16th April, The Puja ceremony.
Well the Bhuddist Gods were kindly looking down on us this morning as I unzipped my tent to be greeted by streaming sunshine, blue skies and our Sherpas putting the finishing touches to the granite alter that they had been preparing since first light.
On the top of a small morraine they had built a rectangular alter to place gifts for the Gods for our safe passage to the summit and more importantalty back down again.
Rather embarrassingly some of the group almost didn’t make the ceremony! It had been due to start at 9.00am and the last some of them had heard was that we were waiting until Adele, Ronald and Scott, who are hoping to climb Lhotse, to arrive. So it was with some embarrassment that one of the Sherpas’s came to get them at 9.45am when the ceremony had already started (without Adele and her team).
The Puja itself is fairly relaxed with talking and drinking allowed whilst the Lama chants prayers for our safe journey. Incense wafts across the morraine and the sherpas prepare the prayer flags for draping across our camp. Drinks on offer included sweet tea and ‘Chang’ a potent alcoholic concoction made of fermented rice. I can’t help feeling this approach might swell congregations at home!
After approximately and hour and a half of chanting and rice throwing Adele arrived just in time for the flour throwing and face painting. This entails having your cheeks and nose covered in flour. After this it’s time to have a drink: a coke , a sprite or of course a beer! Our first alcohol since Kathmandu. Our Lama was quite young and very thoughtfully refrained from anything alcoholic. Some of the team enjoyed a San Miguel beer which at 5% alcoholic content went straight to their heads. This was swiftly followed by three shots of whiskey each.
After the ceremony two of the ‘ice fall doctors’ kindly joined us (well wouldn’t you if there was a free drink on offer). It was reassuring to see that they were quite old and obviously very experienced.
I did my best in typical Irish style to make sure that the party (sorry ceremony) continued in a most convivial manner.
We are all now assembled in the mess tent waiting for lunch all feeling rather light headed which is of course due to the altitude! The sobering news is that we are up at 2.00am tomorrow morning.