To be able to successfully complete the arduous Kailash Mansarovar Yatra is the dream of many trekkers. Most of us postpone the dream thanks to the exorbitant cost involved, adverse weather conditions, physical fitness, medical limitations and of course, lack of leaves from office. I would still insist that everyone should embark upon this trek once in a lifetime journey, which has the power to change a life.
For me, it was much more than just a trek, it was a journey within! I underwent myriad emotions and witnessed unforgettable scenes. It gives me goosebumps even when I think about it. Our journey began in Kathmandu.
The road trip from Kathmandu began on a happy note. As soon as we left the dusty polluted lanes of Kathmandu, we entered misty mountains alternated by clear views. We passed the picturesque villages of Nepal, I had never heard of. Nuwakot was also one of the stops. It is known for an ancient Durbar Square damaged by the earthquake. After making pit stops at the lovely villages of Grang and Dhading through bad roads, we called it a day at the gorgeous Syabru Bensi. It is the last village of Nepal. Before we slept we tried to make conversation in the background of a noisy and voluptuous Bhote Koshi river from the terrace of our guest house.
The next day was exciting as it was time to enter China. As soon as we completed the formalities, the tall mountains reminded me of the Hollywood movie ‘Avatar’. We passed through the gorgeous landscape to arrive at Kyirong. It is a charming border town in China. The most popular place to visit here is the ancient Pakba monastery. The snow-capped mountains, numerous waterfalls, and misty green hills make it a very exciting destination. It was not very cold that day. I enjoyed exploring the small town wearing lightweight T-shirts and pants by Columbia Sportswear. I even wear these to my regular travels as they are quick to dry, lightweight and keep me fresh and sweat free. Perfect for someone like me who travels 20 days in a month!
Our next stop was Saga which was accessed after suffering hours of bad roads. This is where AMS aka Altitude Mountain Sickness hits most unsuspecting pilgrims and experienced trekkers. At least one day of rest is advised here for complete acclimatization. It is a small quirky town where dance bars and religion go hand in hand. This was also the place where we saw a huge number of yaks dotting the landscape. Grazing in far distance they looked like ants. The mighty Brahmaputra River, locally called as Yarlung Zangbo made me speechless with its vast expanse.
We arrived at Mansarovar two days later. It is one of the most important stops during Kailash Mansarovar Yatra. This is where the holy lake Mansarovar is located. It has attracted pilgrims from different religions since time immemorial. I took a dip in the freezing water of the holy lake which has a spiritual significance for not just Hindus but followers of other religions as well. Thanks to the quick dry pants of Columbia, my clothes dried within few hours after I left them hanging on the rope outside my room.
Despite having experienced immense beauty already, nothing prepared me for what was to follow next. As soon as we dumped our extra luggage at a luxury hotel in Darchen, we arrived at the Yam Dwar. This is where the parikrama begins. We walked on what was a mostly flat path with a gradual incline, sometimes admiring the beauty, sometimes protecting ourselves from the elements. There was no escape for us, barring a few tea shops, in case the weather decided to play spoilsport. I knew about the dynamic weather conditions and I was well prepared. Wearing Columbia’s gear from head to toe meant I did not have to worry if it rains.
It began raining halfway through the first-day parikrama. Anticipating rains, I had already stuffed all my electronics and other things in the waterproof Columbia backpack. My Columbia pants were made of quick-drying fabric, so I didn’t bother if it gets a bit wet. The Columbia jacket was a lifesaver. Its multilayer jacket is fully waterproof. I could walk in the rain and still keep my expensive DSLR camera handy. I had unzipped the jacket, inserted the camera and zipped it again. Not a drop of water touched my camera and I used it as soon as the rain stopped.
A similar situation happened in the Chiu Gompa Monastery in Mansarovar, when I was stuck in rain without a roof and Columbia jacket saved me and my camera. The backpack also allowed me to carry it comfortably, thanks to the technology which distributes the weight equally on my shoulders and keeps it slightly away from my back, leaving space for air to pass through me and the backpack. Despite carrying 10 kgs of luggage (advisable is 5 kgs), I felt lighter carrying the backpack.
We arrived late night at Deraphuk. I tried in vain to look at Mount Kailash. It was right opposite our guest house, but mist had completely blanketed it from us. The next day, I spent most of the time just relaxing at Deraphuk and staring at Mount Kailash. I can’t describe the energy I felt at this place.
The next day was the final day of parikrama (circumambulation) around Mount Kailash. It started on an easy note but soon had us gasping for breath. As soon as we crossed a small bridge inundated with prayer flag, a steep climb showed up. The climb was unending and vertical. It passed through rocky terrains and treacherous paths. The trekkers and ponies jostled for space at least until the breathtakingly beautiful Dolma La Pass. Much before the next major stop Zuthulphuk, the ethereal Gauri Kund and Dolma La Pass slowed me down. I sat down there at one of the rock and decided to eat my packed lunch as an excuse to spend some more time. Madhuban Foods who have recently started catering for Hindu pilgrims gave us spicy potatoes and theplas to eat. The large rock was our dining table. It is my most memorable lunch. The baselayer and the down jacket by Columbia kept me warm and protected.
The Dolma La pass is at a height of more than 18,000 feet. It is also the coldest place in the entire yatra. We navigated through snow-laden paths. Columbia shoes came handy on most terrains, be it plain dirt tracks, snow or small water streams. The waterproof shoes kept me dry and the firm grip helped me navigate the uneven terrains easily. From here, it was a downhill trek. I was happy that the ascend part was over. The first half of the 2nd day of the parikrama was the hardest. Most people fail at this point. I arrived at Zuthulphuk and filled my face with hot sewai and tea.
The last stretch from Zuthulphuk to Darchen was a long and straight path with hardly any steep climb. Once we reached Darchen, a sense of accomplishment engulfed us. It was an experience like no other. Sitting comfortably in the luxurious room of the hotel in Darchen, I reflected on the journey and how it changed so many things for me. In a matter of a few days!
Abhinav Singh is a Delhi based travel writer/blogger/photographer and V Logger. He has done high altitude treks in India, Nepal and China. Abhinav has traveled to 10 countries and 250 destinations in India since 2008. He has been listed as Top Travel Blogger from India around 20 times by reputed companies. His articles and photographs have been published in BBC, National Geographic Traveler India, Lonely Planet Magazine India, Outlook Traveler Guidebooks, Mint, Railbandhu, DNA , Times of India and many others. He shares his articles, pictures and videos about his travels on social media and blog. You can follow his work here.
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