“I know well what I am fleeing from but not what I am in search of ” ~ Michel de Montaigne
Year 2012, wanting to break away from the monotony of the so-called harsh realities of life, to break away from the work cubicle which had started making no sense, to break away from the fruitless daily 4hrs office commute, to break away from making decisions in personal life. Being single & not ventured on a solo trip ever in my life, I decided to check on the options available to travel, far away from all the madness. Yes I was running away to find solace. Solo but not solo & what could be the next best option in such a scenario – an all women group travel! I decide to check on the trips available & came across the most exciting one on the listing – the Trek to Mt. Kailash or popularly known as Kailash Manasarover Yatra(Trip).
As much as the sunsets & deep oceans fascinate me, the mighty mountains intrigue me! The huge accumulated mass of soil rising up towards the sky trying to touch the eternity, the authoritative majestic feel they give that make you realize how tiny your existence is, the long uphill narrow winding roads, the hiking & treks making new paths & leaving a trail behind have its own charm. I guess I have a special thing for these mountain journeys!
Kailash Manasarovar Sacred Trek Via Nepal Route
The long trip started from Kathmandu, our meeting point. There I met some 18 odd women from all geographies of India age group25-65yrs, housewives, doctor, bankers, artists & retired. All had a common zeal though – to reach Mt. Kailash.
I am briefly mentioning about the destination in this Part1 of my Journey, as I shall be covering it in detail in Part 2. A brief mention of this mountain of great significance cannot justify its existence & the treacherous journey which people take to reach it
Mt. Kailash is a peak in Himalayan Range lying in the Tibet China region. It is 6,638m or 21,778 ft elevation & holds considerable significance in 3 religions- Buddhism, Hinduism & Jainism. It can be reached from India via two routes- first one is the Govt of India Ministry of External Affairs organized trip starts from New Delhi-Uttrakhand- Mangti-Gala-Budhi-Gunji-Kalapani-Nabidang-Lipulek Pass by trek, Second route is via Nepal-Kodari- Nyalam-Saga-Paryang-Mansarovar-Kailash.
So post an early breakfast at our hotel in hotel in Kathmandu, we start towards the Nepal –Tibet (China) Border- last town Kodari. If the bus that arrived to take us to Kodari was any indication of the upcoming perils, I guess we were not prepared. The bus we were briefed in our itinerary by the travel agent dint arrive & we then started out in an old rickety local transportation. The scenic drive from Kathmandu to Kodari & the expertise with which the driver meandered through the narrow roads uphill made us forget the little noises that the bus made & the uncomfortable seating. The route is prone to landslides & many parts of the road were damaged due to the fresh rains & boulders slipping down.
On reaching Kodari, we were in a surprise yet again .The little town became our home for two nights. We were asked to wait there as our guide from China side hadn’t turned up to receive us & hence we could not go through the immigration formalities. The day was spent exploring the beautiful surroundings – there was a famous hot waterfall too where some of us took a dip to refresh.
Kodari area was severely damaged in the 2015 Nepal earthquakes & has been under construction. This border is largely the trade route & tourists entering Tibet(China)with a group tourist Chinese visa are usually allowed to enter from this route. The famous Friendship Bridge connects this Nepal side to Tibet China side. Zhangmu about 8kms from the border is the first Tibet town. Once we crossed the bridge & completed the formalities of immigration, we were yet again asked to wait for few hours on a roadside as the Chinese guide was still awaited & we could not go out in the town without him
Finally towards the evening the Chinese guide arrived & we were taken to a hotel in Zhangmu for our night halt. The hotel had very basic facility with a bed & a toilet in a corridor. We were advised by the Chinese guide (who as a matter of fact spoke quite good Hindi –Indian Language thanks to Bollywood movies, he was an ardent fan of the Bollywood actor Shahrukh Khan) to take proper rest as we were to travel. We went out in the streets of Zhangmu & found couple of parlors offering hot water showers for 20yuan. Since we were told that we might not get a chance to bath for next 3days, we were more than willing to spend & enjoy the facility.
Next day journey onwards from Zhangmu to Nayalam & Saga town. Since we had spent an additional day at Kodari , we had to skip our stay at Nayalam & thus dint get a chance to acclimatize properly to the increasing altitude .
After over 12hrs of non-stop drive, across the changing landscape of Tibet Plataea we reached Saga a small town in Tibet, located on the banks of River Brahmaputra. While driving towards Saga , the had few small halts at the picturesque locations – Nya Lam Thong La Pass (5126m), Mt. Shisapangam (8013m) , Lake Peiko Tso(4591m).
Before reaching Lake Manasarover, after Saga we had a night halt in a village in some mud houses , no toilet or bathing facility . While we had been travelling in a mini Volvo bus , our luggage was travelling in another truck . Once we used to stop for a night hault, we were allowed to access the luggage for anything important we wanted to retrieve from it, otherwise we had to manage with the rucksack which had our bare essentials . Due to non-stop ascent to higher altitude our bodies could not acclimatize properly & few of us had started feeling the symptoms of altitude sickness.
“Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves.” – Henry David Thoreau
By this time, into half of our journey, I had begun to notice the change – the changing landscape , the change in our relations with each other , the change in my thinking. I had decided to embark on this journey as an escape from my routine , from the problems of my daily city life & I had started this journey thinking that I would get some peace & time to think over . However I realized that I infact had no time to think . Right from the moment we had stepped in that bus from our hotel in Kathmandu , we had faced some problem or the other and our journey so far was not anywhere near to being smooth or easy. From spending endless hours waiting at the Chinese immigration to the hotel with no facilities, sleeping in mud houses, being back to a nomadic life & using the trees & shrubs as toilets, not having a good bath for 4 days , managing altitude sickness , in a foreign land with no connectivity with outside world, trying to dry my whole set of clothes in luggage which was soaked in rain overnight under the open sun using stones to keep it safe from flying off , no warm clothes to change into except 1 jacket as everything else was wet. I not only survived all of these one after the other but I was enjoying these new experiences. I was chanting & meditating , clicking photographs to keep safe memories & I was learning that there are bigger problems in life that I can handle . I was lost but I was finding myself.
More adventures & reaching Mt. Kailash with exclusive photos in Part2 🙂