Monday, September 28, 2009

Darchen - The Last Outpost

Darchen is a small hamlet and is situated on the highway connecting Eastern Tibet to the western extremes, Aksai Chin and further into Sinkiang. Once reputed to be an important trade centre, it has lost all its former importance after the collapse of Indo-Tibetan trade.

Darchen now acts as the base camp for all Kailash Parikrama yatris. The settlement springs to life in summer and goes into hibernation in the winters. It is at the foothills of the Kailash range and one can see the mountain very clearly, provided clouds do not cloak it.

Our Allievation of Poverty hotel was a fairly decent place with three beds to a room. If one can ignore the "hole in the ground" toilets, you actually get comfortable and you always have the great outdoors. China Telecom has towers in every such settlement and we wireless connectivity till here. Calls and SMSes back home kept folks at home updated on our daily movements. After this spot we would be incommunicado for the three days of parikrama.

Yatris can cover the parikrama on foot or they could hire a pony to ride the entire distance. Additionally, one may need to hire a porter for your backpack. The union here insists that you may sit on the pony only with your camera and water bottle. Your bag, therefore, needs to be with the porter. Decisions had to be made so that the required numer of ponies and porters could be hired.

A pony or porter hired from Darchen stays with you for the three days and drops you back. The rates are non-negotiable - you take it or leave it. A pony costs CY 1050 and a porter costs CY550.

Out of our group of twelve, six opted to walk and six opted for the pony. I opted to walk through the parikrama. This was settled and we looked forward to our hot soup and a truly delicious meal before it was time to say good-night. We had a two night halt at Darchen.

We just had a day before we would commence our parikrama and there was a sense of expectation, thrill and a little fear at the back of our minds.


Vinod_Sharma said...

You ca be a good write you know.

Anonymous said...

The wireless connectivity out there must have come as a surprise!! China Telecom?

... so you walked but did you hire a porter? Walking is great but can become too much if one is carrying all one's stuff...