The Great Descent: Day 13 -14
25 - Nov 15, 1998
We took five nights to go up from Tengboche to Gorak Shep but on the way down we did it
in one long, almost all down hill, toe blistering, walk for seven hours. it was the
beginning of Mani Ramdu with lasts the cycle of the first full moon in November every
year. Mani Ramdu is the festival of good luck and long life and is celebrated in the large
Buddhist monastary in Tengboche.
We saw parts of two days of this festival. The first day there was a processional of
colorfully dressed monks playing instruments, drums, cymbals and huge horns to begin this
four day festival. The parade led to a small stage where the people both tourists and
local surrounded to watch. The head lama sat on the stage and blessed those who approached
(and gave donations). Business owners from around the region, many wealthy and some not so
wealthy went around and handed out money to the monks that were seated around and in front
of the stage. This went on for several hours as the people came and were blessed with good
luck and long life. The next day inside the monastery there was an all day show where the
monks dressed in flamboyant costumes and elaborate masks, and performed traditional dances
and theatrical acts.
There were hundreds of travelers here and hundreds of Sherpas and Nepali locals all
celebrating this massive festival. The among of tents set up over the lawns made it look a
mix between a grateful dead concert at alpine valley and an REi winter sale. All of the
lodges were full so we stayed 20 minutes downhill in Deboche. The lodge's in Deboche were
full as well but luckily or unluckily they let us stay on mattresses on the floor of the
attic. it was spooky and eerie (there was a butchered leg of yak behind a curtain next to
us!) but it was free and under a roof so we couldn't complain.
Feeling excellent because of our accomplishments and the excessive oxygen at this low
altitude of 3770m. We decided to have a little celebration, 3 skin-tab beer(a local brew).
We spent the night laughing a recounting our adventure to Everest while a group of
Russians who had just summited a part of Lohtse Mountain had many drinks of Rakshi( a
different local beverage) and sang old Russian folk songs into the late hours of the
night. Jeff spent several hours drawing pictures and trying to communicate with a couple
of the team members. He wanted to buy one of the Russian Expedition '98 Fleece Coats that
they were wearing. When they finally understood what he was asking for, the reason they
denied him was not pride in their mission or lack of need for money but
"polar-fleece". Apparently many of them lived in Siberia and it sounded like
polar-fleece was worth more then gold! During his negotiations he met the team leader who
had summitted Everest 4 times, twice from Nepal and twice from Tibet. This was the one man
who was willing to part with his coat(apparently he didnt like the color!)
Unfortunately, for that reason, it was on a yaks back heading back to Katmandu.
As we laughed and joked we realize we would soon be parting from our new found Canadian
friends. Luckily we were just beginning our adventures and knew that many more new and
exciting people and places were awaiting us. We still had six months before like Manny and
Emmy we would be heading towards our plane back to the western world.