Friday, October 19, 2012

(From my journal): Ki Monastery, attempt #1

On the road to Ki, 12 km up the road from Kaza, seven women were sitting on the side of the road knitting socks while a man tended a small fire (They were road workers from Ki taking a rest.  ).  “Chai, chai, chai!” they called out, motioning us to sit.  An exchange of looks between R, S and I; a definite “yes.” Ten minutes later, we’d introduced ourselves, snapped pictures and were sitting smiling as our chai warmed over a small twig fire.  During our introductions, I’d pointed to myself and said, “Devon,” then pointed to the girl nearest me.  “Pusa!” she said.  The ma laughed and said something to her.  More laughter, then she pointed at herself and said, “Tashiputeh.” The man then called to me, “Pusa mean boy.”:My “Devon” had been misunderstood.

Tashiputeh then offered me a 1.5 L bottle of white liquid.  “Changa!” she said with a smile.  “Rice beer,” Choper called over my shoulder.  Beer? Yes, please! It was sour – similar to the beer in Zimbabwe and Lesotho – but tasty, quenching like lemonade but not as sweet. 

We were then given teeril (sp?), small cookie balls made of barley and slightly sugary.  “Those are given to us during religious ceremony.  The monks pray that whoever eats it has long life.  Normally, everyone gets one, but some not come, so there is some for you.”

With tea served, I pulled out a bag of apricots and walnuts to pass around.  They made the round, and all of a sudden a tin of momos appeared.  Then curry, rice, curd and rice and baked roti (tortillas).  A feast! Soon we were all eating, and each time we finished our plate, a woman would thrust something new forward insisting that we take just a little bit more!

Choper had just poured us each another cup of tea when two more hikers walked up.  “Chai, chai, chai!” the chant went.  All smiles, Irina and Pavel from Czechoslovakia, sat down.  They had just quit their jobs to travel the world, and after sharing more food and tea, we set off up the road trading logic puzzles to pass the kilometers. 

Soon, the tiny village of Ki was visible, but more exciting was the Ki monastery perched atop the tiny hillock at an elevation of 4116m.  Spellbound, we walked, paused, took pictures, walked, paused and took pictures (often of the same thing but in new light).  The mountains, the clouds, the farmers, the yaks, the valley, the monestary… “This is the most beautiful place in the world.”

Unfortunately, in the last hundred yards of the walk to the top of the monastery, I patted my pocket and realized that my travel wallet (passport, 300 american and 14,000 rupees) was GONE.  I checked all my bags (no luck), and ultimately had to race back to Kaza with a German couple happy to give me ride - “Of course! Jump in!”.\

They were Chris and Theresa, English and German history majors on the cusp of becoming teachers.  Jovial only begins to describe them.  Both dirty blonde and freckled, always smiling, they tell me about their trip thus far: “We never had plans to come to the mountains.  We were totally unprepared’ look how thin these pants are! I bought this jacket today!” Exploring India for 3 months, avoiding tourist traps, they ended up in Shimla, and one tour operator later, they found themselves doing my trip in reverse.  “It is so peaceful here!” Their driver dropped me off at the temple, and they left me with one final assurance, “You’ll find your passport!”

With haste, I marched to my guest house and into the office.  There was the manager.  “I’ve lost something VERY important!” He gives me a solemn nod.  “Yes.” He says, making his way over to where I’ve stashed my other gear.  “Your passport.” He pulls out my wallet from a small bag and hands it to me.  Passport, dollars, rupees: all there.  “Do you drink beer?” I ask him? “Yes.” “I’m taking you out tonight.”

I breathe a sigh of relief, and I give him a hug.  “Thank you again.” “It’s ok.”

Thanks for reading!

I love you all (but especially you, Michelle!)


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