After our stint at Manasarovar, we proceeded further that day early in the evening to Tarchen, the place considered as base camp for parikrama (parikrama is walking around Mt. Kailash in clockwise direction, like a pradakshiNa). This place looks decent, better than other places we had stayed - Subha and me exchanged thoughts once we reached Tarchen. We were supposed to go to a place called Ashtapad to get closer view of Mt. Kailash. We went halfway through and found out that the way is blocked. While returning we saw a nice-looking shrine, and we decided to go exploring in Tarchen.
Back in Tarchen we went on walk, trying to find that shrine we had seen from the top. Finally we found that it was small temple inside a Tibetan medical school. The guy who was around was kind enough to send someone to open the place up for us and we got to have a look.
I had tough time moving up and down, and it made me tired. I was getting worried how I would do parikrama. We started walking back to our campsite.
While we were almost close to the hotel, a big dog suddenly came barking towards me and attacked! Within a moment there was another dog attacking Subha, and we both were down on ground. I can’t tell how scary it was! Men standing close-by came and chased off the dogs; but there was a sharp burning in my left foot. I removed my shoe and checked if I’d got bitten, and I was. I was wearing my trekking shoes, they are very thick and hard; I wonder how the dog managed to plant a tooth in my flesh!
Back in the kitchen tent, sherpas attended to my wound while I suffered more burning because of the antiseptic lotion. Soon the news reached our guide Krishna, and he looked worried about it when he came to see me. Our Tibetan guide tried to find medical facility, but there was none available. By that time uncles and aunties had decided to return to Kathmandu, they didn’t want to do parikrama; Krishna suggested that I too return with them. He also added that generally nothing happens if one doesn’t take rabies shot immediately, and left the decision to me. I told him that I wanted to stay back and do parikrama.
I went thru a bit of mental agony for next few hours. I knew that I was not very fit physically to do parikrama, and now this dog bite thing had drained off my mental energy. Not that I was scared that I might fall sick, but the sudden scare the whole incident gave me was a little too much to bear. It kind of shattered me, I don’t know why. I had seen the dog attacking Subha, and felt very helpless that moment. Thankfully nothing happened to her though.
Other rooms were high on activity that evening. Krishna roped us with the other group, which was managed by Kailash Trek, another tour organizer. He was to return with uncles and aunties; he gave us last-minute instructions. Gambu sherpa was to stay back with us for the rest of the tour.
Meanwhile there were speculations about weather not being too good in the area. Opinion in large was that we might not be able to do parikrama. We had a brief talk with our new groupmates, and decided to try our luck. Later that night Meetu came to us to return my cam, which I’d forgotten in the vehicle that day. We realized that he’s going back with the group next morning, and gifted woolen cap to him. We tried to explain that we won’t be meeting him thereafter as we are going to stay back for the parikrama, and thus we wanted to give him a small gift; I don’t know how much he understood.
Next morning we were allowed to sleep a little longer. Weather was bad; it was raining, or I should call it snowing. Finally at around 9.30 am we left the campsite; vehicles were to take us to a place called Yamadhwaar, which is the starting point of the parikrama trek.
Here is the trek part of my trip, just before my friend Smitha concludes that I didn’t trek there.
Parikrama is walking around Mt. Kailash in clockwise direction; Hindus and Tibetans do it for religious purpose, it is supposed to be very holy. It takes almost two and a half days to complete parikrama.
On first day the distance to be covered was 18 kms; our destination was a place called Derapuk, which is located very close to Kailash. It was mostly plain, without any climbing. Our sherpa Gambu was our porter too. I was apprehensive about me being successful with parikrama; I asked Gambu what he thinks about my chances. He coolly said that I will surely be able to do it, and I should not at all worry about it. He kept on telling me to walk slowly so that I don’t hurt my wounded foot more. He brought back some confidence in me.
Subha and Gambu were walking quite fast; I was in my own pace. They waited for me in a teahouse for lunch. We had our packed lunch there, with lots of Tibetan tea.
I should share a couple of things about the tea served in these countryside teahouses. Tea is not served in the measure of cups here; a whole flask is given to the group. It’s black, not sweet, and sometimes salty. Even in Iran they would give a full teapot, served with sugar cubes and dates. And the practice is to not have one single cup of tea, you must keep on refilling your cup and drink it till you empty the whole pot. It’s fun.
Getting back on parikrama, we started walking after long lunch break. Now I was slower, and getting tired in spite of the path being almost plain. That was because of high altitude. I could see Kailash on my right; it looked beautiful. Finally after so many breaks and slow walking, I started seeing a building-like structure, which was our camp for the day. By that time, Gambu had made arrangements for our stay at Derapuk, and came back looking for me. I finally reached the camp; none of our groupmates had reached except for Subha.
At Derapuk, we got nice view of Kailash.
That night was the coldest; we had to use our sleeping bags. Next day was going to be long and toughest day of our trip, so we slept early.We left Derapuk camp by 5 in the morning, we had to climb up a pass, which was 5900 meters high, and cover 22 kms on whole that day (though I feel it was more than that). Many of our groupmates decided to go back to Tarchen, so we were only 5 girls who were about to finish parikrama. Climb to the pass was tough; the path was full of ice and fresh snow. I was very slow and was logging so much behind our group. Dorje sherpa kept me constant company; he kept offering tea, juice, and water all the time. Finally I reached the pass, which is called Dolma pass, after 5 hours of tough climbing. I was on cloud nine... literally! It was the highest altitude I’d ever been. After having a cup of tea there and resting a bit I was instructed to climb down, as it is not good to stay in high altitude for long time.
Near Dolma pass, there is a small lake called Gaurikund. But it was fully frozen that day.
Gambu sherpa was there with me while climbing down the pass, he said he was happy with my performance. He kept singing Nepali folk songs beautifully. While getting down I met and overtook Savitha Ben and Urvashi Ben, who were our groupmates. Later I got to know that Urvashi Ben wasn’t feeling well; in spite of her bad condition she managed to get up the pass. Soon, Gambu and me reached a teahouse, which was our lunch point.
After lunch we had to walk towards Zuthalpuk, our campsite for the day. It was plain, but boringly long. We were walking very slow as Urvashi Ben’s condition was not good. After quite long we managed to get a pony for her. Savitha Ben and Dorje sherpa started walking beside her pony, leaving me and Prahlad (guide) behind. We were very slow, but steady. This stretch of the day seemed very long, as if it would never end. Finally when we reached the campsite, Subha and others were already comfortably settled in the room. We were relieved, and happy. I just climbed up the bed, went inside the blanket, and wouldn’t budge. Subha wanted to see the cave where saint Milarepa(only one who is supposed have summited Kailash) was said to have meditated. She managed to pull Nimisha with her; they said there was a small Tibetan temple in that cave.
Agenda for next day was to reach Tarchen and finish parikrama. It took only 2 hours from Zuthalpuk; as usual Subha and Nimisha reached first, and I was with Prahlad at the back. When Prahlad showed me the vehicles waiting for us, I was immensely relieved. That was end of parikrama, and we had done it successfully.
We congratulated each other, happily posed for photographs flashing victorious smiles, and then reached our camp in Tarchen.
Friday, June 08, 2007