Tuesday, May 29, 2007

kailash manasarovar experiences: part 1

Before leaving for the trip, I said it’s been one of my dreams. Actually it’s more of a friend’s dream, I was only happy to share it. I had read a lot about Mt. Kailash. Besides, visiting the ‘roof of the world’ was added attraction!

We decided to do this trip from Nepal side. One can also do it from India side; it takes 28 days if you do it from India side. I might try this sometime later when I manage to get rid of the sword called boss over my head!

Preparations done, things bought, payments made.. and we were set for the trip.

Reaching Kathmandu

Agenda for the day was just to land in Kathmandu. What could’ve been a boring flight day turned out to be extremely unforgettable, thanks to great Indian low budget airlines Air Deccan! We were supposed to take off at 5.50 am, and reach Delhi by 8.30 am. Our flight to Kathmandu from Delhi was at 11.30 am; we were scared that air deccan flight might get delayed (as it keeps happening with them). I had apprehensions about flying Air Deccan, but I was relieved when we got boarding pass in our hands and started moving towards the aircraft. But little did I know to expect the unexpected from air deccan! Then didn’t have APU (auxiliary power unit), which helps start the aircraft and powers air-conditioning the aircraft before it takes off. Captain Simran announced that they were waiting to get it from HAL… and the wait went on for 2 hrs. As there was no air conditioning in the aircraft they asked us to deplane, and all the passengers were waiting in the runway all that time! When the problem got resolved finally and the flight took off at 8.30 am, I was almost sure that we were going to miss our connecting flight from Delhi.

Before proceeding further with my story, I’d like to rant a bit about air deccan. That day, I overheard captain Simran who was saying ‘sometimes you should also understand ya... we take off at time 10 times, and then 11th time something like this happens’. But last three times I flew air deccan, every time flight was either delayed or cancelled. I wouldn't say don’t fly air deccan; but please don’t fly air deccan when you have something like catching an international connecting flight, or some important meeting. It’s always better to pay a bit high price in order to have your peace of mind.

We did miss the flight. Our Delhi-Kathmandu flight was booked with Jet airways (11.30 am), and we landed at domestic terminal by 11. Jet airways had no way of putting us in the flight, but their staff helped us find another flight, and also gave helpful pointers. Jet Airways is my favorite, they know a thing or two about customer care. Finally we managed to get Indian Airlines flight, and were in Kathmandu by 3.45 pm.

Initial impressions – Kathmandu

I liked Kathmandu airport very much, it projects the flavor of Nepal very well in its architecture. My first thought once I saw Kathmandu was, “Green”! The city is very rich culturally. There are many temples; in fact you see them everywhere. We visited quite a few of them – Pashupatinaath, Swayambhunath stupa, and others.

This picture is of Pashupatinath temple entrance, obviously cameras are not allowed inside the temple. One more thing about many temples of Nepal is only Hindus are allowed in. Don’t ask me how they find out what you are!

More about Kathmandu later. Let’s move on to Tibet.

On Tibet roads

We had to travel for 4 days to reach Manasarovar. On the first day we crossed the border, went thru many checks, and finally we were on the ‘roof of the world’! We had to wait a bit at Zangmu, the first Tibetan town we set foot on. We got bored, and went to a small restaurant to have tea. We had great tasting Tibetan tea. For some reason, the guy who was working at the place was very fascinated about us! He took our pictures in his mobile, and tried to explain something in Tibetan. He had fountain-style hairstyle... I don’t know how he manages to do his hair!

Finally the road-permits were done, and we started our drive to Nylam, our destination for the day. We met our driver Meetu, very sweet guy just like his name. You will hear more about him in the rest of the story.

The drive was very scenic, but you need a brave heart to drive there! All green, and lots of streams and falls.

We had a day in Nylam for acclimatization. That day went off very slowly. We spent most of it by looking at the street thru our window, and saw Tibetan way of life.

We were on drive again the next day. Now the terrain was much plainer. The highlights are reaching altitude of 5200+ meters, drove in the core zone of Mt. Shishapangma (8000+ meters high), and seeing the origin of river Brahmaputra. Meetu preferred to call it ‘Bamputai’, in Tibetan language. Our destination for the day was a place called Saaga. When we reached Saaga, I got bad headache, it was a symptom of altitude sickness. I was ok after a Crocine and a nap.

Next two days were also spent on Tibet roads; we were just enjoying the drive, and Meetu’s shortcuts.

More about Meetu

Not only did we find out that he’s good behind the wheels, but also an excellent mechanic - he was the troubleshooter whenever any vehicle in the row broke down. We spoke very little with him (cos of the language barrier), but we shared great rapport. We enjoyed the songs he played; and he enjoyed the fact that we enjoyed those songs! According to Subha, he is my kind of person, that means one who smiles a lot like I do. But making him smile for the camera wasn’t easy, and it’s the same with me too.

He got teased from his fellow driver friends that we were talking to him, but he was the lucky one to drive us where others had to put up with irritating uncles and aunties. He had abundant supplies of smile, songs, and red bull drinks; and he kept on sharing all those with us.
We had to sadly say goodbye to him before our trip ended, as majority of our group wanted to return, deviating from the fixed itinerary. Subha was fancying the idea of giving him a gift, we gave him a purple color woolen cap we had bought in Saaga. Subha kept on wondering if he liked the gift and going to use it; we had no way of finding it out though. She also kept on wondering whether we’ll get to see him again, and for our pleasant surprise we met him at the border while returning back to Nepal, and he said bye to us for one last time!


Smitha T T said...

Hi shri,
Good one. I liked the name "meetu"
no doubt its a beautiful place. And lucky one like you got to go there.

ಸುಪ್ತದೀಪ್ತಿ suptadeepti said...

Meetu... indeed the sweet one, Huh! Good for you. You didn't have to put up with a grumpy driver. You are Lucky.
Your narration is easy, casual and interesting too. Thanks for the write-up. Keep it coming, I'm waiting.

khekshial said...

hi Shrilatha
its great to find someone who already traveled kailash manasarovar. Its a dream journey to me and me and some of my frnds are panning to go there. as you havent left your mail address, I have put mine here. i have to ask you about somethings according to this journey. It will be great help if you reply me or give me your mail address here. mail me at no_one726@yahoo.com. Its really great to find one like you. take care, bye

Unknown said...

Dear Shrilatha,

I am very much interested in doing the Kailash Manasarovar trek next summer . I enjoyed reading your article(s) . I would appreciate if you give me information that you generally dont find on travel catelouges.

I am 53 years old working in Chennai. I would be happy to hear from you.