When I Went Walking To Tibet - Kailash Mansarovar Yatra-2011

DKay

Super User
"The body was shivering as the limbs were trying hard not to go numb. Chilled air was finding some way to enter thru the six layers of clothing’s I had on me, rain drops were freezing my nose and my eyelids. No one dare sit down to rest or the Chinese might send you back on medical grounds. There were around 70 including porters, security personnel and yatris huddled up in a small area waiting for the Chinese to give yatris the green signal to cross over to their territory. Everyone including the porters, who come there almost every week, were getting frustrated at the situation. Was it the freezing temperatures coupled with cold winds, was it the lack of oxygen in the atmosphere, was it the unearthly hours that we were there at or was it a mixture of all of the above?"

This is a journal about The Kailash Mansarovar Yatra- 2011 to Tibet that I was lucky to be a part of. The journey that started on 18th of July, 2011 from Delhi finally finished on 13th August, 2011 back in Delhi. For most it’s a religious trip to the Abode of Lord shiva- Mt. Kailash, but for me it was more of an adventure trip than being a religious one. My love for hills, mountains, rivers, waterfalls, lakes etc etc made me undertake this journey.

A few important points before I start off:-

INFORMATION
Whatever information I give in this is whatever information I have with me or whatever information I have collected. I will try my level best to give 100% authentic information but if some information is not correct, then it maybe an oversight. Also certain information may not be valid in the subsequent years

SECURITY
As this journey also involves traveling thru border areas of our country to a “not so friendly” neighbor I shall deliberately hold back some information as not to jeopardize the safety of our nation. Though most of the stuff is available on the net these days but still if I am not comfortable sharing something I won’t. I know you guys will understand and just search the net instead:)

GPS DATA
I have collected some co-ordinates all along the journey and I have tried to plot it on google earth showing you guys the route we travelled. Since at some places due to narrow valleys and heavy cloud cover there was no satellite reception hence the route may not be 100% correct, but it will at least give you some idea of the terrain and the elevation.

PHOTOS
Bulk of the photos are from my Sony A 2000 DSLR with 18-70 kit lens. Some panorama photos are from Sony P&S and the rest are from my Nokia phone. Some photos are edited but most are just resized and cropped.

So here we go!!
 

DKay

Super User
After my first trip to Kailash Mansarovar in the year 2009 with my mother via the Nepal route, I always wanted to visit the place again. One reason being that I could not finish the parikrama of Mt. kailash last time and a bigger reason being that I wanted to explore the Indian route the next time I went. Luckily the opportunity presented itself when I was selected for the 9th Batch of the Ministry Of External affairs (MEA) organized trip to Kailash Mansarovar Yatra 2011 (KMY-2011).

MEA invites applications for KMY every year in Feb-March. You can keep an eye on their website for application forms and the terms and conditions. Forms have to be duely filled and sent to them before a certain date. Then a computerized selection takes place and yatris if selected by the computer are informed about the batch numbers via post. Results can also be checked on their website.

Usually every year there are 16 batches which leave for the yatra on precise dates in between June beginning and till August end. These are the months when the weather is most favorable. Each batch has a maximum number of 60 participants. Some applicants are put on waiting list (or RAC like in trains). There have been cases where WL No. 30 also has been cleared. So even if you are on waiting list it would be prudent to start preparing yourself for the trip as WL people are confirmed at the last minute. Yatris confirm their bookings by sending a DD of Rs5000/- in favour of Kumaon mandal Vikas Nigam (KMVN).

MEA website has quite an exhaustive list of preparations to be done before the trip. Its wise to take a print out of it and keep it handy all the time. For me, it being the 2nd time, I was pretty certain as to what all I need so I just kept it very simple. There are also some indemnity bonds to be signed and lots of undertakings to be done, so best is to do it before reaching Delhi
Excerising is one big part of preparation for this trip as this route involves a lot of stamina and also a lot of will power. Also there are 2 strict medical tests that are held en-route, so best is to know your body and its weaknesses beforehand and try to overcome it to avoid disappointment at final stages. Smokers should try and quit smoking, well I say try as I myself could not give up. Those suffering from major illnesses of the lungs or the heart or any other are advised best not to undertake this journey. No reason I believe is superior than your health. More about a yatri who had to be evacuated by a chopper due to HAPE later.

With all the preparations done and full of excitement I reached Delhi on the night of 15th July. Yatris are accommodated at Gujrati Samaj while in Delhi.

The itinerary for the next month was as follows:-

Day 1: Delhi- Medical tests at Delhi Heart and Lung Institute (DHLI) & Passport collection
Day 2: Delhi – Second medical test at Indo Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) and the results
Day 3: Delhi – Briefing at MEA, Visa Collection, Foreign Exchange, KMVN payments
Day 4: Delhi to Almora by bus
Day 5: Almora to Dharchula by bus
Day 6: Dharchula to Narayan Ashram By jeeps Narayan Ashram to Sirkha by foot/ pony
Day 7: Sirkha to Gala by foot
Day 8: Gala to Budhi by foot
Day 9: Budhi to Gunji
Day 10: Gunji Stay for high altitude medical
Day 11: Gunji to Nabhidhang
Day 12: Nabhidhang to Taklakote (Tibet)
Day 13: Taklakote Stay for immigration and foreign exchange
Day 14: Taklakote extended stay due to emergency
Day 15: Taklakote to Darchen by bus
Day 16: Darchen To Derapukh (Kailash Parikrama)
Day17: Derapukh to Zutulpukh (Kailash Parikrama)
Day 18: Zutulpukh to Darchen (Kailash Parikrama)
Day 19: Darchen to Trugho Gompa by bus ( on Mansarovar Banks)
Day 20: Trugho Gompa – havan and holy dip
Day 21 Trugho Gompa to Taklakote by bus (completing Mansarovar parikrama)
Day 22: Taklakote Stay
Day 23: Taklakote Stay
Day 24: Taklakote to Gunji
Day 25: Gunji to Budhi
Day 26: Budhi to Gala
Day 27: Gala to Sirkha to Dharchula
Day 28: Dharchula to Jageshwar by bus
Day 29: Jageshwar to Delhi by Bus

Please note that since our was a small group of 40 only we did not do Kailash Parikrama in 2 Batches but as one group. Also we had an extended stay in Taklkote the first time due to an emergency situation. Also while returning we covered 2 camps in one day to be a day early in Delhi.
 

DKay

Super User
Day1, Day2 & Day3: Delhi

Day1: Medical test at DHLI, Delhi

It was a 0600 hrs start at Gujrati Samaj that morning. It was quite early for me but the best was to get used to it as we would be getting up much earlier the following days. The accomodation at Gujrati Samaj was quite comfortable. All the yatris were kept in an A/C dormitory, which was quite useful in getting adjusted to each other.

KMVN, that organises the trip on the Indian side had organised a bus for us to take us to the DHLI for our first medical tests. With all the yatris boarding it by 0700hrs we took off. A lady from an NGO accompanied us on the bus giving us some yoga tips on how to cope with high altitude problems. That was quite informative actually.

We had to report at the DHLI empty stomach as a complete medical test would be carried out today. A sum of Rs 3100/- has to be given to the hospital for the medical check-up.

Also during that time KMVN official collects the passports and Rs.400/- as Visa fees from the yatris. The Chinese give a group visa for religious purposes for this trip and nothing is stamped on the passport

The yatris were divided in 2 batches so that the tests could be completed as quickly as possible, but it still took around 8 hrs for all the yatris to finish their tests. There were some yatri's who had to undergo some more tests if the medical authorities felt that they had to so an additional sum of Rs2500/- was collected from them.

After everyone finished their tests and lunch we had a small briefing by doctors at DHLI on high altitude and its affects on human body. After that evryone could take the bus back to Gujrati Samaj.

The medical at DHLI is quite stringent and the results will determine if you can undertake this yatra or not. The medical reports are passed on to the ITBP doctors in Delhi who take a final call. Their decision is final and if found unfit yatris are not permitted in any batch that year.

So its essential for yatris to ensure that they are in good health and are fit before they apply for the yatra.

Pic: Briefing held by doctors at DHLI
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Day 2: Final Medical at ITBP, Delhi

Today was the day when the results of the medical tests would be announced at ITBP Base Hospital so there was an uneasy calm in the bus. Before the doctors checked the reports and gave the green signals we had a briefing by an ITBP personnel. The briefing was on Do's and dont's on high altitude. It also discussed about the route and the possible problems we might face and the solutions.

Then came the moment of truth when we were again divided in 2 groups and the doctors met us one by one with our reports from DHLI and suggested us things according to our body conditions.

Unfortunately 2 yatris could not pass the medicals here and had to be left behind.

Lunch was served by some NGO at ITBP base hospital itself. They distributed lots of Puja Samagri and devotional books to us during that time. Again there was a speech on this trip and the importance etc etc. The NGO also offered food ration for the group (to be used in China- more about it later) at a subsidized cost of Rs5100/-

Also on sale were some warm clothings that are essential on this trip. I was not sure of the quality so I say its the best to pick up all clothings from home or from some reputed store.

Also they gave us a free medical first aid kit for the whole group that actually came out to be very handy during the yatra.

Today was also time, to form committee's within the group for the smooth functioning of day to day activities. The committee's that were formed:-

1. Food committee
2. Finance committee
3. Luggage committee
4. Entertainment committee

The Liason Officer is the head of the group and all the committees work under him (more on this later).

The day ended at Gujrati Samaj with bhajan's and devotional songs!!

Pic: Briefing at the ITBP base hospital
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Pic: Lunch served to us by an NGO
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Day 3: Briefing by MEA, Delhi

We reached MEA by 1000 hrs AM. More briefings took place and the same information that we had been hearing for the last 2 days was repeated again and again.

After the briefing at the MEA, we got our passports back. Here we had to submit the rest of the money to KMVN for the trip on the India side. KMVN charges a total of Rs27,000/- for the trip. As Rs5000/- was already sent as non-refundable advance the rest of the money had to be given here by cash or DD.

Other things that were to be given to KMVN officials are:-
1. A duly signed and attested indemnity bond on Rs10/- non-judicial paper
2. Helicopter evacuation undertaking in case of emergency
3. consent forms
4. email id's of relatives (KMVN from this year has started sending daily updates to relatives, which is an extremely good thing)

Later those yatris who did not arrange for foreign exchange were taken to a bank from where they could purchase dollars, which are to be given to the Chinese officials at Tibet side. Apart from other expenditure like pony and porter while parikrama, phone calls and shopping a sum of USD$ 750/- is required to be given to the Chinese officials for the yatra.

A function was organised by the Delhi Govt at the Gujrati Samaj in the evening. After bhajans and felicitations some free stuff was distributed. That contained
1. A big rucksack
2. a torch with 2 batteries
3. Reebok track suit
4. Ducbac rain coat and pant
5. Some havan samigri
6. A white cap like cricketers wear
7. waist pouch

I did not use any of the stuff except the track pant as all my stuff was already packed and I did not want to re arrange it. I just packed the rucksack as it is and decided to take it to Dharchula and leave it there in the cloak room. Gujrati samaj also has cloak room fascility but at a charge.

The rest of the evening was spent packing bags, making them rain proof and tieing them up properly. The packing material and nylon rope with walking sticks was given to us complimentary by another NGO.

It was almost midnight by the time packing was done at the next day would be a 0500 hrs start from Delhi. I had to get up at 0400 hrs as I was a part of the luggage committee and we had to collect and count all the luggage that was to go in a truck till Dharchula.

Pic: Briefing at the MEA
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Bhajan and felicitations organised by the Govt Of Delhi
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Dinner at the Function
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The real journey starts tomorrow
 

Viny

Active Member
Glued, added bookmark, awaiting updates.

Great write up, I think you can be a good author, consider publishing your books :) Great eye to details
 

Yatin

The Rafter
Wow, another KM log from you DK, I am all up for it. Bring it on bro. Great start, looking for every small tid bit of information.
 
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