Kathmandu, the start point of Kailash yatra,
The holy trip begins as one arrives in Kathmandu. To devotees, the city of Kathmandu is known for its temples, apart from the historical sites and mountains. Following day, we will have darshan of Lord Pashupatinath and Lord Vishnu, which is the commencement point of our Kailash Yatra!
Syabrubesi, the tiny village at the border,
Get, set, and go!
After Kathmandu, a 170 km bumpy but scenic drive brings the travelers to Syabrubesi, the tiny border settlement of Nepal just before the China territory, with very basic infrastructure for stay and food. Stopping at Syabrubesi is logically required because of the reasons that the drive from Kathmandu takes not less than 7-8 hours to reach this place, and by the time you reach Syabrubesi, you feel tired somehow. Also, the other reason behind this is that the border immigration works until 3 PM, and sometimes the queue at the border immigration counter is too long, which may take hours to clear. After 7-8 hours, bumpy and hectic ride from Kathmandu, who will want to stand in the immigration queue for hours? It is better you go and relax today and next morning, prepare yourself to come to the immigration counter.
Gyirong, the first place in Tibetan territories,
A few years back before the massive earthquake in Nepal, the Syabrubesi - Keyrong route was known to the world as a trade-route, and it was not popular among the travelers. Traditionally Kodari to Nyalam route was open for travelers to cross the border from Nepal to enter Tibetan territories or vice versa. After the 2013 massive earthquake which shook Nepal, the Nyalam route was badly damaged, and then after the immigration office was permanently closed by the Chinese Govt. giving no entry facility to pilgrims/travelers from either side. Today Keyrong (also spelled as Gyirong or Keyrung) is known popular among the travelers and pilgrims as 'the only' entry or exit point between Nepal and China for tourism activities. Keyrung is a perfect example of small Tibetan settlements representing the culture of the Tibetan Autonomous Region.
In the morning, it is better to wake up early and quickly reach the immigration counter if you wish to avoid long waits in the queue as hundreds of pilgrims and traders arrive here daily for border crossing formalities.
After crossing the border and entering Tibet, the road becomes comfortable, and the drive becomes joyful as the blacktop roads take the travelers quickly to their next destination Keyrong, where a couple of days stay for acclimatization, is much recommended.
Saga, typical west plateau mountainous terrain,
Small yet beautiful! The town of Saga is a place which will bring a smile to your face as you see a good number of people around and fairly enough availability of tourism facilities and services around in the town. People going on Mount Kailash and Lake Mansarovar Yatra by road from Nepal or Lhasa route find Saga's markets to buy many useful items and eatables for their onward journey to Kailash Mansarovar.
Sometimes, the guides, either to save time or in the case of shortage of accommodation at Saga, take a long drive to Dongba (or Zongba) for a night halt. This is fairly ok, and one should let the guides make their own decisions for the organization of the trip. Ultimately this trip is meant for a successful visit to holy Lake Manasarovar and Mount Kailash and not for relaxation, comfort, or luxuries.
Mansarovar Lake, the supreme spiritual encounter,
To everyone who reaches here, the scenic beauty of the place and spiritual bath near the holy Lake Mansarovar becomes one of the best memories of their life. Believe me, here everything reminds us for the presence and glory of the Almighty. We certainly feel connected to the supreme power outside and within.
Regardless to, if you are visiting Mansarovar Lake during full moon night or not, paying a visit to Lake Mansarovar in the night to experience its magical beauty under the moon light and glittering sky (if weather is clear, obviously) can be something you may cherish forever.
Darchen, the base camp of Mount Kailash,
Darchen is a beautiful town fairly big in size and facilities, I must say. The place has a contrast of facilities and services available for travelers. It is only an hour's drive away from Mansarovar Lake, so the travelers get a good amount of time here to prepare for the trek beginning the following morning. I advise that you eat well, keep yourself hydrated, and take good sleep at Darchen.
Mount Kailash, the sacred mount, stairway to Heaven
Not only for the devotees of Hindu, Jain, and Bodh religions but also for the seekers of peace and adventure, the name of Mount Kailash needs no introduction. The 19,500 feet tall, diamond-shaped mountain, situated in the far Himalayan ranges of the Tibetan Autonomous Region, is among some of the most spiritual mounts in the world. It is also claimed to be the Axis Mundi center of the earth. It is also believed to be the stairway to Heaven and the abode of many Gods. The followers of Hindu religion believes that the supreme God Shiva resides here with his wife Goddess Parvati; the followers of Jain religion also call it Ashtapad and know it as the birthplace of Jainism, as they believe that Lord Adinath or Rishabhdev, the first Tirthankara of Jain religion, meditated here and attained Moksha before introducing Jainism to the world.
It is believed that the parikrama (or kora, or circumambulation) of Mount Kailash washes away the sins and purifies the soul. The followers of Hinduism, Jainism, and also the ordinary trekkers walk in the clockwise direction. The total length of the trek around Mount Kailash is 52 km.
For wider information about the holy mount, don’t miss to read my old blog about the ‘Four Faces of Mount Kailash’ and if you are planning a Kailash Yatra Package booking in the coming months or near future do check my article for Travel tips to keep in mind for Kailash Yatra.
Yam Dwar, the Moksha dwar just before Mt. Kailash,
The Gate to Moksha, Yam Dwar, situated in the foothills of Mount Kailash, is the very start point of the trek around Mount Kailash. It is situated towards the South Face of Mount Kailash. Yam Dwar is considered to be an element that is deeply connected with heaven and souls. Yam Dwar is the finest fusion of ‘Yam’ i.e. the Lord of Death and ‘Dwar’ i.e. Gate. Thus, on a whole Yam Dwar means the ‘Gateway of Salvation’. This Gateway is known to be the entry of the pilgrims into the Mount Kailash Yatra, the heavenly abode of Shiva. According to the Tibetans, the Yam Dwar is called as the Tarboche and they start their notable Kailash Yatra right from this place just like the Hindus. The vehicles will drop all the Mount Kailash pilgrims to Yam Dwar and from there, these pilgrims would have to take their journey to the holy Kailash.
Dirapuk, the north face of Mount Kailash,
It is where you experience the greatness of the supreme Mount Kailash. After reaching Darchen, if you feel physically and mentally fit for the trek, you 'must not' miss the lifetime opportunity to go to Dirapukh if you want to know why Kailash Yatra is considered to be the greatest among all spiritual journeys and adventures. After completing the 12 km trek from Yam Dwar to the northern side of the mount, just a few meters before reaching Dirapukh, you will be stunned to notice a diamond-shaped black rock mountain appeared on the right side of your trek. Shivaaaaaaaa! the first word you will utter perhaps, after seeing this magical mount. Bow your head to Almighty, capture His beauty in your camera, spend time meditating near Dirapuk monastery, and experience the spiritual energy everywhere. You have reached the ultimate destination of your Kailash yatra, and you have attained something, which is the dream of millions of people.
Another eye-pleasing and soul-inspiring experience you will have the next morning during your visit to Dirapukh. Do not forget to wake up early, before the sunrise, if you want to witness the magical moment of Mount Kailash changing its color. As the dawn breaks, the first light of the sun reaches Mount Kailash, and the black golden shaped giant rock slowly starts changing its color. Har har Mahadev, Jai Bhole, Oh Beautiful Shivaaaaa are the words everyone will start chanting as the Golden Kailash appears slowly speaking about the glory and grandness of the Lord. No other spiritual experience is even close to this; believe me.
Gauri Kund, the 'Lake of Compassion,
Gauri Kund is one of the most vital attractions that is included in the Kailash Mansarovar Yatra. Here lies a highly positive aura that would always attract you towards its divinity! Plenty of pilgrims from all across the globe come up to this place while being a part of the Kailash Yatra. Gauri Kund is referred to with a good number of names, and some of them are the 'Lake of Compassion' and the 'Parvati Sarovar.' It has got such a name because this divine lake's history is connected with the Goddess Parvati. The Gauri Kund Lake is spotted at the height of 5608 meters, and you can come across this lake when you are heading downwards from Dolma La Pass. While reading the Shiva Purana, you are going to come across a fascinating tale related to Gauri Kund. According to the tale, it was at the Gauri Kund where Goddess Parvati acquired back her son, Lord Ganesha. Anyone who splashes the Gauri Kund’s water on him/her is known to purify his/her senses. The calmness, positivity, and beauty of Gauri Kund are surely unexplainable.
Dolma La Pass, the highest point of yatra,
Dolma La Pass is considered the notable Tibetan name of Goddess Parvati, the wife of Lord Shiva. According to a good number of sayings, it has been notified that Lord Shiva, along with his whole family, resides on the top of the holy Mount Kailash. While moving towards the Dolma La Pass, you are going to witness Mount Kailash's north-eastern face. Apart from that, the visitors would also be lucky enough to have a view of the Gaurikund that is situated down the pass. Dolma La Pass is tucked at the height of 19500 feet, and this is known to be the highest elevation of the whole Mount Kailash Yatra.
Zuthulphuk, the last point of stay on trek,
The last point of the trek from Dirapukh, Zuthulphuk monastery, is the point of night stay before concluding the trek the following morning. After having conquered the high altitude of Dolma La (5600 meters / 18,500 feet approx), you will not find it difficult to stay in the lower altitude of Zuthulphuk at the height of 4820 meters/15800 feet.
After concluding the trek from Zuthulphuk, one has to take a short trek to the pickup point where the Chinese vehicles and guides wait for the group members. Obviously, there will be many people in the group who will not be able to do the parikrama of Mount Kailash, and they must be waiting at Darchen for the other part of the group to come back from trekking. From here now, the drive back to Kathmandu begins through the same route, but more quickly as the motive of the Kailash Yatra has been accomplished by all or most, and now this is the time to go back to family and loved ones.
One must keep in mind the important points and be mentally prepared for it:
Checkpoints: The Tibetan Govt and Army are very strict for entry into this restricted region, and thus they have several checkpoints for travelers before entering the Mount Kailash region.
Toilet: The toilet facility on the trip is basic to open spaces, and one must pick their own spot.
Bathing: Basic facilities en route, no facility for almost four to five days after Mansarovar.
Medical: Usually, the Oxygen Level, BP, and Pulse rate of travellers are recorded every day. Headache, fever, high altitude sickness, congestions, vomiting, etc. are some common symptoms one may develop at high altitude. There is no need to panic, but to acclimatize and keep yourself hydrated. If the need occurs, the guides and co-travelers are always ready to assist.
Important stuff: There are many important things you should carry. Wet wipes, hot water bottles, Diamox Tablets, Water purifying tablets, etc. are some important things among the others mentioned in the list of 'Things to carry.'
Electricity: Almost none after Saga, solar energy is mainly used. Keep your power, banks, mobile phones, and other electronic gadgets properly charged.
Transport and stay: Chinese busses are good and comfortable, but the drivers are not very friendly sometimes, and they do not show their hospitality on most occasions as you ask. Better to keep yourself busy in exploring the places and enjoying the spiritual experience.
Friends, I know this stuff of information above may not be enough for you because the information you need for such a trip has to be vast. I promise you that, like this, I will keep posting more useful information for you to travel to Mount Kailash and Lake Mansarovar.
Disclaimer: The information presented above are the personal views of the author based on personal experience and knowledge.