I started to research on Mt Kailash, the Mansarover Lake, the route, the past trek feedback, the comments, the requirements, the narration on Utubes where past pilgrims had mounted their experiences…
“Why don’t you join us for a pilgrimage to Mt Kailash?”
Asked Sadhguru JV, a revered Mystic of our current times and head of Isha Foundation as I stood-by to say Goodnight to him after a session of ‘In Conversation’ at Sirifort Auditorium in Delhi.
I immediately replied “Oh I would love to do Sadhguru”, without knowing what all it meant? And that every word of Sadhguru was going to be followed up.
I got a call from a Swami of Isha Foundation within weeks. Asking me if i was ready. I again said YES.
“Then please send us your passport and a medical checkup report and get a fitness certificate as we shall be climbing up-to over 17,500 feet of altitude”.
Next day, I got the checklist for the medical checkup. It was truly exhaustive! The trek-pilgrimage would demand 20 days.–Phew!
First time ever a long break for me!!
Of the kind which truly disconnects me from all the happenings back home. The only connection would be perhaps a satellite phone number with a contact based in Kathmandu, for emergency! Hence no news was good news as I thought.
I asked myself if I would be able to disconnect from my engaging and most enjoyable work schedule I work with for three long weeks? And without any contact of the kind I was so habitual of. ——-The news, print or the visual, the social networking, the blackberry, my home food and my home care, and so on.
I resolved I will disconnect this time. I will challenge myself and move on. I will test myself whether I can detach from the comfort zone and be myself differently?
I started to research on Mt Kailash, the Mansarover Lake, the route, the past trek feedback, the comments, the requirements, the narration on Utubes where past pilgrims had mounted their experiences for the benefit of fresher like me.
I was now getting ready to leave. I was learning to detach! I was equally excited! More so since the group was being led by Sadguru himself. This was a rare privilege.
I did not know where to get my trekking equipment from. I called up the Isha Foundation and asked for help. Swami Nakshatra identified the right Mall in Noida from where I could get all the trekking as one stop-shop.
I have never shopped like this as I did this time. I splurged. For me it’s a divine exploration! I was heading towards a revered destination.
I then had to pass a medical test to be declared fit. I blew into several balloons for Lung and vital tests. The doctor said I was in excellent shape!
Ha Ha. I passed it with Fist Division at the age of 65!
On Aug 6th, I was on the flight to Kathmandu to join the group. Sadhguru was on the same flight with few other Isha meditators co-passengers from around the world.
I was truly privileged. Before switching off my black berry I mailed and tweeted a photo of the big trekking shoes I was wearing as evidence to my family and 3 million friends on social network as evidence of my departure! (I was already a child at heart) saying you cannot say ‘new pinch’ as theses are really hard!
On the evening of our arrival in Kathmandu, we were blessed by Sadhguru.
He tied a thread of protection on the wrist of each one of us and gave us an introduction of the pilgrimage. Few of the team members were repeaters! Truly dedicated to the experience and hungry for more I presume!
We were briefed to follow instructions as Sadguru emphasized.
He said when on high altitude it’s more the attitude! And we need to be in right frames on both counts. (Mind and body)
Our trek route planned was Simikot to Darapani, to Kermi to Yalbang to Timkot. ( All in Nepal)
We entered China from Hilsa through the Friendship Bridge. (sorry not so friendly though as we had serious issues concerning our overseas pilgrims. Sadhguru had to seek the intervention of our Prime Minister, who was so gracious to connect with us).
We drove by road, with our group split, (half of them left behind, who joined us after a loss of 6 days) to Mansarover through Tibet.
From Mansarover Lake we drove a few Kilometers by road, thereafter a solid long trek to Mt Kailash of 34 Km covered within 24 hrs. Going and coming.
The first phase of our trek was treacherous! Somewhere a steep uphill and at other places a steep decline. All on rocks or loose pebbles. We used to trek almost 7-to 8 hours a day, with short breather breaks, before we could reach our halting night camps, all preferably by the side of running rivers.
The trek paths were breath taking.
But we were more focused on every step we were taking on the rocks. The lesson was: watch every step that you take! Even one step missed may be enough for a sprain or a fall!
Also as the altitude was rising we had to ensure we do not suffer from breathlessness or dehydration. We carried oxygen supplements. Few needed it. We also maintained silence to save our breath!
We used our walking sticks as legs to keep the balance. Some also held the hand of ‘bahadurs’ who were so sturdy and light footed. They were carrying our back- packs which had our rain wear, umbrellas, water and some eating stuff to munch and share on the way.
We would camp for the night in light tents. And sleep in our sleeping bags with aching feet, knees and legs. With no warm water to bathe, on the top of it the nights were freezing. And toilets a bit away. At night if one had to ease, it had to be under the stars and the moonlight with small head lamps on our foreheads. It was a unique experience. We were children again.
We of course had the luxury of hot food, as cooks and provisions were part of entourage! Thanks to donkeys and mares carrying our provisions.
With an overnight six hours sleep we were all always ready for the next day! It was an unbelievable discovery or recovery for many of us – non-Trekkers!
Just few mugs of water were so precious for brushing, washing and cleaning. Tissue paper, swipes and the disinfectants were our hygiene. No question of any hot water bath still. The courageous would go for cold water bath in the running streams wherever possible.
But we all meditated by the riversides. All Yoga trained! Hath Yoga emitting sounds of the birds as part of their learning.
We heard Sadhguru’s precious words of wisdom in the evenings, followed by questions and answers too.
I was a baby amongst them in such learning despite having done my Inner Engineering Course.
The trekking route we took will soon vanish as the Chinese are building roads all over. We walked over recently blasted rocks and soft tracks being prepared for driveways. Soon these will become motorable and lost for trekking. I am not sure whether this is to feel sad or happy! But we captured the route and the trek on camera for posterity. My Blackberry and the iPad became handy cameras to capture the terrain.
After six days of trek and few days of drive over tricky terrain somewhere very risky and at places smooth, we reached Mansarover Lake.
Highest lake on earth. And there were could see the majestic Mt. Kailash!
It left us all mesmerized!
Many burst out in tears!
We camped at the Lake. Dipped in its cold waters, prayed and thanked the spiritual souls believed to be part of nature around; we left for the trek to Mt Kailash!
We trekked for 17 KM almost nonstop for7-8 hrs. Most part of the trek Mt Kailash was with us in its spiritual splendor.
Sadhguru calls Mt Kailash the spiritual library of universe.
We drove back all through Tibet– and flew out of Lhasa, all through a nature gifted region getting modernized. Few years from now it will be a different place!
Lessons learnt on the pilgrimage:
- To value all one has, pilgrimage combined with treks is the best self learning!
- To dive inside oneself, such pilgrimages make it happen!
- To build teams such pilgrimages naturally happen.
- To stay fit, mind body soul such pilgrimages test oneself out. It’s yoga at work!
- To stay human, such pilgrimages sensitive! One realizes the value of everything nature offers!
- To love nature and feel the divine such pilgrimages inculcate the spirit for life!
- Trekking into the lap of nature teaches mortality and interdependence!
- No amount of book reading or listening teaches all this. It’s the doing which instills.
- Best education for character building – nation building!