Maanasa Kailasa Yatra – 26

We have crossed over to Darchen from Maanas-Raakshas lakes, across Barkha plains, and at an average elevation of around 15000 feet, we are right up there, in the barren highlands of western Tibet…

We spend the night of July 1, 2013 here, at the base camp for the Kora (pradakshina) around Mt Kailash…

Sharing a video I found on youtube, that shows Darchen…. Gives you a good idea of the desolate terrain… You would see some Tibetan pilgrims starting on the kora, doing prostrations… Prostration parikrama, an unimaginable form of penance, where the pilgrims prostrates full lenth, gets up, walks to the point where his outstretched hands reached during the prostration, raises his hands in obeisance, prostrates again…

You would also see a view south, of the Barkha plains, the Rakshas Tal in the distance and the Gurla Mandhata mountains behind… And last but not least, you would see Mt Kailash…

Here goes… Watch… Absorb the mood of the landscape…

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North of Darchen, directly towards Kaillash, is the holy Ashtapad. Our group did not visit the place.  The authorities do not always permit one to go there. Also, one would need to add a day to the itinerary of kora. In any case, our tour operator did not breathe a word about Ashtapad to us… All things said, if you are planning to visit Mt Kailash, if the authorities permit visiting Ashtapad, then put it down in your ‘must do’ list… From here you can get a splendid view of the southern face of Mt Kailash… My good friend Narayan Iyer has been to Ashtapad during his yatra a few years ago.. I am sharing below, some pictures that he took… Lovely pictures…

Click on the first picture to use arrow keys to browse the gallery, Esc to return….

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If you go to Ashtapad, you also see the most lovely Nandi peak, of which Lama Govinda says in his book (The Way of the white clouds) – “Before the valley turns to the north-east is a rock rising thousands of feet sheer from the bottom of the valley, shaped like the sacred Nandi bull, with its head raised towards the summit of Kailas, as if looking lovingly at its master…”

Here is a picture of the Nandi peak…

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353 Nandi

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The gyangdrak gompa that you saw in the video is directly between Darchen and Nandi peak…

Now, before we set off on the kora, some background information…

Here is a rough map of the kora… We need to cover around 54 kms of high altitude trekking, in three days… The rough route is marked in red arrows. The start point is Darchen, marked in a yellow circle at the bottom of the map.. The Gyandrak gompa is marked with a green circle, just above Darchen…  In the middle of the map is Mt Kailash, marked with a yellow triangle..

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kora-1-darchen

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The kora has four ‘chaktsal gang’ or ‘prostration’ points, where pilgrims prostrate full length on the ground, looking towards Mt Kailash. These have been marked in the map above with icons of a person prostrating. There are two stop overs in the three day trek. Day one would end in Diraphuk which is around 20 kms from Darchen. Day 2 would start from Diraphuk, and is the most strenuous of the three day trek. You go past the high Dolma La Pass, and traversing a distance of 22 kms you come to the second stop-over point, Zutulphuk. Day 3, you start from Zutulphuk and reach Darchen, a distance of around 12 kms or so… In the map above, the two stop over points are marked with ‘house’ icons. The one on top is Diraphuk, and the one on right side, below, is Zutulphuk.

All told, in three days, we cover a distance of approx. 54 kms, and get back to base camp.

That’s the plan.

1-July-2013…

We get up to a bleak morning…

Last night’s food was terrible… The most incredible Usha has been having a tete-a-tete with the tour cook and is busy for hours on end working in the kitchen… And lo! This morning, she has prepared Pongal for all… How she managed it with the limited ingredients available, one doesn’t know… But after many days, we get to eat some really tasty food… And most of the tour group folks are thrilled… Except a few of course, who grumble about “these Madrasi-s forcing apnaa  khaanaa”. Ho hum!

Breakfast done… Time is past 9 am… Time to leave….

Our duffel bags have to be left behind now. All we are allowed to take is a small backpack, which should weigh no more than 3 or 4 kilos. And a camera. You really need to pack neat… Just the essentials… Thumb rules of ‘minimum needs’, mentioned earlier, in my first post of the series…

Absolute must have’s are:

  • A backpack (one, where you can stick your water bottle on one side…)
  • A good pair of trekking shoes (which you need to get used to, well before the yatra… Your regular walking shoes won’t do. You need to get good hiking shoes that hold your foot above your ankle…)
  • A few pairs of good socks… Sounds trivial… But it’s not…And a pair of slippers…
  • Tissues, including wet tissues
  • A mug will prove handy for your sanitation needs…
  • A pair of good quality Sun goggles… At high altitudes, you need protection from UV rays… There is risk of sun burn and there is a lot of glare out there, reflected by the snow and ice… Also get some good quality sunscreen cream for your face….And do not forget to take lip balm…
  • Rain-proof trekking trousers (at least one)
  • Inner thermals… Take at least two pairs of uppers and lowers… Layers matter when it comes to dressing for the cold…
  • A good (North Face type) thin warm jersey
  • A down jacket (you can also hire this from the tour organizers)
  • Warm gloves, muffler, woolen cap… A summer cap as well… Weather can change from freezing cold to a mild biting warmth in no time…
  • A poncho raincoat (with hood)… When it rains, it may well pour…
  • A nose mask or two (even the local folks, the porters and guides, cover their nose when they walk in the cold).. This is a life saver…
  • A trekking pole (or two, if you prefer)… You are not fully dressed if you do not have a trekking pole.
  • Torch
  • Some ready eats (dry fruits, kismis)… These are your body’s battery chargers…
  • A little bottle of sandal oil (useful fragrance when you are fighting mountain sickness)
  • Your regular medicines, altitude sickness medicines and first aid stuff…
  • Water purifying tablets, if you are particular, or are from the Western world… Soota was making do with spring water of Mt Kailash, which although a bit brackish, was quite ok… The tour organizers give you some water too… But then the trek is such that  each person goes at his or her own pace and you need to be self-sufficient for your basic needs…
  • No shaving kit… Been many a day since one shaved…
  • Notice, no mention of towels… Last bath was at Manasarovar… Next will be there too…

By the way, if you can somehow manage to charge your cell phone batteries, you can carry a cell phone… Depending on your carrier, you can catch signals in Maanas and in Kailas… You could also buy a local sim when you enter Tibet… Then again, do you really want to be on call when you are doing kora of Kailasa? It’s a toss up… You may like to send pictures, tweet live… It’s an online world today! Or you may like to log off from the online world, and ‘just be’ with the winds of Kailas…. Om Nama Sivaya!

So that’s a reasonable kit. All of which, other than what is on your body, should be less than 5 kgs. Anything more, the porter shall refuse to carry. And you cannot carry stuff in any case… Just the strain of walking in the low oxygen altitudes is tough enough… Conserve every joule of energy that you can…

Ok… Ready?

We assemble outside the rest house… Waiting to go….

Sky is overcast… Rains in the offing…. No view of Kailash at all… Many folks are dropping further yatra from here…

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Darchen July 1, 2013

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Om Nama Sivaya!

As you leave, listen to the song of Siva.. Sing along, this ancient song of Tamils… The immortal song of Maanikka vaacagar… Namashivaaya vaazhga!

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** To be continued **

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6 Responses to “Maanasa Kailasa Yatra – 26”

  1. Narayan Iyar Says:

    You left out the darshan of athma lingam

  2. sudarshaniyer Says:

    Thank you for the latest update. Can you shed more light on the etches seen in Kailas Ashtapad. Also, expect a detailed coverage on the Atma Lingam. Just adding a small bit here about the Yatra of an illustrious pilgrim, the Pontiff of the Konkani Chitrapur Mutt, Shri Sadyojat Shankarashram Swamiji. An account of the Divine Grace can be read here http://www.chitrapurmath.com/yatras/yatras_kailas.asp

    • gkamesh Says:

      Sudarshan… It is indeed an extraordinary coincidence that you are pointing me to a link of Shirali Chitrapur Mutt Acharya. In fact, one of the inspirations for my Kailas yatra has been reading about this very visit (link you shared) when it was published. In my book “Tulu Tales”, I have written about it in the preface….Prostrations to His Holy Feet!

  3. Mariya Jonsan Says:

    You are providing good detailed information regarding Kailash Yatra, but if you are provide more about this holy yatra and what are some rules and regulation which is important during yatra then it is helpful for me and my group yatri’s.

    • gkamesh Says:

      Hi..In general one needs to be fit and be willing to put up with stress of travel, sub optimal facilities, and low oxygen levels. Titiksha helps.. In terms of specifics, your tour operator will give you all details… Best wishes for your yatra.

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