chomping on putrefied bear meat.
The ground is so saturated with water our tent feels like a waterbed.
Our dropping elevation takes us deep into leech country.
A steep descent off Dashiing La Pass and into Chimdro Valley.
Pemako weather vacillates from pounding rain to scorching sun several times a day. Here Todd Gillenwater crosses a cantilevered bridge.
Pemako is a fairyland.
The Crazy Nun.
Here the Crazy Nun is proving to us she is not a poison witch. Poison witches in Pemako have tattooed tongues. Therefore, local etiquette requires the sticking out of tongues for all female introductions.
Two different rivers - 30 feet apart - flowing in opposite directions?
Troy Gillenwater wins the “worst place to find a leech” contest.
Leech bites becomes common occurrences.
The tunneled bamboo thickets are very disorienting. Knowing of the area’s large tiger population doesn't help.
Troy Gillenwater and porters hope they’re on the right trail.
95 #70 & #71
The hot and tangled Rhododendron forests becomes oppressive.
The local children would stare at us for hours. Inbreeding has taken a toll in these isolated villages.
With Mr. Zang in Ghutan trying to secure our permits, I have free license to hand out Dalai Lama photographs in the village of Samdrup. This man lost the sight in his left eye due to a leech bite.
95 #74 & #75
The tribal people’s love for the Dalai Lama knows no bounds.
I love this photo. Here our Lama rests in meditative peace. Next to him, exhausted, is our Communist Chinese military escort – Mr. Zang. Mr. Zang is conflicted. He can't square the spiritual magic of Pemako, he witnesses through the Lama, with his atheistic Communist beliefs.