My Kora, Part 1 by Jim Montrose, October 2019
Our team on Mt. Kailash
Tibetan Magic and Transformation at Mt. Kailash
Our trip to Tibet was one of wonderful friendly locals, high altitudes, beautiful monasteries, spectacular mountain scenery and a three day circumnavigation of holy Mt. Kailash (holy pilgrimage site for four major religions and intrepid seekers worldwide). We started with a wonderful train ride from Xining (the capital of Qinghai province in western China) across the Tibetan plateau to Lhasa in Tibet, home of the famous Potola Palace, the former residence and palace of the Dali Lama. We visited the palace and several monasteries before heading across Tibet for the high mountains and the Kora.
Thuka Painting near Potola Palace
Our first stop was the spectacular scenery of Mt. Everest and the base camp at 5100 meters (16,732 feet). Back on our 3800 km (2,361 mile) trek across Tibet we head for the sacred bathing lake of Mansarovar and the beginning of the Kora. Spending the night in Darchen (4560m) at the base of the Kora, we prepare for our three day trek all above 4000 meters (a serious hike requiring acclimation for the high altitudes, we all had low grade headaches from the quick rise to these altitudes).
Festive start Mt. Kailash
First Day: trek from Darchen mostly a flat trek for 18 km through the wild landscapes to Drirapuk Monastery and a joint India/China Guest house for the night.
We meet the first of several friendly and inquisitive Tibetans doing the Kora. We also met the local marmots (related to rock dassies) and the first of several Yaks.
Marmots Yaks testing each other
The final stretch into the guest house takes a sudden upward grade and lets us know what the next day has in store (the second day has the most altitude gain and the highest passes).
We have a nice meal at the guest house and try to sleep with our altitude headaches.
Mt Kailash at the Guesthouse
We also met a large group from India that came up from Nepal and are all suffering from a quick ascent without enough acclimatization as Kathmandu is much lower in altitude. It seems there are three approaches to a pilgrimage on Mt. Kailash: 1) Climb the first day to the guest house at Drirapuk Monastery where you are rewarded with the majestic view of Mt. Kailash’s face (the best view of the mountain on the trip) and return the next day, popular with many of the Indian groups; 2) Circumnavigate the mountain from Darchen to Darchen usually in three days although some hardy Tibetans we are told do it in one long day and some of the night; 3) Circumnavigate the mountain usually clockwise (the Bun religion go counter clockwise) and do prostrations at the various prostration stations around the mountain, only for the strong at heart, knees and hands – quite amazing to watch the pilgrims doing this.
Highest Point, Dolmol Pass
Second day: trek from Drirapuk to Zutulpuk Monastery (4790m) over two passes (highest at 5600m) and down to our guest house (India/China joint project again) after a long 6 hour plus hike (24 km).We start before sunrise and climb the first of two passes in the rain which turns to snow as we ascend the second and highest pass. The sunrise and scenery is phenomenal and the crisp air and snow refreshes as we rest at the prayer flags and add our prayer flags for family, friends and patients at the top of the world. Then it’s a hard downward trek among the boulders and paths to the tea house for a break and the final push to our guesthouse for the night. A glorious and strenuous day, we are ready for a good rest.
The guest house from outside
Third and final day: we are up around sunrise and start on the final 14 km hike out to re-meet our driver and start the drive back to Lhasa. This is mostly flat and at lower altitudes around 4000 m. It has beautiful views of the back side of Mt Kailash and a wonderful river filled with animals, flowers and sights. At one rock along the trail I stop to take a photo of a beautiful little flower and a cheeky bird jumps into the pictures and flashes me “Hey feed me a biscuit.” I offer the bird a biscuit that he takes from my hand and realize the perfect interconnectedness of everything and everyone in the moment (see the insights from little bird below). We continue and meet three curious children at our last tea house and say goodbye to our beautiful Kora experience.
Tibetans on horse back
Little Bird Inspired Insights
The great love and appreciation, I felt during my Kora is a reflection of the great love, joy and appreciation I was feeling for the blissful experience we had given to ourselves to explore the Tibetan plateau and connect to the heart or navel of the world. Mt. Everest as the highest point on the earth is a special place of power and energy where an energy vortex wraps itself around the earth. This vortex holds the world together with an intelligence and love that the Tibetan Buddhist monks believe is the true meaning of compassion as a force – that which holds all together in love, joy and bliss.
Little Bird carrying a Message
The Kora with its beautiful souls trekking around Mt. Kailash on their own Kora, the birds and animals who felt the peace and calm and played with us in the essential safety, abundance and love of the Cosmos that is the world we can and do live in when we choose to focus on alignment with it. Reminded me how we live in the “Balance of Energy” when we match or align the energy of our physical experience and mental beliefs and the energy of our inner being that sees the world from Source or Divinity. The bird alerted me to the magical waking meditational experience of the oneness of all that I had only glimpsed in meditation after going deeply inward to the inner self. Here it unfolded with each step not for a brief glimpse but for most of the three day Kora.
This is why in a previous blog Zaida and I had commented that going on a pilgrimage opens us to the luminous (spiritual) experience of the world. In undertaking the Kora, I was focusing on the luminous, rather than the ordinary “reality”, as I turned to gaze the miraculous in my trek around the mountain. Just like our everyday reality which is made up of practiced ways of seeing our life; this was a practiced effort I made to focus on the divine and not get caught up on the contrast in my walk. I walked the Kora with a young man who was intrigued by this idea but had a hard time accepting this could be the reality no matter what was going on in life. In the moments of the Kora, I could focus on the altitude, the headaches, the struggle to pass the high passes, the weight of my pack, etc. Or I had the choice, which I did, to focus on the beauty, the majesty, the friendliness, the abundance given to us and the animals, etc. Even when my friend would remind me of a “reality” of the world in our midst or more often somewhere in the world that was neither a personal experience nor something affecting us in the moment; I choose to focus on what I was feeling right now and look for and experience only the good and great!
Jim and Dr. Z near Mt. Everest
Until next month when we examine further insights from the Kora in part 2 and view more photos of this captivating part of the world. Remember when you touch upon whom and what you really are, you begin the art of real living. As life centers on your inner evolution knowing you are one of a kind, your life is on purpose, you are loved, guarded and guided by existence — you are made up of love, intelligence, compassion, joy, creativity, and beauty.
Live courageously and expansively,
Jim Montrose, Ayurvedic counselor
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Copyright October 2019
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