Kailash : Journey to Kalapani

This post is part of a travel recollection from Kailash Mansarovar Yatra 2018 via Lipulekh. For a list of posts in their sequence please refer to the following link:

Kailash Mansarovar Yatra : The beginning…

Continued from the previous post…

So the actual journey started..the one that requires you to walk and tests your endurance, for good. Ladies and gentleman, this seems to be an apt place for a little confession… I am a trippy person. Trippy in terms of…falling down while walking.

In fact, I am talented in the sense that I am capable of tripping and falling down even while walking on plain ground where others can’t even imagine slipping. Yes, I am that talented!

There are cases when I have slipped an fell during my morning walk. Broad daylight, plain, dry ground. Post being tormented with frequent news of me falling down and the subsequent leg injuries, a person told me to get my EYES checked! Can’t blame him and certainly can’t ignore his sense of humour! 😉

Now that you have a fair idea of my…err…capabilities (as a walker), I think the matter of my lack of confidence is more understandable. Besides, we were talking about walking almost 150 KM in a matter of two weeks. It is sufficient to say  that each time I heard that, I felt like an ant, going on a world tour, on a bicycle! But then, I was determined to maximise my efforts on foot, because I wanted to check how far I could go.

I had also decided to take both a pony and a porter to help me travel the distance. And though to many, finishing the journey solely on foot remained a matter of pride, to me completion of the same safely was of supreme importance.

For me, Kailash was more of an experience than an achievement. And it remains a matter of joy for me to have completed the yatra without any issues…read broken bones. The mode used to make the journey remains trivial.

I did not want to fake my fitness because I knew my limits in terms of my physical capability, and I wouldn’t tell you that I walked the entire way. But I tried, and I am proud of the fact that I did. 🙂

The local people in these higher Himalayan regions have a  relatively short window for earning their livelihood in a year. They go in search of Ophiocordyceps sinensis or Yarsagumba, commonly called Keeda Ghas or Keeda Jadi just after the ice melts on the higher Himalayan grasslands. As it is regarded as a precious commodity, they spend till mid June, trying to maximise their harvest. Post that the short crop season starts where they get to grow some local produce of buck wheat, rajma, peas, mustard among others. And they work as porter and pony handlers for the yatris in this route.

They employ themselves and their horses and mules to carry the people and supplies to the higher and more remote regions. Getting a chance to be one of the registered KMVN porter and pony providers remains one of the most sorted after and lucrative opportunities for them.

The charges for porter and pony are not cheap, at least for a working individual like me. But to take both seemed to be a good thing to do considering All the above. So I let my LO know of my decision before hand.

Next morning we saw the pony handlers and porters huddle together at the ground adjacent to the KMVN camp at Gunji. Porter and Pony handler were assigned to us one at a time. Meanwhile, I felt a bit under the weather, but nothing that could hinder my journey further.

I had Dhan Singh ji as my porter and Narender bhiya as my pony handler with मोती, a calm white horse. After the assignment of porter and pony handler, we did not wait for long before starting our journey onward. Dhan Singh ji proceeded with me following him with Narender bhai with मोती in tow.

We started in a happy mood and continued to walk in a steady pace for some time. The morning walks were coming handy. The dirt (kutchha) road was motorable for some distance. And we were slowly moving towards our destination of Kalapani. (9 KM from Gunji)

The journey begins..
The journey begins from Kalapani

There were times when I became tired and decided to take rest. The thin air was felt and the reason for the same being dreaded by even the most experienced trekker was understood by heart by this novice. But there was help just within reach.

Crossing the stream Kailash Mansarovar Yatra 2018
Crossing the stream Kailash Mansarovar Yatra 2018

The ITBP jawans were there throughout the route, walking with us, encouraging us, asking if we felt ok and able to help in case we did not. That was a major moral boost.

At one time, after a sharp assent I felt dizzy. Maybe it was due to the pain killer I had taken, maybe because of the altitude. This was the moment where one ends up rethinking about their decisions in life. My vision drifted towards the path that I had already traversed.

To my surprise, a long winding road stood laid out by a fierce river full of wild beauty that found its way around rocks from the middle of a valley. As far as the eye could see, there were painted mountains. And that was the moment of finding encouragement within self to move forward.

The road traversed Kailash Mansarovar Yatra 2018
The road traversed

I love the mountains enough to dream about them. And there were several scenes throughout the entire route, this one included, that made me remember the ones from my vivid dreams.

The views and these moments of pure solitude without any speck of anxiousness about the future, without thoughts dwelling in the past are the little shiny, precious little stones with which I have created a garland of memories to remember my journey.

Flowers in bloom... Kailash Mansarovar Yatra 2018
Flowers in bloom…

I decided to ride the pony at the times I could not walk at all. It was a bit difficult at first, but then it became easy. Hindsight tells me that was a good idea, because later I would have to ride the pony for a portion during my journey due to a leg injury. Yes, I had a leg injury while walking during the later days of the journey and the pony came handy then 🙂

We reached the camp of Kalapani around noon.  Our passports were stamped here. We do have the stamps in the passports confirming the exit and re entrance to India but no stamp from the Chinese side in our passports. The visa issued was a group visa.

We were greeted by the ITBP and KMVN. Throughout the tour, we were greeted  with a welcome drink, pinkish red in colour and warm water by the hospitable people. Later I came to know that the pinkish red drink was made from the flowers of Rhododendron, locally called Buransh Ke Phool! And need I tell about the joy of receiving warm water on arrival at a high altitude site? 🙂 Life was good, almost to the point of being perfect… 🙂

Kalapani is considered to be the origin of river Kali. There is a temple and a small pool, called Shiv Kund, from where the river apparently originates.

Shiv Kund, Kalapani Kailash Mansarovar Yatra 2018
Shiv Kund, Kalapani

Regular puja is done here. The temple has the idols of Goddess Kali and Lord Shiva. We went inside the temple and then spent some time in the fields nearly.

Inside the Kalapani Temple Kailash Mansarovar Yatra 2018
Inside the Kalapani Temple

The weather was fine and we were in a dreamy state basking the sun for a long time until were asked to kindly go and have our lunch. 😀 It is also a place where I lost my walking stick, or it got stolen. 🙂

Like all of the high altitude camps, Kalapani camp was also situated bang in middle of vibrant natural beauty. Green hills surrounded the place. The wild , fierce Kali river was flowing below the camp. Mount SeshNaag was visible like it was just waiting for us to display its beauty.

Sesh Naag Kailash Mansarovar Yatra 2018
Sesh Naag Kailash Mansarovar Yatra 2018

Just when I was thinking of enjoying the beauty from below, few of our batch asked me if I was willing to go higher up in the hills that surrounded the camp. Shruti was the one who thought it first and then Mohit and Sakshi came along with yours truly.

The green hills@Kalapani Kailash Mansarovar Yatra 2018
The green hills@Kalapani

It sounded risky given that the hills seemed like a lot of loose rubble and soil dumped together. But the pull of adventure was also undeniable. And I responded to the second. The four of us ended up going a few hundred feets higher up the camp site to view the place from above. The view was astonishingly clearer. And we had some fun clicking photographs there.

While coming down however, I felt the actual risk. There was no barrier to save from falling to the bottom of the hill if one slips. Mohit gave a very useful piece of advise and trained us up in the technique of going down the hills in these cases, which turned out to be very effective during the later times during the descend from Dolma La.

Using his advise, we came down like champs, the four of us forming a chain and making that relatively risky descend look like cake walk.

I understood two things from this experience. Firstly, these were the times to chuck off the thoughts of NOT climbing the seemingly difficult paths and secondly, my trekking shoes needed to be thanked for saving me some epic falls! 😀

The next part is continued here…

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