Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Kailash Manasarovar Yatra via Lipulekh Pass (PART 10)

August 4, 2016 (Day 14) - Rest day at Taklakot

I woke up early in the morning all weary and tired from loose motions since the previous night. I was devoid of energy and medicines were more or less not working. In none of my treks, had I been this sick. I looked at the beautiful morning and found strength in sunshine. After having covered so many miles from Dharchula, I wasn't going to give up at this stage. I had barely eaten anything apart from bananas and ORS. Being a doctor myself, I was able to judge my condition, but despite that the fighter in me did not want to give up. A lot of fellow Yatris also came forward to motivate me. I was crying in a corner thinking about my father and asking him to give me courage to complete the yatra on foot, which would be a homage to him. Perhaps it was destined for me to go through this suffering as part of a cleansing process before proceeding further towards the sacred land of Kailash. I called my husband and my mother who all encouraged and prayed for me. My situation did not improve the entire day, however, by night time my loose motions were contained and I felt better.

First view of South face of Mount Kailash from Darchen after clouds cleared

Hotel at Darchen


Streets of Darchen



Moment at Rakshastaal




Beautiful landscape

As we waited for darshan of Mount Kailash



You need to pay China Visa fees on this day, which was USD $901 for us. Different committees like food, luggage, medical, bhajan were formed. I obviously was in the medical committee. Little did I know, I would be treating case of HAPE (High Altitude Pulmonary Edema) and HACE (High Altitude Cerebral Edema) in coming days of Kailash Parikrama.

Everyone suggested that I take a pony for my Kailash parikrama but I was adamant to go on foot, so I refused. I slept with a prayer on my lips and harnessing my inner Chi in order to complete my Kailash parikrama on foot.

Tips:
  • Do not drink the local water and buy Bottled water instead. I had loose motions after drinking the local water. 
  • 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.
  • 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 do not take AMS lightly.
  • There is patchy WiFi available at Taklakot, so you may call your friends and family using WhatsApp or other services. 
August 5, 2016 (Day 15) - Taklakot to Darchen via Rakshastaal and Lake Manasarovar

Got up at 5am in the morning and thankfully had no loose motions at night. I awoke feeling weak and exhausted as we were already at the altitude of around 13500 ft. Had 2 bananas for breakfast and someone came and put bhasm (holy ash) on my forehead. At that moment, I knew that divine masters were with me and I would be able to complete my Kailash parikrama on foot. We all sang the Om Managalam bhajan and left in bus at 10.30 am CST (China time) and reached Darchen at 1.30 pm. In bus, I was all exhausted and had little energy to even take out my camera. Darchen is at the altitude of around 15000 ft. It started to rain midway and upon reaching Darchen it felt as if rain gods would never leave us. The landscape was breathtakingly beautiful, dry, barren and enthralling. The cloud patterns, azure blue sky, wild horses and expansive landscapes. At that point, you really wish that time would stand still so you could continue gazing. Enrote I saw Rakshastaal and I was spellbound. It was huge and had little islands in between in hue of vibrant blue. We stopped here for 20 mins. It was bright and sunny as we roamed around.
First View of Rakshastaal from Bus



Rakshastaal means "lake of the demon". It is also known as Ravana Tal, as it is considered to be the place of severe penance by Ravana. In Buddhism, Lake Manasarovar, which is round like the sun, and Rakshastal, shaped as a crescent, are respectively regarded as "brightness" and "darkness". There are four islands in Rakshastal, named Topserma (Dose), Dola (the two biggest), Lachato (Nadzhado), and Dosharba. The islands are used by local people as winter pastures for their yaks. Rakshastaal covers a total area of 250 square kilometres (97 sq mi), at an altitude of 4,575 metres (15,010 ft).
Rakshastaal


Our next stop was Lake Manasarovar. My first glance at Manasarovar transported me to another world and all my illness vanished after washing my face with the holy water. Suddenly the weather deteriorated and our buses took us back to Darchen. We would later spend 2 nights on banks of Mansarovar at Qugu after completing our Kailash parikrama. Finally, we reached Darchen and my room mate was Vaijyanti Aunty. The south face of Mount Kailash is visible from Darchen, but due to cloudy conditions, we couldn't have that glimpse upon reaching. Soon clouds gave way to clear skies and we had our first darshan of the south face of Mount Kailash. That moment can not be described in words, but only experienced.
First view of Lake Mansarovar

Later in the day, there were arguments and more arguments between guides, yatris and our liaison officer. Our guide was extremely rude and he was forcing that the kitchen staff be taken as porters for the parikrama. All your luggage stays at Darchen until parikrama is finished and you are only allowed to take luggage up to 6 kgs with you. Porters would refuse to carry any excess baggage. Hence, I had to leave my tripod behind at Darchen. We had to pay our guide to pay our porters. Since my bag exceeded 6 kgs, I carried camera and some other supplies with myself and gave some rest to my  porter. Tomorrow, our Kailash Parikrama would start and I hope my preparation and determination would carry me forward and help me complete it. 

Tips:
  • Never take kitchen staff as your porter even if they speak Hindi because they will abandon you mid-way and move on to reach the campsite towards end to cook food, which would leave you without your luggage and supplies towards the end.
  • Most of the porters assigned are Tibetan who speak neither Hindi or English, so most of the communication is done in sign language. Make sure your luggage does not exceed 6-7 kgs at the most and tell them to walk with you.
  • Take plastic bottles to carry Manasarovar jal and take M-Seal and tape/adhesive with you to secure the bottle cap.
  • Female porters are more kind and considerate and would walk along with you.Dont forget to tip your porters adequately as they help you in such adverse conditions.
  • For your parikrama lasting 3 days, do not forget to carry energy bars, medicines, warm clothes, rain gear in your day pack.
Next part of blog will be about Kailash Parikrama.

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..
Click here to read previous part of Yatra

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..


Click here to read previous part of Yatra
Click here to read next part of Yatra