Saturday, August 19, 2017

Kailash Manasarovar Yatra via Lipulekh Pass (PART 9)

August 3, 2016 (Day 12) - Navidhang to Taklakot via Lipulekh Pass
(around 13 kms trek+15 kms by bus)

I got up at 12.30 am and by 2 am we were all supposed to move towards Lipulekh pass. Those who were going on foot had to leave earlier. I had cornflakes and started moving. ITBP staff accompanies till Lipulekh pass. Most of the people were on ponies excluding me and four others. It was extremely cold and windy. I dressed adequately, put on my headlamp over my Ladakhi cap and started walking with my porter in total darkness. Trekking in darkness is focused till where light goes. You see no path, no mountains. It surely was a different perspective. Soon people who were on ponies overtook me and I was only chanting Shiva's name and moving on. It was extremely cold and as we moved ahead, it started snowing followed by a blizzard. Those who were on ponies halted at a shelter but those walking had to continue as one had to reach Lipulekh pass by 7 am where Chinese army checks passport as we cross over to Tibet. So I had no option but to keep moving. Chinese Standard Time is 2.30 hrs ahead of Indian standard time and so we had to start early to reach by 7 am IST.
On way to Lipulekh Pass
 As we continued going up, snow flakes and breathlessness made me halt after some time. But slowly and steadily I kept moving. Bad weather only compounded a tough day. In retrospect, I can say that reaching Lipulekh Pass is the toughest day if you are on foot and especially if compounded by bad weather. Lipulekh pass is a high altitude pass at elevation of around 16,700 ft. Soon, darkness gave way to light and still I had an hour long journey to cover to reach Lipulekh pass. If all this was not enough, one lady from our batch developed severe hypothermia and her saturation dropped. Oxygen, which ITBP was carrying was given. She had already been taking the medicine, Diamox. It was really challenging to tend to another yatri when you yourself are struggling, but lord Shiva gave me courage. I foolishly gave my gloves also to her in addition to her own gloves and I cannot explain how cold seeped into my body. But I kept walking.

Just before reaching Lipulekh Pass
Soon she felt better and was put on pony again to cross over to Lipulekh Pass. The biggest mistake our liaison officer did was to put medicine bag in common luggage in spite of telling him not to do so. What is the use of that if we cannot use it in times of emergency. Our liaison officer was rude and uncooperative on many occasions. My clothes were wet and I was tired and hungry. I crossed Lipulekh pass by 7 am to the other side. As weather was tumultuous, our passports were not checked there and we were asked to descend quickly. At this moment, you have to bid adieu to your Indian porter and cross over to Tibet on your own while carrying your backpack till the bus or car, which can be around 3-4 kms until you board and proceed to Taklakot.

At Hotel Pulan at Taklakot

Finally you start the journey into the land of Gods. I felt sorry for my porter who had traveled innumerable times till Lipulekh Pass but didn't have money to visit Kailash. So near yet so far..
Since I was the last to reach as I was attending a medical emergency, I had to walk only 1 km and was dumped in the back of a car. I was literally shivering and Rishabh gave me chocolates and helped me. I realized it was foolish of me to give my gloves as my fingers were all blue. And then you are in alien land and you see your country just across the mountain and promising to come back soon. As soon as car started moving, majestic snow clad mountains came in view and it was hard to take our eyes off them. Soon bad weather gave way to clear skies and bright Sun came out, which was a boon. After covering a certain distance, our passport was checked and we were taken to Chinese quarantine checking center. Our baggage was screened and passports were collected. Some people were asked to open their bags. After sometime, we reached Pulan hotel at Taklakot. We all were starving. Photography is restricted in Taklakot. We had a basic room. I had a bath and lunch afterward. Later on, I just roamed around in Taklakot. Food committee of our batch had to reassess rations and make purchases. Since I was in medical committee, I had to be present in case of any medical emergency.

The good thing is that there is WiFi and we were able to connect and share photos with family and friends. The sun does not set here until 10pm. Our guide on Tibet side was Mr Guru who was extremely annoying and rude. He wouldn't listen to anything without shouting. Chinese visa fees was collected and next day, the money for porter/pony was to be given.

Problems with Yatra:
If you think everything will be pleasant and exciting in your yatra, here is my personal experience that proves otherwise. People argue too much with constant bickering over food, simple things, etc. In the evening when I used to return back to my room, all I would hear was people speaking in their regional language and discussing mundane things such as vegetable rates. I found this quite offsetting. Another instance happened when one of the yatris had a narrow escape and most of the people were quick to pass judgment that he had come with a desire to trek and was not devoted to the yatra, hence the mishap. I found this bizarre. The key is to maintain your equanimous state of mind. Having said that, there were some great people who helped me at every step and especially when I fell sick at Taklakot. I will continue that incident in the next part...

From my hotel window at Taklakot. Still bright at 9 pm!

Tips:
  • Keep your torch and headlamp handy.
  • Carry light baggage because after crossing Lipulekh pass, you need to carry your luggage until you board the bus to Taklakot.
  • Be helpful and cooperative with each other and motivate each other as it's the toughest day of the yatra.
  • Always carry adequate chocolates, candy and dry fruit because you won't get any food until you reach Taklakot in evening.
  • Always keep your medicine bag with you preferably on pony of liaison officer. 
  • As China time is 2.30 hrs ahead of IST, you may want to adjust your watch.
  • drink adequate water and donot take AMS lightly.

IMPORTANT ADVICE: We should be blessed that we are chosen for this yatra and it is our responsibility to not litter and keep Devbhoomi clean. Carry your plastic wraps that you use with you and dispose them later. Try to clean the trail. Tell your porter not to litter. Gutka and chips packets lie everywhere. Particularly distressing was to see shores of Manasarovar littered with used underwear packets, ghee packets, used sanitary napkins etc. It was distressing and abominable. A place, which is so pious to us must be respected by all of us and deserves a conscious effort by all yatris to lead a cleaning drive as and when possible. Don't forget to do your bit, even if others are not doing it. 

To be continued..