National Geographic : 1993 Dec
rather than out at the audience gathered in front of him. The closest man asks him a ques tion. The shaman takes a handful of rice, which he pours into the palm of his other hand. The grain runs between his fingers. The shaman starts to speak in a high-pitched voice, as if possessed by the god. "No, you cannot leave the day after tomor row. This is a bad day," he tells a sheep cara vanner. The shaman decides the date of departure for every flock. "But everything is arranged with people from another village," says the caravanner. "We are supposed to go together. An offering and a sacrifice to the gods should fix it." "It is not that easy. You remember, last year you promised to bring back a temple bell from the south." "I was sick. I will bring it this time." The shaman impatiently shrugs his shoul ders without listening to the man's answer. He murmurs a prayer, tosses rice into the assembly, and turns to the next person waiting to consult him. Like the Dolpo-pa to the north, the people of Nepal's middle valleys live by the salt trade. While the Dolpo-pa lack water to grow enough grain, the Rong-pa lack salt to feed their sheep and goats. To them salt is the "breath of life." They prefer Tibetan salt from the Dolpo-pa, but since the supply from Chinese-controlled Tibet is uncertain, they must look for more elsewhere. The Rong-pa too are caravanners, taking red beans to southern Nepal to trade for rice and iodized salt from western India. It is late at night now. The caravanner returns to the Chuma temple and begs the shaman for help in solving his problem. "La! Thik cha!" the shaman says. "Fine! Take this handful of rice. Put half of it on the beam above the entrance to your house. Spread the rest on your sheep and goats on the day of your departure. Sacrifice a lamb to the god of the forest at Ranga Chautara, and do not forget to bring the temple bell." The caravanner smiles as he backs out of the temple. Now he can leave as planned. Two cultures. Two climates. Two ways of life. Linked together by need, the yak Using his teeth to tighten the lashings, a Dolpo trader and his wife strap 60-pound bags, fadse, to ayak and set outfor Hurikot in central Nepal. Each yak carries two fadse of salt as it plods across serrated ridges (left). Acclimatized to Dolpo's high altitude, yaks do best above 10,000 feet.
1993 Nov 30