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:
Continued from the previous post…
Next morning, we were up and running by 9 AM. Food on the Chinese side was basic but excellent throughout the duration of the trip. We had an Indian crew hired specifically for the yatra by the Chinese authorities. To us, this seemed to be a welcome gesture.
We started from the hotel after a routine headcount. The buses took us through the beautiful plains with mountains far away. I was wide awake throughout this journey so as not to miss out on any of the natural beauty. Suddenly there was a speck of blue on the horizon. And it grew as the bus progressed through the tarred road. It was the moment of our first meeting, Rakshastal and I 🙂
It was a HUGE lake. A saltwater lake as we read. A road went down towards the bank of the lake. It was wide, and blue. Opposite to where we stood, there was the fabled mountain of Kailash. It was also the moment where reality meets the dream.
The lake, of the bank of which I stood was one of the places I raved of being for a very long time. The mountain beyond it? A wish that I thought would never get fulfilled. But life surprised me with realisation of this dream.
I was spellbound by the serene beauty of Rakshastal, wondering why would anyone relate this to bad omens? Why would this have a reputation of being polluted and poisonous and probably its other half, be called Mansarovar, the mind lake and be associated with all things good? Why the double standard? How can such a masterpiece by nature have so many critics in the popular culture and folklore?
But the water tasted sweet, and yes, I drank the water from this lake and lived to tell the tale …! 😛
We spent some 45 minutes, mesmerised, observing the beauty, enjoying the calmness, counting and comparing the different hues of blue we could see till our guide came down to fetch us because we were getting delayed.
The Kailash however, decided to wear a hat, of clouds, In fact, almost three fourth of the mountain on the other side of the lake was visible, except for a small piece of cloud that resembled the shape of a hat! Desperate to see the rest of it, I was telling it “aab hat utha bhi lo, pura dekhne to do?” (Telling the mountain to take off the hat to help me see it completely! ) Silly me! 😀
But as we proceeded towards Darchen, there were several minutes of unhindered viewing of Mount Kailash, in its complete form. Guess it did listen to my request. 😉 We proceeded through the beauty of the Barkha plains. There was only one comment that came to my mind seeing the beauty..”This landscape is killing me!” 😀
Then we met another element from the dreams..Mansarovar. With different hues of blue, a clear, bright weather we spent some time here before proceeding to Darchen. Some of the yatris took bath then and there!
We spent a little while on the bank of the lake, but did not even imagine taking a bath there now, because we would be coming back here to spend a full day and a half here post our parikrama of Kailash (kora).
By afternoon, we reached the town of Darchen. We were provided a hotel with basic facilities here. Again, the staff at this end were fabulous. They attended to individual’s tiniest needs.
Darchen is a small village in Purang(Burang) county in Tibet. The Kailash Kora or Parikrama starts from here. The town has the necessary stocks to support the bunch of pilgrims here. One can get a better view of Kailash from anywhere in the town.
We had to inform our decision of opting for Pony and porter here. The same had to be informed to the authority before hand. Since I had opted for both this time as well, I provided the money to our coordinator for the same.
We also went for some shopping around here in the evening. Not being a shopaholic, I did not shop for anything, keeping that part left for the time when we return from the kora. But I did notice the motorcycles here, decorated with colorful beads and holy symbols. They beautifully fit the landscape with blue of the skies, greens and greys of the land.
Next day, we started for the point where Kailash kora starts. We carried minimal, only necessary things in our backpacks. We had to be as light as possible for these three days. The main luggage stayed at Darchen where it would be picked up on our way to Qugu at the end of the parikrama.
Not too many people were there when we reached Tarboche, but as time passed, we saw people with ponies assembling.
A lottery is done for assignment of Pony handler and Porter for the yatris. We assembled our luggage in a line and waited for the Porter assignment. Post this, another round of lottery got us our Pony handlers.
There is a problem in communication here due to the language barrier. None of the Porter or Pony handlers speak English. But sign language works. The difference in culture is also an issue. I had read from other sources that the personnel here may seem rude at times. I was also informed that the respect for personal space may not be similar to home. But I found another proof of what I believe to be the truth, that there are more good people than there are bad people in this world. And both my Porter and Pony handlers were fine. They were very helpful to the point of being caring! 🙂
It was a brightly lit day. The south face of Kailash was visible clearly. I stood mesmerised, soaking in the view there. A dream was coming to being a reality. Infact, I was living a dream! A rare moment in an individual’s life for sure.
I started post assignment of porter and pony were done. First stop was the Chorten Kang Ngyi which means two legged Stupa in Tibet, popularly called as Yamdwar. One goes through this chortan at the start of the parikrama, which is considered to bring good luck during the kora.
Tarboche is also the spot for the Saga-dawa (flag pole ceremony ) festival every year, around spring. During this time, the flag pole is replaced with a new one. Popular belief says that the flag pole should be perfectly straight, otherwise the time would not be good for Tibet.
I entered through the opening of the chortan as the prayer flags tied near the structure fluttered in the breeze. Some photos pasted on the walls inside, a gift of apples left by some… a place where people who came before me had left a piece of themselves in prayers.
After yamdwar, a gradually ascending road took us near the bottom of Chuku Monastery.
I read somewhere that it was built in 13 century AD and has artefacts from different countries along with the meditation hall of master Padmasambhava. We could see the monastery up the hill, balanced, almost pasted on the hills. Offcourse, we did not climb up there to see it but continued on foot by the bank of the river Lha Chu for around an hour before briefly halting at one of the makeshift tents for a short while.
I had an apple and some juice with me, which I ate and continued further.
West Face of Mount Kailash was visible almost the entire way.
Apart from this, I saw some amazing landscapes en-route. It seemed straight out of a cowboy classic, puckered and dented cliffs, stones of vivid shapes, this journey was beautiful.
The kailash kora starts from an elevation of around 15000 ft (Tarboche) and takes you to a highest point of around 18600 ft (Dolma La) in between.
The trek is a humbling, ego crushing experience. I walked some and then required the pony. My pony on this side of the border seemed well built, and it was perhaps part wild, just like the wild beauty of the Barkha plains!
It continued to carry me without any problems whatsoever and we reached our days halt at Deraphuk by 1 PM. Deraphuk is one of the most beautiful destination in the tour, providing a clear view of the northern face of Kailash.
But the day was not yet over. I saw some people leaving for ChranSparsh, being as close as possible to the ice wall that is at around 3 KM ascend from the foot of Mount Kailash from Deraphuk. I considered for a while about going there but since we had two more days to go for the kora, so I decided to go up some distance up the trail. After some time of rest, Soma and I went up a few KMs up and stood on a place with prayer flags tied everywhere. The Kailash was clearly visible here, like a day dream. I had a sense of having completed something I had longed to do for a long time. No tears, but pure joy prevailed! 🙂
We were there for around two hours, which seemed to be like two minutes. We came down to our place of stay to spend the night to prepare for our journey to ZunzuiPu (ZutulPhuk) starting next morning. Evening came with the sky turning all shades of orange.
The night had a view of Kailash with the moon beside it, beautifully resplendent. The view is forever etched in my mind.
Day 2 continues here…