8. A journey into Tibet – Manasa Sarovar, Darchen and Ashtapad

July 2012

Previous posts:

A journey into Tibet - Kailash Manasa Sarovar
1. A journey into Tibet - At Kathmandu
2. A journey into Tibet – Mountain flight
3. A journey into Tibet - Manakamana
4. A journey into Tibet - Kathmandu to Nyalam Mu
5. A journey into Tibet - Rest day at Nyalam Mu
6. A journey into Tibet - Nyalam Mu to Zhongba
7. A journey into Tibet – Zhongba to Manasa Sarovar

I got up early in the morning and headed towards  lake. Wanted to take some snaps before others in our group start gathering. The weather was clear. For the first time I saw Gurla Mandhata without cloud cover. A hillock was blocking the view and hence I decided to walk for a km to see the mountain. I may also get some good shots, I thought. As I was walking, I felt that someone approaching behind. It was a dog running towards me at an astonishing speed!!

Tibetan dogs are ferocious. They are friendly when you are in a group. But their behavior changes when a solo outsider is seen. The stories of travelers being bitten by dogs are not rare in Tibet. I did what best I could do to avoid the feline attack. Pretend throwing a stone!! This deterred the dog but by then my courage was lost. I decided to return back to camp before the dog is joined by its friends. Better to lose an opportunity of a good photograph than risk a potential dog attack.

My roommate’s condition had improved a lot during night. That was good news. Back in camp, preparations were ongoing for “homa and havans”. The place was next to Manasa Sarovar. I was surprised to see the arrangements they had made for the religious rituals. Everything was meticulously planned and necessary items were procured. The simple ceremony that lasted an hour. Like yesterday, the good weather made life easy.

After lunch, we started our journey to the town of Darchen 40km away. Darchen is the last halting before starting Kailash Parikrama. At the foothills of Kailash Parvath, the town is overlooking Gurla Mandhata range and Manasa Sarovar.

Darchen with Kailash in the background
Last time I called my Home was at Nyalam Mu. Zhongbo and Manasa Sarovar camp did not have ISD booths. Hence I went to an ISD booth next to our hotel to make a quick call to Home. The communication center also had Internet facility.

Gurla Mandhata range seen from Darchen

At Darchen, tourists can choose to visit Ashtapad, a mountain that provides a close view of Kailash Parvath’s south face. Only 4X4 vehicles can go to Ashtapad. Visit to Ashtapad is not included in the package. A Jeep carrying four people would cost about 300 Yuans.

Manasa Sarovar from Darchen

Ashtapad is also the place where the first Tirthankara of Jains, Rushabdev attained Nirvana.

Kailash from hotel room

The cloudy weather made me skeptical about views at Ashtapad. A chance has to be taken, especially when you cannot come back to this place so easily!!

The route was steep and filled with boulders. There were streams that had to be crossed. At that time, it started raining heavily. The drivers skillfully drove though this tough terrain. Under such weather conditions, there was no chance to see the views from Ashtapad.

As we neared Ashtapad, the weather suddenly changed. The clouds disappeared and Kailash Mountain was in full view. All in the matter of few minutes. That is Himalayas!!

The place exceeded all my expectations. A mountain next to Kailash looked like Nandi. That was the closest we could go to South face of Kailash.

The weather God then decided to end the show and clouds promptly engulfed the mountains. It was time to get down to Darchen.

Darchen is the last place to purchase anything that we need before starting the Parikrama. I went to shops and brought nothing. I checked with Sherpas and confirmed that they provide drinking water during Parikrama. I therefore decided not to purchase mineral water bottles. They were also expensive. Later I would repent my decision.

Out of 64 people, 13 decided to stay back at Darchen and others would go for parikrama. We were asked only to take only items that are required during 3 days of parikrama and leave the rest at Darchen. The Sherpa team would also split up along with food and utensils. One group would be put up in Darchen while others would come with us for parikrama.

It rained heavily during night. It was extremely windy and heavy noise created by it was unbearable. I had never experienced such winds before.