Sunday, August 30, 2009

A Dream Journey

A journey to Mt Kailash and Lake Mansarovar can be called a "Dream Journey". There is an element of fear, the unknown thrill and a little bit of mystique

As I mentioned in my previous post, I always wanted to go to Kailash-Mansarovar but never came to firming my mind on this till last year. I finally decided that I must complete this journey in 2009. It was as if the "elements" were waiting for this to happen. Everything fell in place in the most inexplicable manner. This was the most surprising aspect of the preparations.

First it is important to understand some basics.

This "yatra" begins from and ends at Kathmandu. The entire tour is arranged from Nepal along with the Tibet Tourist Authority. All Indian agencies irrespective of their claims must have a back-end tie up with Nepalese agencies.

Secondly, visa to enter China is issued as a group visit visa on a separate sheet. Your passport is not stamped for entry or exit at the China border. Mercifully, this group visa for Indian passport holders is issued at Delhi and the local agent is helpful to that extent.

All arrangements of travel, guide and stay in Tibet are handled by the TTA. One has to compulsorily travel in jeeps provided by the TTA and each group compulsorily has a Tibetan guide.

There are many links in this chain and it is possible that one gets to hear some horror stories. I am not sure if things get as bad as is made out to be but it is possible that occasionally there could be a slip-up. Things can get a little messy if some member of your group were to fall sick.

Tibet is remote and even today most part of Western Tibet does not have metalled roads. Everything (believe me - this incl. gas cylinders) has to be carried from Nepal. This is not the normal vacation with a lot of flexibility and comfort that we are used to and expect. It is sparsely populated and we halt at very small one-street towns. One has to be prepared to use toilets which in normal circumstances we would have given a clear miss. At some stops the wild outdoors seems a better alternative.

Last but not the least, we have to very careful of adjusting to the high altitude. The average level is 15,000 ft above sea level and our bodies take time to adjust. The first few days are a test of our faith. Thankfully, if the do's and don'ts are followed carefully, our bodies adjust quickly. It is important not to be disheartened by the obvious dis-comfort of the first few days. It is normal as is our adjustment.

The entire yatra from - back to Kathmandu lasts sixteen days.

Let me publish this post and begin with details of our journey immediately in the next post without any delay.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Once in a Lifetime Journey

I returned home last night after what can be rightly termed as a "once in a life time" journey.

This was a journey that I had planned to undertake many years back but had not taken any step towards undertaking it.

Some time last year I spoke to a friend that I wish to complete this journey next year and for the first time I made my intention clear. My friend is an adventure freak and pat came his reply..."Sure...let us make it happen".

From then on it has been one long story of inexplicable twists, turns and co-incidences or miracles if you will. Unknown people came into the picture and all formalities got taken care of and we were busy packing to get on this "pilgrimage" long awaited.

The journey brought in its wake many challenges, many associated with high altitude acclimatising, poor quality of staying accomodation and poor toilet facilities, poor roads (Yes...Western Tibet still does not have proper metalled all weather roads, though this is changing fast), frequent stops by the Chinese Army to check (though there was no harassment).

At the end of it all there was a complete acceptance of all this and more. It did not seem a challenge anymore and there was a realisation that one could live with so much lesser than what we are used to, that life is so much simpler than what we make of it, that a "feverish"mind had no choice but to be calm, serene and content in this environment

Today, the whole adventure seems a dream, a vivid dream no less. As I re-orient myself to sea level from those rare heights, I hope to give shape to my next post on Kailash and Mansarovar. This is to sign off with good wishes to all from a divine spot.