The Pass and a Threshold for the Tibetan Changpas
Michael Kleinwort, kora Founder
For the nomads of the Himalayas a pass is a gateway - a vital threshold to fresh pastures and the markets essential to their survival. The crossing provides catharsis - a rebirth of sorts - offering sustenance and safety for another season. The Changpas, as do all nomads across the Himalayan ranges, revere these passes with prayers and offerings: to them these are powerful and spiritual places, and their safe passage depends on the whim of the incumbent power, whom they seek to appease - for he is a fickle master, prone to sudden and sometimes violent mood swings.
Such are the forces at play that the technologies of the modern world offer little protection along these age-old routes. Disconnected from the world, and unable to call on help in a crisis, the risks in these parts are very real. Even for the nomads, the traverse of a pass is a test of strength and endurance.
One of the many hazards that nomads and travelers in the mountains must face on a daily basis: the river crossing. Here the caravan is on the way to Parang pass.
These routes pose a yearly challenge for the nomads. They are the pillars on which the year rests, and timing these voyages correctly is of vital importance. The community travels together: the strong carry the infirm - even through waist-deep snows, while the yaks, sheep and goats are loaded with the family possessions and tradable goods, such as salt and wool. They must fend for themselves: those animals that are too weak to cross the snows or rivers will be left to the wolves, xiangku, and the vultures.
A threshold looms ahead for the nomads; it is one through which they can never return. Does the nomadic way have a future in the Himalayas? We will know within a decade, when the time comes for the younger generation to choose between the life of the town or a life in the heights.