• gautami2007

Kailash Mansarovar Yatra- The abode of Lord Shiva and the holiest of Hindu Pilgrimage.

First rays of sunlight reflecting off Mount Kailash.

Introduction:

Mount Kailash is an enigma for most of us. The Mountain that is so difficult to reach that only a few of us manage to see it with our own eyes during our lifetime. I had the unique opportunity of seeing The Holy Mountain, the abode of Shiva. I trekked the entire route, never once tired or exhausted. The rush of seeing something so majestic and magical egged me on and I felt wonder the first time I laid my eyes on the holy mountain.

Before Departure

The Kailash Manasarovar Yatra, conducted by the Government of India, has a specific surface route that starts in New Delhi and ends in New Delhi/Gangtok / Dharchula, depending upon the route opted and takes about 23-25 days to cover the whole Yatra proper. It involves trekking at high altitudes of up to 19,500 feet, under inhospitable conditions, including extreme cold and rugged terrain, and may prove hazardous for those who are not physically fit and medically healthy.

In addition, the Yatra requires 4 days to be spent in New Delhi for completing various formalities.

The cost of the entire Yatra is around 1.6-1.8lacs depending on route taken and whether you have hired pony and porter. Some states like Rajasthan, Haryana, Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Gujarat, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Uttarakhand provide subsidies to people going to the yatra from these states.

There is a trekking of about 200 km through the Lipulekh route and about 35km through Nathu la route during the whole Kailash Manasarovar Yatra. Yatris are required to trek through high altitude areas. In such places, the atmospheric air is under low pressure and people suffer due to effect of Hypoxia (low level of oxygen). Individuals who are suffering from coronary artery diseases, various lung diseases like bronchial asthma, hypertension and diabetes, may collapse and die. As such, yatris are screened thoroughly before they are inducted into high altitudes at the Delhi Heart and Lung Institute and ITBP Base Hospital. If you are found fit, you will be allowed to proceed.

If you are going with the tour conducted by the govt, a Liaison officer(LO) will accompany you throughout the tour and he/she is the one responsible for all communications between the Indian and Chinese govts should the need arise.

However, Yatris traveling via Lipulekh are put to another medical test at Gunji, which is located at an altitude of 3,220 metres and those traveling via Nathula are put to another medical test at Sherathang, located at 4115 metres, to assess body reaction to high altitude. Only those yatris who are found fit there, are allowed to proceed further.

All the tests are conducted free of charge. We were also briefed at the Ministry of External Affairs and also taught how to administer how to administer CPR in case someone fainted at the high altitude.

The trek Begins…

Day 1: Delhi to Almora by bus and halt. We reached almora by evening. It was foggy and me and another girl from my group decided to explore Almora. We visited the Ramakrishna Ashram there during evening aarti and spent the rest of the time until dinner just wandering around. Almora was beautiful. We were put up in GMVN Guest house at Almora. The rooms were extremely comfortable. A welcome programme was arranged for us. It was fun to see traditional Uttarakhand songs and dance routines. After that we had dinner and went to bed as we had to start very early the next morning.

Day 2: From Almora to Dharchula(Nepal Border) by bus via Didihat. It was very late when we arrived at Dharchula as it was constatntly raining and the driver had to travel slowly. On reaching Dharchula we just managed to eat dinner and go to sleep.

Day 3-5: Since the road was in good condition, we were driven in jeeps from Dharchula to Budhi from where we actually started our trek. At Budhi, Yatris were advised to hire ponies and porters for the Indian side of the journey. Everyone hired both. But I just opted for the porter as he would act as my guide and carry my luggage. I was mentally prepared to walk the entire route. My porter was Gautam, a jolly chap and went on chattering all the way, didn’t mind that I didn’t join in much. It was a relatively uncomplicated 14km trek From Budhi to gunji. I reached Gunji soon and promptly took the best bed in the accommodation provided. In Gunji we were to stay a couple of days as we were suppose to get another medical test done here. Only those who passed the test would be allowed to proceed. There is a small village settlement in Gunji around the army camp. With nothing much to do for a couple of days, I went around exploring the surrounding areas on my own. Sometimes sentries posted in remote corners would warn me not to proceed further and send me back. I also discovered an old lady who made extremely delicious momos and maggi and had my fill of both till the time we were in Gunji. Had my medical exam once again and passed without any difficulty and was given permission to proceed on the trek. Alas, two members of our group failed the test and they were airlifted back to Dharchula and sent back to Delhi.

At the MEA


Getting tested at DHLI


view of Almora


at Almora


At didihat


Didihat


Didihat


After Facilitation by Delhi Govt beofre the Yatra


DLHI


Accomodation for yatris at Civil Lines


At DHLI


At MEA


Pithorgarh


Kainchi Dham


Kali River


Bridge between India and Nepal


Golu Temple


After Lunch at didihat


Nepal side of Dharchula


Fecilitation by ITBP Jawans


Gunji Camp


During the trek


Lunch at kathgodam

Day 6– We started our trek from Gunji in the morning after breakfast and I reached Kalapani by lunch. Here I should mention, my walking speed is very high and I kept up in the front with the ITBP jawans and consequently reached the next base camp ahead of everyone else in our group. It was a relatively short trek. It was drizzling most of the time and I enjoyed it thoroughly. Another advantage of reaching the base camp early was you got a lot of time to explore the surrounding areas and meet and talk to the local people who seemed very curious and friendly. My porter Gautam was no where to be found on the entire trek. It suited me fine. I was spared his constant chattering!!!!

Day 7-10: The next day we trekked to our final camp on the Indian side, Nabhidhang. It was only a 5km trek. It was also the place from where the OM parvat is visible and by God’s grace the sky was clear enough to see the OM parvat. Though the trek was short, it was steep and took considerable energy. The lunch and dinner preparations at camp were most delicious and we went to sleep early that night because the next day we had to start at 2 am at night so that we can reach Lipulekh Pass by morning(which was 8 kms away) and where our group would be handed over to the Chinese on the other side of the pass. I had anticipated an easy trek. But boy, oh, boy! The climb upto Lipu(17,500ft) Pass was so steep that I could barely make it.To make matters worse, we were practically walking in the dark, our paths lit only by moonlight! I was on the point of giving up. All the other people had mounted their ponies. But the ITBP jawans egged me on and practically dragged me upto the pass. It was extremely cold and windy in the top of Lipu Pass. We had to wait for the Chinese signal so that we could cross over to the other side.

Once we got the Chinese permission, we crossed the pass and saw to our dismay that the Buses that would take us to Taklakot (the nearest Chinese camp, where we would go through customs) was waiting at the foothills of the mountains. I was too angry to say anything and just kept walking. After what felt like hours, we reached the buses, where we were met with Chinese immigration officers who checked our passports against our names given in the Group Visa. One funny thing happened when it came to my turn. My picture in my passport was taken when I was very fat and when I went on the trek I had lost nearly 35 Kgs! So, obviously the faces didn’t match. There was no way the Chinese officials were believing that I was the same person in the passport. After much hand gestures and talks with our LO and me repeating “fat” and “thin” that they let me pass. After that things were uneventful until we reached our hotel in Taklakot.

We were to stay in Taklakot for 3 days to get acclimatized to the high altitude. Also, our luggages were taken through customs, opened and sanitized with disinfectants. I had some rope in my bag, they were taken away. There was a Baba in our group who had a kilo of Ganja or weed in his bag, those were confiscated. And our Chinese guide gave us very strict instructions that we were not to go wandering around and under no circumstances were we too take any photographs outside the hotel. Well, I didn’t do as I was told and managed to click a few photographs!!!

For the next couple of days, I wandered around the town. It was a tiny settlement, but there was a military camp there. I went to several local restaurants and tasted their food. All of my fellow travellers stuck to what was being served in the hotel. I went to their bazaar where I saw the sizes of the vegetables were huge! Talked to several people. Found out that many people were from Nepal who had settled there. Even found a nepali family who made me chapatis every night for 3 nights in a row and did not take a single penny in return!!!! Bless them!

Temple along the way


Lunch after emigration


Just a random click after emigration


Resting along the way


Navidhang camp


Ancient temple at navidhang


Navidhang, OM parvat not visible in background due to fog


Enroute


Enroute


A temple along the way


Camp


random click


Enroute trek


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Enroute trek


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Enroute


Enroute


Enroute


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camp


Resting in between trek


A random village enroute our trek


one of the many waterfalls on the way


with some villagers


army checkpost


enroute


resting again


enroute


random click


trekking with my someone else’s porter!!!

Day11– After rest and acclimatization at Taklakot, we got on the bus that dropped us off at Darchen. It was the first place from where Mount Kailasa was visible. It was awe inspiring. The rest of the day was free for exploring Darchen. There is nothing there really. Some small souvenir shops and some people riding colorful motobikes with music systems attached!!!!

Day 12– From Darchen, the Bus took dropped us off after 7kms at Yam Dwar from where our original parikrama started of Lake Manasarovar started. On the way we visited the Rakhshas Tal Lake. The name of the lake literally means “lake of the demon” in Sanskrit. According to Hindu scriptures, Rakshastal was created by Ravana for the express purpose of garnering superpowers through acts of devotion and meditation to the god, Shiva, who resided on Mount Kailash. It had some of the bluest waters I had ever seen. It was mind-blowingly beautiful. Before we started trekking, all the people hired ponies and porters. I just hired a porter only. We trekked for 12 kms on the first day and reached Deraphuk, where we halted for the night. The Weather was bitterly cold with cold winds blowing. The place we were staying was just basic and bitterly cold. The latrines were another story though. It was just a pan with a hole. I nearly vomited the first time I went. After that experience I answered the call of nature outside, far away from the camp. The land was barren and devoid of vegetation of any kind. On the Tibetan side, the food was less fancier, but we had to fill our belly without grumbling too much. Our guide, Guru, was already cross with some of us, especially me, as I kept pestering him with questions all the time. He pretended not to be able to hear me!!!!!

Day 13– The next day we started very very early again(nearly 2am) mainly to avoid the rain during the daytime and trekked for 19 kms through barren terrain to reach Zunzhui Pu(15,680ft) by evening. The first 5-6 kms were very challenging as we climbed Dolma Pass, which it at a height of almost 18,600ft. Most people in our group were gasping for air and started to slow down. It was so steep that people were forced to get down from their ponies and walk. I faced no such difficulty(thanks to my intense training 6 months before the trek). The Gauri Kund could be seen from the top of the pass. “Dolma La” is the name of the Tibetan name for Goddess Parvati. It was snowy and I started slipping. My porter held my hand and guided me safely down the pass. After getting down, at the base, there was a camp where we could buy food. I ate maggi soup and started trekking again. Sometimes I passed by small Buddhist children doing the parikrama. The Buddhists believe that if a person does the parikrama 108 times in their lifetimes, they will attain “moksha”. Hence, they start really small. I was exhausted and starving by the time I reached our camp. The moment I reached the camp, I raided their kitchen and begged for something to eat!!! They obliged. Later the remaining pilgrims started arriving. My porter was quite jolly and kept smiling every time I looked at him. I couldn’t understand him and neither he me. But he still smiled always. That day I was enchanted with the beauty of the barren terrain through which we had trekked and thought how people were surviving in such harsh conditions. The view of Mount Kailasa from here was just plain breath taking. I trekked a few kilometres away from our camp and sat there and just stared at the beauty of the majestic Mount Kailash. Interesting point: Tibetan Buddhists and Hindus walk in a clockwise direction, while those of the Bon faith walk counter-clockwise.

Day 14&15– We started for our trek quite early. We trekked for only 5kms and the Mansarovar lake parikrama was completed. A bus was waiting for us and took us to Qugu(on the shores of Lake Mansarovar)where we stayed two days. The accommodation here was very good, built like a greenhouse. It was very warm inside, while outside it was bitterly cold. It was here that I gathered the courage to take a dip in the holy lake and after the dip, I just ran back inside as fast as I could. I was shivering, as the waters of the lake was icy cold. Later in the evening, I went and filled two bottles of the hold water to take back home. Two ducks were paddling in the water and had appeared from god knows where. There was a small monastery next to our accommodation and we spent some time there. The next day our group performed a puja on the shores of Lake Mansarovar. The rest of the day we roamed around and I spoke to a few monks from the monastery who knew some English. The toilets here were pathetic as well. But, wont dwell on the negatives too much. The sight of the Lake at the foothills of Mount Kailash just blew my breath away. I was enchanted and felt a calmness that I had not felt in years. People tell me that when I came back I seemed like a different person, a more confident and self assured one. But it definitely changed me and my perspective on life.

Day 16– We took the bus that dropped us back at Taklakot(65kms away). The rest of the day was free for personal activities. We mainly spent time in the bazaar and ate with the Nepali family who made rotis for us again.

Day 17– The bus dropped us off at the foot of the hills at Lipuleh Pass(15kms). From there we trekked uphill to the Pass and then trekked 26 kms to Gunji via Navidhang and Kalapani. The descent was relatively easy and I reached Gunji byafternoon. Much ahead of all the other yatris in our group. After a two-day stay at Taklakot to complete emigration and custom formalities, you have to cross back in to India via the Lipulekh pass. The return journey from Lipulekh to Dharchula is via the same route taken on the onward journey except that from Dharchula, the yatris have to travel to Jageshwar instead of Kathgodam and then to Delhi.

Lake Mansarovar


At shore of Lake Mansarovar


View of Gauri Kund from Dolma La Pass


with my porter at Dolma La Pass


Gauri Kund


Jageshwar Dham


Zunzui Pu


accomodation at Zunzui Pu


View of Jageshwar Town


Lake Mansarovar


at dolma la pass


Dolma La Pass


Rakshas Tal Lake


Rakshas Tal


at the Monastery


preparinf for departure to Lipulekh


Accomadation at Taklakot


Jageshwar Dham


Monastery at Qugu


Monastery at Qugu


Monastery at Qugu


on the shores of lake mansarovar


lake mansarovar


Barren terrain of Tibet


Blue waters of Rakshas Tal


Barren terrain of Tibet


on the shores of rakshas tal


at a monastery


A small stream at Zunzui Pu


with my group members


First glimpse of Mount Kailash


Random click

Hope you, my readers, enjoyed my blog. If you did please leave a comment below. Any criticism is equally welcome(as this is my first time writing a blog).

#travel #yatra #mansarovar #travelling #kailash

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