EXPLORING NEPAL : A SEARCH FOR PREHISTORIC MAN IN THE TIMELESS HINDU KINGDOM
Farmer’s wife works in the field while husband plows the field and baby sits.
Rhino cross the Karnali River in Western Nepal at first light of day…
Girl in the Mustard Seed is a celebration of color, I looked for this the whole trip and when I saw this color I knew I had finally arrived
This child foragers for feed for the animals, building supplies and sleeping mats.
At the turn of the century, 1999 I went to explore Nepal for a month looking for prehistoric man, circ. 1500 A.D. Life in Nepal for many is a day to day event, in the village each morning folks walk a little further than the day before to gather wood, foliage or water. The land is denuded in places, trees without limbs and cold. People work all day so they can survive another. In Nepal, life is not distracted by possessions, but a Polaroid camera’s instant image was priceless because it allowed the villager to freeze-frame time for a new child, soon-to-be teenager, a rarity indeed and great Karma! Still my search for Prehistoric man took many turns as we weaved through the Himalayan Kingdom starting out in Kathmandu going east to Chitwan Animal Park where we rode elephants in search of the elusive Tiger. Tiger Hunt in Nepal
Highest point in the world.
From there we went North toward Everest (above) and Base Camp and we camped within sight of the world highest perch, sleeping cold at near 9000 feet from there the trip turned toward TIBET, or the Freedom Bridge which is the now border of Communist China, in the distance you could see the hillside city of Lhasa, home of the exiled Dali Llama. There is a lot of geothermic energy warming the water there and that could be the best place in Nepal for a shower including Kathmandu. Many village homes along the ancient Silk Road from India to China were mostly sticks and foliage without chimney and smoke escaped through the leaves. In colder climes, I glimpsed prehistoric life when in our trail we found common housing, sharing walls and living in multi-levels, resembling the pueblos of the American South West Not unlike pictures of ZUNI Pueblo in New Mexico.
and I came closer one day when I walked past a house next to the stream where a man was pounding grain with a rock to reduce it to flour. Ancient man found that practice useful, but the rock deposited in the meal, eventually reduced the teeth of the eater so they could only eat the mush anyway. I think my best view of prehistoric times, was one morning we awoke next to a stream, fog hung to the hills, and a fisherman in his dugout canoe moved skillfully around the stream checking his traps.Nepalese fisherman checks his traps early morning. While there were many wonderful scenes of the Himalayan Range but life became basic the further one hiked from roads, that became more apparent as we walked into Annapurna Conservation Area where there were no roads, anything that went there either walked or was carried by someone.
Women on Annapurna Trail
My favorite scene was the straight chair tied to the back of a son who carried his mother down the rocky and uneven trail. Large pack trains of burros and mules each carrying large tins of kerosene to be burned for heat and light, a great luxury, where it was going.We hiked in a couple days before finally reaching a small village before turning back toward the road, my group with a dozen participates was cared for by 5 camp boys and 16 Sherpa or bearers. During the night one of the camp boys would stay awake and provide security for the group with his vigilance and his Gurka knife. It was not infrequent that a tent was sliced and something stolen and occasionally someone attacked, but seldom. In the village, I awoke with the sun and started walking about when I ran into two small kids who adopted me immediately, taking me home and insisting I go into this basement room of their home which was pitch dark, I couldn’t see anything but as my eyes adjusted I was able to figure out it was some sort of ceremonial area with figures on the walls but I could see no detail. So in the old film days when I mounted my flash and fired that shutter I created a picture I was unable to see until I got home.
Buddist Shrine was the ceremonial room for the family elders. Further encounters in the village was mostly school kids getting ready to run off to school and parents working to get them off. Everyone was curious and friendly, as I moved past the school and into the downtown of shoppes, I wondered about the uniforms all the school kids wore and later was told that the uniform levels the playing field for all kids rich or poor. English is the second national language of Nepal, so all the school kids are delighted to practice on you.
Road crews in western Nepal.
Budda’s Path to Enchantment began here.
As the expedition grew closer to India, the terrain grew flatter, and a short distance from the Indian-Nepal border we stopped at a large archaeology site where a young man named Siddhartha Gautama, who later became Buddha, was born in 623 B.C. in the famous gardens of Lumbini he began his Path toward Enchantment. A suburb of Kathmandu, Dunbar Square, which was built 1000 years ago, and still stands in spite of pesky earthquakes that have leveled other regions, there we wander the streets and enjoy the shrines. But the Monkey Temple also called, Swayambhunath, was perhaps the most amazing in making pictures, these monkeys thought to be re-born monks basically can do whatever they want. So they were spoiled and very human-like and I stalked this one mother and her child and they sat, eyes closed for a half hour, then finally mom opens her eyes and stares at me and suddenly the Madonna scene from my own religious up-bringing stood before me and I was humbled. There were many humbling moments during this cultural experience, mostly the happiness of a people who we considered had so little. But in the end, the monkey had it right, life centers around family and the happiness that family brings.
Tea shop owner sends son off to school. Hard work is a means to that end and every day is hard, then you grow old… By trips end, this roadside marker I camped nearby in Western Nepal, was the closest I came to the prehistoric Nepalese, but they had taught me that I was the dinosaur…Kids on the old Silk Road…
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