This Talk Travel Asia podcast interview with Joe Cummings discusses Joe’s trip to Mount Kailash. Mt. Kailash, located in western Tibet, is considered sacred by Hindus, Bons, Buddhists, and Jains. It towers at 6,638m, represents Mount Meru to Hindu and Buddhists, is central to Buddhist cosmology, and is a major pilgrimage site for various worshippers. One of the religious traditions of pilgrims involves trekking 52km around the base of the mountain, clockwise for Buddhists and Hindus, in order to attain good luck and future fortune along the way. The trip passes through remote lands, over a 5,500m pass, and typically takes about four-days. Today we’ll chat with legendary traveler and writer, Joe Cummings, about his circumambulation of Mount Kailash in 2015.

Joe Cummings Mt. Kailash interview on Talk Travel Asia Podcast
Looking up towards heaven: Mt Kailash – courtesy of Joe Cummings
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Scott and Trevor talk about their experience in Tibet and the Himalayas:

Scott traveled Nepal 10-times or so, cycled around part of the Annapurna range, cycled from Lhasa, Tibet to Mount Everest Base camp and sometime over the years heard of Kailash. Not being religious, he’d never dug that deep but understood some serious devotees actually spent four-weeks going around the mountain, prostrating themselves the entire way around. It’s also near the Humla region, just south of it in Nepal, where Scott has a friend living there and he’s become quite intrigued by the journey. 

For his part, Trevor has never been to this part of the world but it’s long captured his imagination. The first half of his life was spent up in the mountains and he has always felt a very spiritual connection to some mountains, being on top of mountains. There’s something about climbing to the top of a remote peak or being surrounded by vast mountain ranges that Trevor finds awe inspiring, so he has some understanding of the religious beliefs some cultures in the Himalayas have to their mountains and he hopes one day to make a pilgrimage of his own.

Talk Travel Asia Podcast interview with Joe Cummings about Mt Kailash Tibet

Joe Cummings has been living and working in Southeast Asia for decades. He originally came to Thailand to serve in the Peace Corps, then he returned to his native USA to attain a Master of Arts in South Asian Civilization, with concentrations in Thai language and Southeast Asian art history. He’s the original Lonely Planet Thailand guidebook writer, has written on tons of other regional subjects, consults on movie projects in the region, regularly jams with a Rolling Stones tribute band – The Midnight Ramblers, and has walked around Mount Kailash in Tibet.  

Listen to this Talk Travel Asia interview with Joe Cummings to hear Joes’ answer the following questions:

  • We touched on it in our intro before starting to chat with you, but to help us understand its significance, tell us what Mount Kailash is and why it’s so significant for so many people?
  • What drew you to go there?
  • When did you go and was it work, pleasure, or both?
  • To start, tell us how you even get to the start of the trek.
  • Did you go with a group and, if so, what type of group?
  • What’s a typical day on the trail like?
  • Tell us about the facilities like.
  • What were some of the most interesting experiences you had along the way?
  • Tell us about the belief system around Kailash?
  • Is this something that’s only for devoutly religious persons, or would it also make a good trek for a casual traveler?
  • Looking back, what are some of your favorite memories of the journey?
  • If you did it again, what would you change?
  • Can it be combined with any other treks or sites in the region?
  • If someone wants to do this, where do you recommend they start planning and any tips for making it happen?
  • Who was your travel corridor between Thailand and China?
  • What is Joe up to these days and any dream projects on the horizon?
Photo courtesy of Joe Cummings

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