I’ve been reading a lot of reports of protest and violence coming from Kathmandu, and the level of frustration on all sides of the issue is building steadily. I just wanted to make a note that this is on my mind, but I want to continue to write up my recollections of the regions that are, at least for now, more removed from the conflict. Of course I won’t say that the region of the high Himalayas is peaceful and serene compared to the unrest in the big city. The awesome force and seemingly arbitrary shift in temperament of nature in the mountains puts into perspective how small our grievances are. People could conceivably set down their sticks and stones and sit together and talk things through, but with the cold, the wind and the avalanches the elements have the real autocracy and no amount of protesting will sway the course of nature.
In our last post we were on our way to Thokla, and we spent some time among the memorial stones to those who had lost their lives on Mt. Everest. You get the sense that you are at a kind of monument to a violent battleground, and the illusions of peace and safety dissipate when you realize that this is a place where man has not been able to manage the conditions of the environment. There is no way to manage the risks or to provide security, though the Sherpa people have done well to utilize the resources to build shelter and the live alongside the dangers of the extreme conditions. Interestingly, our guide Pema insisted that he felt very secure up in this remote region, and that he never would have to worry about an earthquake or a lack of supplies for food, fire, and clothing.
Considering that Nepal is such an unstable and destitute country, we were trying to warn Pema that he needed to prepare for the possibility that there will be no food or supplies available up at his village. Clearly we were in error through all of our effort because we were looking at the situation from the perspective of our dependence on the structure of civilization that we have at home. From where we see it, our conveniences and security could easily be shaken down with a disaster of some kind. For Pema it’s a different matter. The Sherpa people are so self-reliant and the structure of their economy is unshakable, so they have much less to worry about if some major incident occurs. We rely on the network of overseas shipping and the transportation of freight on the highways for our daily sustenance.
As we have seen in the past few years, any disruption in that system can make things pretty tense, and if they were to collapse entirely, we’d be in dire circumstances to ensure our survival. In the Khumbu the whole network of freight transportation is the very reliable porter system, where goods are packed on the back of a sturdy Sherpa. Most of the villagers also grow and store their own supplies of potatoes and other vegetables, so they usually have all they need to get by. They don’t rely on food to magically appear in their supermarkets, they put in hard work and ensure their own security.economy Kathmandu mountains protests