A journey into Tibet – Kailash Manasa Sarovar

July 2012

It was hard to imagine that I needed rest for every ten steps walked. With altitude above 18K feet compounded with a steep climb did not help matters. The cold penetrated into the body notwithstanding five layers of clothing I had put. Having gone so far there was no question of heading back. The only way was to march ahead.  During such times, the comfort of staying in Home flashes into the mind. But it is not the time to think such stuff. People on horse happily wave at me as they overtake. “Your tough time will start now”, I silently say and continue my climb.

The greatest trip took to the heights unknown to me, never ending plains above 15k feet, holy lakes and the mountains believed to be the adobe of our Gods. A trip that needs a lot of preparation and determination (and money of course).

My dreams
I had first heard about Manasa Sarovar during childhood days. I thought I would visit this beautiful Himalayan Lake sometime during my life. The dreams were later subdued when I realized that Manasa Sarovar was in China. How naïve that I believed that entire Himalayas was in India!! The next time I heard about this place was during 1998 when 60 pilgrims were killed in a landslide in Uttarakhand. It is a dangerous place to go I thought.

The turning point was in 2010 when I read a travelogue on Manasa Sarovar via Nepal route. The article had profound impact on me. 2012 will be the year for KMS (Kailash Manasa Sarovar) for me. Lot of such plans gets diluted in the course of time but this was an exception. After my trip to Ladakh last year I announced that 2012 would be Kailash Manasa Sarovar come what may.  I found that none of friends were ready to join but that did not deter my determination to go.

About Mount Kailash and Manasa Sarovar:
In Hinduism, Kailash parvath is considered as adobe of Lord Shiva and Manasa Sarovar symbolizes purity. So, it must have a long time since people started visiting them as a part of pilgrimage to religious sites. It is unique in the sense that there are no Temples in this area. Mother Nature itself in the form of hill and lake is worshipped here. Not just for Hindus, but it is also a sacred place for Buddhists and Jains.

The Yatra was stopped from 1949 to 1981. The Chinese invasion of Tibet followed by Indo-China border disputes put a break to the yatra.  Dr. Subramanian Swamy was instrumental in convincing Chinese to re-open the route for Indian pilgrims.

There are three ways to go to Kailash Manasa Sarovar.

·         Through Indian Government: MEA (Ministry of External Affairs) conducts this pilgrimage every year. 16 batches of 60 people each would be selected by lottery system. The duration of the yatra is about 29 days which involves lot of walking. One needs to pass medical tests to undertake this yatra.

·        Land route through Nepal:  This is arranged by private tour operators. The route is along Tibet plateau and takes about 13-15 days from Kathmandu. Most of the journey is by road.

·         Helicopter: Some operators conduct helicopter trip from Nepalgunj in Nepal to Taklakot in Tibet. The distance from Taklakot to Manasa Sarovar is about 100km which can be covered on road. This is the costliest option but is worst for acclimatization as one quickly gains altitude. Better to avoid this option.

This is one of the most expensive trips. The Government route costs around Rs 75,000/- from New Delhi. Nepal route costs between Rs 70,000/- to Rs 1,00,000/- from Kathmandu. Helicopter option requires more than 1.5 lakhs. And then one needs to pay for travel from your Home town to New Delhi/Kathmandu.

Which option I chose?
I decided to take the land route from Nepal. One reason was that I could afford 15 days of leave while 29 days for Government was too much for me. Another important reason was that I had made my mind to go this year and did not want to miss out due to lottery system of Government.

Who can go?
Manasa Sarovar and Mount Kailash is situated at high altitude of above 15,000 feet. Acclimatization is the key factor that can make or break the trip. Remember that there are no proper medical facilities in this area. While passing medical tests are compulsory for Government route, no such requirements exist for Nepal route. It is very important that one needs to be fit to undertake this trip. The fatality rate is quite high in this trip as lots of elderly people come for this yatra. I have seen lot of old people struggling that keeps me wondering whether one should risk their life for religious purpose. My later posts would justify these points.

This trip is certainly not for the people who demand luxury. Though you are paying a fortune for this trip, the facilities are minimal. One need to share the room with others, use open toilets, live without taking bath for several days and have basic food.

If you are fit and ready for adjustments, a new world would open in Tibet!!

Enough of screed. Now it is time to start the travelogue.

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