Posted by: Craig Woolheater on September 25th, 2013
Posted by Bobo on his Facebook page:
Nepal was incredible!! You think the Rockies and Sierra Nevada’s are big mountains…until you see the Himalayas! They’re literally twice as tall. What is surprising is that they’re a sub-tropical zone up until 11,000 ft. Very green and lush. One other feature of that environment was a plethora of leeches. Got 11 bites from the neck up over a 36 hour period. Woke up a couple of times with blood all over my head and pillow(wadded up jacket). They don’t hurt, but they itch for a good 10 days after. And they’re just plain gross.
I wish I could give details about the trip but we have to leave that for the show. Makes sense since they paid for the whole shebang.
One thing I can tell you about, and the craziest thing that happened, since it happened off camera was a potentially dangerous encounter with some angry locals in the middle of nowhere. There was one spot that was repeatedly mentioned by villagers as a spot where yetis lived. It was my turn to solo camp so I headed in that direction. We stopped at a great spot about a mile and half down the mountain from our ultimate destination. It was a large clearing over looking several canyons with great acoustics. There were a couple of hours before it got dark and we were setting up camp when it started to drizzle. The Sherpas were confident the rain would let up. It didn’t all night. That was a sign of things to come.
The next day Chad Hammel- producer/cameraman, Lakpa-Sherpa/guide, K Man-Sherpa/cook and myself took off for our final destination up the mountain.
Once again our Sherpas blew our minds carrying loads over their body weight off trail up the slippery and muddy mountain.
We get there and there are some cattle roaming around. At this place there is a shrine originally built by Buddhist monks but eventually adopted by the Hindu’s from the village down the valley as a Holy site. Our local fixer, Mohendra, had cleared it with the Monks from Pangom. The show had made a monetary contribution to the monastery to help smooth things over. Pangom is an upper elevation Buddhist village of Sherpas. The spot where we set up camp is within the traditional boundaries of Pangom village.
Kira Khola is a village down the valley that has recently been settled by Hindu’s from the city who have moved into the mountains to open businesses along the main tourist hiking routes through the Himalayas. Nepal takes a lot of pride in religious tolerance and peaceful communities. The Buddhists and Hindus even use each others temples with no problems.
A couple of cattle herders came by and were upset that we were camping at a Holy site. Mind you there were whiskey bottles and beer cans littering the small clearing. So apparently it wasn’t too Holy to party and litter there, but too Holy to camp. They tried to shake us down for money but we refused. Our Sherpa’s were nervous and pretty submissive. It turns out that 10 years earlier Maoist hit squads had been roaming the mountains and executing people. Some members of said squads were from Kira Khola. The men from Kira Khola have been getting more and more aggressive coming into Pangom territory and cutting timber and grazing cattle. The residents of Pangom are Buddhist and much more docile. Plus their village has a much smaller population. So they aren’t looking for any problems with Kira Khola villagers. We didn’t know all of this until later. And all of this info is coming in through rough translation over several days so I could be a little off on some of the details.
So we called Mohendra on the satellite phone and he speaks to the cattle herders, one of whom is on the committee of Hindu docents of the shrine/site. They agree to speak with Mohendra in person in Pangom. Mohendra is also a Hindu. They leave us and we see them several hours later heading back to Kira Khola without them acknowledging us.
That night torrential rains of Biblical proportions hit us. Approximately 10″s fell in a few hours. Unbeknownst to us the trail to Kira Khola that the villagers had spent the previous 3 years working tirelessly to entice more tourists to visit was wiped out in the rain. They were all convinced that my camping there had angered the goddess that the Hindu’s worshipped there. She was so angered by my presence and mad at them for not forcing me to leave that she punished them by obliterating their trail and 3 years of hard work.
While I was somewhat honored that I was finally recognized for my under appreciated ability to anger goddesses and affect world weather conditions I felt I was getting a little too much credit.
A few days later the whole team and I returned to the site. As far as we knew everything was cool as we weren’t aware that I had just caused a severe flood. The Buddhist monks from the temple in Pangom were there also performing a ceremony. You have to realize the site is only about 10 x 30 yards, very small.
So as we’re setting up to film, a couple of men from Kira Khola show up very agitated yelling things we couldn’t understand. We were in a hurry to start filming as it had been raining the majority of the time and there was a break in it with dark clouds approaching.
After about 30 mins Mohendra and Shanta our interpreter were able to get the Kira Khola men off to the side so we could do our thing. That didn’t last long as the Kira Khola men had sent for back up. When their pack of about 10 more showed up they came back to the site yelling about me causing heavy rain and wanting us to pay money and leave. At this point the monks had had enough and approached the mob telling them to be quiet and leave the area. A few of our producers were also in the mix while the whole situation was quickly approaching the boiling point. During the increasing yelling one of the chief antagonists from Kira Khola pulled out a Gurkha fighting knife and starting sharpening a spear. The monk, 2nd in charge from the monastary, was having to be held back by our interpreters.
It was at this point that they pulled a couple of guns out and threatened to kill us. They really meant business. There were 2 main protagonists and I had set my sights on the biggest one who had the knife and spear. It seemed an all out battle was imminent and I was going to come in from the side and take him out first. Most of us weren’t aware yet that some of them had guns.
It was hard to remain humble seeing as I was instrumental in instigating a religious, ethnic and international war. Many would argue that this elevated me to minor diety status.
Things were getting hairy fast and Mohendra ordered us to fall back and leave the site. As we left the Kira Khola crew was threatening us and challenging us to a battle. Mohendra was incensed as the 2 leaders of the Kira Khola crew, one of whom had one eye, told him to f*&% off. This didn’t go over well as Mohendra is a heavy hitter with contacts in the highest level of government, including military/police.
When we returned to Pangom late that night Mohendra was still very fired up and got on the satellite phone straight to Kathmandu. We had all the filming permits and had spent a lot of money. Plus the fact that our show is going to introduce Nepal’s beauty to a whole new audience with tourism being their biggest industry; they couldn’t let the perpetrators get away with it. The military/police instantly dispatched a squad to round them up.
They were arrested on charges of threatening with unregistered guns. They arrested the two ring leaders and six of the younger guys with them. They were all to do 2-4 years in jail. It was obvious to everyone that the 2 main older guys were the problem and the others were just younger guys not wanting to look soft in front of the others. All of our crew, while realizing an example had to be made, expressed our opinions that we thought it was excessive to give all of them that harsh of a sentence. So Mohendra called back over there and got their sentences reduced to 2-3 weeks with 1/2 rations and a caning every day. 3rd world justice is arbitrary and rough.
We had no more problems the rest of our tiime there and every vista was more spectacular than the last. If you ever get the chance to visit that part of the world, get on it!!James Bobo Fay