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Was it a dream?!
Even now, at the time of writing this, I recall that experience. What was it that I had gone through? How do I describe it to my folks at home? Was it just about the hardships of an adventurous trekking that I am going to narrate? Or about the beautiful landscape? Or about being able to reach the abode of gods and goddesses? Or about securing a place in the list of those luckiest people who could unload all their sins? Any attempt to give a description of that experience would fail. The pain of giving birth to a baby could not be explained in words, just like the joy of touching the feet new born baby. Whatever may be the name of that place…..I call it the womb….womb of the infinite-the unbound-the formless-the nameless-the omnipresent-the un-manifested in the manifested universe.
We had very little time to spend on the top of Drolma La. Neema hurried us to move on. It might turn out to be fatal for vulnerable people. I rushed to my camera, took a few snaps. I was unable to hold the camera, hands were shaking. Entire valley was covered with fog. Colorful prayer flags had provided wonderful contrast against the background of snow covered valley. We had to move from there, we started descending on the opposite side.
While descending, we saw the Gauri Kund. It is a small pool of water that is supposed to be the place where goddess Parvati (Gauri) is said to have done penance for Lord Shiva. It is situated on a bit lower altitude than the Drolma La. We crossed a frozen river stream after that. After about half an hour we descended and reached the plains of a river stream. We stopped at a tiny restaurant like thing to have our packed lunch consisting biscuits, fruits and bread. We had to complete, again about 22 km trek to reach our camp at Zutulpuk. However, it was on a plain path we had to walk by the side of an unnamed river stream.
|Gauri Kund (image credit: Prajna LS)|
Ponies had arrived there already with their masters for those who had booked. A fellow traveler, he was the youngest of all in our team, was suffering from severe sickness. He was brought to the camp in an ambulance later. It was a terrific walk. I was lagging behind. I had no energy left to walk. Luckily, looking at my condition, Neema Sherpa and also Veerbahadur Sherpa took great care of me till I could reach the camp. The cute looking Veerbahadur used to cheer me up in between, he made me to drink glucose water, asked me to sit and take rest and made me to move again…like a kind friend.
I recall it was like a walk in the oblivion, as if it were a sleep walk. I was feeling very drowsy. It is a symptom of altitude sickness. In that delusive state of mind I had tried to recall the faces of our elder team mates one by one. Then, realized they were on ponies. Huh. But, not all were. Narayan uncle and the father of Doctor Shailaja were also coming by foot. No idea how they were, where they were…Veer Bahadur cheered, “We have almost reached, don’t worry”. He was just consoling my mind, I know.
It was raining by the time we reached. Must be around 7.30 pm we had reached. My folks at the camp were worried for me. They didn’t know for whom the ambulance was sent. Veerbahadur held my hand in a majestic way and dropped me at the door of our allotted room where my folks had been resting!! I just threw out my shoes, rain coat and jacket and lied on my bed, I was drenched in sweat.
Next day morning we walked for about 2-3 hours. It was damn easy compared to the second day! We were feeling very light and were excited. It was drizzling and after sometime we could see tiny-tiny snow flakes settling on our rain coats. The entire valley looked fabulous. I told my aunt that we are blessed by Bhagwan through snowfall!
There is a small mound to mark the completion of Kailas Parikrama. We reached there and it was the end of our great venture. We could see our vehicles at that point. Drove back to Darchen, and after lunch the group proceeded towards Saga. From saga we came to Nyalam and from Nyalam we crossed the Friendship Bridge (at Kodari) again to reach Kathmandu.
Kailas Parikrama –Drolma La Pass!
We had walked about 12 km in the rugged terrain of Kailas circuit to reach Dirapuk from Darchen. Mount Kailas is seen from a very close distance here. We were overwhelmed, excited and content. Dirpuk is located at 4, 600 meters above the sea level. Altitude sickness gets severe from here. We rested in tin sheds after initial excitement of passing the first stage of Kailas Kora.
Accommodation at Dirapuk, or at Zultulpuk is getting better year after year, I think. As we heard the experiences of those who had gone earlier, there used to be tents. Now, the Chinese Government has built tin sheds providing space for 4 members each in rooms. 8/10 rooms have been constructed. We didn’t see any latrine there. We had to use open space for the routine.
My aunt, uncle and I were little anxious, since my brother and his wife had not arrived. They arrived an hour later and we were quite relieved! Soon the shades of evening turned black and we were desperately waiting for the soup to be served. It was not hunger, I guess, we needed something hot, very hot. We sipped soups as if we had been starved for months together.
Climate at Dirapuk is quite uncertain. It can rain anytime, and sometimes even snowfall occurs. One can’t be sure of second day parikrama. Sherpas judge the climate condition and advice accordingly whether to proceed or to return. Despite Diamox intake we were feeling nausea, headache, and body temperature. That night, we could not eat much. I had gulped a tablet for fever, and at about midnight I was drenched in sweat. It was pouring outside! Ohh…good sign. I was wishing for the announcement of our return due to bad weather. Delusions of dark hours!!
|Image credit:Prajna LS|
|Image credit:Prajna LS|
Second Day was broken amidst fog and slight drizzles. Sherpas were confident of moving further and asked us to get ready. Those who feel very sick can return from Dirapuk, they advised. “Himmat Rakhkho…Himmat se kaam chalega” said Sangya Sherpa with a naughty smile. The Sherpas had already kept a barrel of warm water for washing purpose in front of our rooms. After having a brisk breakfast, we marched towards Zutulpuk which needed about 32 km trek.
This day was the toughest day of all during our Yatra. We were supposed to pass through the Drolma La Pass (18,600 ft) and the famous Gauri Kund. The trek included ascending the slope of Drolma La and then, descending the slope. Once after descending the slope, we had to take up a long trek along a river stream up to Zutulpuk. Exact calculation of the time and distance up to Drolma la (8km) and from there up to Zutulpuk (24 km may be) is not possible. We reached Drolma La pass (8 km up) in three stages. It is a steep up.
The surrounding had received good snowfall the previous night. Not a sunny day. Thick fog had covered the hills making it more difficult for a walk. We were on an unfathomable path, metaphorically! I just laid my burden on my destiny that had led me so far and was confident that I would be taken good care of by my guru Sri Datta.
|Image credit:Prajna LS|
Sherpas were holding two oxygen cylinders for emergency. But, they had advised us to use that only if it was necessary. They had warned that the oxygen supplement would have side effects, it may block lungs even more and if it happens one may have to go back. It was a testing period of our patience, will power, courage and luck.
We started moving slowly, one after another. It was a narrow strip on a snowy hill partially covered with snow. For every two steps I had to stop, take rest on my walking stick and then had move on. We had to pass through three steep acclivities of which the last ascent was breathtaking experience. Through the misty depth we passed, it was like experiencing the fate of an embryo inside the womb. We could see the last acclivity, on which some hikers were visible, though not so clearly.
We were not allowed to stop anywhere. “Keep walking” Neema Sherpa who was carrying my knapsack along with the camera bag used to poke. Senior team mates on the pony used to greet us occasionally. We walked to strange tunes hummed by the Chinese porters. We were crawling inside the depth of silence.
I was breathing heavily making sounds. I had to consume water in between to prevent dehydration. Dry fruits will help reducing energy loss; keep them in the pockets of your jacket. I was unable to hold even the flask. Neema Sherpa used to hold that and he used to open even the lid of the flask for me! He would give my camera whenever he felt it would be alright to stop for a minute for taking photos. I thank him for being so kind.
One of our senior mates, Manju aunty, had completed the first day Parikrama by walk. But, on the second day, she felt that she can’t climb the ascending slope. Luckily she caught hold of a pony man who was returning from the top after dropping a pilgrim. One will get Ponies till the top only. After reaching the top (Drolma La) one will have to descend a steep slope till some distance. Ponies can’t descend on that slope. However, for those who have booked ponies in advance for all the three days would get back to the pony ride after reaching the ground.
We were ascending the third slope. Someone was sick on the way, was being assisted with oxygen. Neema didn’t allow me to stand there. He hurried me to move on. It was a steep rocky slope. I could feel my legs shaking. The whole area was covered with thick fog. I had forgotten the world that I had left behind! Face of my darling daughter flashed through my mind, suddenly. Move or die! I had forgotten my state of being itself. Inexplicable state of mind that was…….. in tune with the symphony of unbound-ruthless-wild nature. Each step seemed heavy…a state of oblivion.
It was when Neema Sherpa said that we had reached the top I was not in state to rejoice really! Yes, we had reached the top of Drolma La Pass. Huh!
[To be continued….]
Kailas Parikrama is nothing but a trekking process around the Kailas Circuit. Parikrama means circumambulation. Some go for 3 day trekking, some for 9 days, some for 13 and some choose one day depending upon their health. The total distance to be covered in a three day parikrama is approximately 52 km. This task is an important part of Kailas-Manas Sarovar Yatra, though not compulsory. People who are physical fit and mentally confident may take up the task. It is the hardest task of the yatra, but, the most fulfilling one!
Mount Kailas is revered with great devotion by Hindu, Jain and Buddhist followers. In the Jain tradition, Kailas is considered to be the mount (Ashtapada Parvat) on which the first Teerthankar Rishabhdev attained his salvation. According to Bon Buddhist tradition, the mount is a highly energetic place representing transcendental energy. This place is associated with Guru Rinpoche, the Padmasambhava.
Hindus consider the mount as to be the abode of Lord Shiva and his consort Parvathi. Kailas Parvat is said to be the source for many rivers. Indus, Satlej, Brahmaputra, and Ghagra Rivers originate somewhere near the Kailas circuit. By circumambulating the mount, it is believed, that one would attain supreme energy and would be purified.
One can take up the task only after reaching Lake Manas. The trekking starts from a place called Darchen, the base point actually. Darchen is located at about 8 km from Lake Manas, and can be approached by motored vehicles.
|image credit: prajna LS|
The night before the parikrama, our Sherpa team gave us some tips for the mountain walk. They showed us how to handle fatigue and breathlessness during the parikrama. Not only that, they had also narrated stories of devotees who had died half way! That was very scary and made us to think twice before deciding.
A small backpack containing dry fruits, medicine, a flask, a torch, a pain balm tube and tissue roles were kept ready. Even to carry such a lightweight backpack we had hired porters. Chinese porters will come at the gateway (Yamadwar, the starting point) and we had hired them for 700 yens. The sherpas will collect the money and I guess full amount will not be paid to the porters! Pilgrims who feel uncomfortable to walk can hire ponies. Book your pony for all three days; you may not get a pony in the middle of your parikrama.
Next day morning, after a small breakfast, we had moved towards Yamadwar, the starting point of our Parikrama. Dressed in three layered cloths, we had reached Yamadwar in a bus. Our porters and Pony caretakers had already gathered at Yamadwar. For our group (I, aunt and uncle, brother and his wife) the Sherpas themselves got ready to carry the backpack.
I don’t know why it is named like that. But, a scary name it was. Yama, as you all know is the governor of death according to Hindus. This is the gateway to his home! There is a small shrine inside which heads of slain goats and Yaks are hung. There is a small bell inside and by tradition every pilgrim would perform circumambulation of the shrine three times after ringing the bell for a safe return. We were already nervous looking at the shrine. We proceeded further after performing the circumambulation.
Our target was to reach Dirapuk. We were instructed to walk very slowly leaning on to the walking stick whenever it was necessary. It is not a competion of any sort to reach first. It won’t be difficult to walk on a plain, but, it would be highly difficult for ups. Take rest for a while (not more than a minute) and move forward if you feel breathlessness. We saw a Buddhist devotee prostrating for every other step. He had covered his hands with shoes.
The route on the first day Parikrama was not so complicated. We walked along the Yak River. Our path pierced through the rugged terrain comprising steep rocky hills. These same hills would be covered with snow during winter, but, we had gone there in August. So, the terrain was uncovered, rocky and plain, resonating deep silence.
We could reach the target by afternoon. Dirapuk houses a Buddhist Gompa. But, a surprise was waiting for us when we reached there. It was the last up. We had taken about half an hour to climb up, then, we turned to our right and were dumbstruck at the sight of Mount Kailas from such a close distance. It was such a solemn and serene sight, that I would always cherish in my memory. As we sat on the ground below there, we felt as if we were sitting at the feet of Lord Shiva himself!
Wait for the next episode to read about the second and third day parikrama!