West Guru Rinpoche Cave of Sikkim

And I thought I would die in the mountain this time…

We only had less than a week’s time in Sikkim so took off shortly after arriving at Gangtok.

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First was taking the shared jeep to Geyzing, then to Namboo which was said to be the closest village to the West Guru Rinpoche Cave. Shared jeep is the main public transportation around Sikkim, with high chassis to pass through rocky roads and seasoned local drivers for the windy mountain trails. It is also super cost effective — only 300 Rs per seat for this 5 hour journey. We paid 3 seats for two of us so that we only need to sit with one more person in the row (otherwise usually they squeezed 4 persons per row). On the other hand, there is no guarantee for the desired space. As long as people want to join the ride, sometimes even half way on the road, the drivers would always try to fit in as many people as possible. Therefore, 4-5 passengers per row is common. I even saw 6 adults squeezing in a row once (or stacked one on another, I should say).

In Geyzing bus station, we found that the road (simply dirt road, not the proper roads you would imagine in developed countries) now goes to a village named Thingle which is even closer to the West Cave.

So we managed to find a shared jeep to Thingle. (Lesson 1: no plan is the best plan in this par of the world. Lesson 2: keep asking the locals. Lesson 3: accumulate merits as much as you can and pray for things to unfold smoothly without obstacles.) That was quite fortunate as there are probably not many vehicles commuting to that small village and this one happened to be waiting for some Thingle people to return to the car after finishing their town errands.  

The driver loaded our luggage to the top (the above picture) and, after learning that we had not had our lunch yet, told us to have a quick meal nearby while he waited for the rest of the passengers. (That is another phenomena here. People are very trustworthy. We often left our luggage around–sometimes just lined up by the road, asked a grocery shop owner or fellow passengers waiting for cars to keep an eye, then went into a restaurant for meals.)

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I was told the journey to Thingle should be 2.5 hours. There were 4 passengers per row in the jeep, including the front row (and guess which one was driving the car?) We got the last two seats on the last row — definitely the bumpiest seats, but probably with slightly spacious leg room, except you have to climb in from a small side door.

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After two hours, in this small village named Darab, we were told to get out of the jeep for tea or a walk because they need to drive the jeep to another place for gas.

What I never figured out was who drove the jeep away as apparently the driver was having tea (and momos) with us in that tea place. 

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Anyway, the jeep did come back. We were back on the road, and shortly after that, a tire went flat here.

(Yes, those were four layers of eggs on the hood, tied to the two wipers. Despite they shifted from the center to the side at this point, they actually survived the trip, unlike that rear tire…)

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The driver must know his car really well. With all the passengers and goods it carried, he decided to drive a few miles further to stop by this bridge to change tire.

Unfortunately, the spare tire did not work somehow. We spent quite a long time there, with some drama from a young local couple of passengers holding their baby – both parents were so  drunk, especially the mother, who could hardly walk without tumbling down.

Finally before it was going to get dark, another jeep passed by and we managed to proceed with  a borrowed spare tire.

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So this is Thingle. This is the main road for the jeep.

Our driver found us a local to serve as pilgrimage guide. And his house is like 50 meter down from the left – literally vertically down.

It was raining and we walked down this steep slope with our luggage… a deja-vu like the trip to the North Cave, except that time we were walking uphill.

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(From the map, Thingle is very close to another pilgrimage site Yuksom, probably just over a mountain. Further northeast is Labdang the village where we stayed for two nights when visiting the North Cave. )

The house of our guide was quite small. He, his wife and daughter offered the only bedroom for us guests. On that day there was a young lama from Mindroling Monastery who just visited the West Cave and still stayed with them, so three of us stayed in this bedroom.

Lama was very lucky. That day was a mostly cloudy day. According to West-Sikkim weather forecast, the following days would be all rainy days. (Although I only saw that West Sikkim weather once. Other times iPhone only found Darjeeling weather as “nearby" with similar verdicts.)

I was too tired to think of the weather. After some simple food provided by the family (rice, fried potatoes and dal), we all went to bed. The sleeping bags we borrowed from Chorten monks were quite thin so I topped it with a thick blanket from the family. The guide said we should leave at 6am the next day.

***

Next day it was indeed raining. I thought of giving up as I clearly remember how harsh it can be by going into the mountains in the wrong season from the North Cave trip. Nevertheless, the guide thought we can make it and my friend also thought so. (Now I know the guide was using Mindroling monk as measurement although he let the monk take off at 7am that day.)

The young monk took 4.5 hours to go up to the Cave and 3 hours to come down so he did a day trip. However, he was from Nepal so he probably walked almost as fast as the locals. That means I would need double time and better stay a night up there to ensure we have enough time in the cave. But the guide also thought we can make it without a night up.

It kept drizzling. I was the one who initiated the trip so could not insist we drop it. While we were packing, I kept hoping the other two guys would change their mind, but they did not… Or maybe the guide know the weather here, he know the rain will stop shortly?

So we took off.

 

We went up that steep trail back to the main road. Then went up an even steeper trail though the crops of the next family up the hill, then through the crops of another family uphill. After 10 minutes of my “breathless" journey (for him it was probably a stroll in the garden), the guide quickly decided to send back my friend for packing our sleeping bags.

(Of course I had not been fit for some time, but for any city dweller, to go through the trails where you thought only goats would tread on, at an altitude of 1780m and keeping going higher, I am sure most people would need some time to recover the breath every now and then.)

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So the guide brought me walking further through more families’  crops to this family. (Yes, we walked from the crop at the left and there was always another family higher along the slope.) He left me at their kitchen and went back home to pickup my friend and our sleeping bags.

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The hospitable host offered me a mug of hot water — freshly boiled from the fireplace, with the unique smoke flavor of firewood.

When the guide came back, he arranged for a porter and a bamboo weaved bucket, stuffed with our sleeping bags, covered with some cut-open plastic bag atop. That was such a multipurpose useful thing to have. You take a huge garbage bag, cut it open and turned it into a water-proof sheet. We got distributed one each. Tie it around your neck, then it becomes a rain coat. Somehow this batch of bags are all green. So we were all walking in the mountain like big green flies. (You can see that bucket and green sheet at the left of the above picture.)

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So four of us (the guide, the porter, my friend and myself) kept walking up through various families’ property uphill in the rain, until we reached this family — they also run the only grocery shop in this village.

We bought a full box of instant noodles (my favorite brand YY, yeah!) and some cookies.

Why do we need a full box? I did not think we need so many (30+?) for just two days. My friend said there is a lama living alone by the cave so we should bring him some necessities since we are going up. (That is a great quality of this friend. He always thinks of helping others. My mind is usually only centered around my stomach.)

7:50am, finally packed with all necessities and formally began our journey.

 

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Within an hour, we had climbed over 600 meters of altitude. (If I were not there, they probably would have done so within half an hour.) I continued my special way of walking – breathless,  with a short stop every 5 steps, while getting worried of having altitude sickness.

Though it has never been a real problem for me, I still recall how my guide in Lhasa warned me to stay put on the first day for acclimatization–even taking a shower was forbidden. And here I am, no time for acclimatization at all, but a constant physical stretch. 

Every time when I was out of breath, the face of that Indian man in the Everest documentary would surface. He suffered an acute altitude sickness, with a swollen brain, lying by the trail. No one passing by could help him as everyone was only able to manage one’s own survival. So he just lied there, waiting for death.

 

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This was my green fly costume.

I resisted putting it on for quite some time until the rainfall became too heavy and my yoga pants was about to get very wet —yes, yoga pants. I was told that India would be very warm in this season so I did not even have a sweater. Only some light weight t-shirts for Southern Californian weathers.

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And not only did the rain not seem to be stopping any soon, but it went worse and worse.

After the altitude passing 2200m, with the declining temperature, what fell from the sky was not raindrops any more, but hails.

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At first it was amusing. But when these endless heaven-sent ice started to make your hands really hurt, not amusing anymore.

 

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10:30am, after walking for 4 hours, we arrived at a half-way stop.

This is a rest hut for local farmers who do seasonal trail maintenance works. Our guide should be one of them on a normal day, except that day he was taking care of us.

He used the public oil, salt, and vegetables(!) and started cooking the instant noodles we brought along. Added two fresh eggs we got from the tea family, it became a luxury meal in the middle of no where. He must be a pretty good cook.

 

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After lunch, we kept on walking in the hails.

Before long, the guide told us he had to rush up to the cave area with the porter. They must collect firewood before it gets too wet, otherwise we might not be able to make a fire. So my friend was left to watch over the slow walking me and make sure I do not get lost – I know how silly it sounds. But whenever these people say, “There is only one way, you just keep walking," somehow in every corner the trail would always look like leading to multiple directions than being “only one way."

 

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The higher we got, the more hails accumulated on the ground.

This was 12:50, altitude of 2900m.

And it was freezing cold.

 

When being above altitude of 3000m, it started snow heavily. No more tiny hails, but snowflakes flying with winds going at all directions.

About 1 something,  I was exhausted. The guide returned. They had collected the firewood, made a fire, and boiled some hot water. He brought us a thermo of hot water. (They are just amazingly nice and kind people!)

And he said, we had to rush because the weather was going to turn bad. (And I thought it was bad enough!)

You should always trust people living in the mountains when they talk about weathers. Within 5 minutes of his words, a strong storm started. Wild winds, heavy snow, we can barely see anything beyond a couple of meters! 

 

Here I was, cold and exhausted.

Although I had put on all the clothes I had, which consist of a Uniqlo heat-tech underwear, a thin long sleeves T-shirt, a short-sleeve T, Uniqlo ultra light down vest, my all-year-round in-flight fleece jacket and the Columbia rain jacket borrowed from my friend, they were surely not enough. (And big thanks to the dharma brother who arrived at Puruwala earlier warned me it would be cold there at night, otherwise I would not even have that down vest with me. Although it was indeed ultra light, just barely thicker than a piece of paper…) The wind and snow blew through my yoga pants (yes, they are supposedly to be breathable for hot yoga) and my socks were also half wet (having said that, I would still vote for Timberland boots. it could have been much worse.)

And all of a sudden, a very strong belief arose: only if I could sleep by the road for a short while, I would become very warm and settled then.

That was such a non-sense fantasy, but somehow I really clung to it and firmly believed it.

Probably everyone died in a mountain snowstorm had held that thought before death.

So after each step, I would tell the two guys in front, “Why don’t you go ahead? I’ll follow slowly…" (Actually what I really meant was you guys go ahead, I just want to sleep here…)

Since the weather was really bad and so was the visibility, they two were very determined in not letting me stay behind, and waited for me at my halt after each step.

Eventually I thought I had to keep moving up as I could not drag these two guys dying in the storm with me…

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And then we had to walk through very narrow paths along the cliff, like only 1/3 width of the path in the above picture. Ain’t I happy that the guide came back for us? It would be truly risky to try to make it by ourselves.

 

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2pm, finally we arrived, with all the blessings from buddhas and bodhisattvas!
Nub Dechen Phug, at an altitude of 3200m.

 

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The actual cave was further up. Our guide brought us to this shelter right below the cave. This was where we were going to spend the night.

 

When I approached close enough to actually see the “house", I was utterly speechless.

First of all, the “door" was only the door frame you saw on the right of the picture.

A door without door, how zen…

The entrance to the “door" was a few stones stacked up, right by the cliff together with the “door", where with one slip, one can go down directly for a rapid entrance to the next life.

And after entering the “door", the “house"was completely open to the valley, no wall at all.

On top of it, half of the roof collapsed already, with only a few wooden beam barely supported the structure called roof. It would be really romantic to sleep here while gazing the Milky Way in the summer sky—but not in a storm!!

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I sat by the fire to get myself a bit warmer. My hands were really red, swollen and hurting.

With all the breathless “walk", my heart beat was at a mere 61. Must have been in some hibernation mode by then.

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The lovely “door".

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The  advantage of having not wall in front was that you get a great view, and very fresh air… and every breath of mother nature.

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To the other side of the shelter, this little green hut below was the toilet.

When I realized that, in order to pee, I had to walk another 100m down, I really felt like crying…

Within these 2 hours, there was already over 5-6 inch of snow covering everything. I can hardly see where to put my feet for walking down. And someone insisted I had to go there to pee…

 

With all these heavy snow, I really had no idea how we can go down the next day.

Very diligently I did a Guru Rinpoche tsog, and praye to all the dharma protectors I can think of…

And the storm just got stronger and stronger, even lightening and thunders joined.

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Around 5:30pm, the guide said we better started cooking dinner before it gets dark. (Of course, there was no electricity there. Even all our portable power packs were frozen to death and stopped working at all. )

Our porter by the fire was really cute. He said, “Well, with all these snows, it will be as bright later. You will not be able to tell the difference between day or night…"

Having said that, he still went nicely to somewhere even further than the toilet to fetch some water for cooking the noodles.

After dinner, 6pm, bed time.  

 

Before the guide went on sleeping, he took my bamboo staff cleaning away the snow fallen on those beams without roof. There must have been over 12 inches of snow on the beams then. I sincerely prayed that the quickly accumulating snow on our side would not make the remaining roof collapse on us at night.

In the house, there were some pieces of public foam pads and thin weaving cotton rags. We put the foam pads over the ground, then our sleeping bags and covered with the cotton rag.

The sleeping bag was so thing, even with all my clothes and fleece jacket inside, I can still feel the cold air invading my lower back—no matter which side I turned, except the shavasana (corpse) pose, but then I cannot bend my legs so the legs would become cold. And once I lied on my back flat, I could not keep my arms straight because then my hands would be freezing. So most of the time I slept with my hands crossed at my chest, exactly how people were put inside a coffin.

So I was in my coffin posture, extremely cold, so cold that I would wake up every hour, watched my watch, lamented how slow the time had passed and tried to sleep again, while praying I would live through the night and the roof would not collapse on us.

My friend on the other hand, slept like a baby, judging by the sound of his snores. Somehow in his impression though, I was the snorting one and he was the one who woke up every hour. (The only few times he did not hear my snores, he would feel so worried that he had to put his fingers under my nose to ensure that I was still breathing and did not pass away in my sleep due to altitude sickness.)

 

Midnight, I got up once to answer the usual call of nature. The snow stopped. And indeed as what the porter said, it was bright; the moon and stars shown peacefully, everything was even brighter than the earlier storm time.

Went back to my freezing shivering attempt to sleep, kept consoling myself that if the guide and the porter can survive, I surely can—they don’t even have sleeping bags!

 

4am, the porter got up first. (Probably it was too cold for him too?)

After he made a fire, we all got up.

(And I finally figured out how they managed to sleep last night. They used that almighty cut-open plastic bag which served earlier as raincoat and later as a sleeping wrap. How smart!)

 

5:30am, the moon was still high in the sky. As in the night, it was bright.
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The greatest thing was: it was a sunny day!

Although I still had no idea how to get myself out of the mountain, at least there was a glimpse of hope, unlike the day before.

Words cannot describe my gratitude to Guru Rinpoche and all the dharma protectors…(in tears) 

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5:50am, the sun rose.
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On the cliff to the right of the house was the residence of the lama who lived here. Before him, there was a senior nun living here all alone. She passed away three years ago. Then this monk came. They must be amazing practitioners, to live in such remote places all alone. Yesterday we could see some blue textiles in front of his hut, but now we could barely see the place with all the snow.

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6:50am, the visibility turned better. The guide told us to go to the cave first to do our things, then come down for breakfast and packing.

First time hiking in snow, at first I was not sure where to put my feet. There was no way to tell whether you would step inside the snow or on a rolling stone and going together with the stone…but actually the powdery fresh snow made the path smoother and hence easier to walk on.

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Except that the path to the cave was quite steep, I often relied on the guide to give me a hand.

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Where we came from—looking back was always beautiful! (Both photos plagiarized from my friend’s phone)

I prayed that we could get down the mountain before the trail becomes icy. I remembered how slippery the roads could be when living in Munich. I could barely manage walking on properly paved pedestrians. I definitely do not want to try my luck on this 10000ft mountain.

 

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The entrance to the cave was these 2 logs bridging these two cliffs.

Good that it was covered by snow, otherwise I might feel even more frightened to walk on it in the mid air.

 

 

West Guru Rinpoche Cave

It is a relatively spacious cave facing the valley.

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We did our practices and asked the guide to help hanging up the prayer flags.

I did not understand why my friend was holding a metal cooking pot to the cave. It turned out to carry some burning firewood for making sang offering.

 

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The cave was very deep. Passing by the Guru Rinpoche statue, you can continue to walk inside until reaching a very narrow point, where you had to kneeled down to crawl further—with a long slate of 20 cm high right between your legs. No better way to show your surrender.

Then you would reach a slightly wider area, seeing the 2nd Guru Rinpoche statue and this one blocked the way to go further.
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But looking further, there was a 3rd Guru Rinpoche statue behind the 2nd one, so I believe the cave extended much further.

It was said that these four Guru Rinpoche Caves at the four cardinal directions of Tashiding are all connected to Tashiding.

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The guide was super patient. We spent 2.5 hours in the cave.

My friend brought along this big Guru Rinpoche Prayer book that Sogyal Rinpoche gave him in Puruwala and he must have read all the prayers inside, while I was feeling hungry and also worried about not being able to get out of the mountain in time. Praise Padmasambhava, finally he completed everything at 9:30am.

The consequence of the delay was, when we got back to the shelter, the guide advised us to skip breakfast and set out to leave asap. So we quickly packed and at the same time asked the porter to sent our offerings to the lama.

The porter came back and reported that, Lama said, the storm yesterday was the largest snow this year—meaning winter was better than this. How fortunate I was!

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That was certainly a brilliant decision by the guide. Within an hour, after passing the section where I seriously wanted to sit by the road and die, the mountain top was again covered in storm. We could have been stuck up there if we left half an hour later.

 

Sometimes the guide also needed to cut out a passage in the thick woods.

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While the storm continued howling in the mountain top, hail and rain continued to bless us along the way down.

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A cute puppy greeted us on the half way. We fed him all our crackers.

Then we were back to the half-way house. Since the weather was bad, all workers left and they sealed the entrance with a long wood board. We got in from the gaps and had our brunch. I was too hungry and tired to take any photos at this point.

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Continued walking down the mountain.

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For a second I really thought turtles in Sikkim could climb bamboos.
An weariness induced illusion.

 

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Finally back to the farm areas, again walking across the crops, but soon to be home.

(The right photo above was very close to the house of our guide already, down from the rock I laid my hand on to the rock I stood on… every resident in this area can make a good kungfu practitioner)

 

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It says 5 Km, plus about 2 Km in the crops, but a mobile App recorded a total 9 Km on the day up. From an altitude of 1780m to 3200m, we climbed up 1400m within a few hours, in the mountain range right next to the Sikkim-Nepal border.

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From the raining bamboo groves, to the hailstorm woods, to the strong snowstorm on mountain top… fortunately we got that few hours of sun to allow us walking out of the storms.

We moved to Tashiding shortly after back to Thingle. People said the whole region experienced unusually harsh weather during those two days. Darjeeling was having the largest snowstorm in the past six years and many tourists got stuck in the mountain. So we were really very lucky.

That was Mach 18, 2017 (the 21st day of the 1st month in Tibetan calendar), the 124th parinirvana anniversary of Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo.

Sarva Mangalam.

錫金 · 西蓮師洞

幾度以為自己這次要死在山上了……

因為在錫金只有不到一週的時間,所以也沒什麼日子好選,安頓下來後立刻就啟程了。

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首先是搭公共吉普車去給興(Geyzing),然後從那裡搭車到南布(Namboo),據說是離西蓮師洞比較近的村子。公共吉普車是錫金的主要公共交通工具,底盤高,司機都是跑固定線路的當地人,走山路比較可靠。價錢也非常實惠,從甘托克到給興要五個小時吧,一個座位才300盧比,我們兩個人包了三個人的座位,這樣這排只要坐三個人,比較舒服(不過這個也沒有保障,只要路邊有人想搭車,司機通常不便拒絕,還是會硬塞人進來,三人坐變成四五人座也是常事)。

然後在給興找下一趟公車時,被告知現在公路(其實是土路,只是車子開得過去而已)通到了一個叫做聽列(Thingle)的村子,那個村子離西蓮師洞更近。

我們找到了去聽列的車子,是上午從聽列開過來的,還在等搭車過來的村民在城裡辦完事回車上。司機幫我們把行李拿到車頂,留了兩個位子,知道我們還沒吃中飯,就叫我們在公車站旁邊的小飯館趕緊吃飯。這也是鄉下特色,沒有什麼固定時間表,我們匆忙吃完飯後到車上坐著,還等了一會兒。

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車程據說是兩個半小時,每排都擠了四個人,因為我們沒有提前買票,自然是擠在車子最後面、顛得七葷八素的那一排。

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開了兩個小時後,在一個叫Darab的小村子叫我們下車去喝茶,因為車子要去加油。

很神奇的是,司機竟然和我們一起在喝茶。沒能明白是誰把車子開去加油的。

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再開沒多久,這台車子就在路邊爆胎了。

(是的,您沒看錯,那兩根雨刷上綁了四排雞蛋。真是了不起的運輸,途中還下了點雨,於是本來綁在正中間的蛋兒已經移位到旁邊去了。但是它們確實在一路顛簸之中倖存了。我們的車胎反而沒能存活。)

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司機又強行把車子往前開到一個橋邊,換了備胎,貌似不管用。

總之折騰許久,好不容易對面來了一台吉普車,把他們的備胎給我們換上了,快傍晚時才終於把我們帶到了聽列。

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這個路是車子走的路。司機幫我們找了一個當地農民當我們的嚮導,他家就在這個“大路”左邊往下走五十米的地方——是直直地往下走哦。

下著小雨,還拉著我們的行李……無言地哭泣。IMG_8925

聽列這個地方,看地圖是再翻個山就到另一個聖地玉頌(Yuksom)了,再往東北的那個拉當(Ladang)則是我們上次爬北蓮師洞時留宿的村子。

我們的嚮導家很小,他把唯一的一間臥房讓出來給客人。這天有位敏珠林寺的年輕喇嘛上西蓮師洞朝拜下山在這裡,所以我們三人共住這間房。

喇嘛運氣很好,今天是陰天,明後天我看西錫金地區的氣象預報都是大雨,看似不太妙。不過後來都只搜到大吉嶺的氣象預報,好像離得太遠了,不見得作準。

累了,鑽進秋登寺借來的睡袋裡,再蒙上嚮導家的厚毯子,倒頭就睡,也沒多想。嚮導叫我們明天六點準備出發。

隔天果然是下雨的天氣,我頓時起了退堂鼓之意,但是嚮導覺得沒問題(現在知道他是以敏珠林喇嘛的標準來衡量我們,雖然他是讓敏珠林喇嘛七點才出發),朋友也覺得應該要上山——因為是我說要去西蓮師洞的,所以到了口又說不出下雨就算了吧,可能他們山裡人知道雨待會兒會停?

敏珠林喇嘛是上山四個半小時,下山三個小時,所以是當天來回。不過喇嘛是尼泊爾人,基本上也算是山上的人,所以按我的腳程應該是要乘以兩倍的。我們說要帶著睡袋上山,下雨天慢慢走,到山上過一夜,隔天再下來,但是嚮導覺得不用過夜,所以我們就上山了。然後……

然後,才走了10分鐘,嚮導看我上氣不接下氣,三步一喘,五步一停,立馬叫我朋友回他家打包睡袋去了。

這也不全怪我,他們家這邊雖然海拔才1780米,但是這十幾分鐘的路我們基本上是直直地沿著山坡往上走,穿過他們家的田走到上面一家的田,再走到上面一家……各位想像山羊是怎麼爬山的,差不多就那樣吧。城裡來的人,能不喘嗎?

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於是他帶著我再走一陣子,到了這戶人家,把我留在他們廚房裡(是的,我們就是從左邊綠綠的田裡走上來的),等著嚮導回家去把我朋友和我們的睡袋帶過來。

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熱情的屋主給了我一杯熱開水——用木柴生火煮的水,照例是一股煙熏味兒。

嚮導回來後,找了一個挑夫,拿了一個籮筐,把我們兩人的睡袋塞在裡面,上面罩上了一個大垃圾袋剪開的塑料防雨——後來知道這個東西可有用了,嚮導給我們每人發了一件,脖子一扎就是防雨的斗篷。正巧這一批塑膠袋都是綠色的,我們每個人都成了綠色的旋風小飛俠。(籮筐就是上圖左邊那個覆著綠色塑膠布的東西)

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於是我們四個人(嚮導、挑夫、朋友和我)就在淅瀝瀝的小雨中,繼續上行於各戶人家的田裡,到了這戶人家——這戶人家兼任這裡的小商店。我們批了一箱泡麵和餅乾——我看到挑夫拿著一整箱泡麵時有點愕然,我們四人是有那麼能吃嗎?朋友說他們說蓮師洞旁住了一位喇嘛,所以我們順便供養他一些食糧。他的這點是我一直很欽佩的,走到哪裡都想著別人,我想的通常只有自己的肚皮。

七點五十分,我們終於備好食糧,正式上路。

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短短一小時內,我們就爬了六百多米。(沒有我在的話,他們應該是半個小時內就爬六百米)我繼續我的三步一喘,五步一停,同時擔心自己可能會有高原反應。

雖然我號稱從來沒有高反,但是這麼短的時間內這樣直直上爬,還是有風險。

喘不過氣時,心中浮起了以前在那個珠峰紀錄片裡,看到一個印度人高反腦積水,就在路旁等死的狀態——因為路過的人,不管是往上或是往下,都沒有力氣能把他抬下山。

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這是我的科學小飛俠裝扮。

本來我是不願意這麼搞的,身上穿著朋友的Columbia防水衣想打發過去,但是雨下的太大,不披上的話,瑜伽褲很快就全濕了。(沒錯,瑜伽褲,這次來印度前聽說天氣很溫暖,連件毛衣都沒帶,以為就是在炙熱的印度大陸走走……還好先到普魯瓦拉的師兄說那邊入夜很冷,經停上海時抓了一件uniqlo極輕羽絨背心)

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說到雨呢,完全沒有要停的跡象,繼續嘩啦嘩啦地下著。

所以山民並不是因為覺得雨會停才帶我上山的,應該是他們對此不以為意吧?

 

等到過了2200米的時候,隨著氣溫下降,已經不是雨滴落下,而是小冰雹了。

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一開始還覺得好玩,等到打在手上很疼時,就覺得一點也不好玩了。

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上午10:30,走上四個小時候,我們到了半路的一個小屋。

這是他們維修步道的當地農民的休息站。我們嚮導平時應該也是一份子,不過今天接下我們這單生意所以沒有來賺這公家的修路錢。

嚮導拿他們的油和青菜炒了湯底,煮起我們帶來的泡麵,還打了兩個在早晨喝茶人家那裡買來的新鮮雞蛋。荒郊野外的最豪華版午餐。

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吃完飯,再走走,嚮導說,他和挑夫得趕緊上山去撿柴火,否則晚了木柴濕了,會沒法生火。於是他們兩人先行而去,留下朋友陪著繼續走走停停的我慢慢上行。

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愈往上走,地上積攢的冰雹愈多。

這是12:50,海拔2900米左右。

等過了3000米,雪愈下愈大了。這時已經不是小冰雹,而是細細的飛雪,伴著向各個方向席捲的風。

1點多的時候,我已經快走不動了。這時嚮導回來了,說他們撿好木柴,生了火,煮了水。

他給我們送上裝在朋友保溫壺裡的熱水。(當時我真的覺得天下怎麼會有這麼好的人!)然後說,我們必須盡快上山,因為天氣開始變壞了。

山民說天氣果然神準,他說完這話不到5分鐘,就開始狂風大作,能見度不到幾米。

我這時又累又冷。雖然已經把所有的衣服都穿在身上了,也就一件uniqlo的heat-tech內衣、一件薄薄的長袖T-shirt、一件短袖T、uniqlo那個羽絨少得不能再少的極輕羽絨背心(真的極輕,跟紙一樣薄)、常年跟隨我上飛機的抓絨外套和朋友的columbia風衣。風雪透著瑜伽褲進來,鞋子裡面也濕了。

頓時,我生起了很強烈的執著,覺得只要讓我在路邊睡一下,就是最溫暖幸福的事情。

這想法毫無道理。但是那時真的覺得只要讓我睡在路邊,我就會變得很溫暖。

我想登山在風雪中死掉的人大概都曾經抱持過這個莫名其妙的想法。

每走一步,我就跟前面的兩個人說,你們先走吧,我慢慢跟著(其實我是想說你們走吧,我睡在這裡就好了。)

不過因為天氣太惡劣,能見度又差,他們堅決不拋下我。而且我一步一停,他們也跟著我一步一停。

於是我想說,我自己想死,也不能拖著別人跟我一起死吧,只好努力繼續跟著,連哀怨的力氣都沒有。

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接著走過了不到上圖一半寬度的峭壁,還好嚮導有回來帶我們。

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兩點整,謝天謝地,諸佛菩薩保佑,終於到了。

海拔3200米,正式名稱是Nub Dechen Phug。

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洞還要往上走。嚮導把我們帶到洞正下方的“屋子”,也就是我們要過夜的地方。

看到這個“屋子”的時候,我震驚到無語。

首先,“門”就是大家看到相片裡左邊那個門框。

無門之門。非常有禪意。

進“門”的兩階踏腳石就是兩塊你腳一滑,就直接往懸崖下面去投胎的石頭。

進門之後就更驚異了。進門這邊只有半面牆,進門左邊完全沒有牆,所以這個“屋子”實際上只有兩面半的鐵皮遮風。另外,屋頂已經塌了一半,所以是名至實歸的透天瘄。

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就著火堆坐下來取暖,手還是凍得通紅。

心跳竟然只有61,可能進入冬眠狀態了。

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我們可愛的門。

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前面沒有牆的好處是視野極佳。無敵山景房大概就是這樣。

不過,現在是無敵雪景房。

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下面那個小綠屋是廁所。

當我發現上個廁所要往下走100米的時候,真的很想哭。

才兩個小時的時間,雪已經下了幾十公分厚,根本看不出路在哪裡,腳要往哪裡踩。

 

看著茫茫大雪,我實在不知道明天怎麼可能下山。

很認真的做了蓮師薈供,把我能想到的護法全都修了一遍。

結果,雪愈下愈大。

根本是場暴風雪。狂風咆哮,最後打雷閃電全都來了。

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5點半的時候,嚮導說,應該要做飯了,否則天黑了就不方便了。(當然是沒有電燈的地方)。

我們這位烤著火的挑夫很可愛的說,現在雪下的這麼大,白晃晃的,根本不會分得出什麼時候是白天、什麼時候是晚上的。不過他還是走到比廁所更遠的地方去打水。

嚮導再度給我們煮了YY泡麵。這次是簡易版的雞蛋炒麵,沒有山腰屋子的佐料了。

吃完飯,6點鐘,大家就寢。

 

嚮導很細心,拿我的竹杖把屋頂塌掉那半邊露出的幾根樑上的積雪給清了一下。我琢磨著,才四個小時就有三四十公分的雪量,這一晚上下下去,我們這半邊可別塌了好。

屋裡存放著幾片公共泡棉墊,拿來墊在木板地上,上面鋪著我們的睡袋。

借來的睡袋實在很薄,所以我堅持再蓋上屋裡公家的布(是那種粗棉織成,看得到洞眼,比一般浴巾還薄的布),聊勝於無吧。(我堅決地說臭也沒關係,保暖比較重要)

我穿著全身的衣服鑽進睡袋裡,果然很冷,而且不管往哪邊側躺,冷風都會從背部灌進來。平躺的話,腳沒法縮起來,也很冷。

最扯的是,兩隻手要是伸直放下去,會太冷,最常用的姿勢就是交叉在胸前,比較溫暖。於是我深深覺得自己跟躺在棺材裡沒兩樣。

總之就是怎麼睡都冷。每一個小時就醒來看一次手錶,發現時間進展緩慢。繼續我的棺材睡姿,同時祈禱自己能活過這一晚,屋頂也千萬別塌下來。

我身旁的朋友睡得呼聲大作(不過按他的說法是我呼聲大作。一旦我沒有聲息,他就會有點擔心,怕我有高原反應掛了,必須伸手探探我的鼻息,確定我在呼吸了,他才能安心繼續睡。其實他比我更慘,他的睡袋比我的更薄。)

 

半夜我起來上了一次廁所。雪停了。而且確實像挑夫說的,白晃晃的,在月亮和星星的照耀下,和白天沒有兩樣,甚且比暴風雪的時候更明亮。

再回去凍得瑟瑟縮縮地睡。一直安慰自己:“嚮導和挑夫都是上衣和外套就睡了,連睡袋都沒有,人家不會凍死,你肯定也凍不死。”

 

清晨四點多,挑夫先起床了。(估計他也是冷到不行吧?)

看他生好火後,我也趕緊起來取暖。

(終於發現他們兩昨晚是怎麼睡的了。他們就寢時,一直聽到淅淅簌簌的聲音,原來他們是拿那兩個遮雨的塑膠袋把自己裹了起來。)

 

五點半,月亮高掛在天上,和半夜一樣,明晃晃的,完全不覺得是白天。

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最偉大的重點在於:今天是個大晴天!

雖然我還不知道怎麼從雪地裡下山,不過至少有了一線希望。

真的是蓮師加持,護法保佑。(眼淚快要流下來了)

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5點50分,太陽出來了!

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右側山崖中間有個凹處,唯一常住這裡的喇嘛就住在就著凹處搭起的“屋子”裡。昨天上山時還見得到藍色的遮雨布,現在完全被白雪遮掩起來了。

之前有位年長尼師獨居此處,三年前圓寂了。後來這位喇嘛不知從哪裡來這裡。他們的意志力真是超凡絕倫,真正的修行人。IMG_9036_LR1

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6點50分,天色比較亮了,嚮導叫我們先上洞裡把正事辦掉,再回來吃早飯和收拾行李下山。

第一次在雪地裡登山,一開始有點不知道腳要往哪裡踩,深怕踢到一顆滾石,就跟著石頭一起下山了。驚喜地發現因為昨天下了那麼大的雪,粉粉厚厚的新雪堆在地上,反而路變得好走,有點像是在滑雪場一樣。

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上去洞裡的路很陡,幾乎一路都是嚮導把我拉上去的。

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回首來時路。(這兩張相片都是從朋友手機裡剽竊來的)

根據住在德國的經驗,雪融地表結冰時,走路會打滑,很危險。雖然有點擔心下山的時候會開始化冰,但是相對於昨天茫茫暴風雪的天氣,至少看起來是有下山的可能了。

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通往洞口的“路”就是架空的這兩根木頭。

還好現在有雪遮掩著,不然我大概會更害怕。

 

西蓮師洞

相對寬敞,背山面谷的岩洞。

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我們修法。請嚮導幫我們去掛背上來的風馬旗。

之前沒明白他們兩人幹嘛捧著一個鐵鍋上來,原來是帶了燃燒的木柴,做煙供用。

 

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岩洞很深。越過最外面的蓮師像,還可以往裡面走。

然後有個很狹窄的地方,必須跪下來匍匐進去。跪下來的時候,兩腿中間還正好卡著一個狹長的20公分高的岩石,真的是完全強迫五體投地才能前行。

然後就到一個稍微大一點的石室,再往前行的路就被這尊半人高的蓮師像封住了。

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向前望去,蓮師像身後還有一尊較大的蓮師像,洞穴一直延伸下去。

據說札西頂四方的這四個蓮師洞都能通到札西頂。

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嚮導很有耐心。我們在洞裡待了有兩個半鐘頭。在普魯瓦拉時,索甲仁波切剛好給了同行友人一本本覺會新出的蓮師祈請文集。這位仁兄不辭辛勞地背上山來,在洞裡把整本書能念的祈請文全念了一遍。我肚子很餓,又很擔心拖久了下山會有問題。還好他到九點半,終於決定收工了。

等我們回到夜宿的寮房,嚮導說,不吃早餐了,先下山比較保險。

我們趕緊打包行李,同時請挑夫把我們供養給山居喇嘛的糧食搬上去。

挑夫回來時說,喇嘛說,昨天是今年下過最大的一場雪——意思是冬天都沒有那麼誇張。就給我撞見了。

 

 

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嚮導英明。下山不到一小時,經過昨天我很想坐在路邊去死的那段路後,再回頭看山頂的部分,又籠罩在暴風雪之中。晚半個小時下來可能就困在山上了。

嚮導和挑夫有時還得砍樹闢路,很辛苦。

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山上繼續暴風雪,我們這裡下冰雹、下雨也是沒停過的。

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半路上遇到好可愛的狗狗。把剩下的餅乾全都給他了。

回到半山腰的工房,因為天氣不好,修路的人全下山了,門口拿大木條釘起來不准閒人進出。我們鑽進去煮了泡麵當早午餐。這時已經餓到沒力氣拍照了。

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繼續下山。

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一時以為錫金的烏龜會爬樹。爬山爬昏頭了。

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回到農民區,再度在各戶人家的田裡垂直穿行,不過就快到家了!!

(看看右邊那張照片,是從手摸的石頭到腳下的石頭上,山裡人到上面鄰居家喝茶,就這麼去的……都是武林高手)

IMG_8968_LR1說是5公里路,加上農田裡的2公里路,不過我用APP記錄,上山那天共走了9公里。

從嚮導家的海拔1780米到蓮師洞的3200米,垂直爬了1400米。離尼泊爾邊境好近。

IMG_9660 IMG_9661

從小雨靡靡的竹林,到下冰雹的深山老林,再到山頂的暴風雪。

還好隔天早晨是個“雪晴天晴朗”的艷陽天,雖然只有短短幾個小時,恰恰夠我們到洞裡修法和走出暴雪區。

下山後我們在傍晚移居札西頂。聽說那兩日整個區域都是冰冷天氣,連大吉嶺都發生了六年以來最大的暴風雪,很多登山客被困在山上。我們算是不可思議的幸運,有那幾小時的艷陽天。

是日2017年3月18日(藏歷正月21日)適逢蔣揚欽哲旺波的124週年圓寂紀念日。

一切善妙吉祥。

轉載:二世欽哲《加爾各答遊記》 Words of Wonder: Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö on Kolkata

二世欽哲談加爾各答,很可愛的遊文:「瞻部洲各種族的人同時聚集於此,如蜜蜂來採蜜一般……乾闥婆等各式語言被使用……來往的船隻如星星般閃耀著……白、紅、黃、藍、綠的電燈光芒像是閃閃發亮的珠寶,讓人日夜難分……各種新發明和機器的聲響充斥耳朵,像打雷一樣讓大地震動,真是奇妙我們還沒聾掉!」有空再來詳譯  

Words of Wonder: Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö on Kolkata.

錫金蓮師洞 Guru Rinpoche Caves in Sikkim

打算要寫這篇已經兩年多了,懶散至今。

This writing had been a victim of my procrastination during the past 2 years. The disease hasn’t been cured completely so let me post some pictures and do a preliminary write-up for the time being.

札西頂: 一切的中心 / Tashiding – The Center of All

121008 NorthCave 08(LR)01

仁增果登說,整個錫金是聖地,札西頂又是這神聖壇城的中心點,四個蓮師洞則分別位在札西頂的東南西北四個方位。

According to Rigdzin Godem, Sikkim is a holy place and Tashiding is the center of this sacred mandala while the four Guru Rinpoche caves are situated in the four cardinal directions.

121006 TashiDing 11(LR)01 121006 TashiDing 03(LR)01
121011 Tashiding 001(LR)01121006 TashiDing 12(LR)01

二世欽哲是在這裡荼毗的,有舍利金塔在此,還有一座見即解脫佛塔等等諸多殊勝的佛塔,因此要去蓮師洞和從蓮師洞回來時,都會上札西頂來朝拜。

Since Tashiding is such a holy place, plus all those sacred stupas, it is a must to come paying respect and offering prayers whenever on our way to and from the caves.

121006 TashiDing 69(LR)01121011 Tashiding 16(LR)01-2
121011 Tashiding 14(LR)01121006 TashiDing 68(LR)01

在這裡做煙供和供養功課是最快樂的時候,很容易就在這裡待上一整天。
Making offerings and prayers here was such a happy thing to do. I can easily spend a whole day here.

121011 Tashiding 15(LR)01121006 TashiDing 02(LR)01 121006 TashiDing 80(LR)01

札西頂有十億個空行城市,很多岩石上有空行足印、通往秘境之門等等的聖跡,要請人說明才看得出來。有一位幾十年前從康區玉樹來的人在這裡刻瑪尼和佛像,若是會講藏文,老人家還蠻樂意介紹的。

Tashiding is said to be the place with 1 billion cities of dakinis. There are a lot of sacred imprints on rocks, such as foot prints of dakinis or the door to the hidden lands.

121006 TashiDing 05(LR)01121006 TashiDing 76(LR)01
121006 TashiDing 01(LR)01121011 Tashiding 11(LR)01121006 TashiDing 52(LR)01

南蓮師洞 Southern Cave: Lho Khandro Sang Phuk

洛·康卓·桑埔,這個是最多人來的,從車子可以開到的公路邊走下來只要十多分鐘。

This is the cave with easiest access and hence most people only come to this one. It only requires a 10 minutes walk down to the valley from where you can park the cars.

121010 South Cave 021(LR)01121010 South Cave 016(LR)01
121010 South Cave 013(LR)01121110 Cave 003(LR)01

洞在地下,要鑽過很狹窄的通道才能進入最內的蓮師修行洞室。

The cave is slightly underground but not very deep. You just need to crawl through a very narrow passage to enter the inner chamber. The last passage is said to be the image of a particular deity. I won’t name which one so that you can look at the rock and use your own imagination.

這個通道據說是某本尊的形象,哪尊我就不說了,大家自行觀修吧。

121010 South Cave 006(LR)01121010 South Cave 002(LR)01

洞穴所在的河邊有溫泉,大石旁就有幾個泉眼,從河底的細沙內冒出,可以泡腳。到季節時,還可去旁邊搭起的竹棚內泡湯~~

There is hot spring from the river. You can sit by that big rock and soak your feet. In high season, the cottage will be open to allow a bath I think. Somehow  I never came here in that high season.

121010 South Cave 017(LR)01121010 South Cave 019(LR)01

 

東洞 Eastern Cave: Shar Chog Bey Phuk

121005 South Sikkim East  Cave 006(LR)01121005 South Sikkim East  Cave 020(LR)01

這個東邊的蓮師洞稱作“霞丘北埔”,現在也有公路通了。從公路走下來也是十多分鐘,路很好走。

There is motor road to this Eastern Cave now so the access is very convenient as well. From the road, it is also a 10-20 minutes walk down.

121005 South Sikkim East  Cave 005(LR)01121005 South Sikkim East  Cave 021(LR)01
121005 South Sikkim East  Cave 008(LR)01 121005 South Sikkim East  Cave 018(LR)01
121005 South Sikkim East  Cave 015(LR)01121005 South Sikkim East  Cave 012(LR)01121005 South Sikkim East  Cave 011(LR)01

也是要鑽進地裡。但這個洞穴往下可以走到很深的地方,是那種可以不知在裡面走多少公里的洞。下面的路比較危險,不像南洞只是在洞裡爬爬就進去了。要走下去的話,一定要帶手電筒。

This cave is however very deep underground, the kind of place where it seems you can walk miles down there and get lost. A flashlight is a must if you decide to go down.

121005 South Sikkim East  Cave 014(LR)01121005 South Sikkim East  Cave 013(LR)01

這隻小狗從離開公路的居民家裡一路帶著我們走來;等我們從洞裡爬出時,它還乖乖坐在門口等我們。連我這麼怕狗的人都覺得它很可愛。

This cute dog had been leading us along the road to the cave and was faithfully sitting in front of the gate when we climbed out.

 

北洞 Northern Cave: Byang Lhari Rinchen Nying Phuk

Tashiding(LR)01北洞和西洞都沒有公路可到達,都需要坐車到附近的村莊,再徒步走上去。這個北洞,尤為辛苦。

去了之後,過半年才發現,這是拉尊·南卡·吉美取出伏藏《持明命修》(《山淨煙供》即是其中的一部分)的地方,於是很感激某人在西洞和北洞二選一時,選了這個北洞去。雖然辛苦,但是個吉祥緣起。

Northern Cave and Western Cave are not accessible by car and requires a one day trekking from the nearest village. The journey to this Northern Cave is especially harsh. But several months after I went, I realized it is where Lhatsun Namkha Jigme revealed the terma Rigdzin Sokdrup, “The Practice of the Life of the Vidyadharas”, from which the “Riwo Sangcho" comes from, hence I have been very grateful to the friend who picked this cave over the Western Cave for me.

第一天:札西頂 –拉章 / Day 1: Tashiding to Labdang

首先,從札西頂有吉普公車到一個叫拉章的小村子。那個山路很差,所以一定要吉普車才開的過去。

上圖是我們兩人的行李,背包是必須的,行李箱沒可能背上山,所以要換成軟包。札西頂的這個路口有去各地方的吉普公車,我們就這樣行李一放,進了路邊地下室的小餐館吃飯。我是很不放心行李就這樣扔在路邊,不過真的也沒被人拿走。札西頂真是個民風純樸的好地方!

So in order to go to Northern Cave, we took the public transportation from Tashiding to Labdang. The road was bad so even if you hire your own car, you will need to hire a jeep and someone who really knows the road.

When we went to have lunch before the jeep departed, we actually left our  2 backpacks and 2 duffel bags on the street unattended (just like what the picture above shows). I was a bit worried, but when we finished lunch, coming out of the restaurant, these bags were still there intact. That’s another reason why I love Sikkim. It’s just not like other parts of India where you need to watch out all the time.

吉普車上另一個乘客是拉章的人,他答應當我們的嚮導,所以我們到拉章之後,就在他家落腳了。

There was another passenger on the jeep. He is from Labdang and agreed to be our guide for the trip. So the jeep dropped us directly somewhere near his place, then we walked for 10 minutes into the mountain to his house.

121005 South Sikkim East  Cave 021(LR)01121006 Labdang 01(LR)01

這個尼泊爾裔嚮導的家簡直是個世外桃源。吉普把我們放下在路邊的人家,然後我們爬上崎嶇陡峭的山路,進山到了這個有五六戶人家的地方。他們全都是一家人,完全與世隔絕,各戶人家中間圍著菜園,養雞、養羊,完全自給自足。

其中有一戶人家裡剛好請了一位喇嘛在修法,我們尋著聲音晃進去,他們也不以為忤,給我們茶,讓我們坐在火邊享受這靜謐中的誦經聲。

The guide is Nepalese descend and his place is like a small shangrila to me. There are a few cottages together. Next door is his grandfather’s and others are his cousins’.  They grows a lot of things in the compound and have chickens, goats around.

We wandered into one of his cousin’s place as we heard the chanting of a lama doing a one-man puja there. They are all very nice people. They gave us tea and let us just sit there by the fire and enjoy the moment.

121006 Labdang 07(LR)01121006 Labdang 15(LR)01121006 Labdang 13(LR)01121006 Labdang Village 002(LR)01

右邊那個小房子是雞舍。天快暗時,他們就趕雞回去,雞自己會走上那根木條爬回家。雞回家後,人就把那木條移開,大概是要預防有什麼動物晚上會來襲擊雞兒吧。

Before it gets dark, the rooster and hens would walk over a wooden stripe  to get back to their elevated shelter. First time seeing chickens can be trained to do something.

121006 Labdang Village 001(LR)01121006 Labdang Village 004(LR)01

尼泊爾人的房子好乾淨,木地板是一塵不染的。嚮導把家裡最好的房間騰給我們睡,只有一張單人床,所以一個人要打地鋪。我看他們一家人都睡地板上,所以也許那張床說不定其實是沙發。好吃的晚飯也完全是尼泊爾菜。

The guide let us stayed in the best room in his place. The Nepalese wooden cottage is very clean, and warm at night. The family cuisine was also good.

第二天:拉章-山上 (9 公里) / Day 2: Labdang into the Mountains (9 Km)

121007 To Cave 04(LR)01北洞就在那山裡面的某一處,遠方的山頭還有雪。

2012年的雨季結束的晚,當地人還沒有清理去蓮師洞的路。錫金雖然海拔高,但溫暖潮濕,森林完全是雨林的模樣。雨季時,所有植物一長,就沒路了。我們是當年第一批出現來朝山的,那個嚮導小男生人也真好,竟然願意帶我們入山,我完全沒有想到他和他帶來幫忙的姪兒會有多辛苦。

Northern Cave is further inside the mountain from where I stayed.  Somewhere in the opposite range in the picture.

The 2012 rainy season lasted longer than usual. The local community  has not cleared the road to the cave yet. We were the first group trying to go that year. I was very surprised that our guide was willing to bring us in after I saw how much work he and his nephew had to do. They literally had to cut a road out of the jungle for us.

121007 Village to the Lodge 001(LR)01兩千多米的海拔,我們要走九公里的山路,翻過兩個山坳才能到蓮師洞。按一般人的腳程,單程要走五到七個小時,當天是無法來回的,所以晚上要在當地人為朝聖者所搭建的一個小屋裡過夜。

The altitude was 2000+m. 9 km to the cave, for the locals, it is a 4-5 hours walk, for city dwellers, probably 5-7 hours, so there is no way to do a day trip. You have to spend a night at a shelter house the community built near the cave.

一開始幾百米的路還有左圖的小徑,沒過多久就是茂密的雨林。嚮導兩人,一個人背著我們的一個大包和他自己的小背包,一個人背著自己的小背包拿著鐮刀從雨林中硬是砍出了一條路。

This kind of trail only happened in the very beginning. Once we got to the other side of the mountain, there was no trail at all. The guide just took turn to cut a one-man wide passage out of the thick rainforest.

有些地方,植物長得太茂密,還砍不出他們通常走的路,於是又折回,另闢他徑。他們的體力真的讓人咂舌,高海拔負重爬山已經很費力了,砍樹更是體力活。

121007 Village to the Lodge 005(LR)01121007 Village to the Lodge 020(LR)01121007 Village to the Lodge 012(LR)01

有些地方,則是路完全塌了,只能爬過鬆動的落石。這種時候,我都會很感謝在法國楓丹白露森林裡教我攀岩的英國同學。有些地方是必須沿著陡峭的山壁走,原本當地人會搭建一個右上圖的那種圍欄扶手,但因為今年還沒清路,很多這類棧道都塌了,只能念著阿彌陀佛想辦法貼著山壁爬過去。

In some places, we had to climb though land slides. Those are the times I’d thank Robert for teaching me rock climbing basics in Fontainebleau.

For the parts where the safety fence that locals built were completely out of shape, you can only chant mani and pray those grasses on the cliffs can provide you some support .

121007 Village to the Lodge 006(LR)01121007 Village to the Lodge 002(LR)01

But the view is good. At least in the beginning when you still have energy to appreciate and explore.

121007 Village to the Lodge 013(LR)01
錫金的蘭花很有名。Probably orchids.

121007 Village to the Lodge 015(LR)01121009 Cave back to Labdang 001(LR)01

看了蘑菇就覺得肚子餓。Cute mushrooms.

開始還有點閑情逸緻拍照,過了一半就只想著要努力在天黑前到達目的地。

特別是走了1/3路程,停下來休息時,才發現除了那割人腳的荊棘蔓草、黏了我一身的種子,還有無數多的血蛭在襲擊我們。

血蛭很小,就指甲月牙那個大小,它們會在快要有人經過時站在樹葉上,人一經過就跳上來,然後順著你的褲子爬到鞋子或褲管裡,有些還直接從頭上樹葉空降到身上。

不知道的時候沒什麽感覺,等我把血跡斑斑的褲管捲起,在別人幫忙下把那十幾隻抓掉,再啓程之後,只要有一隻進來都會覺得很癢,很想把它從自己身上攆走。但是走走停停也不是辦法,過一會兒就只能放棄,完全一個修心的過程。

121007 Village to the Lodge 024(LR)01 121007 Village to the Lodge 023(LR)01  121007 Village to the Lodge 022(LR)01

The real challenge was leeches. I didn’t realize there was such a thing until after 1/3 of the trail, I saw those blood coming out of one guide’s leg after he took out some leeches, even at that time I still thought it was due to those nasty sharp vines. Then those guys finally enlightened me by pointing at my own bloody pants. After I rolled up the pants, I saw leeches on my leg for the first time in my life – not one or two, but more than a dozen.

They were tiny. Most are not even 1 cm long. Yet they are vicious. Like motion detectors, they would know before you  come and stand up on the leaves, twisting and waiting for you. Once you pass by, they jump over to you, then they follow your pants or shoes to seek the soft skins to satiate their blood thirst.

快要進入目的地山坳時,那個山頭可能海拔比較高,突然血蛭就失去蹤影,在身上的也好像死掉了,雖然還咬在身上。

121009 Cave 9(LR)01

看到這個已經從拉章走了快9公里的牌子時,真是歡天喜地。其實離要過夜的屋子還有幾百米,蓮師洞還要1公里。

Fortunately when we got closer to the destination, probably due to the high altitude or something, the leeches all suddenly disappeared. Even those biting into you became inactive.

The shelter house is still several hundred meters from this sign and the Cave is probably 1 km away.

121007 Village to the Lodge 027(LR)01121007 Village to the Lodge 028(LR)01

最棒的是要涉水過這個小溪,順便洗腳、清除血蛭。雖然水溫低到腳一浸,就凍成紫色,但還是快樂無比。特別是這時帶的水已經喝完,拿空瓶裝溪水飲用,那個香甜甘冽,加持降臨,真是難以忘懷。

這時對血蛭已經有初步瞭解,它們喜歡咬皮膚薄、大血管靠近體表的部位,所以群聚之處就是腳踝那一圈和腳趾附近。據說若是等它們吸飽血自己會掉落,而且它們的唾液會有助止血。死在我腳上的洗掉後,血還是從它們咬出的那兩個小牙齒孔泊泊流出。

This stream before reaching the house was like heaven. We ran out of water so refilled ourselves with this cool and sweet nectar. Also, took the leisure to stop and wash off the dead leeches on my feet. Though it was freezing and my feet turned purple, but it feels great.

因為天已經開始暗了,大家也累了,所以我們決定今晚先住下休息,明天早上去朝洞後再下山。

我大概累斃了,小屋的照片一張也沒有。

基本上就是一個有屋頂墻壁能遮風避雨的地方,沒電沒水沒信號,不過屋外有接山泉的地方。嚮導在外面生了個火,煮了他們背上來的YY泡麵(我愛YY!)。吃完後,因為沒電,也沒事可做,於是就6點18分我們已經全部躺下睡覺了。那應該是我這輩子最早上床的一天。

當地人實在很好,開路、搭橋、建屋子之餘,屋裡還備了一些泡棉墊,可以拿來墊在睡袋下面。睡袋一定要帶暖的,我帶的小螞蟻睡袋說是0度ok,完全不夠暖,冷得睡不著,到半夜厚顔討了別人的一半睡袋來蓋。嚮導則是背了一床毯子一裹了事。

The house is just a roof with walls for people to tug in for the night. No power but there is running spring water outside.

Since it was getting dark, so we decided to stay put and wait until the next morning for the cave.

Our guides made a fire and cooked some instant noodles they brought up as dinner. Then we all tugged in at 6pm. You do need a warm sleeping bag. My light one, said to be good for 10 C, was definitely not warm enough.  The guides simply wrapped themselves in a blanket so I should’ve asked them to bring a blanket for me instead.

121007 To Cave 05(LR)01

第三天:北洞-拉章 (11 公里) / Day 3: Up to the Northern Cave – Back to Labdang (11 Km)

隔天,繼續努力。

今天上洞、下洞各1公里路,再9公里路回拉章,共要走11公里,雖說是下山,但其實還是很多上山的部分。

So today, 1 km to and from the Cave, plus the 9km to get back to Labdang, a total 11 km to go.
121009 Cave 3(LR)01121008 NorthCave 05(LR)01
121009 Cave 4(LR)01121008 NorthCave 06(LR)01

雖然一路都覺得是在很特別的氛圍裡,但到了洞裡就更特別了。特別到連我這麽鈍的人,都覺得空氣中漂浮著異常奇特的光彩和力量。

Although it feels walking in a special zone throughout the journey, the feeling got even stronger when getting closer to the cave.

121009 Cave 15(LR)01121009 Cave 21(LR)01121009 Cave 13(LR)01

洞是半開放的岩穴,嚮導幫我們掛上風馬旗。

It’s a half open cave. Our guides helped us put up some prayer flags.

121008 NorthCave 02(LR)01-2

看到前人不畏艱辛而背來的佛像、油燈,實在佩服不已。

I was amazed by all those statues and big butter lamps brought here by previous visitors.

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做煙供、供養,還在洞裡把一天的功課都做完了。

Sang offering and various prayers. It feels like something flowing in the air, like an unheard song, invisible, vibrating, making your mind clear and joyful.

總覺得洞的深處隱約傳來空行歌唱的聲音。

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Though we started early, we spent a lot of time at the cave and it was almost 10 when we got back to pick up our luggage and had some breakfast. Next time I will spend more than a night there.

磨蹭到九點多才回到昨晚落腳的地方,吃了早餐,拿上行李回拉章。

依依不捨,下次要多待兩晚。

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回去的路上,連小背包都讓嚮導幫忙背回去。即使如此,還是到晚上七點多,天都全黑了才回到拉章。我的腳程就是來回都要9個小時 [汗]

嚮導今天不用開路,走得飛快,估計三個小時就回家了。

很感人的是,大概下午四點我又餓又累,還加上可能失血過多而頭暈時,竟然其中一個嚮導又上山來,帶著水、熱熱的烤餅給我們吃。

Though I passed my little backpack to the guide, it still took me 9 hours to get back to Labdang. For them, since they don’t need to cut trees and make roads anymore, it probably took them only 3-4 hours to get back.

And they are super sweet. When I was tired and hungry on the road, one of them came back to us at around 4 pm to bring us some hot tea and warm roti!

因為他們先走了,天黑後很難認路,又沒有手電筒,友人拿著那天曉得能撐多久的手機當電筒,還好他算是很有方向感的人,於是帶我走出了大山。
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第四天:拉章-札西頂 / Day 4: Labdang to Tashiding

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實在很愛我在拉章住的這個地方。
Love this place I stayed in Labdang.

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昨晚回來在嚮導家門口清血蛭所遺留的血跡,今天還清晰可見。

身上有32個咬痕,腳上估計一兩百個是跑不掉的。

最慘的是,別人都是血蛭拿掉後,20分鐘血就止了。我是一整個晚上都在試著止血。試了各式方法,到了半夜還有三處止不了。

On the previous night I took out those leeches in front of the guide’s house, my blood on the ground was still visible this morning. In total, I had 32 bites on my torso and 100-200 bites on my legs/feet. A great cleansing with all the blood I offered to this pilgrimage!

121009 Labdang 15(LR)01 這是拉章村的公車站。旁邊有個社區辦公室,一定要去那邊交錢支持他們的開路和維護聖地的工作,每人只收20盧比,5毛美金都不到。

嚮導也很好,雖然我們沒有事先講好價錢,但帶我們上山,加上兩晚在他家的住宿吃喝,也只收了我們兩人四千盧比(80美金)。不太好意思,於是多給了一千盧比的小費。

This is the jeep stop in Labdang. The community has an office nearby. They only charge 20 Rupee per person for their hard work on making roads and maintaining the shelter. Please do support them.

For my guide, even though we did not talk about price upfront, this morning he charged a very reasonable 4000 Rupees for the two of us, including brining us up there, home stay, meals and everything. So  I offered  a tip for their hard work. Make sure you can find this guide if possible. Too bad I forgot his name already 😦

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回札西頂的路上,佛光普照。

Beautiful lights on the way  back  to Tashiding.

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札西頂!Tashiding!!

Brotherhood Winery at Hudson Valley

今天沒有課,和師姊一起去了號稱美國最老的釀酒廠, 始建於1839年,原來是種葡萄賣到曼哈頓,後來運費太高虧錢,就拿來釀酒,也提供教堂禮拜用。美國禁酒時期,由於拿到特批成為能供酒給教堂的少數酒廠(據導遊說,那時期大家上教堂可熱烈了~),於是存活下來,成為還在運營的美國最老酒廠。
Today we went to the oldest operating winery in US, the Brotherhood Winery, est. 1839.
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The $10 per person tour plus wine tasting is worth doing. The stories about the history of this winery is quite entertaining. They offered two types of tasting flights, the dry one and the sweet one. For me, definitely the dry one taste better. Actually even their dry wine is not dry enough for me. The sweet one is however interesting as those are the wine I would never order or purchase so good to take the chance to explore a bit, only good for making cocktail or desserts though. Their sparkling wine and merlot are good enough that I bought a bottle of each. Usually I like cabernet sauvignon better than merlot but their cabernet sauvignon somehow lacks the body while their merlot strikes a good balance.
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酒廠自然是要賣酒的。建議可以參加一人10美元的導覽,聽聽故事,到酒窖裡逛逛,然後試喝。試酒有兩種選擇,一種叫traditional的都是一堆甜的像咳嗽糖漿的酒,只能說美國人真的沒什麽文化,那些東西最多拿來做甜點或調雞尾酒吧,其實拿糖漿就綽綽有餘了,不過因為我從來不會花錢去喝那種東西,所以試試還挺好玩,而且還是可以嘗到朋友的正常酒。喝了一圈下來,他們家的氣泡酒不錯,非氣泡酒裡是merlot最好,不過普遍body都不足。有一款用Muscat做的氣泡酒,叫Carpe Diem,雖然還是偏甜,但香氣馥鬱,算是個小小驚喜。
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哈德遜河谷的酒廠很多,決定來這家,是因為有點歷史又很近(開車15分鐘而已),而且據說餐廳不錯,就義無反顧地來了。今天正好是復活節,有現場爵士演奏,菜做的確實頗有水準。
Their restaurant is quite good. Today is Easter and they only offer a set menu, with no vegetarian main course, so I ended up with salmon. Very nicely done. $27 per person.
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Then we took a walk at the Newburgh waterfront.
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排排站的海鷗。Well lined up seagulls.
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This is home for my 3 weeks at upstate New York 🙂 Had a great stay here. 140420 Newbourgh_001(LR)01
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Love spring flowers! Happy Easter to all.

這三周住的地方。紐約鄉下真的很美。

 

 

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Le Rêve

Le Rêve, a dream-like show at Wynn, Las Vegas.

Constantly myriad movements taking place simultaneously from all directions that you don‘t know where to lay your eyes on.

賭城拉斯維加斯值得一看的夢幻演出~

隨時都有舞者從不同方位、水底、天上躍出,眼睛都不知道看哪裡,真的只有“目不暇給”可以形容!  奇幻瑰麗的輪迴幻象~

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The Getty Museum, Los Angeles 蓋蒂博物館

Form, shape, line, structure, color…
And most important of all,
The light, the luminosity!

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Amazing architecture, but is it really good to push everything to the limit?

Those early LA diners started using large glass window so that by passing people can see customers devouring inside and thus feel attracted. The open kitchen inside a restaurant can make customers feel the waiting time is shorter before their food is served. But the open kitchen concept is only limited for the view of the upper body of chef because you don’t want people to see the cook dropping something on the floor which would associate with something negative…all sort of tricks. Yes, we want people to consume more, eat more and preferably more of lower cost stuff, hence the obesity and those poisonous stuff flowing all around. Is it really good to push everything to the limit?

線條、結構,令人驚歎的建築物,從每一個角度看都有其美麗之處。

館內提供的建築之旅、花園之旅都很值得去。

比如說,導覽員會說:早期加州那些路邊餐館開始打造大玻璃窗的用餐環境,這樣經過的人能看見裡面的人在大快朵頤,以此吸引顧客。餐廳研究又發現,開放式廚房能讓人覺得等餐的時間短些,於是有了開放式廚房。但是僅限於上半身,因為你不想讓顧客看到廚師掉了什麽東西在地上……(然後,我就會想,把一切事物推到極致真的是好事嗎?吸引人大吃特吃,而且最好是低成本的東西,於是哪個國家有最肥胖的人口?而且還不是一般的肥胖,是病態性、完全超越人體結構的肥胖。)

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While developing country people would be sarcastic about the Middle East’s sitting on piles of oil money and lack of democracy etc., it is shocking to learn that California used to account for 1/5 of world’s oil production yet nowadays, not too long after that period, the local government has been on the verge of insolvency.

比如說,導覽員會說:加州曾經占世界石油產量的五分之一。(哇,那是多少錢呀?美國人老是看不起中東人,覺得他們王室大賺石油錢卻不民主等等的,曾經這麽有錢又民主法治的加州,不知怎麽會搞到近年政府長期在破產邊緣掙扎的地步?)

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Still, thanks to the wealthy Californians so that there are all sort of beautiful experiment of architect for public landmark buildings, corporate buildings and individual residences, plus this well-run, inspiring and free museum for all to visit.

They even have their own tram!

嘟囔半天,還是得感謝加州有錢人,花錢實驗各式各樣創意建築物之餘(從公共建築、商業建築到私人住宅都有),還有這樣一個博物館保存歷史發展的歷程,並帶給人更多的啓發——除了停車15元外,其他一切,包括坐小列車上山都是免費的唷~

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Revered Lepcha Priest at Sikkim Palace Monastery 錫金雷普恰族祭師於皇家寺廟接受表揚

Today a revered Lepcha priest came to the Sikkim Palace Monastery (Tsuklakhang) to receive a formal recognition on his contribution to the society. Lepcha people are the aboriginal inhabitants of Sikkim, mostly settled in North Sikkim. Most of them follow the Tibetan Buddhism while keeping their original Shamanism culture of  worshipping the nature. The tribal priests would perform rituals to honor and appease the mountain guardians but unfotunately the lineage is dying. The community are presenting tributes to two senior priests today while one of them passed away already.

雷普恰族(Lepchas)是錫金兩大原住民族之一,另一族爲布提亞族(Bhutia)。他們大多信奉藏傳佛教,但也維持著原本崇拜自然神靈——特別是山神——的民俗文化。雷普恰族祭師會修法祭祀山神、驅魔治病等,如今老一輩的祭師慢慢凋零,卻又沒有年輕一輩的人願意承接這個文化傳承。今天地方協會對兩位最資深的祭師表達感謝,一位已經去世,另一位則來到皇家寺院(促克拉康)現場。

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Some photos and clippings on the board to show the activities of these senior priests. The little monks also joined the prayers and helped with the setup.
看板上是關於老祭師們的相片和剪報。皇家寺院的小喇嘛也來參加,開始時大家一起唸祈願文。
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Then the old priest performed a ritual with smoke offering and throwing rice. After that, he blessed the Lepcha people one by one, especially for those born in the year of snake, to dispel all their obstacles for this year of snake.
然後老祭師修了一座法,包括煙供、撒米等等,之後用一把淨化過的樹葉爲前來的雷普恰人加持除障,特別是爲蛇年出生(本命年者)淨除今年的障礙。
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This is a Mahasiddha: Lhatsun Namkha Jigme, the revealer of Riwo Sangcho/Rigdzin Sogdrub,an extremely important figure for spreading dharma in Sikkim, and also a previous incarnation of the khyentse lineage. 這是拉尊· 南卡·吉美,他在錫金取出了著名的《山淨煙供》等諸多伏藏,是奠定錫金佛法基礎的一位重要大成就者,也是欽哲的前世之一。
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The committee members and the old priest. 委員會工作人員與祭師的合影。
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When I wandered around, the window of the mahakala room was open. The yellow curtain moved along with the breeze. I cannot help but wandering, if I had come here 55 years earlier, maybe I would have had the great fortune to have  a glimpse of Khyntse Chokyi Lodro here. His room was the 1st floor room at the photo to the right while the ground floor room belonged to his consort, Khandro Tsering Chodron. People are still doing circumambulations here.

閒逛時,二樓瑪哈嘎啦護法室的窗子正開著。不僅想到,若是我早來此地五十多年,或許會有幸能在此瞥見欽哲確吉羅卓的身影~
右圖中,二樓是欽哲·確吉·羅卓以前的寢室,一樓是佛母康卓·慈玲·雀諄的房間。至今還有人常年在這裡繞行。
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IMG_1672As usual, I have to talk about the food. The lunch they served was so delicious – paneer curry, ema datsi, eggplant tempura, pakora, daal,  vermicelli with green vegetables, masala potatoes, fresh pickle with grinded cheese…I forgot the food in Sikkim monasteries can be this delicious, and all vegetarian!

I have to admit that I had no idea what Lepcha is earlier this morning. I happened to run into some young people when going out and ended up attending this event, having great food and enjoying the flowers, sunshine and breeze at this beautiful premise.

May all cultural heritage be preserved and carried on with meaningful contribution to the humanity and benefits to all beings.

因為是我的博客,所以就必須談談食物和花草。

午餐在寺廟吃的——米飯、豆子湯、奶豆腐豌豆咖喱、不丹的起司燉辣椒、炸素丸子、瑪薩拉馬鈴薯、粉絲青菜、茄子天婦羅、起司蘿蔔泡菜……全素盛宴,我都忘記錫金寺廟的食物可以有這麽好吃了!

今天本來是要去另一個地方的,出門時遇到小朋友,就臨時改成跟他們來這裡,於是朝拜了寺廟,欣賞了春天的花草,又撈到一頓這麽好吃的。來的時候,連雷普恰是什麽都不知道~ 現在跟大家介紹一下,算我沒有白吃人家一頓飯。願所有文化遺產皆得具義延續,利益眾生。

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My first “Holi” in India

昨天是印度的Holi節,號稱世界上最色彩繽紛的節慶,雖然我在山間小鎮,也感受到這個春天節慶的歡樂。大家拿著絢麗的彩粉或水互相潑灑,好玩極了!

Such a joyful festival in spring time. People were indeed celebrating wholeheartedly with colors even in this small town 🙂

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印度理髮師的按摩 Massage by Indian Barber

去年有位新加坡師兄説他在錫金剪頭髮時,發現理髮師給的十分鐘按摩很棒,他就每天花50盧比,享受那十分鐘的按摩。他還特別叮嚀説,他試過給100盧比按二十分鐘,但是後來十分鐘就沒力了,所以建議還是十分鐘就好。

於是我每次經過甘托克那條遍佈理髮小店的小路時,總是很想去試試。但是那些店,通常就兩張剃頭椅,一兩位黑黑的印度師傅站在那裡,偶爾的客人也都是男的,剃頭、刮面都有,總覺得不是女孩子去的地方。我要是坐在裡面按摩,只怕會引起路人圍觀,像是動物園一樣。

今天終於一償夙願。跟朋友經過了一家在商場內的理髮廳,雖然也是男師傅,但是理髮廳招牌寫著男女客人都收,而且天色晚了,旁邊店都已經關掉,建築內也沒有什麼人,還有朋友坐在旁邊監場,就決定試試。

果然不錯,按了有半個多小時吧,頭部、肩部、背部都按到了。力道也很足,比那些Ayurvedic 按摩舒服多了。200盧比,性價比極高。推薦給到印度旅遊的男同學們。

Finally  I tried the massage by Indian barber.

It was highly recommended by John from Singapore last year. He loved it so much that he went for a 10 minute massage everyday in Gangtok.

However, those small barbershops seem to serve only male customers. Plus with all the people walking by (usually wide open without doors),  I didn’t have the courage to try. 

Today we passed by a barbershop within a building. It was late so no other people around. Therefore I decided to give it a try with my friend’s company.

It is indeed very good, covering head, shoulder and back, over half an hour for 200 Rupees. For me, the effect is superior to the ayurvedic relaxation type of massage. Highly recommended for male travelers in India.