JUNE 2001- Contents
Travel & Adventure
the-south-asian.com June 2001
STORM IN THE HIDDEN FALLS
Isidore Domnick Mendis
The Hidden Falls at the centre of the Tsangpo gorge in Tibet have challenged explorers for years. Ken Storm and his team of explorers made their way to this magical land and came back with a stunning film for the National Geographic Channel....
In the unexplored part of the upper Tsangpo gorge in Tibet lies the deepest and most enigmatic canyon known to man, The Hidden Falls. This 108-feet waterfall lying in the remote mountainous area of south-eastern Tibet also has a gorge which has never been explored since 1924.
The Hidden Falls have challenged explorers for years. Legend has it that the waterfall at its centre conceals a doorway to a paradise through which only those pilgrims can traverse who have passed the toughest tests known to man.
The myth and speculation associated with the Tsangpo gorge has attracted the attention of explorers ever since the 19th century. The last man to explore the region was British botanist, Frank Kingdom Ward in 1924. However, the Chinese occupation of Tibet soon closed the region to all outsiders who had any hopes of discovering this magical world. With this the urge of explorers to study the region soon died down but was re-kindled in 1993 when the Chinese government lifted its ban on foreigners visiting the region. That's when Ken Storm with his expert team made their way to this virgin land. Besides Storm, the team comprised explorers Ian Baker, Bryan Harvey and Hamid Sardar have made five extensive exploratory trips since 1993.
The last such visit was on October-November 1998, when Ken and his colleagues made a stunning film Secrets of the Tsang Po for the National Geographic Channel. For the last two decades Ken Storm has nurtured a passion for exploration by journeying into the less reconnaissanced recesses of the world's great wilderness area. He has explored the length of the Sierra Madre Mountains in Mexico and retraced the route of the 1869 Powell Expedition by boat down the Green and Colorado Rivers, more than 1600 kilometers, from Wyoming through Grand Canyon in Arizona.
Storm is also familiar with the western Himalayas and has extensively probed the interiors of the region. Many of Ken's expeditions have been made by following the journeys of early explorers. By retracing their footsteps, he tries to re-imagine their world which was then bound by a heavy blanket of the unknown and the uninspected. He says that it was the curiosity and the eagerness to see more within them that led them to discover hidden wonders.
Nonetheless Storm considers his expedition to the Tsangpo Gorge in Tibet as one of the most memorable. " It was as if there were two worlds meeting. You had the mythological world of the Falls and all of the abandoned searches and you had the world of the late 20th century where all the great unknowns on the Earth are supposed to be gone." Storm and his team was able to safely return from the The Hidden Falls - the last unexplored section of the Tsangpo Gorge.
Incidentally many explorers in the past made unsuccessful attempts at discovering the Hidden Falls which for the Tibetans is a sacred place. They believe that a Goddess resides near the waterfall. Also the falls measure over 108 feet, which is a significant number in the Buddhist Faith.
There are 108 Auspicious signs in Buddhism and 108 beads on a Buddhist rosary. For Storm exploring the region of Tsangpo Gorge was a "Pilgrimage" referring to the Tibetian belief where exploration is considered a sublime journey. Says he, " In the West exploration has a very narrow focus. It is associated with scientific aim. The area explored is generally used for exploitation by the explorers. In Tibetan belief exploration means reverence to the place."
Storm is a distributor of games and books and exploration gives him a sense of higher achievement. " It keeps my business pressures off. A person needs to be ground to the natural world which is inhabited by unique flora and fauna", says he. Storm also enjoys video and still photography and has shot more than 40 hours of video on his explorations - some of which is included in his film on Tsangpo. He is also the co-author of two books - Ladakh: Between Earth and Sky and Ladakh Secret Lord Beyond the Himalayas. He is also currently writing an essay on this recent expedition in Tibet to be published as a part of a new, illustrated edition of the Tsangpo Gorge. The future plans for the renowned explorer is to uncover new areas especially the places under the influence of Buddhism.
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