!!!!!!!!!!! OM NAMSHIVAYA!!!!!!!!!
Kailash Manasarovar Yatra-Jun 9 to Jun 23,2018.
“The greatest days in our lives are the days when our dreams come true”.
It’s a rare experience when a dream comes true. We live on borrowed time from the day we are born. During the time we live, the constant quest is to find out the reason for our existence and the only way we find out that reason is by pursuing our dreams and when they manifest we know who we are.
If anyone has ever dreamed of being to Kailash Manasarovar don’t waste any more time pondering over whether to go or not. Do whatever it takes and get there. The tour is the greatest course that life can teach. The lessons learnt are priceless. The money we pay for the tour is petty when it comes to the value the tour brings about for us.
With that said, let me come to the details of the actual Yatra. I will explain this in three parts:
- Pre-tour requirements.
- The tour itself.
- Best Practices and tour guidance.
So let us begin with the Tour preparations:
We were a group of 48 Yatris (tourists) from the states of Karnataka and Kerala and 7 Sherpas (guides from Nepal). I was part of the 16 member group from Kerala (pic below).
This blog is a representation of the experiences mostly from the 16 member group from Kerala whom we fondly referred to as G16 during the tour.
The booking for the tour open in mid of February every year. Our Tour Operator was Sri Hansaa Travels from Banashankari Bangalore. They are very experienced in pilgrim tours and are specialized in the Kailash Manasarovar Yatra. There is no need to look beyond this amazingly professional set of people for this tour if you are from South of India. I will share more about them at the end of the blog.
We first submit a copy of the passport, identity proof and fill out a couple of forms provided by the tour operator for visa process. We also need to submit a fitness certificate from a general physician mentioning details of ECG, BP and general health conditions.The format for this is provided by the tour operator. We can select from a set of dates provided in the tour brochure. The China Government provides a group Visa and there will be no stamping on the passports. We also pay an advance (about 10-20%) of the total tour cost. A month before the tour there will be a briefing session providing every detail of the tour itinerary followed by things to carry and tour conduct. We were shown some samples of the items we were to carry with us on the tour.
A list of all these items is provided in the later part of this blog.
Following the briefing session, we have to submit our passports for verification.
The tour agents also booked flight tickets for us, Bangalore-Kathmandu-Bangalore.
Passports were handed back to us a day before the tour with a numbered sticker on it.
Let’s now begin the tour. All the timings mentioned in this article are IST.
We boarded the 5 .50 pm flight to Kathmandu-Nepal Airlines and reached Kathmandu at 9.15 pm. Nepal is 15 minutes ahead of India. This is the G16 group at the Bangalore International Airport just before boarding the flight.
This blog only talks about the Kailas Manasarovar Yatra and does not include Mukthinath
Dashawn. People opting for the Mukthinath tour reach Kathmandu 4 days prior to the KMS Yatra.
Day1: We landed at Kathmandu Airport. Getting into Nepal is possible either with a passport or Voters ID card. No other documents are allowed. People from the states where the government offers subsidy for this tour should definitely carry their passports so that they can get it stamped at the Nepal China border at the time of entry and exit.
Hotel Amadablam, a three star property was less than 10 minutes from the Airport and we had a pick up from the Airport by the tour Operators. At the hotel we were allocated rooms, mostly twin sharing. After freshening up we had dinner followed by a briefing session for the next day. This was the norm throughout the tour.
Day 2: On Day 2 the Yatris had an option of going for a 1 hour tour of Mt. Everest and the great peaks around it in a small 20 seater aircraft. This tour started at 5:30 AM and we were back at the Hotel for breakfast at 8 PM. It was an amazing short trip and we were fortunate to see Mt. Everest at its best with the sunniest conditions up there. We were also able to see the tip of Mount GauriShankar and several other peaks that are just a few metres below Mt. Everest. This short tour costs INR 7500 and is worth every penny.
Post breakfast we had a two hour briefing session by our Nepal tour Operators. We were given a duffle bag, a raincoat, a down jacket, a backpack and a cap of which the down jacket is returnable and the tourists can keep the rest of the stuff. We were also briefed about the Do’s and Don’ts and taken through the entire itinerary once again and the Q and A session answered specific concerns about food and stay.
We had to then pack all our tour items into the duffle bag and back pack and leave our luggage locked at the Hotel cloak room.
Post Lunch we were taken to a city tour covering Boudha Stupa, JalaNarayan and Pashupatinath temple in Nepal. Pashupatinath temple is only a 5 minute walk from Hotel Amadablam.
Post Dinner we were again briefed on the plan and timings for next Day.
Day 3: Day 3 is when the KMS tour actually begins. It’s a day long bus ride post breakfast to a Nepal China border town called Sybrubesi (150m above sea level). This may not be the best spelling of the town. Once you reach there you will notice at least 10 different ways of naming the town. The day long ride is only 140 kms however due to the extremely pathetic road conditions. It’s a beautiful peaceful town, the rooms are decent and the food is tasty. As usual dinner is followed by briefing. Passports are collected from the Yatris for stamping.
Day 4: After an early breakfast (6.30 AM), we left for the China border and completed immigration formalities on both sides. Cross the friendship bridge between Nepal and China by walk. The Sherpas and the tour guides help with the formalities. If you have temperature it is highly likely that the heat mapping cameras at the immigration centre will signal the authorities and you may be asked to stand aside. There may be a re-examination if the authorities decide that you are not fit to go.
Once immigration is cleared you meet with the China guide and there are local touts who will help you exchange INR for Chinese currency.
Once the baggage clearance was done, we boarded a nice bus (25 seater) and after a 55 kms ride we reached Kyrung (2700mts). A sleepy town, but we started feeling the chill with the winds. Nothing much to do at Kyrung except eat and sleep and for those interested in shopping, you can go out for a short walk.
Day 5 and 6: After breakfast we rode to Saga (105 kms, 4700 mts). The Tibetan landscape is fascinating and after a certain altitude, all vegetation disappeared. It was only bald hill tops thereafter and the only living beings we witnessed were humans, yak and sheep. It took 4 to 5 hours and the altitude sickness started affecting all of us. Vomiting, blanking out, dizziness, heaviness in the head, headache and even a bit of breathlessness were evident with almost all the Yatris. Once we reached Saga it became difficult to walk around, eat and even sleep. It was so unusual and really tough to get acclimatized to these conditions. We had the next day (Day 6) off and in the evening all of us felt much better after adjusting to the conditions. The layers of clothing increased and the down jackets started coming on. Yet again food and stay arrangement was more than decent.
Day 7: After breakfast it was a long ride (410 kms) to Manasarovar (Chiagumpa village) at a height of 4500 mts above sea level. Before reaching there we took a Parikrama of the Manasarovar Lake which is 70 kms in circumference and collected Theertha from the divine lake in the cans we had carried as part of the accessories. The beauty of Manasarovar is beyond words and these pictures say it all. We can see the Mandhar hills on one side. This is where the waters of Manasarovar originate. We can also see the South Face of Mount Kailas from here.
We reached at dusk and took the rest of the day off. It was extremely cold and eating food had become a luxury as the taste buds failed to cooperate.
No toilet facility here, except for the pit system. You have to defecate in the open.
At Manasarovar we also had to decide on if and how we would take up the Parikrama. There are 3 options:
- Full tour except for 5 kms (downhill from Droma La Pass) by Pony. We have to pay 2000 yuan for the pony and another 800 yuan for the porter. This is arranged by the Pony trust and they take responsibility for any issues during the Parikrama.
- Walk the full distance accompanied by Porter or Sherpa. This will cost 800 yuan.
- Walk the entire stretch by ourselves. No additional cost for this.
There is also another option where we can avail a pony after the first day. This pony will only take us up to Droma La Pass on the second day and drop us at the top. This option is based on availability of ponies at the camp and the tour operator will not take responsibility for any untoward incident that may happen.
In the night a few of us were able to see some absolutely divine stuff on the banks of Lake Manasarovar. We spent about 3 hours watching the stars moving about (literally dancing) in the sky and some of them hit the waters as thin streaks of light and flared up and then disappeared on its way upwards. It’s hard for most to believe this and so I will not elaborate. It’s something that needs to be experienced.
Manasarovar Lake and Rakshsthala next to it is always in liquid state even though all other water bodies around it are frozen at sub-zero degrees. Now you see why I saw there are unusual things happening there.
Day 8: We used a pail and mug to take a bath in the extremely cold Manasarovar Lake. Following the soul cleansing bath was breakfast and then there was a two hour Pooja (religious ceremony) conducted by a Priest who had come down from the Pashupatinath temple. It was optional for the Yatris to participate. We did get to learn a lot about the origins of Mount Kailas and Manasarovar Lake.
Following the Pooja we had lunch. In the extreme cold conditions at 4500 meters altitude the taste buds don’t function well. We were served delicious food which normally we would gobble down without a care. However out here, we only stared at the food. It was so hard to eat. So after eating a couple of morsels we proceeded to Darchen (4664M), which is the base camp for the Parikrama. Again a decent 3 star accommodation surprisingly built in a place that has no vegetation and nothing around. Nothing eventful for the rest of the day.
Day 9: We proceed to Yamadwar with only our back packs with one set of clothes, water, dry fruits etc required for the Parikrama. Our duffle bags are loaded in to a truck and sent to the place where we will be going to after the Parikrama, in our case it was Saga. At Yamadwar we meet our porters, ponies and got our walking sticks.
Then we encircle the Yamadwar three times and walk through the door and then proceed 12 kms to Dhirapuk, our camp at the end of Day 1. We can see the West face of Mount Kailas during this trek. We have a stop mid-way for lunch (packed food provided when we begin the Parikrama). After a 5 to 6 hour trek we reach Dhirapuk and halt for the night.
This is again a decision point. Once we proceed from Dhirapuk, there is no way to come back to base, we have no choice but to complete the Parikrama. If we lack confidence we have the option to return to base camp and pay an additional 160 yuan since it is not informed in advance at Manasarovar.
Dhirapuk is the place where you see Mount Kailas’s north face and by far the biggest and closest we can see of this sacred mount. It is shaped like the hood of a snake and again I can’t find good enough words to describe the sheer beauty of Mount Kailas. Lord Shiva the destroyer among the Hindu trinity is known to be residing inside this mount. It’s a mountain that has never been scaled and is always covered with snow. Surprisingly none of the hills around this mountain has any snow on it. It’s evident from these pictures. It’s one of the umpteen facts due to which this mountain is so mysterious and sacred at the same time. This is the last and best view of Mount Kailas. Thereafter we do not see much of Mount Kailas for the rest of the Parikrama. We can see a tip of the mount on the east side on the third day of the Parikrama.
Day 10: This is the toughest day of the entire tour. From Dhirapuk (4765 M) we go up to Droma La Pass at 5585 M within a 5 kms stretch that takes 5 hours to walk. Droma La Pass was where Lord Shiva and his consort Shri Parvati got married. We were advised to not spend too much time adoring the beauty of this region and get down fast to avoid weather issues. We were very fortunate to have the best weather during our ascent up to Droma La Pass. Though the temperature was -6 degrees Celsius, there was only light wind, no snowfall, and we experienced some welcome sunshine as well.
Droma La pass is the highest point of the trek. We started descending rapidly from there and within the next 2 hours we were at the tea stall which is supposed to be the point where we meet our ponies after the descent. On the way down we can see the heavenly Gaurikund, the place where Shri Parvathi did penance to please Lord Shiva to marry her. The view is exotic and hard to etch away from memory. We also crossed a glacier on the way down. The climb down is equally daunting to the climb up owing to the slippery conditions from the melting snow. Once at the tea stall, we had our lunch (an apple and juice) and then began the 12kms long trek to Zuthulpuk, our camp at the end of Day 2 of the Parikrama. The walk seemed never ending though the terrain was flat. By the end of it we were in no position to even lift a finger. The organizers being cognisant of this fact made sure we got our tea and snacks in the room. The accommodation was dormitory style but we had the best night sleep at Zuthulpuk after eating the warm Kichhadi.
Day 11: We started the trek back to base camp very early in the morning when it was still dark, the final day of the Parikrama, a 10 kms walk on reasonably even terrain. It took 2-3 hours for all the Yatris to reach there. That ended the Parikrama. For most of us it was our biggest achievement in this life. Form this point we could see Rakshsthala, the lake formed from the demon Ravana’s blood. Like Manasarovar, this lake is in liquid state but we do not go close to it due to the extreme negative energy oozing out of it. From the end point of the Parikrama, our buses picked us back to the base camp at Darchen, a 20 minute ride. We had breakfast at the base camp and caught up with our mates who stayed back. Then we had a long drive and reached Saga in the evening. The rest of the day was uneventful and the group spent the time sharing their experiences during the Parikrama.
Day 12: We started after breakfast for a half day bus ride to Kyrung where we again went through the Chinese immigration and walked across the friendship bridge to the Nepal side and boarded the Nepal bus for another 1 hour drive to Sybrubesi. It was a relaxing day, the jackets and layered clothing had come off and everybody had a nice warm bath at conditions that we are familiar with.
We handed back the down jackets to the Sherpas and we were handed over the stamped passports
Day 13: After breakfast we endured a long and painstaking journey through the torrid terrains of Nepal back to Hotel Amadablam. At the hotel we were given our bags and suitcases and we spent the rest of the evening repacking.
Day 14: We had a half day tour to Patan, a culturally rich town in Nepal and saw some of the palaces and art displayed there. In the evening we were back at Pashupatinath to say Thank You to the Lord for helping us complete this amazing tour without much trouble.
Day 15: Post breakfast, we proceeded to the airport and took the afternoon flight back to Bangalore.
What remains are some glorious moments captured by the cameras and even greater are the memories etched in our minds and soul for ever. The first visit is always so special isn’t it?
I had the opportunity to ask a few members if they would do another trip given the opportunity and no one replied in the negative. That’s how powerful this experience is. No matter what the conditions, the journey is extremely special.
Now let me put down some recommendations for the friends who would like to take up this trip in the future:
- Choose your baggage based on what fits you best. The down jacket can hold lot of things and hence you need not carry heavy jackets with you. 4-5 layers of clothing are optimal. The thermals are an absolute necessity.
- 6-7 sets of clothes are good enough for the tour. The clothes don’t get soiled or smelly, so you can re-use them.
- Carry important medicines. Diamox is a tablet which most people recommend at high altitude. However do not take this till the time you feel you are not able to get acclimatized.
- Do not carry too much snacks and nuts. It’s hard to eat and you may have to bring them back or give it away to the Sherpas.
- Camphor is a good source of oxygen, however you bleed from the nose if you have too much of it.
- Make sure you mobile phones do not have a password lock or pattern lock as it is difficult to get your hands out of the gloves to take pictures. So make sure you are able to get to the camera and take pictures in the shortest time possible. Anyways the place is so engrossing, you will forget to take pictures.
- Eat very little during the tour. Stomach upsets are hard to heal as many of them found out.
- Drink as much warm water and glucose water as you can during the entire trek.
- Don’t forget tissue paper, it’s very handy in the No Toilet zones.
- There is no point walking in a group. It does not work. The Sherpas who are the backbone of the entire tour manage the group very well. It’s hard for you to be left alone.
- Do not stray away without informing someone. You may not get help if you are lost. The weather conditions are so fickle that you may be caught up in a snow storm at any time.
- Prepare as much as you can but it is no guarantee that you can still complete this tour. It is hard to recreate the conditions up there at our home town. So mentally prepare yourself for the journey, it’s your will power that will take you through more than anything else.
The 5 big lessons I learnt are:
- The greatest obstacles in life can only be overcome by mental toughness, physical endurance and sheer will power and not by physical strength and scholastic intelligence.
- We stand to smile or regret the decisions we make. Listen to the heart in the toughest situations.
- The easiest way to fight negativity is to be tough and stick to our decisions. We are the best judges of our physical and mental wellness.
- Humans cannot fight and win over Nature. Nature provides a solution to every problem it poses.
- The best laid plans come unstuck if we do not focus on our goals.
Finally a word about Shri Hansaa Travels. They have built quite a good reputation at organizing Pilgrimage tours are any amount of praise will be inadequate for their professionalism and dedication. They are very transparent and make sure the tour is as comfortable as possible.
Mr. Venkatesh our tour guide did his 16th Parikrama. Mr. Prasad who owns Shri Hansaa travels is also a veteran on this tours and knows his trade very well. I personally had a great time interacting and learning from them. I know for sure who will be the go to organizers for my tours in future.
And that’s it for this blog. Please share your comments and let me know if you need more information about this tour. I will modify the blog with more information based on your requests. Hope you got lot of value from this.
For all those who wish to take up the KMS Yatra, wish you all the best and have a blissful experience.
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