Saturday, August 19, 2017

Kailash Manasarovar Yatra via Lipulekh Pass (PART 9)

August 3, 2016 (Day 12) - Navidhang to Taklakot via Lipulekh Pass
(around 13 kms trek+15 kms by bus)

I got up at 12.30 am and by 2 am we were all supposed to move towards Lipulekh pass. Those who were going on foot had to leave earlier. I had cornflakes and started moving. ITBP staff accompanies till Lipulekh pass. Most of the people were on ponies excluding me and four others. It was extremely cold and windy. I dressed adequately, put on my headlamp over my Ladakhi cap and started walking with my porter in total darkness. Trekking in darkness is focused till where light goes. You see no path, no mountains. It surely was a different perspective. Soon people who were on ponies overtook me and I was only chanting Shiva's name and moving on. It was extremely cold and as we moved ahead, it started snowing followed by a blizzard. Those who were on ponies halted at a shelter but those walking had to continue as one had to reach Lipulekh pass by 7 am where Chinese army checks passport as we cross over to Tibet. So I had no option but to keep moving. Chinese Standard Time is 2.30 hrs ahead of Indian standard time and so we had to start early to reach by 7 am IST.
On way to Lipulekh Pass
 As we continued going up, snow flakes and breathlessness made me halt after some time. But slowly and steadily I kept moving. Bad weather only compounded a tough day. In retrospect, I can say that reaching Lipulekh Pass is the toughest day if you are on foot and especially if compounded by bad weather. Lipulekh pass is a high altitude pass at elevation of around 16,700 ft. Soon, darkness gave way to light and still I had an hour long journey to cover to reach Lipulekh pass. If all this was not enough, one lady from our batch developed severe hypothermia and her saturation dropped. Oxygen, which ITBP was carrying was given. She had already been taking the medicine, Diamox. It was really challenging to tend to another yatri when you yourself are struggling, but lord Shiva gave me courage. I foolishly gave my gloves also to her in addition to her own gloves and I cannot explain how cold seeped into my body. But I kept walking.

Just before reaching Lipulekh Pass
Soon she felt better and was put on pony again to cross over to Lipulekh Pass. The biggest mistake our liaison officer did was to put medicine bag in common luggage in spite of telling him not to do so. What is the use of that if we cannot use it in times of emergency. Our liaison officer was rude and uncooperative on many occasions. My clothes were wet and I was tired and hungry. I crossed Lipulekh pass by 7 am to the other side. As weather was tumultuous, our passports were not checked there and we were asked to descend quickly. At this moment, you have to bid adieu to your Indian porter and cross over to Tibet on your own while carrying your backpack till the bus or car, which can be around 3-4 kms until you board and proceed to Taklakot.

At Hotel Pulan at Taklakot

Finally you start the journey into the land of Gods. I felt sorry for my porter who had traveled innumerable times till Lipulekh Pass but didn't have money to visit Kailash. So near yet so far..
Since I was the last to reach as I was attending a medical emergency, I had to walk only 1 km and was dumped in the back of a car. I was literally shivering and Rishabh gave me chocolates and helped me. I realized it was foolish of me to give my gloves as my fingers were all blue. And then you are in alien land and you see your country just across the mountain and promising to come back soon. As soon as car started moving, majestic snow clad mountains came in view and it was hard to take our eyes off them. Soon bad weather gave way to clear skies and bright Sun came out, which was a boon. After covering a certain distance, our passport was checked and we were taken to Chinese quarantine checking center. Our baggage was screened and passports were collected. Some people were asked to open their bags. After sometime, we reached Pulan hotel at Taklakot. We all were starving. Photography is restricted in Taklakot. We had a basic room. I had a bath and lunch afterward. Later on, I just roamed around in Taklakot. Food committee of our batch had to reassess rations and make purchases. Since I was in medical committee, I had to be present in case of any medical emergency.

The good thing is that there is WiFi and we were able to connect and share photos with family and friends. The sun does not set here until 10pm. Our guide on Tibet side was Mr Guru who was extremely annoying and rude. He wouldn't listen to anything without shouting. Chinese visa fees was collected and next day, the money for porter/pony was to be given.

Problems with Yatra:
If you think everything will be pleasant and exciting in your yatra, here is my personal experience that proves otherwise. People argue too much with constant bickering over food, simple things, etc. In the evening when I used to return back to my room, all I would hear was people speaking in their regional language and discussing mundane things such as vegetable rates. I found this quite offsetting. Another instance happened when one of the yatris had a narrow escape and most of the people were quick to pass judgment that he had come with a desire to trek and was not devoted to the yatra, hence the mishap. I found this bizarre. The key is to maintain your equanimous state of mind. Having said that, there were some great people who helped me at every step and especially when I fell sick at Taklakot. I will continue that incident in the next part...

From my hotel window at Taklakot. Still bright at 9 pm!

Tips:
  • Keep your torch and headlamp handy.
  • Carry light baggage because after crossing Lipulekh pass, you need to carry your luggage until you board the bus to Taklakot.
  • Be helpful and cooperative with each other and motivate each other as it's the toughest day of the yatra.
  • Always carry adequate chocolates, candy and dry fruit because you won't get any food until you reach Taklakot in evening.
  • Always keep your medicine bag with you preferably on pony of liaison officer. 
  • As China time is 2.30 hrs ahead of IST, you may want to adjust your watch.
  • drink adequate water and donot take AMS lightly.

IMPORTANT ADVICE: We should be blessed that we are chosen for this yatra and it is our responsibility to not litter and keep Devbhoomi clean. Carry your plastic wraps that you use with you and dispose them later. Try to clean the trail. Tell your porter not to litter. Gutka and chips packets lie everywhere. Particularly distressing was to see shores of Manasarovar littered with used underwear packets, ghee packets, used sanitary napkins etc. It was distressing and abominable. A place, which is so pious to us must be respected by all of us and deserves a conscious effort by all yatris to lead a cleaning drive as and when possible. Don't forget to do your bit, even if others are not doing it. 

To be continued..

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Kailash Manasarovar Yatra via Lipulekh Pass (PART 8)

July 31, 2016 (Day 9) - Budhi to Gunji (17-18 kms)

I  started at 5.30 am from Budhi and reached Chialekh at 8 am after a very stiff climb in rain. In Chialekh we had breakfast and our passports were checked there. Chialekh was all engulfed in fog and we missed seeing Mount Annapurna and beautiful flowers around. 
Chialekh

From Chialekh we had to pass through muddy way all the way to the sinking village of Garbiyang, which had quaint houses having carved doors and newel posts. En-route you can see the confluence of Kali and Tinker rivers with Tinker river hurling into Nepal. We waited for Army load carrier which was supposed to ferry us to Gunji but we had to wait 2 and half hours for one yatri. The route to Adi Kailash yatra is common until Gunji. The pilgrims for Adi Kailash take turn toward Jollingkong. 





Lunch at Sitti


Garbiyang

Does anyone know which plant this is from which Chutney is made

Gunji


The road from Garbiyang to Gunji is 12 kms but trek route is around 7-8 kms. Finally after a bumpy ride and being stuffed like cattle, we reached Gunji at 12.30 pm. En-route we had lunch and lip smacking chutney at the village, Sitti. I forgot name of local leaves it is made from. By afternoon we reached Gunji and were received by ITBP officials. Hot tea and halwa was served on arrival. We cleaned our mud soaked clothes and shoes and finally got our luggage. Removed my tripod and tried some long exposure photography. There is an ITBP post at Gunji. Evening was studded with bhajans and friendly banter with Rishabh and  Chandrakanth. Tomorrow would be a halt at Gunji and medical tests would be conducted. Those unable to clear it won't be allowed to proceed further. Everyone was tensed. I guess Rishabh and I were quite relaxed. 
Gunji

Bhajans at Gunji 



Food being prepared at Gunji
  
Prakash (our guide) reciting a poem


Aug 1, 2016 (Day 10 - Halt day at Gunji)

Today was a halt day at Gunji. ITBP medical team conducted medical tests for all yatris and those unable to clear would not be allowed to carry on with the yatra. Got up early in the morning, had bath and did Yoga. It's a foggy day. Hope weather clears tomorrow so that we are able to see Om Parvat at Navidhang. Personally, I was not worried about medical tests and was allaying the anxiety of others by cheering them up. One female yatri from our batch could not proceed further as her Blood Pressure was in excess of 200 mmhg systolic. ITBP staff is extremely helpful. Tomorrow we shall leave from Gunji to Navidhang. Few ITBP personnel accompanied us until Lipulekh pass. 






Liaison Officer getting medical tests done


Planting trees at Gunji
Tips:

  • You can get pony at Gunji if you haven't taken one already. Four people in our batch opted for Pony at Gunji
  • Don't be anxious about medical tests. Do some meditation or Yoga in the morning. 
  • Continue with your antihypertensive medication if already on one. 
  • Your health is paramount. You can always come back for Yatra.

Aug 2, 2016 (Day 11) Gunji To Navidhang (19-20 kms)

I started from Gunji at 5.45 am amidst rains and reached Kalapani by 8 am. En-route I saw Vyas Gufa. Kalapani is a mesmerizing place and is said to be the origin of river, Kali. I had breakfast of sumptuous Aloo Parathas and sang bhajans. 


Breakfast at Kalapani

At Kalapani you have to get your passport checked and stamped and must get it done on your way back as well. After that is a gradual uphill climb until Navidhang. 



I reached Navidhang at 12.30 pm. It's from the camp at Navidhang, yatris can view Om Parvat, which has pattern of snow, which resembles a naturally formed Om. Since it was a cloudy day, I could not see Om Parvat. Navidhang was extremely cold and windy. I woke up at night hoping that clouds might have cleared and I would get darshan of Om Parvat, but I was not fortunate. Tomorrow we cross over from Navidhang to Tibet via Lipulekh pass at night. Slept early for a tough day ahead. 







Way to Kalapani

from Gunji to Navidhang






Kalapani
Vyas Gufa

Om Parvat hidden amidst clouds

Navidhang







Tips:

  • Don't forget to get your passport stamped at Kalapani on your journey to and fro.
  • Since Navidhang is extremely cold and windy, don't forget to cover your head and wear adequate woolens. 
  • Keep your passport and currency, etc in your money belt. 
  • Since tomorrow is a long day and you will get food really late in the day, do keep some biscuits or dry fruit with you. 


IMPORTANT ADVICE: We should be blessed that we are chosen for this yatra and it is our responsibility to not litter and keep Devbhoomi clean. Carry your plastic wraps that you use with you and dispose them later. Try to clean the trail. Tell your porter not to litter. Gutka and chips packets lie everywhere. Particularly distressing was to see shores of Manasarovar littered with used underwear packets, ghee packets, used sanitary napkins etc. It was distressing and abominable. A place, which is so pious to us must be respected by all of us and deserves a conscious effort by all yatris to lead a cleaning drive as and when possible. Don't forget to do your bit, even if others are not doing it. 

To be continued..


Sunday, April 30, 2017

Kailash Manasarovar Yatra via Lipulekh Pass (PART 7)

July 30, 2016 (Day 8) - Gala to Budhi (around 20-22 kms)

I got up in the morning and after having bournvita milk started my day at 5.30 am. I reached campsite by 3 pm. It takes 10 to 12 hours to reach Budhi from Gala. Last person from our batch reached by 5.30 pm. It was drizzling and I had my breakfast at 8 am. It is one of the longest days and also most beautiful. After starting from Gala, after 2 kms, one has to descend 4444 steps till the base of ferocious river Kali. Going down 4444 steps and narrow patches around river Kali has to be done on foot by all yatris.


Descending 4,444 steps

Along ferocious Kali River




After reaching base of river Kali I reached breakfast point. I had aloo nutree and pooris and ventured ahead with my porter. It was raining like crazy. One has to cross numerous waterfalls whose flow increases in rainy season and thankfully my porter was carrying an umbrella. It is not a bad idea to carry an umbrella during rainy season. Poncho also comes handy.

Breakfast point

Numerous waterfalls
After breakfast, I reached Malpa. Malpa is a village in Pithoragarh district of Uttarakhand, which is known for the Malpa Tragedy of August 1998 in which massive landslides wiped away the entire village of Malpa in Kali Valley.  A total of 221 people died, including 60 pilgrims traveling to Kailash Manasarovar. It is very painful to imagine what those pilgrims and villagers must have gone through on that fateful night. 


Singing bhajans at Malpa

Lunch at Malpa


Location of Malpa Tragedy

Had lunch at 10 am at Malpa. Rain stopped for a while at Malpa and we all sang bhajans. We kept walking and rain and gorgeous waterfalls along ferocious Kali were our companions. On the other side of river Kali were green mountains of Nepal. There were few landslides on way. Fog,clouds and Sun kept playing peek a boo.



Mountains will never fail to inspire you and teach you lessons


Tips:
  • Never run while crossing waterfalls as you might slip.
  • Never lean on railing side while crossing narrow patch enroute river Kali
  • An umbrella during rainy season is not a bad idea
  • Always walk towards mountain side
  • Whenever ponies cross, stop towards mountain side and let them pass
  • Those using pony, be careful to get down slowly and hold on the reins tightly. Many people fall and twist ankles, which you must avoid. 


Prakash (Guide)

Next stop was Lamari and we were served tea and snacks by ITBP. KMVN guest house is perched on top and absolutely beautiful. Towards last 2 kms, I had severe shooting pain in my ankle and with grit and determination was able to reach campsite. Budhi campsite was spectacular. Myraid flowers, fog and quaint village. I was finally able to talk with my mother, but couldn't reach my husband and missed him. I hoped that my legs would be better the next day and recovered for another long day.

Feeling happy at Budhi campsite


Stretching after a long trek 




Budhi village

Happy go lucky dog

Beautiful campsite of Budhi

Lost in the beauty of Budhi



IMPORTANT ADVICE: We should be blessed that we are chosen for this yatra and it is our responsibility to not litter and keep Devbhoomi clean. Carry your plastic wraps that you use with you and dispose them later. Try to clean the trail. Tell your porter not to litter. Gutka and chips packets lie everywhere. Particularly distressing was to see shores of Manasarovar littered with used underwear packets, ghee packets, used sanitary napkins etc. It was distressing and abominable. A place, which is so pious to us must be respected by all of us and deserves a conscious effort by all yatris to lead a cleaning drive as and when possible. Don't forget to do your bit, even if others are not doing it. 

To be continued..