Returning from Pasupathinath, one has a quick session of Katha at the Hotel… Being a Soota is always helpful… For this yatra one takes up the tale of Shakuntala from Mahabharata… The first part is told, while sitting in the open air restaurant at Hotel Tibet to an attentive audience of three…. Trishula!
Evening sees one collect the Duffel bag and backpack from the tour organizer. Also hire a Down jacket from them for Rs 500…. Packing in the night… Starting next morning, early…. The Yatra begins.
Morning of 27th… The Yatris, forty three of us, get onto one bus….
As we start, the Yatri-s shout “Har Har Mahadev” in unison… And as the bus eases down the roads, some begin chanting prayers… Rudram, Purusha Suktam.. A lady chants Appayya Deekshitar’s “Marga Bandhu Stotram”, a beautiful hymn in praise of Siva, the protector of pilgrims on Yatra.,.. She also chants “Siva Tandava Stotra”, a most powerful hymn composed in Kailasa, by a unique devotee of Lord Siva => The ten headed Ravana! With the boom-boom metre of that Stotra, the Yatra is off to a great start.
We drive down picturesque Nepal roads….. After an hour or maybe more, we pass on our left a hill with a statue of Siva… It is the statue of Lord Kailashnath Mahadev,,,,
You can spot the idol on top of the hill… This is said to be one of the tallest statues of Siva in the world… 143 feet high… And it is of the Lord of Kailasa… So, we are off to a good start…. Jai Kailashanath!
The bus stops by at a row of shops, and the tour-guides whip out some packed food. Looks uninviting…. Rather uninviting…
And inviting nearby is a Dhaba… Hot Parontha-s and Choley is on the menu. So come in… What are you waiting for…
We drive on…
The first destination is the border of Nepal and Tibet…. That’s some four hours or so away…. We drive down, all along the side of a lovely river… The scenery is picturesque… Green Nepal mountains, rapid flowing river…
A couple of pictures…
Here’s another. Click on the picture to see a nice large view
Isn’t that beautiful…
The river is one of the many that constitutes the Sapta Koshi… The seven rivers that are Koshi… Derived from “Kaushiki”, the river is known to mankind since times of Rig Veda… Named after the sister of Sage Vishwamitra (Kaushika), the river finds place in the major epics of India, Ramayana and Mahabharata too… Seven rivers come together to become Koshi in Nepal… And it flows into India in Bihar and then goes and joins Ganga.
It’s a roaring river, quite in favor by the rowers of rapids…
Here’s a short video clip. Have a dekho…
The sight and sound of a river thundering down the Himalaya! Sheer meditation…
Somewhere along the way one comes across two tributaries of Koshi meeting. Perhaps Bhote Koshi meeting Sun Koshi… Not sure which the two are… A little temple is at the sangama bank… Beautiful..
We drive on down the highway… This highway from Kathmandu to the border of Nepal and Tibet is known as the Arniko Rajamarg – named after Araniko or Aniko, one of the all-time-great artistes of Nepal, whose art and career flourished across Nepal-Tibet-China. He lived in the 13th Century AD, and worked as a painter-sculptor artiste in the court of the great Kublai Khan of Mongolia. About this highway Wikipedia says: “It is among the most dangerous of highways in Nepal due to extremely steep slopes on each side of the road from Barabise onwards, massive landslides and bus plunges are not uncommon especially after rains.”
One can see that the mountainside has received lots of rain in the recent times… In quite a few places we see signs of landslides.. One shudders to think of the delays one would have to suffer if a landslide cuts off the road on our way… But from whatever one can see, the Nepal roadways engineers have been pretty efficient. We do not encounter any road blocks, although in many places we do notice slush on the road indicating recent road clearance. And we also see landslide clearance machines at work
Around 10-30 or so we come to a place short of the border. Our halt for an early lunch at a hotel.. Food is good…
It has been raining on and off all along… After lunch we get onto the bus and arrive at the last stop before the border, where the bus stops at a good distance away from the exact dividing point. The border point is a place called Kodari… We leave the duffel bags in the bus and start our long march to the border, up hill, carrying our backpacks, water bottle…
The border is a bridge. Called the Friendship Bridge, it has Kodari of Nepal on one side and Zhangmu of Tibet on the other.
Here’s a picture of the bridge… A trade-truck making its way across.
The division between Nepal and Tibet is defined by the swift flowing river, Bhote Koshi. The Friendship bridge is across this river. “Bhote” means “tibet” in the local language.. This river is a steep one, and is a rafting challenge… And a Bungee jumping thrill across the gorge for some…. Here is a picture of Bhote Koshi flowing under the Friendship bridge
As one takes pictures of the river, some young border control official butts in asking one to refrain…. Oh these border blokes all over the world… Protecting the chastity of nations….
Right in the middle of the bridge is a line that demarcates the exact border. A couple of very young Chinese soldiers are the first guards. We have to wait to cross…. It starts to rain, and out comes our Ponchos. For entering Tibet for Kailasa Yatra we have a group permit. Now that has to be scrutinized at both sides of the border, and all this takes time, The Indians and the Non-Indians have separate permits… The Chinese guards at the border want all of us to line up and walk in the same order as the names in the permit…The sequence number is pasted as a sticker on the cover of the passport. Now the sequence number also has an alphabet. So the order of names is not clear. Me first, you next etc… Somehow we organize ourselves to the comfort of the officials and one by one, we go across . At the end of the bridge, a couple of Chinese soldiers are standing on platforms in complete “Attention”. They are so still one cannot make out whether they are real or not. Absolute discipline. A contrast to the Nepal side, which is very much like India, with one and all being in “chalta hai” – stand at ease attitude. Across the border, one felt one was in a foreign country now.
More walk and one came to the building where the immigration control was. It was raining and we had to wait in a queue outside first, and then inside for more than an hour… Titiksha – that great Indian essential-quality of “endurance, patience, resignation, forbearance…” stood one in good stead. As we stood in the line for foreigners, we saw laborers of Nepal and Tibet walking across a different line, carrying enormous load on their back… Men and women laborers… What strength… Our Titiksha pales into insignificance…
Eventually we walk past immigration, and on to Tibet… We wait for the group to gather… Standing in rain, taking shelter in some ramshackle constructions where goods were piled up. Relief of bladder was postponed as pioneers pointed out that the facility was rather unbearable. The senses picked that up from a distance in any case.
A long walk on the other side takes us to our buses.. Chinese buses. One a minibus and the other a big one. I get onto the minubus… We move on, and within some ten minutes, we have to halt at one more checkpoint. Get off the bus, and show our passports…. One of the golden fellows in our van has not got his passport. That is with his wife who is in the other bus, which has not come yet. Well the Chinese authorities do not care for explanations being offered in a language they do not understand, by a man from a country that perhaps does not rank up there in their list of favorites 🙂 … Co-yatri-s are getting wary now… All are looking daggers at this passport-less man… Waiting, waiting… Eventually, we make a move on again….
This is a different country all right. The whole region has a disciplined silence about it. The roads are good. Very good. The hairpin bend in the mountain road are paved with square stones in contrast to the paved part of the straight sides. The better to grip the road… There are hard wire barricades built here and there by the side of the road, to act as blocks to rockfall in landslide prone parts. Waterfalls are deftly routed through channels constructed below the road…..Chinese engineering… Hats off.
After an hour or so, we take a bio halt….
Right nearby a lovely waterfalls. Welcome to Tibet.
** To be continued **