Yay! So below are many stories from the 2nd half of our trek/pilgrimage to beautiful Mt. Genyen and the high Tibetan grasslands….so without further adieu….
On to Genyen!!!
Oh my goodness!!! It was just amazing to be back at this sacred mountain. There are now 2 monasteries here as the new one is fairly complete and the monks has all just moved into their new living quarters a couple weeks before we arrived. The old monastery remains and there will continue to be several rotating caretaker monks up there…especially now in the year of the Horse with all the people coming through on their pilgrimages.
As I mentioned in my last update, the harsh and rigorous conditions of this environment and of trekking here lends both to the challenges and to the exhilaration of being here, along with the sacredness infused in every living and non-living thing. Two years ago on our trek into the backcountry we saw an occasional monk herding yak, and a couple monks and nuns on solitary retreats in caves or other modest dwellings at the base of granite cliffs or glaciers. This year, however, being the year of the Horse (and Genyen’s zodiac sign), there were so so so many traveling pilgrims. It was so very auspicious and delightful to be on our pilgrimage the same time as so many intergenerational families, monks and nuns.
Qigong with Yaks, Pilgrims & Monks!
Once out in the backcountry, we established a base camp for 3 nights. In the early mornings, I would lead qigong sessions over looking the valley, rushing river and the surrounding misty peaks. It was so awesome how in this trip, every morning we also had unexpected, curious, enthusiastic visitors! Families with little kids and grandmas would come hiking up the valley, waving “Tashi Delek!!” (“Greetings!!” in Tibetan) Where in the past it seems it was most often us Westerners who would have our cameras out right away, asking if we could take their pictures, ….now most often they would beat us to it!!! OR have even more elaborate phones, cameras than us and would be filming or taking pics of us! Haha!! We joked that pics and videos these odd shaking, qigong-ing foreigners (US!!!) are probably posted all over some Tibetan Weibo page (Chinese program similar to Facebook!)
One morning, in the middle of our 8 Brocades practice, we had 2 elder monks walk right through the middle of our qigong circle and up to the beautiful boulder/stone I was standing by. One of the elders was smiling saying this stone marked the path of their pilgrimage. As there are 12 Chinese zodiac signs, people only come on this pilgrimage once every 12 years. So neat!
50+ Unexpected Visitors ~ There’s a Yak Chewing in my Ear!
Another night, after we had all returned from an exquisite day of hiking up to Haizi lake and had finished another delicious backcountry dinner made by Chef extraordinaire, Szu-ting :), we were all about to go to our tents, when we saw 50+ yaks and 4-5 Tibetan herders come up the valley and into the meadow we were all camped in! Oh my!! Szu-ting and Dave have been around yaks a lot so they didn’t seem to mind, BUT….my mind started thinking …a LOT! They are such beautiful animals, and yes, for the most part they are very calm, like to eat a lot of grass and meander slowly through the grassy fields. BUT, there were quite a few bulls and they often get into horn fights and jostles with each other. Several males started doing that as they arrived into “our” meadow…and when they lock horns, they go for it. And….it doesn’t look like they pay too much attention to not “bumping” into by standers! So! Anyway, everyone seemed to continue …in a rather relaxed way… to walk to their tents, get ready for bed and hop in. I, on the other hand, was a bit nervous. 🙁 I love being around these animals during the day when I can see them….but I night….I felt nervous. “At least,” I thought to myself, “my tent is a rather small, inconspicuous tent on the edge of the meadow….and hopefully the yak will stay away from it.”
So with that thought, I too brushed my teeth, hopped into my tent and laid down to sleep. WELL!!! Only a couple hours later, I was startled awake with the loud sound of a huge yak chewing and snorting in my ear!!! Oh no!!! There was a huge yak standing RIGHT next to my tent….but not just next to my tent, right next to my head!! And it was just eating and chewing and snorting away! Well, I often when backpacking have some false sense of security when snuggled and cozy in my tent, when in reality there is only a very, very thin piece of fabric between me and the outside world….and this night that outside world included this huge yak! My heart started racing and of course my mind started thinking of all the most non-calming thoughts possible, like…”Hmmm, do yaks have good night vision? What if it doesn’t even see my tent and takes a side step onto me?!!!” (heart races faster!!!) Oh dear! And,…”what if the yak starts chewing on my tent?! Oh ! Is it chewing on my tent now?!…Or maybe that’s my pack he’s chewing on?”…and on and on! I started trying to send psychic messages to the yak to “go, go, go on. Please go!” But, alas….the yak seemed very content to keep chewing by my head. Finally it did start moving down towards my feet….but then it started coming up along the other side of my tent and right smack to the other side of my head! AHHH! At this point I sat up and my sleeping mat actually makes a loud squeaking sound when I move, so I think I managed to scare both the yak and myself! Haha! The yak got very quiet and did eventually move away. BUT with 50+ yaks, more came through out the night, and needless to say I didn’t sleep too much! 🙂
Journey to Haizi Lake
So I didn’t say too much about Haizi Lake and desire to share some pics of this exquisite place. This lake is further up the valley from our base camp and sits at the bottom of a huge glacier. It is also one of the many destinations that people doing their Year of the Horse pilgrimage at Genyen hike to. While many of the hiking families (who are quite acclimated to the elevation, mind you!! ;-)) bounded up the mountain, paid their respects to the Lake and then bounded down, we went at a bit slower pace and were blessed with enjoying the lake on our own. Carrie and I also stayed longer up at this special place, and shared a powerful qigong session that culminated with a thundering rockslide at the other side of the granite wall by the lake and the opening of the clouds to reveal another high, majestic snow-capped granite peak across the valley. This is also one of the places of more inner (heart) healing and alchemy that Genyen provided and that the horse in my shamanic journey led me to.
3 Years, 3 Months, 3 Days ~ Visit to a 1,000+ Year Old Meditation Cave
Below are also a couple pics of one of the meditation caves we hiked by. Dave, Szu-ting’s husband found this in 2006 in his first journey to Genyen. Two years ago we stopped by here and could tell a monk was using it, though he wasn’t there at the time we were. This time when we arrived, a monk was there just finishing a meditation and he warmly greeted us and invited us in! Another monk from Litang was also on the trail with his 2 nephews, saw us and followed us up the hill to this cave. It was his first time to ever find it so he was quite delighted. He had heard a lot about this particular cave. And it was so auspicious for us he was there too as he spoke Mandarin and the other meditating monk only spoke Tibetan….so the monk from Litang helped us communicate and learn much from this meditating monk. It turns out this cave has been in active use for well over 1,000 years and has been used by many well-known, respected teachers, monks, lamas, even descendants of one of the early Dalai Lamas. The meditating monk smiled and said he was happy we were there as we were being blessed by all the very good Qi in that cave from centuries upon centuries of deep meditations and grace. Monks who come to practice there all choose a practice time and dates depending on “lucky” numbers. One of the most common practice times/periods in the Tibetan tradition is 3 years, 3 months and 3 days.
Thundering Roars, Lightening, Mantras & Tevas
What an amazing 6 days of trekking, auspicious meetings with monks, enthusiastic exchanges of “Tashi Deleks!!” with local pilgrims and families, yak butter tea time with elder monks and being invited into to see some monastery treasures, such as the “heart” of Genyen (a special stone found at the base of the original old Lengu monastery that is 800-1,000 years old) and other relics, and more! The weather was one of our challenges as it rained, (even sleeted and snowed at bit!) a good portion of the time, but it was really all perfect for our pilgrimage as a group and personally. On our last day we hiked and camped out by the lower monastery with sun, rain and rainbows coming out. We all felt a sense of relaxing, as this was our final night on this portion of the trek…the most rigorous part of this 15-day journey. Yet little did we know that as we retired to our tents after dinner that night, we were about to experience one of the most terrifying and thrilling thunderstorms yet!
At 8:30 p.m. Carrie and I were the last ones to say goodnight and head to our tents. I thought I saw flash in the sky and heard a little rumble. Carrie confirmed that yes, that was indeed thunder and lightening. “Hmm…,” I thought to myself.
I brushed my teeth and then got into my tent, when within 5-10 minutes, it seemed as if the skies had opened up and water was just pouring, thundering, gushing down with force from the heavens. “Oh my gosh!! This is a big storm!!!” Those of you who live by big mountains, such as Mt. Rainer, know that they can and do create their own weather, and weather can change drastically in what feels like moments. Well, as I mentioned earlier Genyen is 6,200 meters high (over 20,000ft) and she has many, many other granite peaks of 16,000, 17,000, 18,000, 19,000 ft all around her and up the valley. We were camped at Genyen’s base, and when the thunder and lightening then came, ….Oh My!!! In big storms I often feel intense fear and awe at the same time – this storm was no exception. The bright lightening flashes came and I started counting…1 mile for every 5 seconds. I could tell the storm was coming closer as the rains came down harder and harder on my little, tiny tent at the base of this enormous mountain. I put on my rubber-soled shoes and got into lightening pose in my tent while starting to recite a mantra Mingtang had given me years ago – first reciting in my head, and then out loud…yet I could still barely hear myself with the intensely pounding rain and the enormous roaring of the thunder. I was terrified and so so so in awe! I love the sound of thunder – even when it makes my entire body shake, and to hear the low, powerful roar and rumble of thunder echoing among 20,000 and 18,000 foot granite mountains was purely awesome. At one instant, the lightening was blinding, almost immediately followed by the loudest roar yet. The lightening had struck ~1/4 mile away. I was shaking and continued my mantra. That was thankfully the closest the lightening came, and within 45 minutes the heart of the storm had moved on, though the rain continued throughout the night. Morning qigong practice was greeted with light rains, streaming rays of sun and a full rainbow over the lower Lengu Monastery at Genyen’s base. Pure magic!!
On to the Grasslands!
So after a day of rest (and laundry!) in the town of Litang, we headed out on the last portion of our trekking trip – to the vast Tibetan grasslands, the spectacular Cuopu Lake and the mountains of Jarjinjabo Massif. These are featured in the short video posted in the last blog and also posted below.
Dressed Like a Tibetan
Oh!! And another event that happened in town on our rest and laundry day is I bought a traditional Tibetan dress and decided to surprise our group by putting it on when we all met for lunch! That was super fun!! And what ended up being even more fun was after lunch when doing a little more group shopping for snacks and food for the 2nd part of our trek, all the local Tibetan women, children and men just LOVED that I was in their traditional dress!! I got lots of smiles, exuberant “Tashi Deleks!!!” and big thumbs up, along with them speedily whipping out their cameras and videos to again post it probably on the Tibetan version of Facebook somewhere in cyberspace! 🙂
So back to the grasslands :)…below here are a few more pics from the Tibetan highlands outside of Litang. So beautiful!! The first 2 below were taken by wonderful Ardai (who also unbeknownst to him and all of us before this trip is a natural at yak herding! :))…Look at that amazing SKY!!! And all the beautiful Yaks. I love yaks!!! (Okay! Well maybe I don’t like them snorting and chewing in my ear!! But I do love them :))
Posing in the Grasslands 🙂
And here’s also a pic of Szu-ting and me doing our best to do some “grassland poses”! Haha!! We had seen another young Chinese woman posing for 2 enthusiastic camera men, so we decided to put on a good pose too!! Haha!!
Meeting Wonderful Jian Shifu & His Tibetan Family
So before ending this travel update, I am so honored and happy to introduce you to our beloved Tibetan friend and driver, Jian Shifu!! Oh he is so so great!! He’s so happy, and in each of our travels to different trekking places on very difficult roads filled with mudslides, potholes, quagmires of squishy earth, rock slides and more, he always started with a session of chanting and then went on to singing happy Tibetan songs as we bumbled along. He has such a sparkle and beautiful, youthful spirit — so loves his people and his family and is so loved by everyone. All the little villages we’d ride through, he’d toot his horn, stick his head out the window and exclaim some words and greetings in Tibetan with a big smile. Everyone always returned a huge burst of love and smiles or laughter when seeing him. (And to all my dancer friends, he’s also a dancer and LOVES to dance!! He organizes a local troop and says that dis one of reasons he still looks so young!! :))
When he took us to a special place in the grasslands, he said it was a place he liked to bring his wife, and on our way to and from Jarjinjabo Massif and Cuopu Lake, we passed by his home and got to meet his son, his younger brother, and his lovely wife. On our way out of Jarjinjabo, Jian’s wife, Ahdi, surprised us all with delicious steamed buns filled with sautee native greens some spices and yak meat. They were sooooo yummy! And she was so gracious to tell me just to eat the insides since I’m allergic to gluten. I’m so happy I was able to partake in this special treat! :).
So this is the conclusion of another long update! 😀 Thank you again to all of you who have made it through to the end here. Sharing with you all means so much, and as I’ve said before, it’s a way to share the riches of these journeys, these lands and peoples with many. And thank you to all of you who have written to me!!! I LOVE hearing from you. I may be slow in responding at times BUT I am sending my love and LOVE getting your messages 🙂
So so so very much Good Qi and Bright Tashi Delek Blessings to you all!!!
KarenJoy ~ Kailun 凯伦