Kuku Pada/RiwoChakang : near Gurpa Railway Station, Bihar
Maha Kasapa, senior most disciple of Buddha, spent his last days here at this mountain top which is 2 hour drive to south of BodhGaya; then walk 30 minutes into forest hill followed by 1800 steps of vertical climb. Asanga also spent 12 years here. It is in the area of Adhiwasi ; whole village will follow you. Take this trip if you have more than 10 people in your group. Rock at the top is huge with narrow passage and pitch dark for few steps. Journey is not for heart condition, fat and pregnant women.
I waited for almost two weeks when I heard a group of Vietnamese, three vans, were visiting KukuPada Cave. My friend and me took a taxi and followed them; just two of us could not risk it.
Pangong lake in ladak, india, is 160 km(google earth) long and it is shared between India and Tibet- major part is in Tibet. It is cold and very salty but clear and majestic. Road to Pangong lake is treacherous because there is Changla Pass between you and the lake. Ascending and descending Changla pass with icy road in July ,without any side railing, is unthinkable. If you apply brake you are dead. I saw three cars down in the valley, belly up, including a military truck.
I met my old school friend who had married with a ladaki lady and settled in Pangong lake. Tibetans who made living at Pangong lake were driven out. He is the sole Tibetan making a living there because his wife is ladaki. It is shame that Ladaki, once they come to Tibet to learn Buddhism, are targeting Tibetan. When Tibetan lost our country, ladaki instead of helping us they are targeting Tibetan. That is real friend!
If anybody wants wild ride, tired of living a safe life, a motor bike ride along this route has all the elements: altitude sickness, fear of height, icy road, cold weather, dirt road, miles without any habitation and your cell phone does not work, no gas station. I saw many foreigners riding in group from Manali to leh to Pangong lake.
PadmaSambhava Cave is 8 hour drive from Kathmandu. Road is treacherous. There are three occasion where we had to negotiate road through a river bed; no bridges. It is impossible to cross during rainy season. During my trip, it had rained but rivers were just a stream. Chance of being stranded is 50 percent. If you have connecting flights to catch, give yourself a week’s time. I stayed for a night which is not enough. Pregnant, senior and people with medical condition should avoid this trip.
There are two Caves. One is the main on the hill top and the other is at the base of the hill. For me, cave at the base of the hill seems more likely cave of Guru Rinpoche but Tibetans throng the cave at the top; lower cave has better protection from elements. Top cave is just a open sky. Of course, there is a “linga” there too.
Stench of bet dropping is unbearable. Since local, Hindu, have less care for human life they do not allow shoes to wear in “empty cave” and thus whole walk is slippery and risky. I had my socks on for protection but then my shoe smells with bet droppings. Take as many socks and throw them away.
There are three more hills to climb; one for Manjusri, one for Cherezig and third one …I forgot. Anyways, I climbed one as my time did not allow for others. There are good restaurants with western toilet and hot shower. I guess your driver will make such arrangement from Kathmandu. Leave as early as possible to avoid city traffic. Taxi fare for Maratika is Rs.25,000/ Nepali.
Road Trip to Halesi / Maratika, Nepal: There are two footages
Road condition is good for the next 4 hours drive because these winding roads were not washed away during monsoon. It was built with Japanese money and engineering. Remaining journey is really bad; road are gone and landslide is active. It was drizzling in September. We had to cross several riverbeds without any bridges or visible roads to follow but for general direction. Life is a gamble in Nepal. Senior, pregnant and heart conditions should avoid this trip.
Tibetan version is simple and not much historical facts. Sir Cunningham believes that first settler who came to Kathmandu Valley were the Lichhhavi clans from Viasali and Vriji area, near Patna, Bihar. In 2nd century, Kusana drove Lichhavi clan out of Bihar. They escaped and settled in Kathmandu, Patan, Bhaktapur –present Kathmandu city. Kathmandu city is open museums including Pashupatinath temple where only Buddhist and Hindu are allowed enter. It takes about 7 minutes to circumambulate this hexagonal Stupa. Legend has it that if you make 108 rounds to this Stupa, your bad karma will be absolved. Good news is that Boudhanath is surrounded by hotels and hotels. You can stay in one of these and make circumambulation morning and evening as part of your daily exercise; killing two birds with one stone.
Padmasambhave came to Kathmandu and did meditation at Asura Cave which is 28 km from Kathmandu- a day trip due to bad road and traffic. There are many caves owned by individuals to earn living. Every cave is given a name and some history to make easy living. Asura Cave is documented by Dunhuang manuscripts.
Dolma Rangjung(Tara) cave is also next to it. Tibetan folklore is that it appeared by itself. How do you explain a Ganesh next to this monolithic rock curving? Anyway, I took few pictures. Nepali care taker who owns the Cave was more interested in how much I am leaving at Tara Alter- Nepali wish-full-filling currency.
SwayamBhuNath Stupa Walk; There are 4 video footages
From Boudhanath stupa, it takes 40 minutes by taxi. It is on a hill top. There are two ways to circumambulate it; easy is to circumambulate at the top of the mountain which is short or long and difficult one at the base of the hill. It takes 40 minutes to complete one full circumambulate at the base. Lichhhavi clans from Viasali, who were Buddhist, might have built it. Again Tibetan version is more of folklore.
Walking-round this monument is not easy at the base. There are number of steps to climb up and down, traffics to cross and narrow paths. Instead of steps a smooth inclination could help elders and mother with child.
Kathmandu is an open museum. If you explore and live the memory lanes of history, Kathmandu has very rich history dating back to Buddha’s period. Today, Kathmandu city is collective name given to historical three different kingdom: Patan, Kathmandu, and Baktapur.
PashupatiNath Hindu temple has all the hall marks of Buddhist beginning; I was allowed to go in but photograph is not allowed.
My friend who is an avid reader, took me around the above cities and all those merchants of Tibet(not Venice) came vivid to my mind. Patan is the city where all the brass and copper idols are made. Those alleys where Tibetan merchants would unload fur, wool, and take back sugar, rice, textile etc. to Tibet. I can still hear the sound of hooves and smell the butter. Nepal is that close to Tibet.
Yak herd at the base of the other side of the Changla Pass, Ladak. From here onward, journey is bumpy but no high hills to ascend and descend for Pangong lake. Yak is a collective name given to both Yak(male) and Dri(female). You milk only Dri not Yak. Legend has it that, Yak borrowed its long coat of fur from Indian water buffalo to go to snowy mountain of Tibet and yak never returned. That is why water buffalo of India always looks in the east, hoping, one day, Yak may return his fur. Yaks are domestic animal for meat, fur, skin, and transportation. Tibet’s main export was Yak’s tail to India. Indians Hindu, Sikh, Muslims fan their worship place with this furry tail- white one.
You have to cross Changla Pass to get to Pangong lake. It was the scariest journey of my life. One wrong brake and you are dead. Only experienced local driver can take you there safely. I saw at least three cars including a military truck belly up in down below. It is icy road in July. FREE sugary Black tea is served by Indian Military at the base of the hill where Yaks were seen.
Buddha’s images are part of this staircase leading to river Niranjan in BodhGaya. BodhGaya is where Buddha has attained enlightenment. During his time 560bc there were Hindu, Buddhist and Jainism. Of course, they fight all the time for supremacy. Islam started in 7th century (1200 years after the Buddha) and it come to India in 12th century. Today, all religions fight each other for a single golden seat called “Ego”. I wish there were 7 billion religions, and then everyone is onto oneself.