ROAD TRIP TO KAILASHA MANASAROVARA VIA NEPAL AND CHINA FROM INDIA

ROAD TRIP TO KAILASHA MANASAROVARA VIA NEPAL AND CHINA FROM INDIA

This blog is my account of the road trip across Nepal and China as I embarked upon the Hindu pilgrimage Kailasha Manasarovara Yatra from India. The road trip has been my best so far. It looks like the landscape of Ladakh and yet it is so much different. My trip was organized by Road Tripping experts Scout My Trip. During my journey, I also sampled amazing home-made sattvic vegetarian (no onion, no garlic) and vegan food catered by Madhuban Foods. I was accompanied by some amazing fun people like Mr Sumit from Madhuban Foods, Swati Jain a fellow travel blogger, Akbar ji and Sunny ji. Not only did we have a blast but we also had deep spiritual experiences. Please read to know about this once in a lifetime journey.

Local Tibetan bike Kailasha Mansarovar Parikrama China Tibet

A local Tibetan we met during our lunch break from Saga to Kyirong. The bikes and the costumes in Tibet autonomous region can make you look like a rockstar. Almost! Kailash Mansarovar Yatra, China

THE BEST ROAD TRIP OF MY LIFE?

This was my best road trip ever. In 2017, I did an epic 12 day long road trip to Ladakh in India with road tripping geniuses at Scout My Trip. It was also the Highest Bloggers Meet ever and I had been given a certificate by India Book Of Records. In 2018, I traveled again with Scout My Trip on another road trip which is beyond epic. It was literally ‘God Sent’.

Child Taklakot Purang Burang China Tibet

A kid I saw in Taklakot aka Purang. He is sitting on an equally cool bike as shown above. Kailash Mansarovar Yatra, China

Though I am an atheist, but I see this trip as a blessing of Lord Shiva, the Hindu God! I had never dreamed on embarking upon Kailasha Manasarovara Trek. It was lack of knowledge than lack of will.

Deraphuk Kailasha Mansarovar Parikrama China Tibet (3)

This was shot as we approached Zuthulphuk. Kailash Mansarovar Yatra, China

The ambitious Kailasha Manasarovara Yatra or Trek is indeed my best journey so far! The place had the power to make me cry. The yatra chose me and not vice the versa.

Mansarovar lake Saga China Tibet

This picture received a lot on attention on my Instagram. I vouch the real thing was even better. You can see Mansarovara Lake from here. This route goes to Chiu Gompa Monastery. The white man was walking upwards in backward steps. Kailash Mansarovar Yatra, China

When the trip came my way, I had little idea about what it is all about? It was another exciting high altitude trek for me. I had done treks like Everest Base Camp Trek and Roopkund Trek before. I treated this as another trek. Things changed once I was on it. It is a yatra, a journey within and not a trek, I realized.

Deraphuk Kailasha Mansarovar Parikrama China Tibet

The ethereal Mount Kailasha peeps briefly from its fortress. Kailash Mansarovar Yatra, China

My journey was as much as about the places, people, food as it was about healthy and nutritious Sattvic food for the yatris aka pilgrims. Madhuban Foods has done a great job by providing healthy and home-made food to yatris 2018 onwards. I will talk more about them in an upcoming blog. Here is a quick recap and itinerary of my entire road trip to Kailasha Mansarovara Yatra via Nepal and China from India.

Kailasha Mansarovar Parikrama China Tibet (4)

This is not a mountain. This is temple, the seat of lord Shiva.I don’t know why I cried for half an hour while (and after) meditating here on the second day. It was overwhelming! Kailash Mansarovar Yatra, China

ARRIVAL IN ONE OF MY FAVOURITE CITIES KATHMANDU, NEPAL:

We arrived in Kathmandu in Nepal via Delhi (India) and stayed near Thamel, my favourite backpackers haven where I stayed alone for days on end after Everest Base Camp Trek. I left when I realized I was nearing bankruptcy and turning into a Nepali. I relived those times again by aimlessly waking in the lanes. I made the short stay meaningful by paying an evening visit to the much revered Hindu temple Pashupati Nath temple in the heart of Kathmandu. The evening and morning aarti at the temple is not to be missed. It is spiritual and atmospheric.

Local women Village of Nepal

Aren’t Nepali people gorgeous? She can give any model run for her money. But she lives peacefully amidst mountains of Nepal. Our car needed some urgent repair and we stopped at her shop and listened to her stories. Kailash Mansarovar Yatra, China

THE SCENIC ROAD TRIP FROM KATHMANDU, NEPAL TO CHINA:

It was my toughest road journey so far. No it was not because of the high altitude or dangerous path but only because most roads in Nepal (as on 2018) are in bad shape. The potholes are so bad that you might mistake it for a vestige left behind by a careless alien spacecraft. We held tight to our intestines and wit and prayed for quick entry to China. But that was not to happen.

Monastery Mansarovar lake Saga China Tibet

Chiu Gompa Monastery at Mansarovar. Kailash Mansarovar Yatra, China

The gates to China get closed before sundown which was a blessing in disguise because we got to spend some time in the charming Syabru bensi which is the last village in Nepal when you enter China. Syabru bensi is a very small village with few monasteries, stupas and the violent Bhote Koshi river. We were delighted to spend a night here and wasted no time in exploring it as much as we could. Tomorrow is China.

Grang Village Valley Nepal

This breathtaking view was near Grang, Nepal on the approach road to China.

OUR ENTRY TO KYIRONG, THE BORDER TOWN IN CHINA VIA NEPAL:

We walked all the way from a small guest house to the China border on a mud path filled with muck and landslide debris with all our backpacks. The rates to carry the same by porters were ridiculously high and we protested. Once we completed the formalities and entered China, we discovered a different world altogether. The bad roads gave way to baby bottom smooth tar, Nepalese language gave way to Mandarin and Tibetan and familiarity gave way to novelty.

Nepal China Border

The bridge is a no man’s land. The building is beginning of China and Mandarin. Kailash Mansarovar Yatra, China

I arrived at KYIRONG at 9 p.m. The sun was just setting! Yes, you read it right! Due to a uniform time zone in China, at most places in Tibet Autonomous Region in China the sun sets at 9 p.m. It was amusing and took some time for me to adjust. Just as I was worried for my next meal, we were served some comforting homemade Indian food in Kyirong. It is a small but a very quirky and charming little town which we explored for 2-3 days although it hardly takes 3-4 hours to explore the entire town.

Kyirong Gyirong China Tibet Madhuban Foods

Balmukund ji serving guests food at the Kyirong outlet of Madhuban Foods. Kailash Mansarovar Yatra, China

The large kitchen and dining area of Madhuban Foods made sure that we get our supply of healthy and nutritious Indian vegetarian food outside of India as well. But what we didn’t expect was that we will get delicious regional food as well such as the Gujarati kadhi,daal khichdi, thepla, dhokla or the Maharashtrian thecha. It was so heartening to know that Madhuban Foods cooks food as per the region and food habits of the pilgrims.

 

 

Kyirong Gyirong China Tibet Madhuban Foods (2)

Me (Extreme left) posing with a fun Gujrati gang. They threatened to break into a ‘Chogada Tara, Rangeelo Tara’ and ‘Bhai Bhai’ garba jig. I restrained. However, this ground in Kyirong, China actually turns out into a garba ground every night. The locals dance in a curious fashion, the steps of which are so identical to garba in Gujarat. In front of Pakba Monastry. Kailash Mansarovar Yatra, China

So if a group comes from South India, rest assured, they will get their rasam fill. If you regularly read my blog, you will know that I love West India the most. Needless to say, I love food from West India as well. So I was super excited to be able to eat that in China. And did I say, Rajasthani sweet ghevar and samosa was on the menu too?

Saga China Tibet

A local family in Saga. Kailash Mansarovar Yatra, China

KYIRONG TO SAGA IN TIBETAN AUTONOMOUS REGION- A ROAD TRIP SAGA LIKE NO OTHER.

Just when we thought bad roads are over, we drove on some rough patches on this route. Luckily the road construction was going on when we visited and things should improve soon. This was when we entered the high altitude zone for the first time. Navigating the beautiful landscape, we came across many breath taking sights which seemed identical to Ladakh in India. It looked exactly the same. Just as we reached Saga, it was dusk and there was a time when we literally drove over the mighty Brahmaputra river. Yes, you read that right!

Saga China Tibet Madhuban Foods

Akbar ji, Sunny ji and Swati enjoying a hearty Indian vegetarian meal at the Saga outlet of Madhuban Foods. Yes, that is Kadhi and khichdi! Yes, Saga is in China. Kailash Mansarovar Yatra.

We arrived late in Saga. It is really a very small town. Ours was one of the big luxury hotels in the town which could be seen in its entirety within few hours. Saga is where AMS aka Acute Mountain Sickness hits most people. Luckily, I was spared. There is really nothing much to see here, still Saga was very interesting to me since it served as a good kaleidoscope of Tibetan and Chinese culture.

Saga China Tibet (2)

What a cool ride. Saga. Kailash Mansarovar Yatra, China

We entered the cafeteria of Madhuban Foods which was right opposite the hotel and comforted ourselves with hot water and soup of course followed up by desi khar ka khana (Home made Indian food). Just what we badly needed at that altitude in an alien country!

Saga China Tibet (3)

Saga as seen from my hotel. Kailash Mansarovar Yatra, China

ROAD TRIP FROM SAGA TO MANASAROVARA

The road trip from Saga to Manasarovara didn’t really start on a perfect note. We waited for an hour on the road for a fresh landslide to get cleared. I personally was OK with it because the views were amazing. A snow capped mountain range beyond the lush meadows kept us mesmerized. Our Tibetan driver Tashi regaled us by singing Hindi songs (Jaadu teri najar-Dar, Chahun main ya na- Aashiqui 2).

Rain monsoon Nepal

Father and son. I clicked this somewhere in Nepal while returning. Kailash Mansarovar Yatra, China

 

Manasarovar was end of luxury and beginning of spirituality. The Manasarovar lake is visually stunning. This is also where I got my first darshan (view) of Mount Kailasha wrapped in mist. I chickened out when Mr. Sumit, founder of Madhuban Foods asked me to take a holy dip in the Manasarovar lake. I finally took the plunge and took the dip. It was a surreal experience. I will write in detail about it in another blog.

Ruddy Shelduck Brahminy duck Saga China Tibet

Brahminy duck aka Ruddy Shelduck as seen on Mansarovar lake. I have seen this duck in Pangong lake in Ladakh (India) and also in Ranthambore National Park (India). Kailash Mansarovar Yatra, China

I also hiked upto the ancient Chiu Gompa Monastery on a hillock. The views of Manasarovara lake from here were jaw dropping. So were the sunsets.

MANASAROVARA TO TAKLAKOT- SHORT AND SWEET ROAD JOURNEY

The journey from Manasarovara to Taklakot aka Purang was the shortest. We stopped at the infamous Rakshasa taal. (meaning devil’s lake). It is considered inauspicious by Hindus but was equally breathtaking and a visual stunner.

Taklakot Purang Burang China Tibet

Hit the road Jack and don’t come back! In Taklakot aka Burang aka Purang. Kailash Mansarovar Yatra, China

Taklakot or Purang is another border town close to Simikot Nepal. We were happy to find luxury again after roughing it out in Manasarovara for days. It is a proper town with all basic modern facilities and mysterious monasteries. It is an army area so photography and general buffoonery is not allowed in many areas.  I self monitored mostly on buffoonery.

Taklakot Purang Burang China Tibet Yak

Swati in Taklakot. Kailash Mansarovar Yatra, China

Though it is very small but Taklakot also has many shops and restaurants. You can even buy SD cards here. You will also see many Nepalese on the road owing to its proximity to Nepal.

Taklakot Purang Burang China Tibet (2)

This was right opposite our hotel in Taklakot aka Purang. Kailash Mansarovar Yatra, China

This was also the place where we sampled the vegan food at one of the international vegan cafes of Madhuban Foods.

Though it is very small but Taklakot also has many shops and restaurants. You can even buy SD cards here. You will also see many Nepalese on the road owing to its proximity to Nepal. This was also the place where we sampled the vegan food at one of the international vegan cafes of Madhuban Foods.

Vegan coffee Madhuban Foods

This amazing soya based coffee contains no milk. We sampled it at the vegan cafe of Madhuban Foods in Taklakot aka Purang. Kailash Mansarovar Yatra, China

Their other outlets are in Shirdi (India) and London (United Kingdom). The food was brilliant here be it the kidney beans burgers or the soya milk coffee. More on that later.

TAKLAKOT TO DARCHEN – BRING ON THE RAKSHASA TAAL

We went via Rakshas lake and Manasarovara lake and made a pit stop again at both the places because you can never have enough of them. This journey was also quick. As soon as we arrived at Darchen, we dropped our bags at a luxury hotel and embarked upon the parikrama on the same day. Darchen is a very interesting place. We could see Mount Kailash from the corridor of the hotel. Darchen has a monastery which is accessed by taking a flight of rough steps.

Darchen Kailasha Mansarovar Parikrama China Tibet (2)

Darchen is where Kailash Mansarovar Parikrama begins. China

I could not visit the same due to paucity of time. You can also find lot of old battered homes in Darchen along with modern construction juxtaposed to each other. Not surprisingly there are lots of restaurants here including a vegetarian Tibetan restaurant. There are also lot of shops which sell trekking gears which is great for any last minute shopping. The hoards of souvenir peddlers can be overwhelming but souvenirs are cool and cheap, so can be picked.

Darchen Kailasha Mansarovar Parikrama China Tibet (3)

A chef in the Darchen kitchen of MAdhuban foods. Yes, he’s frying pakoda (fritters). Kailash Mansarovar Yatra, China

DARCHEN TO DERAPHUK – THE BIG PARIKRAMA DAY!

It was late afternoon when we arrived at Yam Dwar. We circumblated around Yam Dwar and then passed it. We were asked not to look at the Yam Dwar again as it is considered inauspicious. We had still not seen Mount Kailasha even after walking for some hours. And then suddenly it appeared and left us with goosebumps. It was like meeting the God.

Kailasha Mansarovar Parikrama China Tibet (3)

My first view of Mount Kailasha. Kailash Mansarovar Yatra, China

The trek ended at Deraphuk. It was again end of luxury but zenith of spirituality. I had many amazing experiences at this place which I will write about in detail in another blog. From here we saw the North face of Mount Kailasha which was overwhelming and emotional.

Kailasha Mansarovar Parikrama China Tibet

Some pilgrims perform the parikrama by lying down and walking few steps on repeat mode It takes months. Sumit ji called them ‘Gods’ Kailash Mansarovar Yatra, China

The Deraphuk kitchen of Madhuban Foods was the most difficult to work in. Not only was the climate volatile but the lack of resources made it even difficult for the staff. That said, the team worked diligently and succeeded in providing healthy vegetarian food at such altitude.

Kailasha Mansarovar Parikrama China Tibet Madhuban Foods

Mr. Sumit is the owner of Madhuban Foods and Mr Prakash from Nepal who run Kailash expeditions. Location: Deraphuk. Kailash Mansarovar Yatra, China

And as I observed, they even catered to the special dietary requirements of some pilgrims. As one of them said, “We love working here. We have the best views and blessing of Lord Shiva.” The North face of majestic Mount Kailasha was right opposite the Deraphuk kitchen.

Kailasha Mansarovar Parikrama China Tibet (2)

Swati, Akbarji and Sumit ji sweating it out on Kailash Mansarovar Yatra, China

DERAPHUK TO DARCHEN – ANOTHER LONG PARIKRAMA DAY!

Deraphuk to Darchen is a long route. It starts with a steep unending climb of God alone knows how many kilometers. It passes through breathtaking vistas. The most beautiful place on this day was Gauri Kund.

Kailasha Mansarovar Parikrama China Tibet Rocky and Mayur Highway on my plate

I loved meeting Mayur of the Rocky and Mayur fame in Deraphuk. His TV show called Highway On My Plate was an instant hit. The show was about food across India. Mayur loved the work MAdhuban Foods is doing and he even spoke about it. I will share the video soon. Kailash Mansarovar Yatra, China

It is said that Lord Ganesha was born here. It is located just near Dolma La pass. Mount Kailasha showed up at some places during the trek.

Gauri Kund Kailasha Mansarovar Parikrama China Tibet

Me at Gauri Kund. This was near Dolmala pass. Kailash Mansarovar Yatra, China Pic: Swati Jain

From here it is a downhill trek which is easier but still daunting because it really is a very long trek. We stopped en route at the remote Zuthulphuk to have tea, fresh pakodas (fritters)and sewai at the kitchen of Madhuban Foods.

Zuthulphuk Deraphuk Kailasha Mansarovar Parikrama China Tibet

Zuthulphuk was almost deserted. Kailash Mansarovar Yatra, China

Some of the pilgrims stay overnight at Zuthulphuk. We decided not to stay at Zuthulphuk and proceeded to Darchen on the same day.

Rainbow Deraphuk Kailasha Mansarovar Parikrama China Tibet

The amazing double rainbow at Deraphuk. It was a magical day. This was our guest house. More magic happened on this day about which I will talk in details later. Subscribe to my blog if you want to be updated. Kailash Mansarovar Yatra, China

THE RETURN JOURNEY FROM CHINA TO INDIA VIA NEPAL:

As soon as we finished the parikrama successfully, we stayed overnight at darchen and then it was daily traveling of unending hours. Darchen to Saga was followed up by long 16 hours long bus ride from Saga to Kyirong. Due to landslides, the original shorter route was closed, hence we had to take long route.

Dolma pass Deraphuk Kailasha Mansarovar Parikrama China Tibet

Dolmala Pass. Kailash Mansarovar Yatra, China

We were unhappy about it initially but once the bus ride started, our jaws dropped with the unending beauty. We literally drove over rivers, passed large groups of wild asses, looked curiously at villages where no one seemed to be living.

Deraphuk Kailasha Mansarovar Parikrama China Tibet (2)

The Deraphuk team of Madhuban Foods. Kailash Mansarovar Yatra, China

We also stopped at a place from where you can view Mount Everest. The entire day was surreal. I joked after the trip, “We must have seen 1 lakh yaks by now!”

We thanked Gods for the landslides or else we would have missed this once in a lifetime road trip.

China Nepal border bridge Kailasha Mansarovar Parikrama China Tibet

Sunny ji and Akbar ji sending out SOS calls as we were locked and deserted on this no man’s land between China and Nepal for a long time. Swati is looking for lizards for lunch. Kailash Mansarovar Yatra, China

STRANDED ON A BRIDGE, SEDUCED BY ANOTHER LANDSLIDE:

During our return, we were a bit late in leaving China. It was lunch time and we were stranded on a bridge between China and Nepal. We belonged to no country. No law could prosecute us. I was tempted to do a murder or two.

Landslide Nepal (2)

These Nepali women came running to us and stopped us from moving forward. A blast was about to happen to clear landslide. Kailash Mansarovar Yatra, China

We stayed there, frustrated and anxious for more than an hour when the lunch time got over and we ran towards Nepal. Luckily, packed Indian vegetarian snacks from Madhuban Foods kept us nourished.

Landslide Nepal (3)

After waiting for blast, we climbed up on a loose track to arrive at the other side of landslide. I love to sweat! This was in Nepal. Kailash Mansarovar Yatra, China

But that didn’t mean end of adventures for us. Just when we thought the world is utopian again, Murphy’s law raised its ugly head. So, we were stopped in the middle of a mountainous region. We were told no vehicles can pass due to an explosion planned to clear the landslide. We waited again for an hour, maybe more. As advised by a local, we even hid under a truck to save ourselves from the anticipated falling rocks. The horrified driver discovered us under his truck and asked us to leave. The explosion happened in a jiffy.

Landslide Nepal

No we were not allowed to walk on this debris in Nepal, a result of blast made to clear landslide. Kailash Mansarovar Yatra, China

As we walked upto the explosion site, we realized it will take eternity to clean the debris. We hiked up a really narrow path, sweated and prayed that the drizzle remained a drizzle and not a downpour and that the loose soil beneath our feet and above our head stays. After all, it was a landslide prone area. As soon as we found another vehicle (waiting for us) on the other side, we rushed towards it like a thirsty deer rushes at mirage. It was not the end though.

Kyirong Gyirong China Tibet

Kyirong in China. It had just rained. Kailash Mansarovar Yatra, China

All was fine till we reached outskirts of Kathmandu. We were stuck in an awful 2 hours long traffic jam and it had turned dark now. I had given up by now. We arrived at 11 pm finally. I had a long shower, ate and dozed off. The next day, we laughed it off. It was my most exciting adventure. Just the way I like it.

The view from my #SoulWindow could not have been any better!

Click the below image to check out my instagram posts from the trip. Pls Follow #GreatIndianFoodTrip #LetsGoSattvic #MansarovarYatra #TravelPals #ASoulWindow on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook to discover more posts which I have not shared on the blog.

View this post on Instagram

I cried. Few minutes after meditating in front of holy Mount Kailash, I cried like a kid for half an hour in solitude.. Near the river. I don't know why. (I was told that I was mysteriously absent for half an hour, so I know the timing lol) In my 10 years of travel, no other place (except Mumbai of course) had the power of turning me to tears. They say Kailash Parikrama is akin to rebirth. I will find out. Meanwhile I am still an atheist since last 11 years. But something major happened in this trip which shook my belief again. This journey has also changed the way I perceive Hinduism, the magic that it is. I will tell more about that in detail in my blog asoulwindow.com The view from my #SoulWindow is perhaps life changing. Pic by @buoyantfeet With @scoutmytrip Madhuban Foods and Travel Pals #GreatIndianFoodTrip #LetsGoSattvic #MansarovarYatra #TravelPals #China #DiscoverIndia #IncredibleIndia #India #Backpacking #Travel #Travelgram #Tourist #IGTravel #Traveler #Holidays #Traveling #Travelling #Travelingram #Travelogue #TravelPhotography #InstaTravel #TravelBlogger #TravelBlog #TravelPics #TravelPorn #Tibet #MansarovaraLake #helloworrldd #ContestWithJaunting

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Darchen Kailasha Mansarovar Parikrama China Tibet

Early morning in Darchen ‘b lyk this’. Kailash Mansarovar Yatra, China

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Mansarovar lake Saga China Tibet Madhuban Foods

The Taklakot aka Purang kitchen team of Madhuban Foods. Kailash Mansarovar Yatra, China

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