Kailash Mansarovar Yatra was a non- existent dream for me. Well, almost ! I never expected myself to be here or so to say this early in my life. You know, I really consider myself to be blessed that I could do this Yatra and that too, at a young age. A journey thousands of people dream of taking and yet couldn’t do it.
The one who saw me doing parikrama around Mt. Kailash, told me that my parents must have done something good in their previous lives, that I could come here. Some said that things will change from here. I will change. And a year to this journey, if I look back- A lot has changed ! But what hasn’t changed is my zeal- To be here. Again ! A look at the photographs still evokes emotions. It is this powerful ! The journey of Mighty Kailash is definately a once in a lifetime experience
But as fascinating and mystical are the stories of this place, reaching here requires a certain amount of preparations. You cannot decide to pick your bags instantly and come for this Yatra. The terrain is challenging and would require everyone to work in advance.
The weather is unpredictable and keeps changing every minute. Landslides are frequent. Also it is a part of China- where there are restrictions on the move. You are expected to follow certain guidelines strictly.
Before embarking on this journey, I knew that it is not going to be easy. I did an extensive research to prepare myself well, as I wanted to avoid any last minute hassle. Instead, I realised that there are certain things which are seldom covered by any portal and therefore the purpose of writing this guide is to share those missed travel tips for Kailash Mansarovar Yatra. It is important to note here that I undertook this Yatra from Nepal
Visa/Permit Information for Entering China: While everyone is required to take permits from China authorities to enter this Tibet Autonomous region but only group permits are inssued here. You would require a minimum of 4 people to get the permit of this area. Seldom do they acknowledge an individual or a couple permit. The permits are issued within 2 weeks though. But please do not try to get into this by yourself as most likely, you will end up not getting your permit.. Hiring an agent for this yatra is a must, who would take care of all the required formalities, including submission for your passport. The same can be collected from Kathmandu, once you reach here or wherever they inform you to collect it.
Hiring of an Agency or Local Guide in China: As I mentioned, please do not try to do this all by yourself. Whether you want it or no, but it will work only through an involvement of an agency. While in this region of China, you would need to pass through numerous checkpoints and it is here you would need your guide’s help – To clear the immigration and see the arrangements locally. Another advantage is communication, as majorly people do not understand English here. We were communicating in sign language, when the guide was not with us 😉
Nutritious Indian Veg Food: This was actually the major concern for me as I didn’t hear good things about the Food, from the people who have been on Kailash previously. I was advised to carry dry fruits and snacks to consume, incase I find food bland to eat. But instead, I was glad to find the healthy Indian Veg Food served on all main stations on Kailash trail. I have written a full fledged blog on this one and you can read it here
Last year a massive collaboration was formed between the three countries (India, Nepal & China) where Madhuban Foods– a Jammu based Food company was signed to serve nutritious Veg Food to the pilgrims at Kailash. The food was prepared in accordance to the dietary needs required at the particular altitude. I was happy to find soups and tea, when I would reach a particular station. Honestly, what is better than getting to eat food, suitable to your taste buds and that’s too in a land where probability of getting Veg Food is minimal
Mobile and Internet Connectivity: Mobile and internet networks aren’t much a problem here except during Parikrama of Mt. Kailash. Almost every hotel will provide you with Wi-Fi. But getting a local SIM, once you enter into China region is tricky. A local name is required to support your documents else it is task getting the same issued. Airtel Prepaid works best on this trail. Infact, someone from our group was joking that he hasn’t managed to get these good signals while in India 😉 So, do check the packages and get it activated before leaving India.
Activating WhatApp, GMAIL and other Social Media Platforms: If you ain’t aware about it, China is not very open about using Whatsapp, Gmail, Facebook or any other such platform within their territory. They would stop working immediately as you would connect your phone to a chinese internet company. But, hold on. There is an alternative to tackle these. Download and activate VPN app on your phone before leaving India. Generally, it comes with a 2 weeks trial period.
Clearing Immigration: I would advise you to remove everything from your phone, post taking a back up as chinese authorities can ask you about anything. Even a camera after a basic size is mot permittable. Seek your guide’s help here. Also, please remember to remove all the pictures of Dalai Lama from your phone. You would be asked to leave from the counter- the moment they will spot any related to Dalai Lama, without any questions
Weather: The terrain here is dry, cold, windy and dusty. Much like Ladakh. Night is colder than the day. Rains and chilly winds are common features. During this period, maximum temperature will be around 22 degree centigrade and minimum temperature is 0 to -10 degree centigrade. So pack accordingly. Also, please be vigilant and keep your forehead covered all the time, no matter how hot you feel. A little headache can cost you your entire journey
Altitude Sickness: You would be staying over an height of 15000 feet majorly and therefore you might experience symptoms of altitude sickness (headache, loss of appetite, nausea, exhaustion, sleeplessness, breathlessness etc.) Your body will take its own time to adjust to the elevation. But make sure that your body acclimatizes properly before moving on to the higher altitudes. You won’t find hospitals and doctors on this route, unless your agent is providing the facility. Keep your self hydrated. Drink plenty of water, be calm, and do not exercise. I did a run though but i was completely acclimatised by that time 😛
Currency: Only Chinese currency, Yuan is accepted here. Exchange are available on USD’s only. Though, I would suggest getting the money exchanged in Kyerong (1st stop after entering China) as the locals offer better rate
Travel Insurance: Generally all insurance companies refrains from providing insurance cover beyond 4000 m. Get it anyway but make sure your plan covers emergency rescue (by air) repatriation and medical expenses above 5000m. You never know where you would need it
Hiring of Porter & Pony: Now here is a catch. During Parikrama hiring of pony or porter is available but the pony will only carry the pilgrim and not ANY luggage. A porter needs to be engaged to carry luggage. Also, please note that the luggage should weigh less than 5 Kgs. Carry only necessary stuff during Parikrama. You would not change your clothes anyway. To hire both, you will have to pay 5000-6000 yuan. Also, the hiring of them is not a part of any package and would need to be booked at the spot. Once booked, pony or porter cannot be cancelled and there will be no refund.
Accommodations & Toilets: Please don’t expect proper accomodations on this route, especially after entering China. There are only limited guest houses and hotels which cater to the tourist outside China. And most of them offer only basic facility. The sites like Mansarovar Deraphuk will provide you with accomodations on sharing basis, which means that you would need to share room with 5 more people, though individual beds are provided. These sites do not have ample stay places. Also, few places don’t have toilets, which means you would need to use open pit pots. Those aren’t clean so be prepared for it
Medical Emergency: Oxygen cylinders are always available with the gudie incase you feel the need of it. However, please be prepared to bourne charges for unforeseen circumstances that might happen. Rescue in China is expensive, so carry enough cash. Also, make sure to keep basic medicines with you always.
Packing: Upon reaching Nepal, you would be provided with duffle bags in which they would ask you to load the entire stuff you want to carry on Yatra. So pack intelligently. Instead of packing thick woolens, I would suggest pack multiple light woolens and thermals as these will protect you against the chilly winds. I wore around 6 layers along with a Down jacket, during the Parikrama and still I could feel the chill. So pack accordingly.
Disclaimer- This Guide was first published in Tripoto. I made marginal change in words here for SEO purpose
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