As he yelled the words Karma Sonam he would raise his cane to he chest and beat it proudly, deep thuds. He walked directly toward me and stood a foot away, not a blink as he looked me in the eye. Now in a calm, soft voice, "Karma Sonam".
His name was Karma Sonam. A pilgrim on the Kora around holy Mt Kailash at age 72. He carried nothing but a huge smile and cane. He rubbed his knees indicating that they were hurting. My wife and I sat him down next to the trail on a boulder, to him a comfy lounge chair. I could just imagine his life where the stars are his roof, leaf and stone his bed.
We communicated through our Tibetan Guide who had now arrived on the scene. He smiled and repeated Tutse Che (not sure of spelling) thank you in Tibetan. Before I departed he grabbed my elbow and placed his forehead against mine, the highest honor a Tibetan can share. It means "I know your heart. We walked on and left Karma Sonam. Looking back every so often I would smile and waive. He would return with a "Karmaa Sonaaam". I felt as if I was leaving my best friend. We had only known each other 10 maybe 15 minutes. The power of open hearts and a people without fear. One hour later we arrived at camp and kept looking to the trail to see if Karma Sonam would pass. With a slow limping gait, I was sure he was down trail.
After getting on the trail early in the morning I looked back to see if my friend was coming. No sign. I turned with a big smile at the thought of his booming voice, smile, and bowed legs, inching up the trail.
Two hours into the walk I see a familiar shape, color, and movement. " No way! " I quickened my pace. As I approached I yelled out to the figure 40 yards ahead......"Karmaaaa Sonaaam". The old man turned and it was him. I could not believe that he had somehow passed us. He could only do so if he had been traveling all night. With the stars as your roof, I am sure he was right at home in the cold night. Prayers on his breath.