I’m writing this in in my tent. It’s six o’clock in the evening, the sun has just set and I’ve downed my last coconut biscuit washed down with Himalayan chilled water from a nearby stream, it might be a simple meal but at this moment I couldn’t think of a better restaurant in the world. This time of the day is my favourite – saying goodbye to the mountains for another night as I watch the pink crystal peaks disappear, I zip up my sleeping bag to begin writing my diary.
After riding for almost five weeks across West Bengal & Sikkim in Himalayan India I end up face to face with the third highest peak on the planet, Mt Kangchenjunga. As if that wasn’t enough, North East India threw up some of the craziest clues to Shambhala I could have hoped for.
Two days buried 30 meters below a monastery in a valley on the Chinese border looking for clues that were stashed in to cracks and crevices in the 8th century was exhilarating – I was so excited to be here, looking for real tangible clues, physical proof of this mythical kingdom which dare I say it, is becoming something of an obsession.
Descending through thick green forest in the shadow of Mt Kangchenjunga on the Nepal & Indian border, we see a small hole no larger than a cat flap.
“Down here Mr David!” yelled one of the villagers from the black hole.
I passed my two cameras in to the blackness and a pair of invisible hands grabbed them. With candles lit and distributed around, the five of us began the drop in to the side of the mountain. Crawling through a maze of tunnels with only a packet of candles between us, I followed the red hand gang as I called them (a local monk & four monastery kids who knew of the tunnels) , through to a large chamber where Guru Rinpoche was said to have meditated in the 8th century.
My pulse began to race as we climbed deeper and deeper into the darkness. We crawled on our bellies passing boulders awkwardly wedged from earlier slides blocking off some of the tunnel chambers. After 30 minutes of shuffling on our elbows and jumping down holes we were all stood up in a chamber the size of a small house! Fresh candles were distributed around the cave and we all giggled – we were standing in a museum!
A naturally formed chorten was in front of us and in the corner of an annexed chamber we could make out a number of cracks and crevices with interesting markings. The warm glow from the candles highlighted interesting markings said to have been made by the great Guru himself. Some cracks were 18″ long and 2″ or so in depth, I ran my fingers inside them as if I needed physical confirmation of what I was seeing.
Climbing out of the cave was just as much an adventure as getting in as we had to emerge using a different route. The cameras were passed through the tunnels as we crawled on our stomachs under shelf ledges and up tunnel flutes until I saw a light ahead – 30 feet up in the ceiling.
When I poked my head out of the hole and took a look around, we were no longer in a forest – we were over looking a vast valley with a single rock shelf in front of us. Sonam was already on the rock with a big smile on his face. “This is where Guru Rinpoche would sit” he laughed in a yoga pose. I climbed on to the rock and looked out over the vast green valley below in all it’s magnificence high up here in the mountains, the same view Guru Rinpoche himself would have seen all those years ago.
After sixteen weeks of following the great Guru from north east India through Bhutan and in to Sikkim, I took in a deep breath and felt so happy to be following this incredible journey.