Monday, January 19, 2009

The Far Side of the World

Meet my brother Kent, or as he is also known, 'Nepali Ned.'

Kent by day is a mild mannered office worker and on his days off, he's a high altitude hiker. This love of hiking has meant that he's hiked all the high points around Vancouver such as The Lions or Golden Ears Park. He also gone to Alberta and hiked around peaks in the Rockies. The picture above was taken at his other favourite place Garibaldi Provincial Park. In this picture he was standing on Panorama Ridge this past September 7th after hiking for 4 1/2 hours to get there. The peak in behind is known as the Black Tusk. He had spent the spring (once the snow had mostly left the alpine areas) and the summer training. In October Kent took many flights until he reached Kathmandu, Nepal. He was about to hike the Annapurna Circuit.

To back track a bit, my brother has been to Nepal once before five years ago and was tremedously moved by the country, the people and the incredible scenery. He promised himself that he would go back one day. Then, there was some troubling political times there as the country moved from a monarchy to a democracy. In between trips, Kent went to Peru and hiked the Inca Trail which had as a culmination, Macchu Piccu. Happily the 6.9 earthquake that hit Lima shortly after he arrived didn't affect him as he was already out on the trail and didn't know it had even happened. Us, as his family on the other hand, felt a little differently...

So now to October 2008 and Kent had flown in to Kathmandu to join the other group of hikers on the tour that arrived from Britain. Including Kent, there were 20-21 in total (13 clients, 5 porters, 2 assistants and one trek leader as far as can be recalled). The team hiked from point to point and stay in little hotels or teahouses as they are called there. They hiked anywhere from 4-8 hours per day, from low valley bottoms to high mountain passes and along the way met the local people and visit temples and teahouses. I believe that the highest pass was approx 16,000 foot level. I may be out a few feet on this, but at this point, who's going to quibble as you reach for an oxygen mask? :)

In Kent's first trip to Nepal they had eventually hiked to the base camp of Mt. Everest where all mountaineering summit attempts start. This time they are essentially hiking around the base of the Annapurna peaks and included was a flight to view the Annapurnas. They were incredibly lucky to find them cloud free that day! This was a trip that lasted close to three weeks and now forever in his memory. He flew out to Sinagpore, and then Korea, and back home with 800 images and has been sorting through and cataloguing them. So this post will feature some of the pictures taken this past October as my guest blogger and 'paparazzi'. Trust me when I say that these smaller images just don't do the originals justice! Then to keep to the fibre content of my blog, I'll show you the lovely textile gifts he brought me back from his first trip in 2004.

Kent says: this was taken on a flight to Mt Everest that took place before I began my Annapurna Circuit Trek. The plane flew as close as it could to the Solu Khumbu region where Everest is located and then turned around and headed back to Kathmandu.

I was walking to Thamel; a tourist shopping area in Kathmandu to find a Pilgrim's book shop when I came across this Buddhist stupa. There are several around the city and the logic of these are that while your on your way to work for example you can check in at the local stupa.
This was an intricate wood carving above the door in the temple devoted to The Kumrai Devi who is a living goddess. The Kumrai is a young girl chosen from a select family and her features and personality are carefully checked to see if she can be a Kumrai. Once she attains puberty, then she can no longer be a Kumrai and another is required to be chosen.

The Rani Pokhari or Queen`s Pond is a photo of a structure and surrounding waterway to allow the Queen to reflect and spend some time in private. Unfortunately, as time has gone on, the city has overtaken the area. [It was built by King Pratap Malla for his Queen after their son died. It is open to the public on only one day each year at the Festival of Tihar.]

This was one of the many resident monkey's atop the Swayambhunath Temple, or more commonly known, "the monkey temple" which rests on a hill within the city of Kathmandu.

This was the view looking back and down towards Besisahar where we began the trek early in the day. It was a beautiful day and it had taken us many hours to reach the high point were this photo was taken.

We were hiking along through trails towards Bahun Danda and came across several homes along the way. I was suddenly captivated by this Nepali lady doing some spinning. We asked her if we could take her photo and she said yes. She seemed so pleasant and happy and she made us feel welcome.

This was taken on the trail looking back while heading up and out of the village of Manang.

A group photo taken near the Praken Gompa where we met a 92 year old Llama to receive his blessing for the crossing of the Thorung La pass. What a great day this was!

Here Kent is striking a pose at the Thorung La Pass summit. It's 5416 meters above sea level.

This is the peak of Thorung La above the pass they have climbed.

Prior to making the climb to the Thorung La Pass, I found this loom in the Cultural Museum of the village of Manang. We had done an acclimatization hike to the Praken Gompa to receive a blessing earlier in the day. We had the afternoon free to wander around Manang to shop and my bunk mate Andrew and I went to the museum. I was quite impressed by the artifacts dating back many years. I wonder if you would like to use this loom eh? What a lovely surprise [to find] this as I was walking around the Manang Cultural Museum. An old loom created out of branches and pieces of wood. A simple loom, but as you can see it definitely worked very well and for many years. Some of the artifacts like this loom were 50-100 years old.

Isn't my brother sweet for snapping pictures of spinning wheels and looms for me? It was so hard for me to choose pictures since he has 400 and another 400 to come! They are simply stunning. I tried to choose ones that showed the city and the people, the country side, and the temples. I wish you could see them all...

So now for the 'fibre content': after Kent's first trip to Nepal in 2004 he brought me back some special items that I treasure. A dried wee flower that someone had left on his pillow on the trek, a small stone from the base camp of Mt Everest and two textiles. They came from this place:

Tibetan Handicrafts Emporium The place Kent went to has closed its web site but this link takes you to a similar emporium in India where a great many Tibetans now called home. They were in a cotton drawstring bag and this was the printing on the bag. Inside was a cushion or pillow cover and a prayer rug.
This cushion cover has a simple white cotton backing with a small zipper to slide in a pillow form and it's roughly 14" x 14". It is entirely covered in chain stitch, even the apparent white areas. Here's a closer look.
The yarns seem to be pure wool and even feature variations in the dyeing.

The second item from the bag was stunning: a prayer rug. Again, a simple cotton backing cloth and the front is lavishly covered in chain stitch. I have shown it here on our recently acquired antique 'waterfall' blanket box, and this is where the rug will stay.

Some closer views...

The stitches are quite uniform even though closely placed. I don't know if these are natual dyes or commercial synthetics. I suspect synthetic as when I gently soaked them in sudsy water, the colours didn't run. The colours came up much brighter for the cleaning. I left it to dry flat in the shade.The underside of the rug was a bit grubby or soiled and my brother mentioned having seen a woman ( either Nepalese or Tibetan) sitting on the dirt floor of a small tent and working stitches into a piece she was making. They live extremely simple lives there in conditions we can't imagine. "But they were always smiling and seemed happy" said Kent. Their calm acceptance of life was inspiring.

So I for one understand why he went back a second time and who knows, maybe a third is in the future? Thank you for staying with us on this rather long post but as you can see, it was worth the time to do some 'arm chair travel'.

Thanks for sharing Kent! You are a great brother...


Leigh said...

What lovely work! Definitely treasures. Interesting photos too.

Dorothy said...

Thanks to you and Kent for sharing this wonderful experience and the textile discoveries.

Unknown said...

Looks like a great, great trip! Plus thanks for the links about Peru....Machu Picchu is definitely on my short list of next major trips!

I'm very impressed that your brother took textile photos AND brought back textiles!! Either one would be wonderful - but to do both! Excellent work! Thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

Wow, absolutely beautiful photos. Does Uncle Kent have a website up of them, or did he just send them to you?

Anonymous said...

Oh --- *sigh* ---- oh!! That entire area of the world is one that just has always called to me. I used to imagine myself doing exactly this type of trek (before I broke my back). How wonderful to vicariously enjoy some of it through Kent's eyes!! Nepali Ned -- that gave me a giggle. I have an Aunt who we call "Interstate Annie."

And what an incredibly sweet brother to think of you and take the shots of the loom, spinner, and textiles. Good man!!

Thanks so much for sharing. I can only imagine how breathtaking the photos are full size.


Anonymous said...

A very nice tribute to Kent's passion for hiking, Susan! Kent sent me the link and I enjoyed reading the post. As you said, now we know why he loves the country so much.