Mount Kailash Parikrama and Wrap up - Part 5
The first thing in the morning that we wanted to see was clear weather and it was indeed a clear morning. But it was very chilly as the wind blowing was strong.
It was Parikrama day(Kora)( circumambulation around Mount Kailash). A 3 day trek which would pass through some of the most secluded regions of Tibet.
The trek trail was pretty straight with occasional ups and downs. But we were tested to our limits by the wind. It blew in opposite direction with gale force and it sure did give us a hard time. We were walking in the Lha Chu valley which means ‘Divine river” with Mount Kailash to our right (west face) and a small stream to our left.
We could now clearly see some portion of the north face of Mount Kailash along with the West face. It was like a pyramid; the long and straight edge pointing towards us, west face to the right and North face to the left of the edge.
West and North face of Mount Kailash(pic courtesy: Prachee)Around 4 pm, we crossed a small stream which was actually flowing from the base of Mount Kailash. The view we got of Mount Kailash after crossing the stream was to die for. The North face of the giant within touching distance. The best possible view.
Our camp was already ready and I waited for others to arrive including my dad. After their arrival I decided to go up the hill from where I could get a better view of the North Face. The climb was pretty tough because I had already done 14 kms that day. When I reached the top, I kept gazing at the summit, a heavenly cone of ice and snow and the mountain itself. There is a peculiar aura that probably exists in this place which keeps u energized all the time.
I met a man up there who wanted to go right near the base of Mount Kailash and touch the Mountain. He asked me whether I was willing to accompany him. Why not, I said without a frown.
We walked a few paces ahead and we came across a small glacier.
25th June 2005 : 2nd day of Parikrama,Drira Phuk to Sabje Dratok via Dolma Pass
Our guide, briefed us about the path ahead. At 5 am, still dark, having heavy heads, we were off with the most arduous day of trek. A total distance of 22 kms which would involve a 700 m slope ascent and an 800 m descent, preceding and succeeding Dolma La respectively.
Within 10 mins, we crossed a bridge over a small icy stream and were rightly heading eastward.
I was lucky enough to witness a phenomenon which hardly any people get to see. The water that flowed below the icecover started turning into ice. Scientifically speaking, I saw crystallization taking place. This exhilarating moment took a heart beat away (6th time)
Final push to Dolma La began. The 45 degree slope was long and ice covered at most places with rocks and boulders strewn all over. This was really tough and challenging. I was barely taking 5 steps with every push forward.
Dolma La could be sighted now and after having walked for almost 6 hours (1 km per hr), I was on top of the world. Dolma La-5630 m/ 18460 feet, the highest I have ever been to. Dolma La is a pass which is home to the shrine of Goddess Tara Devi-Goddess of love and compassion.
Prayer flags and Mani stones could be seen at many places atop Dolma La. We too tied a prayer flag which we had bought at Darchen as a mark of respect and leaving behind something during the trek. It was sheer bliss. 7th time beat skipped.
After about 15 mins, we could see Gauri Kund( lake of compassion ) to our bottom right-a few 100 feet below. The lake was completely frozen except at its periphery. Some people could be seen walking straight down the slope to fetch water from Gauri kund.
We were now making our way down through big boulders and later on we crossed a glacier which was dirt free to quite an extent. Beyond the glacier was some soft snow which we encountered for the first time in the entire trip.
The trail now was straight for a few kms after which it dropped again steeply leading to a tea shop below. It was around 3 pm when I reached the tea shop. I wanted to have something but I had only 1 or 2 yuans with me. The rest were with dad. A sherpa then offered me coke and I thanked him.
My dad reached the tea shop after an hour or so. He was completely drained out by the sheer gain and drop of altitude.
It was too late to reach Zutrul phuk(4790m/15711 feet), our initial camp site. The guides therefore decided to pitch tents a few kms before Zutrul Phuk at Sabje Dratok wherever they could find flat ground.
26th June 2005 : 3rd day of Parikrama, Sabje Dratok to Darchen
3rd and final day trek of 16 kms got underway early in the morning. I continued my walking spree and made good progress with the Sherpas. Kept shooting all the while and I reached Zutrul Phuk pretty quickly. We stayed there for a while for others to catch us up. We had tea/ coke in a small shop there. Zutrul Phuk monastery, which is located on the sight of a cave where the Buddhist sage Milarepa camped in 1100 AD. The quiet solitude of this place makes one feel that not much has changed since then.
Again continued trekking, and by noon, myself and the Sherpas had crossed a bridge over a small stream and again waited for others to arrive.
We watched some people completing their Parikrama by prostration, lying full length on the ground so that their foreheads touched the earth with each forward stride. In this manner, each circuit takes them 13 days. Hats Off.
All of a sudden, our cook soon got to us and gave us terrible news. Vaishali had slipped and in the process her foot got soaked in water after which she was feeling terribly uncomfortable. She was in semi conscious semi unconscious state and had to be given shoulders for support while walking.
At the same time, Basant(guide) who had stayed back with the others( people who had not opted for the 3 day trek) in Darchen came and met us. We were surprised to see him and he said, “ I came from here-anticlockwise direction”. Shocking news again. An old lady had survived a heart attack at Darchen guest house. Luckily, the doctor was there by her side to bring her back to stable condition. The doctor was also among those who had opted out. Our main guide was calm about the things happening around but still one could sense the stress that he was going through at that time.
My dad also arrived and he left soon while I continued to wait with our main guide for Vaishali to arrive to see if I could be of any help. She finally came with 2 guides who were shouldering her. We then left that place and continued trekking for another 2 hours.
At around 3pm, we completed our Parikrama.
I thanked God that there were no more casualties. Tired and drained out, mentally and physically, the eventful day came to an end.
27th June 2005 : Darchen to Saga via Paryang
Next morning, we left Darchen and headed straight to Manasarovar. On the way we could see the South face of Mount Kailash again.
At Manasarovar, we filled our bottles with the holy water which we took back for our relatives and others at home. We bid goodbye to the holy land for one last time.
I prayed and thanked Him for the wonderful journey, for the dip in the holy water, for the Parikrama, for the small uphill climb at the North face where I came face to face with Him and for being able to survive all odds, the scorching heat during the day time and numbing cold at night.
A bow to the Lord and we again zoomed through the Tibetan Plateau to Saga skipping Paryang. Saga experienced hail that evening and it was quite a sight.
28th June 2005 : Saga to Nyalam
Left Saga for Nyalam. En route, we lost ½ hour fixing the tyre of a land cruiser which was completely thrown out of the axle. Fortunately, nothing serious took place.
Reached Nyalam by evening. We had a small condolence meeting that night for the uncle who couldn’t make it with us.
Tipping ceremony took place later. All the drivers and guides who were the backbone of our trip were tipped.
29th June 2005 : Nyalam to Dhulikhel via Zhangmu
Nyalam to border(friendship bridge) via Zhangmu and then across the border into Nepal after completing the formalities again. We boarded a mini bus from the border to Dhulikhel, a charming hill station. It was really beautiful and was the perfect place to take rest after our journey in Tibet.
30th June 2005 : Dhulikhel to Kathmandu
It took around 2 hours to reach Kathmandu from Dhulikhel. Rest of the day, we just wandered through the streets of Kathmandu.
1st July 2005 : Rest day at Kathmandu
The rest of the group members left for India while we (myself, dad and guide) stayed back in Kathmandu as we were heading into Tibet once again to explore Lhasa.
2nd,3rd,4th July 2005 : Lhasa
We boarded Air China flight to Lhasa, the capital of Tibet( Elevation-3650m /11972 feet). Landed at Gonggar airport which is around 100 kms from Lhasa city. Gonggar airport is the 2nd highest airport in the world. 1st one is in some other province of China.
Lhasa city was quite clean and the Chinese have always been ‘A one’ in infrastructure and that could be clearly seen in Lhasa. Wide roads, beautiful buildings and bridges.
We saw the huge Potala palace, which is the summer residence of Dalai Lama and is a major landmark of the city. We also saw Barkhor Temple, Barkhor market, Drepung Monastery and Ganden Monastery(50 kms from Lhasa).
Boarded Jet Airways to Delhi from Kathmandu.
Boarded Jet Airways to Mumbai from Delhi.
Reached home at 8 pm after leaving Lhasa at 4 am. We had turned black and all at home were surprised to see the change in our skin colours. We were tanned by the blazing Sun and it took 2 to 3 weeks for the skin to regain its original colour.
Now, when I think of Mount Kailash and Lake Manasarovar, I feel fortunate, privileged and blessed to have undertaken this journey of a life time at such a young age. It has made me strong, mentally and physically. I thank Him for the journey and also thank Him for the 7 wonderful beat skipping moments :)