Why did Hanumanji go back in time

Being on the go is my life


I experienced the stories gathered here while traveling over the past three decades. With my first major venture - an expedition to the Himalayas - I was still inexperienced, had to try myself first and find my way of being on the move. Curious, I set off into the unknown. As then, I still travel with passion today because I want to discover, explore and observe new things. I'm interested in people, animals, plants, stones. But nature alone is not enough for me, I want to know what happened in the past in these areas that I visit. Beyond the present, I am fascinated by the past. In search of history and stories, I ask people I meet. That's why my travels usually take a long time. It doesn't just take time, but also care and inner sympathy to gain the trust of the person you are talking to. That is why it is important for me to learn the languages ​​of the people I am visiting as much as possible. I have good command of English and Spanish, and I've also learned Arabic and Mongolian. You can communicate or paint what you need and want with signs, but it is only when I communicate with people in their language that a path to their hearts opens up.

The stories in this anthology begin with my first trip, which took me to Nepal as a member of a mountaineering expedition. Furthermore, the stories are not arranged chronologically, but according to landscape forms such as deserts, mountains, rivers, or according to focal points, for example encounters with people and experiences with animals. Each story is preceded by an explanation of when the trip took place, why I chose this area, and interesting circumstances. At the end of the book there is an appendix with explanations of the individual trips, information about the country and its people or comments that are dedicated to the present of the countries and regions visited.

I have already reported on a few experiences in this volume in my books, the vast majority of which I am telling for the first time.



Summit above the clouds

Nepal // Greece // Morocco // Spain // Philippines



Home of snow

Sta-Jub-Kang, "Starnberg Jubilee Mountain", was the name of the expedition in which I took part as a member of the Starnberg Alpine Club. I was new to the club. Growing up in the GDR, I arrived in West Germany in June 1976 after trying to escape and two years in prison. I sat in a corner on my first club evening, shy and impressed by the established men in costume and with beer mugs in hand. But I had to give up my reluctance that same evening, because the Starnbergers were planning an expedition to the Himalayas. It should start in six months. I wanted to go with them, it was immediately clear to me. The Himalayas have been my dream destination since I read a book about Nanga Parbat years ago. It was already clear who was allowed to take part in the expedition in the spring of 1977. But I didn’t give up, brought my concerns up again at every club evening and took part in all mountain tours. So I managed to be accepted into the urban Bavarian group.

The highest mountains on our earth tower gigantically into the sky. In the ancient Indian language Sanskrit, Himalaya means "home of snow". This mountain range has many faces, a nature full of contrasts and extremes. The fairytale sight of red flowering rhododendron trees contrasts with jagged glaciers. In addition to lovely alpine meadows, adorned with gentian and edelweiss, ice barriers tower up and break down gorges a thousand meters deep, where wild rivers roar. Mountain giants are enthroned above mysterious, mist-shrouded forests with dripping wet beard lichens, from which avalanches thunder down again and again. I had fed my imagination with these descriptions and burned with impatience to be able to experience the mountains of my longing with my own senses.

After a stopover in Delhi, we land in Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal. The country is tiny compared to its large neighbors China and India. It is located on the southern flank of the majestic mountain range and measures barely 800 kilometers in length; the width varies between 144 and 244 kilometers.

We are accommodated in what I consider to be a luxurious hotel in the English colonial style. The borders of Nepal have only recently been opened to travelers. We are privileged guests who are served courteously, even submissively. That's not how I imagined an expedition to be. I'm not used to traveling in comfort. Actually, I've never traveled at all, I've only seen excursions through Mecklenburg and on the Baltic coast during my student days. I am already noticing that I cannot adapt to my fellow travelers.

Curious about the people in Nepal and their way of life, I leave the hotel the next morning, I don't waste precious time with a sumptuous breakfast and a city tour in the group. When I step outside the hotel door, a rickshaw driver stops immediately. But I have to disappoint him, I'd rather go on foot. This is the only way I can get a first glimpse into the life of the Nepali.

I direct my steps out of the center to a suburb of Kathmandu. It is very early. The sky shimmers yellow and red, the residents are just waking up. Since there are no water pipes in the houses, you wash yourself on the side of the road with natural dignity that leaves no thought of shame. The sun rises higher and illuminates narrow streets. Women sit bared in front of their low houses. They oil their skin or have their daughters put on them without the neighbors being offended. Then it is the turn of the children and they are anointed all over their bodies.

The men meanwhile devote themselves to their craft. Some forge, others sew, cobble, or sell fabrics, leather goods, and clay pots. Two men saw boards from a tree trunk. With a simple hand saw they cut the trunk lengthways, the most arduous way of sawing boards I can imagine. I watch women spinning, weaving, fetching water and washing clothes. With all the varied activities, life seems calm and full of harmony. There is a friendly smile on people's faces. "Namaste", say hello to me.

The Kathmandu Valley covers about 600 square kilometers, lies at an altitude of 1300 meters and is the central and culturally most important part of Nepal. A legend tells that once the Bodhisattwa Manjusri came from China to this area, which was filled with a huge lake. It was the famous Nag Hrad snake lake. In the middle of the lake a beautiful lotus blossom grew and radiated a divine light. The Bodhisattva - a saint who has already reached perfection to enter nirvana but willingly renounced it to do good and to help people - took his sword and cut a deep breach in the obstructing mountains so that the waters run out could. Soon people came and settled the fertile lake bed. Geologists established that once there was indeed a body of water here. An earthquake opened a narrow gorge from which the water still flows today.

In the valley, which used to be an important trading center between India, Tibet and China, there were three royal cities: besides Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktupur. The places became rich and famous, developed splendor and splendor.

Along the rice fields I take the way back, approaching the center of Kathmandu again. This exotic and vibrant city full of contrasts surprises me. Rickshaws ring their way. Cars squeeze their way through narrow streets and keep honking their horns. Holy cows stand in the middle of the street. They stoically endure the noise and do not move from the spot. Women in blossom-like saris walk past beggars wrapped in miserable rags. Sellers spread their goods on the street. Magnificent silks and brocades are piled up next to piles of rubbish. A kaleidoscope of human life in all its forms. I open my senses wide, I eagerly absorb the diverse impressions. The pictures are unforgettable to me.

In terms of outward appearance, the residents belong to different ethnic groups. There are very slim, graceful people whose ancestors, as I have read, come from India. The oldest population includes the rather small and dark-skinned Newar of Tibeto-Burmese origin. They are skilled craftsmen, especially wood carvers, and were even employed at the Chinese imperial court. There are said to be over a hundred different ethnic groups in Nepal with at least as many languages ​​and dialects.

The noisy and colorful hustle and bustle on the streets distracted me, only later do I notice the ornate temples and pagodas. They are woven into the confusing architecture of the city. Only the Hanuman Dhoka, the complex around the old royal palace, stands out. I reverently admire the magnificent buildings, let my eyes wander over and over again over the richly pictorial carvings. It is certain that pagoda construction was invented in Nepal. It was Newarian wood carvers and builders whose art spread throughout Asia. The buildings are richly decorated with sculptures of the Hindu world of gods.

Since I got up so early, the morning still lasts. I have a rickshaw take me to the Buddhist shrine Swayambhunath. Outside the city it is on a hill. It is the earliest Buddhist structure in Nepal and one of the oldest in Asia. Presumably Buddha visited this place and meditated here. The name Swayambhu refers to the magical light of the lotus blossom that grew in the middle of the Ursee Nag Hrad. To protect the divine light, a dome-shaped stupa was built. This design developed from simple piles of stones, the Tschörten, in which the relics of a saint are kept. These simple structures later line our path in the mountains. The Swayambhunath stupa, on the other hand, is a sacred building, the architecture of which contains complex symbolism. My gaze is first captured by a huge white hemisphere. A square structure rises from its center, on each side of which the all-seeing and all-knowing eyes of Buddha are painted. As I climb the 365 steps to the sanctuary, I cannot escape its effect, I feel watched by the oversized pair of eyes.

Nine altars with Buddha figures are grouped around the stupa. In the east the altar for the Eastern Buddha. He is assigned the blue color, the element air and the elephant as a mount. The Buddha in the west is shown in a meditation posture. His mount is the peacock, his color is red and his element is the earth. Each of the nine Buddha images has its own colors, mounts and symbolic elements. 211 bronze prayer wheels hang around the stupa. In deep devotion, believers circle the building and turn the mill by hand. Enclosed in them is a document with the words: "Om mani padme hum". This sacred mantra can be translated as: "Oh, you jewel in the lotus flower". Behind these simple words is the Buddhist creed. What is meant is the universal power with its divine infinity and all-embracing love.

Faith and reality are closely interwoven in Nepal. The gods belong to the daily routine of the people. I see a woman who, deeply absorbed, rubs butter on the face of a statue of a god. One man pours red powder on a god, another throws rice at a statue. Children play hide and seek behind the Buddha's mount.

The two main religions of Nepal, Buddhism and Hinduism, seem to co-exist peacefully. I rent a rickshaw again and drive to the nearby Hindu shrine of Budhanilakantha. There I visit the sleeping Vishnu. In an artificial pond, the god rests on stone cobras. The sculpture was probably carved from a single block of rock in the 7th century. Hindu believers sprinkle the figure with red and yellow colored powder and shower it with flowers. They even drink from the algae-green water of the pond to absorb the power of the god.

Noon is over, but I want to use the afternoon for more sightseeing. Nearby is the village of Daksin Kali, where the Hindus sacrifice to the goddess Kali. The black goddess with the many arms gives fertility, but she demands blood. Goats and dogs are sacrificed to her. The sacrificial animals must be black and they should voluntarily consent to the sacrifice. That is why they are splashed with water. The animals shake. Since shaking the head means “yes” in Nepal, they are immediately slaughtered.

Many sights in one day, but since they are all close together, I had the leisure to let them sink in. In the meantime, however, the sun is already setting, just in time to visit Pashupatinath, the headquarters of the Brahmin priests. The oldest and most sacred Hindu temple stands on the bank of the sacred Bagmati River. This is where the wood is piled up for the pyre of the dead: nine layers for the male and seven for the female dead. The relatives scatter the ashes into the river so that the soul can detach itself from the body. Old people sit under the arcades of the temple complex. You came to die. Sunk in themselves, with rapt faces, already detached from earthly life, they wait for death.

I return to the hotel late. My tour group is having dinner, my greeting is answered in silence. So I made myself unpopular right at the beginning of the trip. Talking helps with upset, I think, tell of my impressions and emphasize that I announced my day off beforehand.

“Don't brag about your sightseeing,” countered one. “We have also visited sights, but we cannot share your enthusiasm. Poverty and dirt everywhere. And then they drink the contaminated water and throw rice around instead of eating it. "

“But we are not allowed to judge that! We don't share their lives. They have a completely different culture, a different belief, you have to respect that, ”I reply, amazed.

“Nonsense, different culture! There are principles that apply to all people. You probably accept everything without worrying about how you were taught in the GDR. "

I look around, most of them don't return my gaze. But I still hope that not everyone thinks like the speaker. Well, I comfort myself. Tomorrow it's "my" Himalayas. The impressive experiences will make you forget all inconsistencies.

We fly to Lukla with a propeller plane at an altitude of 3500 meters. What I hadn't expected: Twenty porters are ready to carry our equipment on their backs. To make matters worse, we need chairs and a table for our comfort, and not made of light plastic, but of wood. I had expected severe hardship, after all, an expedition had been announced. Instead, our company presents itself as a less adventurous trekking tour.

The route leads through the Khumbu Himal, the mountain part in which Mount Everest is located. The path winds along the mountain slope, deep down the Dudh Kosi rushes in its steeply cut valley. The Himalayas are sacred mountains, signs of deep religiosity can be found everywhere: stones with the mantra Om mani padme hum are piled up to form mani walls, prayer flags flutter in the wind and prayer wheels are driven by mountain streams. Chorts line the path, and monasteries here seem closer to heaven than to earth. The gods are as omnipresent to the people of the Himalayas as the mountains. In their belief, the mountains are living beings in constantly changing shapes, sometimes god or goddess, then an evil demon or magician.

Three days later the path descends to the river. We reach the goal of today's stage. As on the days before, our tents are already set up. I find it difficult to come to terms with this practice. We are greeted with hot tea and soon the food is on the wooden table. The cook goes to great lengths and conjures up varied meals from the numerous foods carried by the porters. I have to admit that I had completely wrong ideas about this expedition. Before that, I ate a few extra kilos in vain because I was expecting meager food.

In the middle of the wildly roaring Dudh Kosi lies a flat stone. I manage to get to him through the flood of water. I sit there for a long time, enveloped by the strong noise in the middle of the mountains of the Himalayas, and I feel that I belong there. When I emerge from my thoughts and the emotional understanding of nature and merging with it again, I see a slate-blue bird about the size of a sparrow.It buzzes over the crystal clear mountain water, spreading its vermilion tail feathers in a fan, a signal that can be seen from afar to attract a partner and warn potential rivals. After its flying capers, the bird rests on river pebbles on the bank, lively bobbing its red tail fan. It is appropriately named Wasserrötel. When he sits down near me, despite the roaring water, I hear his singing, which consists of very high and at the same time melodic tones. A female cannot resist the visual and acoustic stimuli and flutters over to it. She, in turn, draws attention to herself with bright white tail feathers.

We continue to hike into the mountains. Barefoot or in well-worn sneakers, the porters walk with their heavy loads on stony paths. At night they seek shelter under a rock overhang. We, on the other hand, spend the night in tents and warm sleeping bags. A questionable way of being on the move, as I know it from travelogues from the colonial era. The porters belong to the Sherpa people, they are characterized by endurance and strength and are well adapted to the altitude. The name means "people from the east". About 500 years ago, clans from the Kham area in eastern Tibet made the bold decision to move from the north side of the Everest massif over the glaciated, 5716 meter high Nagpa La pass to the south side to Nepal and settle there . When Tibet was not yet occupied by China and the border was open, they dragged heavy loads, mainly salt, but also cloth and balls of wool across the Himalayas. The luggage lies on your back, but the neck muscles do most of the work because a wide strap is placed over the forehead.

A sudden fall in the weather! Freezing cold. The wind whistles and sleet lashes our faces. The path now climbs particularly steeply. The altitude of over 4000 meters is exhausting, we breathe heavily. Our steps slow down. Again and again we have to stop and take a breath. Suddenly I hear bright voices. A group of boys and girls is already overtaking us. You are hardly older than eight years. Each one has a load on its back, which, like adults, they carry with a ribbon over their foreheads. And they sing! A little later they are no longer visible in rain and snow, only their cheerful song sounds encouraging to us.

In front of us is Namche Bazar, a Sherpa village and formerly an important trading place, because the border to Tibet lies behind the next mountain ridge. Quarry stone houses crowd the mountainside. Terraced fields, carefully bordered with stone walls, were wrested from the inhospitable nature. Women work in a field, dig holes in the hard earth with a digging stick and place seed potatoes in them, varieties that are adapted to the extreme weather at an altitude of 3800 meters. The tubers also thrive at this altitude in the region of origin of the potatoes, in South America. Grain grows in other fields; the green stalks have just broken through the ground. The narrow fields are tilled by women and children, the men do other jobs, work on building houses or as porters on expeditions. Only the plowing is usually done by the men. They harness yaks to the plow. These high mountain cattle have been tamed and bred for thousands of years. They provide people with important products: wool and milk, meat and fat, leather, sinews and bones.

The next few days it goes higher and higher. In front of us lies the Ama Dablam. At 6856 meters, the mountain is not one of the very high peaks, but one of the most beautiful. Similar to a tower, the evenly towering shape is decorated with well-arched snow balconies. When the sun is behind the mountain, a wreath of light surrounds it and looks like an unearthly appearance. For the Sherpa, Ama Dablam is a sacred mountain. They call it "Mother Treasure Chest".

Chörten are piling up along the way, prayer flags are blowing, and stone tablets with mantras are piled up to form walls. The Sherpa observe the rituals that they have known from childhood. You always go left in these places because the sun takes its course - and Buddha, the enlightened one, is the spiritual sun in the heart of people. It soon becomes clear why so many sacred symbols are gathered here: In front of us is the Tengpoche Monastery. It is enthroned near the clouds at an altitude of 3867 meters. On a plateau, surrounded by snow-white mountain giants, it looks magically enchanted in its seclusion and loneliness.

Our tents are on an alpine meadow below the monastery. We are told that we can visit the monastery the next day.

At sunrise the monks begin to drum and blow horns. The dull tones resound like archaic primeval sounds through the silent landscape.

The monks greet us politely and give us a look into their rooms. In the library they show the precious books wrapped in silk scarves, lead us past shiny gold Buddha statues and butter lamps. They smile politely and do not move an expression when they notice our curious, but not very understanding looks.

We won't get very far on this day. The tents have to be set up by noon, bad weather is falling over us again. It rains, snows and sleet alternately. Hardly anyone can sleep at night because the storm makes the tarpaulin flutter noisily and bends the tent poles. The next morning the snow is almost half a meter high. As always, the Sherpa spent the night shrouded in blankets outside. They must have suffered from the cold, but now the sun is shining and they are pleased with the blinding white. They jump around in the snow like children, throw snowballs at each other, play hunting and catching. Our group looks on in astonishment and questioning. How can people be so cheerful when they have to haul the heaviest loads for days, the night camp is cold and hard, the clothes inadequate and the food monotonous? Where does their spiritual strength come from? Is it the mountains that release positive forces and give inner peace?

We set up our base camp at an altitude of 5000 meters with a view of Mount Everest. From here we want to climb a still nameless 7000 meter high summit, which will be called Sta-Jub-Kang after the summit victory. A summit team is determined. My condition and altitude adjustment are excellent, but the group thinks I don't have the necessary experience in the ice. Which is of course not true, because I did numerous ice tours in the Alps in preparation, and all participants are newcomers to the Himalayas. So we have the same experience.

Instead of standing on my first seven-thousander, I am given a different, unforgettable experience. It is still night. The snow mountains shimmer against the dark sky. I feel strength and energy flowing over me from the mountains. The ground is powdered with frost, and the silver-white full moon lets the landscape shine in an unearthly light. An infinitely wide starry sky arches over me. As if in a trance, I climb a mountain slope. It slowly gets lighter, and then the sun pours its rays over the earth. I sit on a stone adorned with lichen and say goodbye to my Himalayas, because tomorrow I am going back to Kathmandu, because one participant is suffering from altitude sickness and the others are tired of the privations. And then I see him - an azure blue and green iridescent bird! I heard that it exists: the glossy Himalayan pheasant. But that I should be able to see this rare and shy bird, I did not expect that. With its colorful plumage, it looks like a fairytale-like appearance in the wasteland of gray stones. I almost want to believe that he only showed himself to me to comfort me and as a sign that I should come again.

Then fog comes up and covers everything like a curtain.