Kiwi good samaritan resurrects Nepal monastery’s yeti legend

By Sudeshna Sarkar, IANS,

Kathmandu : Six years ago, when he was climbing a Himalayan peak in northern Nepal, commercial pilot and adventurer Mike Allsop met a venerable Buddhist monk whose philosophy left an indelible impression on him.

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“If every person in this world gave just a little more than they took in life, the world would be a much better place.” That was what Lama Geshe, the chief monk at the Pangboche Monastery, a 600-year-old institution perched at over 13,000 feet above sea level, believed.

His belief has inspired Allsop to do something that is both moving and straight out of a Hollywood film, involving a medieval monastery, beautiful locations and the legendary yeti itself.

This month, the 41-year-old Kiwi adventurer is returning to Nepal with a trophy – the “hand” and “skull” of a yeti that was stolen from the monastery in the 1990s.

“The yeti is surrounded with mystery and intrigue,” says Allsop, who has also begun a campaign, Return the Hand, with Facebook, Twitter and YouTube roped in to draw worldwide attention.

“During my travels in Nepal around the Everest region, I have heard many stories – great stories passed from generation to generation. One such story involves a monastery in Pangboche, a small village in the Everest region.”

According to Allsop, in the 1950s, a yeti hunter called Peter Byrne came to Nepal on an expedition and was led to the monastery after finding supposed yeti tracks and dung on the mountain slopes. The tiny monastery’s prized possession was a hand and skull that the monks believed were a yeti’s and the monastery survived on the donations given by trekkers who flocked to view the curiosities.

Byrne hacked off a finger from the original hand and smuggled it to England for scientific tests. But with DNA examination yet to be invented, the tests could not say conclusively whether the bone was human or from an unknown species.

In the 1990s, when science had become more advanced, the hand and skull were stolen from the monastery, leaving the monks struggling to find another source of income.

“After spending a few weeks resting in Pangboche on various mountaineering expeditions, I thought it would be a good way to give something back to the monks at the monastery,” Allsop told IANS.

The “something” is a replica of the missing hand and skull fashioned from resin, leather and horse hair that he is taking back to the monastery this month to tide the monks over till he hopefully manages to trace the missing originals.

New Zealand’s Weta Workshop, which makes special effect props for Hollywood, generously crafted for free the hand and skull after Allsop showed them photographs of the originals.

Meanwhile, the Everest summiter – he climbed the world’s highest peak in 2007 – is trying to reach out to the people who may have the original artefacts or know where they are.

“If they could find it in their hearts to return these original artefacts, the small village of Pangboche would be forever grateful,” Allsop says. “Lama Gershe had a stroke in September 2010 and is slowly recovering in Kathmandu. I know he would be very happy if they were returned to their rightful home.”

Despite his busy schedule as a captain and expedition leader, Allsop is ready to provide a service to collect or personally pick up the originals “anywhere in the world with absolutely no questions asked”.

“In fact,” he promises, “I’ll buy the beers.”

“If you have them, please find it in your heart to contact me and return them,” the monastery’s Good Samaritan urges. “Good things happen to good people.”

(Sudeshna Sarkar can be contacted at [email protected])