Kailash Mansarover Yatra

Kailash Yatra high-level itenary:

Kailash yatra typically starts from Kathmandu or from Lhasa, depending on whether you want to take the Nepalese or Tibetian routes. It takes 4 days of road travel accross the Tibetian plateau to reach Manasarovar lake. From here you drive to nearby town Darchen. The 3 day parikrama, kora (circumambulation of Mt., Kailash ) starts from Darchen. Its 51 miles hiking in 3 days and you end up back in Darchen. The hike is between 16000ft. to 18500 ft. So the high altitude is the challenge. The kora ends in Darchen to complete a full circle round the mountain. From Darchen you reverse your path back to Lhasa or Kathmandu. Overall trip is typically 3 weeks with rest stops.

Our journey was to start from Kathmandu. But with the earthquake in Nepal a lot of the road from Kathmandu was damaged, we could not travel from Kathmandu to Mansarovar. So the tour operators decided to move the starting point to Lhasa. That would mean getting travel permits to Tibet etc. Tour operators did all the paperwork and asked us to meet in Kathmandu.
 

Mount Eeverest from 30,000 ft.
Day 01: 23 Aug. 2015:

Arrival Kathmandu & transfer to 5 Star hotel Radisson. We flew to Kathmandu from Delhi a quick short flight. We stayed in Kathmandu for a couple of days. Flight to Kathmandu is a 90 minute flight. The highlight of the flight was the view of Mt. Everest on the eastern (left) hand side of the plane. I was seated on the Right hand side and didn’t get good pictures. I promised myself to get the right seats on my way back. We were received by the tour operator and his crew in Kathmandu. We stayed in Kathmandu for 2 nights to get acclimatized to the altitude.


Hotel in Kathmandu.
DAY 02: 24 Aug. 2015: prepare visa for Tibet

While we were looking up famous Hindu temples and roaming around downtown Kathmandu our tour operators were busy getting travel permits for Tibet.
Day 03: 25 Aug. 2015: Darshan Pashupatinath

Sadhu in downtown kathmandu.


Crowded Kathmandu. downtown

Visited a couple of famous temples. Not very interesting for me. Too crowded for my poor cognitive skills. I get mentally exhausted in big crowds. My wife enjoyed the outing.


Rama Temple in Kathmandu.


Bull Temple Kathmandu.

Day 04: 26 Aug 2015: Fly to to Gonggar & Transfer Lhasa city – 3 Star Gyanggen hotel

Flew from Kathmandu to Lhasa, entering the airspace of Tibet for the first time. It’s a short 90 minute flight. We had a warm reception at the Lhasa airport from our Tibetan crew. They put white scarfs around our neck, traditional Tibetan welcome. We met our Tour Leader for the rest of the yatra. He gave us a detailed briefing on dos and don’ts in Tibet since it’s a province of China with a special status. The government is very careful about the tourists who come in on travel/tourist visa. Visa and passports are checked everywhere while travelling in Tibet. We were told not to discuss politics with any local folks and be aware of the army posts. Photography was okay as long as we did not take pictures of army guys or posts.

Lhasa Airport


A rare, tall building in Lhasa


Lhasa Aerial.


Main square in lhasa downtown.


Farmers market Lhasa downtown.


Grains in. open


Lhasa Street.


Our yatra group of 8 in downtown Lhasa.

We were introduced to our drivers and saw the cars that would be our home for the next 4 days. These were Toyota Innova cars. Roomy and pretty good on rough terrain.
Started our drive from Lhasa to Mansarovar

Day 06: 27 Aug. 2015 Day 05: Drive Lhasa--Xigatse, Tahsilunbu, 3 star hotel Gesar
Leave Lhasa at 11000 ft. Drive 273 km. 6-7 hrs drive to Shigatse at 11000ft.

There is some green for sheep on the barren plateau


Lot of bridges and tunnels on the very well constructed highway.


Barren brown landscape for 4 days on way eyes get tired.


Who has the right of way.


Nice highways


Wide and deep landscape. looks like another plant.


Little Patches of Green.


Love the snow caps in the distance.

Day 07: 28 Aug. 2015 Day 06: Drive to Saga – 3 star Saga Hotel

Leave Saga very early for a 447 km. 9-10 hrs drive to Saga at 15000 ft. This is a very long drive. Tibetan roads are pretty good so the drive is not too bad. Much better than driving in Ladakh. We cross a few h ills otherwise mostly flat. The drivers take periodic breaks to have a smoke or two and the passengers get to pee in the open. No problem for the gents but the ladies were looking for something to go behind. Tibetan plateau is very dry and flat so not many large objects to pee behind. There is not much of an altitude change in this stretch.
We spend 28th night at Saga – a 3 star hotel with very limited facility. for Showers and toilets. Went out for dinner.


Day 08 - Day 12: 28- 31 Aug. 2015 Day 07: Drive to Mansarover Lake
Day 12: 31 Aug. 2015 : Arrival at Mansarover Lake (Full full moon night)

Its stunning and your breath stops a minute. You lookup above the waterline and there is a distant mountain and peeping above that is a stark white triangle Mt.Kailash south face. This sight was very powerful. I had a few shivers and maybe a tear in my eye. At last I had made it to Lake Mansarovar and was actually seeing it for real and Mt. Kailash within reach. I was chanting (Om namoh shivaye)
Om Namah Shivaya (Sanskrit:
ॐ नमः शिवाय; ) is one of the most popular Hindu mantras and the most important mantra in Shaivism.

After 4 days of road travel across the very brown and dry Tibetian plateau, you suddenly encounter the heavenly sight of a large expanse of crystal blue water. You are memerised with the sight right in front. Unbelievable. A few people sat down and started meditating. Lot of energy. I have never seen anything like this. All cameras are out clicking away hundreds of shorts.


First view of Kailash southface. Its special for sure


At 14900 ft, Mansarovar is world's highest freshwater lake.. Large, blue and pristine - Sunset. A rare sight. Feels endless


Look beyond the water you see the tip of Kailash southface. It looks like icecream on top of water. Its all peace here.


Good to plan you trip to see a full moon on manasarovar. Wow!

Lake Manasarovar on a full moon night.. We planned our trip such that we would be at Manasarovar on a full moon night. Out of this world. Apparently Shiva and Parvati take a holy dip in the water at 2:00 am every night. You better not be there.


Time to capture a moment


Mighty himalayas, home of goddess parvati. the other end of manasarovar


Wow!


The edge of the lake is lined with stones and pebbles. Some folks collect the pebbles as divine.


The ittle chill after a dip in the lake. refreshing

Its a custom to take a dip in the lake. Apparently the dip washes your sins. The water was cold but I thought it didn't matter as long as I could get rid of the sins. My wife sprinkled some water on her face. I pushed her head into the water and gave her a feel for the head under water. As you take your head out of the water. Kailash south-face is at the horizon. This experience is extremely refreshing.

We took a quick short dip in Mansarovar. A bit cold. Offered water to Kailash. There were others who did elaborate puja of Mansarovar. Lots of pictures. Mansarovar water is supposed to be divine so Hindus carry it home to give to friends and relatives and spread the energy of Mansarovar. We decided to pick water on our way back.


As the sun goes down on the western horizon, water in manasarovar starts shimmering and the lake looks like sprakles. With the evening breeze, the waves get prominent..

Day 13: 2 Sept. 2015 Darchen

Darchen is a small town. Last place to have a decent accomodation and food. From here on its nature only. Darchen is especially unique. If you walk down the main street you see Kailash southface on one end and Himalayas (home of parvati) on the other end. Looks like Darchen was the bridge between Shiva and Parvati.

I walked to the main street of the town to buy a walking stick for my kora as advised by my therapist since I still tend to lose my balance especially on uneven ground. Imagine taking a walk downtown, seeing the home of Shiva on one end and the birthplace of Parvati (Gurla Mandhata) the other end.

Leave Darchan early after breakfast in a tourist bus that drops you to the starting point of the kora. This is the place where you hire mules and porters for the kora (circumambulation). Its like a bazaar.

Each yatri has an option of booking a mule and/or a porter or simply walk. A mule is attached to a specific yatri and so cannot be shared. Even though the yatri may not be using a pony at a specific time. I guess a good way of increasing revenue for these fairly poor folks. Mule owner, his wife and kids go with the mule. They also act as porters.

Darchen downtown
Darchen is a small town. Last place to have a decent accomodation and food. From here on its nature only.Darchen is especially unique. If you walk down the main street you see Kailash southface on one end and Himalayas (home of parvati) on the other end. Looks like Darchen was the bridge between Shiva and Parvati.

I walked to the main street of the town to buy a walking stick for my kora as advised by my therapist since I still tend to lose my balance especially on uneven ground. Imagine taking a walk downtown, seeing the home of Shiva on one end and the birthplace of Parvati (Gurla Mandhata) the other end. Main street in Darchen is amazing. Looking down one end of the street, you see Kailash southface.

Leave Darchan early after breakfast in a tourist bus that drops you to the starting point of the Kora. This is the place where you hire mules and porters for the kora (circumambulation). Its like a bazaar.

Waiting to start the kora


Horses getting ready


Yaks getting ready for large loads


Start of kora, feels lonely

Entrance to the parikrama. "Yum dwar". Go in and don’t come back. After a short walk from the starting point, notice a lot of prayer flags covering a small gate type of structure. This is the entrance to the kora. "Yum dwar". Yatris are supposed to pass through the gate and not look back. It’s a one way gate to the kora..

Start of kora, feels lonely
First day of the three day parikrama . Given my medical condition, the lack of coordination between my left and right leg, I had a constant companion on the kora. Also used a stick for the first time. Got to get it done.

PIC: horse ride - simply cannot ride a mule. I find it hard to balance and am very scared especially on mountain trails. I would rather wade through knee deep water than go on a mule. So a mule was not a possibility for me. My wife rented a mule, thinking of using it in case she got tired walking Given the physical condition of my legs and the balancing problem, , I decided not to carry anything on my back so I paid for a porter to carry my backpack with camera.
An open stretch of dry land surrounded by mountains. Given my medical condition, the lack of coordination between my left and right leg, I had a constant companion on the kora and also used a walking/hiking stick for the first time. Got to get it done. We walked along a river bank through small canyons surrounded by high mountains.

End of Kora Day1 Dirapuk: we stayed in a structure made of steel beams, common outdoor toilets. Shared rooms with 4 cots in our room.
Towards the end of DAY1 hike, I turned round a mountain ridge and lo and behold I have the first glimpse of the North face of Kailash.

Majestic overwhelming North face

I had been seeing this sight in my mind for 10 yrs and now I was finally here. I stopped in my tracks and try to stabilize myself. Heart was pounding and I didn't know if this was reality or a vision. Very emotional. I am at the foot of the lord and there is bliss. It’s mesmerizing here. Out here I could get lost forever.

Looking in awe of the creator.. How did this mountain rise from the bottom of the ocean and took on this shape.PIC: northface with self

This is a good upclose look at the Kailash Northface. A very large black vertical granite with shades of snow gives it an overwhelming look. North face looks overwhelming. Hard to look at it for too long. You stop, stunned at the enormity of the creator. You feel very small and insignificant. A few shivers down the spine. You can’t help chanting Om namoh shivaye. You prostrate on the ground with folded hands, kind of surrendering to the almighty. Everyone around is doing the same. I saw some folks crying. Very moving scenario.

By the end of the first day my physical condition was pretty bad. My left leg was giving a lot of trouble, I was beginning to lose balance. I was depending more and more on my stick. Thanks to my therapist who had told me not to go without a stick. One of my friends had told me that if I felt weak at the end of day one then I should return to Darchen and avoid the severe second day hike. But my heart said no, I have got to keep going.

On the kora, stay in huts made of mud bricks.


PIC: video of living facility

You share 3-4 beds in a room. Since we were 4, we had a room to ourselves. You get a mattress, comforter and a pillow not particularly clean. We had bought sleeping bag liners with us. So you slip into your liner on the mattress and take any kind of comforter or blanket on top. Keeps you warm and clean. Wasn’t cold for us.We stayed for the night at Dirapuk.

Room is in a tentative structure enough to keep the cold wind away. Our tour guide Raj came by to check our status. He checked our oxygen level with an instrument that he carries on the yatra. Most of the folks were between 60 and 75. I was at 90, which meant that my lungs and body was doing pretty good with the lack of oxygen. This was encouraging. There was limited bedding on cots. We used our sleeping bag liners and went to sleep.


Toilet facilities

Northface
At only 21.7K feet, KAILASH IS A VIRGIN PEAK
In 1926, Hugh Ruttledge studied the north face, which he estimated was 6,000 ft high and "utterly unclimbable" Herbert Tichy was in the area in 1936, attempting to climb Gurla Mandhata. When he asked one of the local folks whether Kailash was climbable, the Garpon replied, "Only a man entirely free of sin could climb Kailash. And he wouldn't have to actually scale the sheer walls of ice to do it – he'd just turn himself into a bird and fly to the summit. "Reinhold Messner was given the opportunity by the Chinese government to climb in the mid-1980s but he declined. KAILASH IS STILL A VIRGIN PEAK


North face looks overwhelming. There is definitely an electromagnetic field here. Having graduated as an Electronics Engineer. I can say that with confidence. I wish I had a meter to check it. Hard to look at it for too long.
Looking in awe of the creator.. How did this mountain rise from the bottom of the ocean and took on this shape. All I could say, "
Om namoh shivaye". Can't stop thinking about this. Still see it in my dreams. Om namoh shivaye. over and over again, Cant get it out of my system
Day 14: Kora Day 02: 02 Sept. 2015: : Walking Derapuk – Dolmala pass 5636m. Zuthulpuk -
DAY 2: the backbreaking day. Very hard. Lot of people go through alt. sickness. prayer flags at Dolma La at 18600 ft.. Highest point on the kora. As per tradition, piligrims leave a piece of clothing here. thereby signifying the shedding of the current body and a rebirth of the soul in a new body. Crossing the pass is basically a rebirth of the soul. More importantly all your sins of past generations are cleared. Sins0. Start your new life with no sins. Wow . Wait till I get to the real world.

Still breathing at 18K. That was really really hard. Glad I made it to Dolma La 18600 ft. My left leg that had lost connrection with my brain after my surgery had started bothering me again. I could barely walk. With a handicapped left leg, it was hard to balance on a mule No altitude sickness for me. My oxygen level was over 90%. Impressive. But my ageing legs and back were very sore. Very cold winds with a bright piercing sun didnt make it easy either. Somwehow the strength of mind and my wife kept me going.

Nandi mountain


Kora, second day


All dry terrain on the kora

Day 15: Kora Day 03: 03 Sept. 2015: : 18 Kms. - 10-12 hrs - alt loss 3000ft.
Walking Derapuk to Manasarovar

Little break on the kora

I got very tired and insisted/pleaded that I had to get off. At one stage I was so bad that I actually slipped off the horse with the saddle that obviously was not tied well.


Tea/refreshmnent stop on the kora

Kora DAY 2: You keep seeing the pass so near but it gets increasingly difficult to take the next step up the mountain. As per tradition, piligrims leave a piece of clothing here. thereby signifying the shedding of the current body and a rebi rth of the soul in a new body. Crossing the pass is basically a rebirth of the soul. More importantly all your sins of past generations are cleared. Start your new life with no sins. Wow . Wait till I get to the real world.
I remember standing at Dolma La and shouting in sheer excitement of having made it to that point. I barely recall sliding down the mountain after Dolma La and the rest is a dream .

Throughout the second day of the kora I was so tired and the state of my left leg and the high altitude and heavy exhaustion, I was not in a state to even pause a few moments and enjoy and absorb the surrounding views. Couldn’t even get to pull out my camera and take a few shots. I may have to come back and do it again. Most of my rest stops were spent in recovering for the next few steps.

Somehow with sheer desire to make it and the blessings of lord Shiva, my tour guide said that we were at the Dolma La pass. It felt as if I was on top of the world. There was a huge collection of prayer flags here. In fact you can barely identify the pass. You don’t see Mt. Kailash all of second day. As per tradition Yatris leave a piece of their clothing here which signifies leaving the current shell, the body, at the pass and are reborn in a new body (new shell) once you cross the pass. As a result the same soul is reborn once you cross the pass and obviously all the sins of your past are left at the pass. I was very interested in that. My wife left my head band on a rock at the pass. I was in pretty bad shape. I couldn’t even pull out my camera to take a picture. Very sad. Although not much to see here. At Dolma La I prostrated and prayed to Lord Shiva for helping me make it to this spot, the highest point of the Kora 18,000ft. plus.
Happy to be breathing at 18K. That was really really hard.

Brief stop at Dolma la - 18600 + ft. Very little oxygen
Glad I made it to Dolma La 18600 ft. My left leg that had lost connection with my brain after my surgery had started bothering me again. I could barely walk.
With a handicapped left leg, it was hard to balance on a mule No altitude sickness for me. My oxygen level was over 90%, very impressive as per the tour doctor.. But my ageing legs and back were very sore. Very cold winds with a bright piercing sun didn’t make it easy either. Somehow the strength of mind and my wife kept me going.

You are advised not to stay here too long due to high altitude. In about 5 minutes we started working on the steep descent . Drop 3000 ft., in about 5 miles. It’s great to escape from high altitude. But it’s deadly on the knees and toes.

At one stage I was taking rest by lying on my back on a rock. A local Tibetan guy walked up and checked my nails. I later found out that he was checking to see how bad my high altitude sickness was was. He walked off finding I was alive and not saying anything.
Walking Zitulpuk to Darchen
14 Kms. - 5-7 hrs - alt loss- 3000 ft.
This is a steep trek down. 3 to 4 thousand feet in a few miles. Definitely not a place to get on a horse. Going down without good balance is not a great idea either. So I ended up sliding down on my bottom in the very steep portions of the downhill. Luckily the Northface pants held together.

Once I reached the bottom of the mountain, the trail was fairly flat. I tried walking again and it wasn’t easy. My wife was getting really mad at me. I didn’t like the mule nor could I walk steady so she asked me how I would make it to the next camp at ZITULPUK. I felt I may have to crawl on my knees and elbows like many Tibetan pilgrims were doing.

My goal was to somehow complete the kora. I had completed the tough part and had a little more to go but my legs were saying NO. Suddenly out of nowhere we saw a Chinese official jeep drive by. I was surprised to see a jeep on the trail . Apparently it was for emergency pick up. Jeeps can drive here since the rest of the trail is flat land. My wife literally stood in front of the jeep which stopped. She told them about my condition. The guy looked at me, assessed my condition and asked me to step in. My wife didn’t want me to go alone since I didn’t know the next camp location and she did not think it was safe. So my tour guide jumped into the back of the truck and accompanied me. They were 4 Chinese folks inside the jeep, two in front who looked like officials. I sat with the 2 at the back. They were smoking cigarettes and offered me one. I said I don’t smoke and they withdrew the packs and chucked their cigarettes out of the jeep. I was very impressed with their courtesy. I asked them if they knew English and they said no. They drove a couple of miles on a very bumpy and tough trail. I was really relieved to see the huts in a distance and knew I had made it to Zitrulpuk. I was so happy that I had made it. I told this story of the jeep to a fellow traveler at the camp and he said that Lord Shiva had sent special transport to help me complete the Kora. I was willing to believe anything at this stage. I said Om Namoh Shivaye and thanked the lord.
Even till date I think about this jeep that came out of nowhere and helped me complete the yatra. Strange are the ways of the lord.
Slept like a log at Zutrulphuk. Next day at Darchen and the retraced our journey back to Lhasa Kathmandu and New Delhi.
Day 16: 04 Sept. 2015 : Drive to Manasarovar LakeDay 14: 05Sept. 2015
Day 17: Drive Mansarovar Lake to Saga – Saga hotel
Day 18: 06 Sept. 2015 Day 15: Drive Saga—xigatse, Gesar hotel
Day 19: 07 Sept. 2015 Day 16: Drive Xigatse—Lhasa, Gyanggen hotel
Day 20: 08 Sept. 2015 Day 17: Fly Lhasa to Kathmandu,
At New Delhi airport my brother-in-law had organized a warm traditional welcome for yatris when they reach home.
My personal thoughts :
I have seen a lot of high altitude places in mountains including Himalayas in Kashmir, Sierras in California, Canadian Rockies but I have never seen anything like Kailash/Mansarovar in my life.
I was a non-believer before the yatra. My attraction for the yatra was simply the beauty of the mountain and the lake and the challenge of completing the kora. But once I saw the North Face of Kailash. There was this energy that changed my belief system. I felt this was not earthly. There was something divine here.
Northface.

I had been dreaming of this spot for last 10 years but never had time to do it. I viewed Kailash as a stunning peak that was still virgin and wanted to experience of the challenge of the circumambulation /kora. My imagination of Kailash was nowhere near what it is in real world face to face. It’s stunning, overwhelming, it takes your breath away, Knowing that it’s the abode of Lord Shiva sends shivers through the body, in fact brings a tear in your eyes. You have a tremendous urge to prostrate and bow down to the mountain. This combination of a very extraordinary physical presence and the religious/spiritual aspect makes it unique.
Given a chance I would work on my left leg, develop better fitness and go back and hopefully get a chance to enjoy the views on the kora and take more pictures and may be a video
I am definitely very satisfied, surprised and impressed by my performance so far.
The third year anniversary of my “war on the mind parasites” ended on a very happy and satisfactory note.
 
 
Comments
Lord Shiva has given his darshan in the form of Jeep. Simply Mind boggling. I was in tears while reading your expedience of Kialash yatra. You are really blessed.
Added By Chandrs Ganju
It was pleasure reading your experience after your successfull Yatra to Holy Kailash.Had been there in 2014 and while reading it thought myself again to be there with Lord Shiva.Had tears in my eyes all through.Could feel lot of Buoyant Energy at Dirapuk and it is difficult to keep your eyes glued at the northern side of Holy Kailash and could only utter "OM Namoh Shivaye" at that point of time.Congratulations once again for completing this Holy Yatra and sharing it with your community.
Added By Ajay Pandita
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