When we saw the video tape on “Mt.Kailash pilgrimage”; it did not seem to be that difficult to us. All of us were counting the days and also the money to pay for our trip. It is not cheap to pay in US dollars. However we only had one goal, no matter what happens we should accomplish the trip successfully. Money and health conditions are just normal requirements for all types of trip but true devotion is an exemplary source for this trip.
After leaving our hotel in Nepal to Tibet, none had the slightest thought of the hectic journey waiting for us. The bus that took us from our hotel was traveling fast and we were enjoying the beautiful hill sight views. As we were reaching the Nepal border, the bus had to travel in a very narrow path that was just enough for the tires to roll on.
At one point the back tyre missed half an inch that made all of us to scream. Just imagine a fall from that height definitely will cause even a brave one to miss his heartbeat. On reaching the Nepal border all of us cleared the immigration and walked across the bridge to the China border. After this immigration clearance we walked to the Rovers waiting for us. About 7 Tibetan drivers and a Chinese guide accompanied by our Nepalese guides brought us to the next stopping area. On the way, we had similar experiences but it was quite adventurous when our Rovers traveled on the muddy path through some waterfalls.
We reached a place called Nylam; a rest house or lodge meant for travelers. We stayed here for three days. Our guides informed us that this stay is necessary to test our body conditions against altitude problems.
Many had fever, headaches, vomiting, dizziness, constipation, breathlessness and blood flow from the nose. We were more than 4,000 feet above sea level and the height will be accelerating to about 5,600 feet near Mt. Kailash.
As there were no phone networks further; we made our last phone calls to the loved ones here and started our trip to the next destination. The rovers went up and down the sandy mountains. We saw snow covering some of it. The sunshine and the quiet atmosphere touched our hearts. We only saw a few Tibetans moving with their herds of goats and yaks.
We stopped for lunch along the way facing a huge lake that actually looked more like a sea. After half an hour break the rovers started to roll on fast in between the mountains again to catch the last ferry. Suddenly from behind the mountains, we saw a big river. Our guides told us that it was Brahmaputra River.
Our drivers rushed to the ferry waiting there. We quickly alighted from the vehicles and boarded the ferry. The drivers drove their rovers onto the ferry. The ferry moved slowly and reached the other side of the river. The vehicles were drove out and again we got into it. Within 30 minutes we reached a small town called Saga. The sight of Saga gave everyone a relief. All were waiting to take an immediate nap after that 8 to 10 hours journey.
The next morning we traveled from Saga to Parayang. We reached there within 5 hours. It was another Tibetan lodge. Far away behind many mountains, we saw the tip of Mt. Kailash. We admired the sacred mountain and recited the 'Siva Mantra' in heart.
Our guru, Sri Kalki Jothi began to have a very high fever. We became worried when the medicines did not worked on him. He was a pillar for our willpower and our inspiration through out.
We understood that his inner spirit was getting close to Lord Siva increasing his 'Inner Light'. After spending the night there, the next morning we were driven for scenic view to Dongba before reaching the sacred lake Manasarover.
We saw Mt. Kailash in full view from here. We waited there for another group of people to complete their prayers. While waiting we saw a middle aged hermit walking along the path. He was wearing saffron cotton cloth around his waist above the knees and another cloth across his body.
He was carrying a small kettle like container made from bronze. His hair logs were neatly rolled up above his head. A few of us approached and greeted him. He blessed us while reciting Lord Siva mantras. He spoke in some language, which we did not understand. We kindly requested him to speak in English and he spoke. He asked why we were there and which country we were from.
After answering him, we too asked him the same question. He told us that he was from the Pasupathi temple in Nepal. He went around the lake for 2 days and will be returning back soon. Yes, we remembered the same Pasupathi temple that we went before beginning our trip.
This temple is believed to be the door entrance for Mt. Kailash pilgrims. We brought him to the others participating in the prayers. He blessed all of them and left. Soon after the prayers, our guides brought us to a nearby lodge on top a mountain to spent the night.
The next day about mid-noon, we packed our things and went to the lake again. Everyone changed quickly to have a holy bath. The water was very clean and cold. We could feel coolness in our veins. The body became numb for 2 seconds. We took a fast dip and prayed to Mt. Kailash facing us. Immediately after prayers, we rushed to our vehicles to change into dry clothes to get rid of the shivering. When everyone were ready, the drivers drove around the lake. We admired the beautiful surrounding and the lake water appearing in different shades of color at different angles.
Upon completing, we were on our way to Darchan. It was a terrible bumpy ride. We also had to cross a river with the water level nearly reaching the doors. On reaching Darchan, we saw Mt. Kailash just behind the mountain beside our lodge. We felt that we were very close to Lord Siva. When night falls, we saw the full moon larger in size than in our country as if it was quite close to earth. Everyone waited eagerly for the next day to begin their first trekking.
However our group were worried about Sri Kalki's health conditions. During our stay in Darchan, most of the time he was sleeping. We realised that he was very close to the supreme power. His mouth and hand movements all the time revealed that he was communicating to someone. Even the wet towels placed on his forehead to decrease his temperature were useless. It dried up in less than 20 minutes. We requested our guides to show him to a doctor.
A Tibetan herbal doctor came from a nearby clinic. He checked our guru's temperature and his other body conditions. We felt relieved when the doctor informed us that though our guru was having high fever, his body condition was still good.
Soon after the doctor left, the rest of them went back to their rooms. However, I could not sleep well. Our guru's condition really worried me. I just close my eyes trying my best to sleep. When it was about 2 to 3 in the morning, I heard the dogs barking and felt someone entering the room.
I quickly turned towards the door. It was closed and nobody was in the room. However, I felt the presence of someone invisible. I did not bother about it much since I knew our guru could see, talk and handle all invisible ones too.
Next morning, my guru was given a complete bed rest and I stayed back to see to his needs while the guides brought the rest to the Nandhi Hill. This trekking was actually a ‘warm-up’ for all before going to Mt. Kailash. It took more than 8 hours for them to climb the hill, walk a few kilometers before returning to the lodge. All of them were exhausted. Our group came back first and told us about what they saw there. Most of them felt breathless due to the shortage of oxygen. Some were too tired to follow the group. However, they were surprised to see four dogs following them. Two dogs in front and the other two behind them. These dogs accompanied our group till they returned back.
It was 6.00 am; all of us were packing our bags and getting ready for our breakfast. We were very happy to see our guru in good health. Soon after breakfast, we were walking towards the parked rovers. “Hello there!” the sound of a familiar voice; all of us quickly turned to the direction where the sound came from. We were very surprised to see the same hermit whom we met at Lake Manasarover. He should have returned to Nepal about 3 days ago. His appearance there within this short period without transport really startled us. “So all of you going to Mt. Kailash; good. I see you there in 2 days time”. We just smiled and nodded our heads. This time we noticed lots of Rudrash beads around his neck and an elbow length trident in his hand. The same kettle-like bronze container and a wooden stick in the other hand.
We did not know what to talk to him. However, we just smiled and waived good-bye in response. As our rover trucks were moving out of the exit, we saw him sitting on the ground. We kept on turning back to catch the last glimpse of him. “Oh! My God” he suddenly disappeared from that place. We quickly looked around in all directions to confirm what we saw was true. Since it was a level ground, nobody can move around unnoticed. We understood that the hermit was not an ordinary person and his visit was actually a blessing for all.
Throughout the journey, all of us were discussing about that incident. When the drivers stopped at the next destination, we saw a tall pole and many small pieces of colored materials attached to the strings tied to the pole. The guides informed us that the Tibetans tie such cloth here wishing for a safe journey or for any other things.
A few steps away from here we saw a small shelter. We walked there; one of the guides told us that this prayer place was for the ‘God of Death’. You could offer anything and pray for a safe journey. As advised, we poured a packet of milk and prayed while the others left for the next stop.
Once we joined the others, the guides took our bags and transferred it to the 3-ton truck, which was carrying all the kitchen utensils and other essential things. The guides told us to walk slowly along the path, while they waited for the ‘yaks’. We were walking in between big mountains. The path was even and uneven throughout. We climbed small hills and crossed small rivers along the way. All of us were tired and frustrated to see the endless path. My guru was far ahead of us and two of our group members were using their best effort to stay close with him.
We were very surprised to see his energetic movement that encouraged us to move on fast. Everyone stopped near a Tibetan tent. We waited for others. Our guides came with the Yaks and its runners. We took our lunch in the tent and rested for a few minutes. When all were ready, the guides brought us near the yaks. The yak runners carried us onto the yaks. It was scary and we felt very uncomfortable sitting on it. Some of the elderly ones were afraid that they might get hurt if they fall from it.
However no excuses were accepted, the guides sternly advised us to get use to it. When the yaks started to move on their own, many started to scream and mumble loudly to seek assistance from the runners. Since none of us knew their language, it was an additional problem for us. The rest of us decided to handle the yaks on our own to avoid any falls. The yaks jumped on the sight of small bushes and rushed to feed on it.
Some ran towards the river to seep water. Climbing the small hills and running down slopes panicked us most of the time. The sight of the lodge gave us a great relieved. Most of them voluntarily got down from the yaks and started to walk. However our first experience riding on yaks were exciting and painful.
The lodge was facing the northern side of Mt. Kailash. The melting snow formed many small rivers around it. The water was gushing away in high speed. The cold breeze and the view of other sandy mountains with scattered huge rocks on the slopes were something new to us. Our thoughts were distracted when the guides told us to go into the rooms.
Due to the shortage of rooms, seven to ten people were squeezed into one room. Actually we were the lucky ones because the late comers pitched their tents outside the lodge. Once we were settled, our guides set up their kitchen and began their cooking.
While waiting for dinner, some of us climbed the sandy mountains very carefully to have a closer look of Mt. Kailash. Above the mountain we saw a similar prayer place; the colored clothes tied to it indicated the number people who have visited this holy place before us.
After our heart felt prayer, we came down just on time for dinner. The guides briefed us on the next day’s trip and advised us to sleep early. The lights went off at about 10pm while we tucked into our blankets tightly to maintain our body temperature. It was a very cold night for all, the full moon just beside the tip of Mt. Kailash lighted up the place. It was really a beautiful view soothing our minds and tiredness away.
As usual everyone woke up early and completed their morning duties. All of us felt still fresh even without our bath for the past few days and expected the same till we reached Nylam again. Afraid of ‘frost bites’, our guides had strictly instructed us not take bath at any place unless been told. The warm water given to us every morning for wash-ups was good enough for everyone.
We packed our bags immediately after breakfast and gave to the guides as requested. The bags were tied to the yaks. Once everyone was ready, our guides lead us to a rocky mountain across a wild river. We waited for the yaks and climbed on their backs. Its runners were whistling at the yaks and they started to move towards the top. It was a very scary, uncomfortable, dangerous and breathless experience for all. But the yaks did not seem to be afraid of such balancing acts. You could never see a leveled ground around but only rocks with different sizes.
Anyone can get injured or sprain with one careless move. But the yaks moved freely as they like, chilling our hearts when they jumped or stopped suddenly at any verge to feed. We would be sitting on their backs and holding a wooden support tightly trying our best not to slip and fall at any incline or decline positions. It was even worst to see the depth of the mountain and the sizes of the river flowing below.
As we go higher and higher, the yaks too became breathless. They pause awhile and continued. Finally when we reached the top, its runners moved the yaks to a side. We sat down and rested for the rest to join us. While waiting, we took photographs and admired the barren surrounding. Drinks were provided for all to quench their thirst and to replace the insufficient oxygen in air. We saw the yaks moving ahead of us by its runners. When everyone was present, the guides told us to move-on. A stick was provided to support our moves.
We walked very carefully in a single line as the path leads us. Every cautious move is necessary to avoid any mishaps. On our way, we noticed a lake beneath the slope. The water was dark green in color. A guide informed us the lake was called “Gowri Gundam”. The water that looked greenish, once being scooped will look like normal water. After taking some photographs, everyone moved on and on. At one place, we crossed a frozen river. Our foot sank into the snow covering the shoes completely. After that thrilling experienced, we stopped for our late lunch.
Everyone felt very tired and was waiting hopefully to the complete the journey fast. The guides told us to carry on while they accompanied the old ones. Our legs were aching terribly walking on the rocky path, going up and down the slopes and jumping across small rivers. Some stopped and rested at many places, as they felt dizzy due to insufficient oxygen.
The journey continued for many hours till finally we reach a steep slope. We saw a mini lodge from above; we walked down very slowly minding our steps very cautiously. We felt very relieved upon reaching the base. We sat down and rested while waiting for the others. It took almost nine hours to reach here and another one or two hours ahead to reach our lodge.
When all of us were ready, the guides told us to walk towards the yaks. Most of us felt very uneasy and frustrated to get on the yaks again. Since there was no other choice, we sat on the yaks. The yaks started to move as they wished. At times, the yaks walked very close rubbing against each other that hurt our legs.
Two pilgrims hurt their waist and backs when the yaks threw them down while they jumped over a rock. Some picked up fights with other yaks. Their deeds were intolerable that some of the pilgrims cried quietly. Along the way, we came across a narrow path between a small hill and a slope beside. All the yaks were moving in a single line closed to each other.
We were looking at the river at the base of the slope with a ‘eerie’ feeling deep in our hearts. Suddenly the yak in front me jumped and pushed the old man down. He was lying on the ground helplessly while the yak that I was sitting on quickly jumped onto the slope followed by other yak behind me. Both of us were shocked but stable. The yaks fed on the grasses and moved freely. We were adjusting ourselves to all positions and secured our grip tightly. At one time, we were watching the river surface directly above it.
I quickly prayed for our safety. The yaks began to move up and down the slope till it reached the proper path again. The runners came to check on us. We immediately climbed down from the yaks with their assistance and the rest followed us. We walked slowly and reached the lodge soon. All of us were too tired to move around that we had to lie on the beds until dinner was served. Immediately after dinner, everyone went to bed for a complete rest.
The next day was the last for us to complete the trip around Mt. Kailash. The thought of completion was very encouraging. Soon after breakfast, as informed by the guides, we walked on the footpath leading to the finishing point. We were moving in small groups. As usual our guru was ahead of us. He waited for us until we were a few steps away and than carried on. Since it was a flat ground we felt safe. Soon we reached a path on a sandy hill.
We began to walk very slowly and carefully behind one another. The sand was very slippery so we used the stick to poke into the ground as a support. During this moment, we began to smell the fragrance of jasmine flowers and neem leaves. We understood that we were not alone.
After reaching the safe end, we grouped again and continued. We reached an old wooden bridge. The water below the bridge was gushing away fast. We crossed it by holding each other’s hand. Someone informed us that we just a few kilometers away from the finishing area so we decided to move on without resting. Soon we saw some people waving their hands at us from the finishing point. We felt very happy and moved faster than usual. On reaching our destination, others were clapping and cheering at us. We congratulated and shook hands among each other. Some were seen jumping with joy.
Our grouped moved to a side and rested on the rocks. Photographs were taken. A sound of a bird distracted us. We quickly looked above us and saw a “Garudan (falcon)- a bird used to carry Lord Vishnu on the back”.
It looked bigger in size than usual. The sound made by it was quite loud that everyone heard it clearly. Suddenly from behind the clouds, another seven such birds flew out. They were in normal size. All of them circled three times above us than flew behind the mountains. We never saw them again. Our guru told us that it was an auspicious sign.
Once the whole group has completed, we got up the rovers that came to fetch us. We were driven back to Darshan. We went to our rooms and slowly unpacked our languages.
We sort out the dirty and clean clothes separately and repacked it. We took our naps after a good wash up. Those who felt bored assisted the guides in their cooking.
We were passing time discussing about each other’s personal feeling and contentment in completing the trip. Most of us experienced a ‘magical feeling’ that all the energy and hectic efforts to complete the trip vanished instantly like been waked up from a dream.
The next day, we began our trip back to Nylam. This time the drivers took another shorter route. On the way, we stayed at the same lodge for a night and reached Nylam the following night. Many hours of travelling made us feel very exhausted. When the guides told us about our early departure at 3am, we immediately felt that there would not be enough time for us to have complete rest. However the thought of getting back to our hotel rooms in Nepal boosted our body energy.
As expected the road was in a bad condition. We stopped at many places to allow the oncoming vehicles to move. When the morning sun was rising, we could see many landslides and at some places along the way uprooted trees were blocking the path. Soon we reached the China’s border and cleared the immigration.
We thanked the Tibetan drivers and the Chinese guide and walked towards the Nepal Border for another clearance.
We took our lunch at one of the stalls while waiting for our transport. Another driver informed us about a landslide. All of us got into another bus till we reached the landslide area.
We walked over the landslides and took the bus arranged for us. We reached our hotel in the evening.
The last two days before departure were spent for resting and shopping.
It was an unforgettable experience for all.