Thrangu Tashi Yangtse Monastery, Namo Buddha

I think I have already told you about an ex-patient of SIRC named Ram who wanted to wheel from the Tibet/China border to the Indian border, all to raise awareness for those in wheelchairs and to show life does not end after a spinal injury.  Lofty idea but a few of us were a little concerned as to the logistics needed for such a long journey, and we were unsure if he had physically prepared enough.  Knowing about Rick Hansen’s Man In Motion trip made me really think what was needed to make this journey a success.  So for this first Wheelchair Journey, we convinced Ram to start small and wheel “only” 360km which should take him about a month.

The starting point is hoped to be Namo Buddha and the end point is planned to be Lumbini – the birthplace of Buddha.  Two holy sites for Buddhists.  Check out the links for more information. Yesterday, a few of us visited Namo Buddha which is about one hour’s drive from Bhainsepati where we work, along roads that got steadily challenging, until we reached the Thrangu Tashi Yangtse Monastery.

On this trip were:  our very talented driver, SIRC Social Worker Suresh, SIRC Occupational Therapist Prajwal, Ram of course and me.  The aim of the trip was to scope out the road leading down from the monastery and also seek permission from the monastery for Ram to commence his journey there.

The road starts out to be paved, a highway so the only challenge is traffic.  Then we turn off onto a secondary road and that’s covered in gravel – a challenge for a wheelchair for sure.  This gravel road then disintegrates into a dirt track with stones, big pot holes and very little level ground.  I was the only one in the car wondering how Ram would wheel his wheelchair under such circumstances, but clearly I was just being a wussy westerner – they all were pretty calm about Ram’s ability to wheel under such conditions.  Ram included – I admire his self-confidence!

We arrived at the Monastery and walked up a long wide entrance way to where we could gain access to the offices.  Ram had to stay behind as there were numerous flights of stairs up to the office.  The Secretary of the Monastery and Lama was there so we met with him for about 20 mins.  I said nothing, Suresh did all the talking – explaining about Ram, his injury and the journey he wanted to take.  Even without Nepali, I could see the Lama was intrigued and kinda excited (as excited as Lamas get).  He came to meet Ram,, who was so very thrilled to meet him, and was a little shy initially.  No photos of this exchange as the Lama asked me not to.  But we left him feeling very positive that Ram will indeed be able to commence his journey at the monastery – the Lama had to consult his committee and he would let us know.  Fingers crossed!

The Monastery itself is just beautiful, so serene and peaceful high up in the mountains.  None of us had ever been there so we decided to check it out.  Easier said than done when one of our group is wheelchair bound.  I got a bit of a workout carrying the wheelchair up numerous flights of stairs while the guys took it in turns to carry Ram.  The delight on Ram’s face to be able to see the Monastery was payback for the workout, it was an honour really.

The following are a bunch of photos I took, very bright sunlight and my camera is but a point & click so the quality of the photos is not great, but you will get the sense of our time at the monastery all the same.  Double click any of the photos to make them larger.

Ram wheeling himself up the incline from the car park

Ram wheeling himself up the incline from the car park

View of the monastery with Prajwal - who will accompany Ram on the Wheelchair Journey

View of the monastery with Prajwal – who will accompany Ram on the Wheelchair Journey

Story behind the monastery:  a lioness and her cubs were starving so the Buddha gave his body to feed the lioness so that she could give milk to her cubs.

Story behind the monastery: a lioness and her cubs were starving so the Buddha gave his body to feed the lioness so that she could give milk to her cubs.

So many steps!  Everywhere!  Ram is being carried (l), and Suresh (m) and Prajwal (r) carrying the wheelchair.  I did my fair share of carrying the wheelchair too!

So many steps! Everywhere! Ram is being carried (l), and Suresh (m) and Prajwal (r) carrying the wheelchair. I did my fair share of carrying the wheelchair too!

Taking a breather at the prayer wheels.  many more sets of steps to take yet.

Taking a breather at the prayer wheels. Many more sets of steps to take yet.

Ornate door temple entrance

Ornate door temple entrance

These young monks gave us some tips on how to avoid more steps going higher again up to the Stupa.  Spot the Starbucks cup?!

These young monks gave us some tips on how to avoid more steps going higher again up to the Stupa. Spot the Starbucks cup?!

We finally made it up all those steps to the Stupa up top

We finally made it up all those steps to the Stupa up top

Incense burning at the Stupa

Incense burning at the Stupa

Shrine depicting the story of the monastery up at the Stupa.

Shrine depicting the story of the monastery up at the Stupa.

The only bad thing about being up at the Stupa, was the coming down!  The guys did most of this work thankfully.

The only bad thing about being up at the Stupa, was the coming down! The guys did most of this work thankfully.

we were told we would meet no steps if we went down in between the monks house.  This is where the Lama lives.

We were told we would soon meet no steps if we went down through the Monks quarters. This particular house is where the Lama lives.

And the less salubrious surroundings of where the Monks live

And the less salubrious surroundings where the Monks live

Finally we got down to the pathway with no steps!  We were all relieved, including Ram.  There was one or two tense moments rolling the wheelchair down the steps as you can imagine!

Finally we got down to the pathway with no steps! We were all relieved, including Ram. There was one or two tense moments rolling the wheelchair down the steps as you can imagine!

These young Monks were very curious about Ram and his wheelchair.  Given we cam down through their living quarters, clearly word spread and many came out for a look.  The awareness has started!

These young Monks were very curious about Ram and his wheelchair. Given we came down through their living quarters, clearly word spread and many came out for a look. The awareness has started!

A few of the older Monks also came out for a look.  They vanished pretty fast though when the lunch bell rang.

A few of the older Monks also came out for a look. They vanished pretty fast though when the lunch bell rang.

Ram, as independent as ever,, getting himself into the jeep.

Ram, as independent as ever, getting himself into the SIRC jeep.

We stopped along the way back for some cold water and satsumas and I could not help taking a photo of more potato drills.

We stopped along the way back for some cold water and satsumas and I could not help taking a photo of more potato drills.

And finally a photo of a crowded bus.  I personally draw the line at hanging out the door or sitting on the roof.   I have walked home from work a few days as a result!

And finally a photo of a crowded bus. I personally draw the line at hanging out the door or sitting on the roof. I have walked home from work a few days as a result!

About Kate Coffey

After 25+ years in the investment management industry, I packed in my job and spent 2014 living and working in Nepal and Bangladesh, and visited some other places in between. It took me on a journey I did not expect, had me fall in love with Nepal and it's people, and become inspired at the work of Spinal Injury Rehabilitation Centre (SIRC) located 2 hours east of Kathmandu in the Sanga foothills. Since 2014, I have continued my warm relationship with SIRC and worked closely with my friends there in the aftermath of the 2015 earthquakes to date. This blog initially started out as a travelogue of sorts to keep friends and family worldwide updated while I was off on my travels in 2014. Since then it has morphed into a life story of the many places I have lived and worked and of the wonderful people I have met along the way. I hope you enjoy.
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