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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Day 14 - Puja!!

[ Delayed posting due to power and communications issues --Kurt ]

Today we had our Puja ceremony at base camp. Each of the teams here at base camp have their own Puja before starting up the mountain. The Puja is a Buddhist act of worship in which a Lama leads the prayers for safe passage for the Sherpa and climbers up and down the mountain. Articles of climbing gear (ice axes, crampons, etc.) are blessed by the Lama. (My RainOn banner was blessed!) But it's also a GREAT party!

The Sherpa had spend the last few days building an elaborate altar out of stone and ornate decorations (including pictures of the Dali Lama himself - the flowing robes, the grace... striking!) with a tiered flat area for everyone to sit that they covered with a tarp and cushions. Many offerings were placed on the altar - my favorite of which was a bottle of Johnny Walker Red Label.

The Puja began with the Lama and the Sherpa chatting the mantra for nearly 40 minutes. It was amazing. Sherpa passed around a plate of blessed rice and on certain cues everyone tossed rice all over - some a bit more targeted then others. I admit I aimed quite a bit at Steve. Luckily he was wearing his safely glacier glasses. Sherpa were frequently also filling our milk tea cups. At some point the milk tea turned into Chang, the native alcoholic drink.

Suddenly our Sidar, Lapka Rita climbed up the altar and hosted a long flag pole into a hole in the center of the altar and the Sherpa began to unfurl prayer flags in six directions all tied to the top of the flag pole. The prayer flag streams were so long they amazing covered most of our entire camp. The red, green, yellow, blue, white repeating patterning of the prayer flags made a stunning contrast to the white and gray of the snow, ice, and rock of base camp. It looks frickin' awesome.

Blessed strings are tied around everyone's neck - I have two now, the other from the the Lama at the Tenbouche Monastery. And a HUGE bowl of snacks is brought around to each of us - quite the party mix: coconut pieces, M&Ms, dried fruit, Mars bars, Clif bars, cookies, etc., etc. Just grab what and as much as you want.

Everyone then stood up and the plate passed around this time has blessed flour of which you take a handful in your right hand. In a synchronized movement, you raise your right palm three times and on the last all the flour is thrown into the air and consequently all over everyone's clothes!! Cool! And if that's now enough everyone runs around rubbing whats left in their hand on each others faces.

Sounds like a good time to start drinking, signing, and dancing! Bless you the blessed Johnny Walker! Along with rice wine and San Miguel beer. Many shots and beers were consumed with the enhanced altitude effect. Everyone links arms in a big simi circle and the Sherpa sing and sign and sing. The dance is a foot shuffle that only the Sherpa know, everyone else is trying their best to follow along. This goes on for more than an hour non stop. What a great morning! 10am to 1pm and every second ruled.

Well now it's time for lunch of course. After lunch the guides wisely called off the afternoon ladder practice for the climbers. Not that everyone too tipsy but lets just say balance wasn't the order of the afternoon.

A new battery arrived in the afternoon and a started work on removing and replacing the old one. This took me up to dinner time. And another topper by Jenny and Gopa in cook tent - Salmon, coconut shrimp, fresh corn bread. I never realized I would have to climb to Mount Everest Base Camp to eat so good!!

And as become the norm, dinner was followed by a movie: the Guy Richie classic, Snatch. Good times.

Tomorrow I'll finish my work on the new battery and will also completely rewire the entire solar charging and power system as it hasn't been performing properly. That should take most of the day while the climbers continue their practice out on the ice.

1 comment:

  1. Who knew the Sherpa's could party?? Sounds like a great time! Maybe we can have a Sherpa party this summer in the backyard.
    What a special experience for everyone at camp--so glad that you are having such a good time. I hope you get some of those communication and satellite issues fixed. Love you