Monday, September 17, 2012

A once-in-several-lifetimes experience!

The Majestic Mt.Kailash
Just back from a trip to Kailash-Manas Sarovar.  I can do this article in many different ways. It can be a diary recording all that happened in the last fifteen days on a day-to-day basis. It can be photo-essay on the breath-taking landscape,- the brooding mountains, the snow that played peek-a-boo, the temperamental skies, the horizon that refused to stay put behind the artist’s canvas. But neither will capture and convey what this journey meant to me or how it transformed my life. So I will seek the coward’s way out and jut bullet my top-of-the-mind thoughts, randomly, faithfully and ruthlessly.
·         I had just immersed my father’s ashes in Paschim Vahini and come back home when I saw Joydeep’s post on FB about the trip. Something stirred in my brain. I signed up.  Strange because a trip of this kind was nowhere on my radar ever.

Joydeep and Me

·         Once I signed it seemed just the right thing to do. My faith in Joydeep when it comes to travel is such that I did not even do homework on what a trip like this entailed before saying yes. 

·         As I read the literature the organizers (Banjara) had sent us, one thing became very clear. This trip would challenge me in more ways than one. Not just physically as it was a hardy terrain but in terms of basics. I’m a creature of comfort and my idea of a holiday is one long perennial self- indulgence. This trip meant that I had to sleep in a dorm, pee and crap out in the open and do without water for cleaning up. Shudder! Shudder!!!

·         Even as I read some of the blogs, spoke to people who had gone on this trip before, the sheer magic of the place took over. I told myself that the prima donna me cannot go on this trip. I have to be left behind.

·         The me who would go on this trip was a ‘sponge’ who would simply soak up every single moment of the trip as ‘magical experience’. So the trip did not start when we left for Kathmandu. For me it started two months prior, on the day I signed up.

·         From that moment on, I looked at the world with wonder. Shopping for gear? My god, Decathlon! Just walking through the aisles of the massive store in Bangalore, looking at the sports-wise display of products, smelling the danger, sensing the adventure, blowing a big gaping hole in my pocket, proudly checking out if the hiking shoes were water repellent (they actually made me step into water!) and if they had a good grip (they made me try different surfaces!), I was like a child on its first Disney trip!

Swati, Me and Kavita
·         So sponge I remained. Six to a room? How wonderful to have company. Please if I snore, wake me up! Stinky loo? Let’s get a nose job after the trip! Crap in the open? Sure, first find space between two cars, wait till the pressure builds up, run, squat, poop in one pile and gleefully dab hand sanitiser! No shower? No problem, take half a mug of lukewarm water, dip a hand towel and wipe yourself down! Only time I freaked was in Paryang when Kavita said there were bed bugs! I was determined to enjoy every single experience, so much so Swati said at the end of the trip that she found it very hard to believe that not only did I never once complain, I didn’t frown even!

The Sexy Bandana that Kavita gave
Suited-Booted the Manas Sarovar way!
  •       What were life savers during the trip? Wet wipes(they occupy a shrine-like place in my designer bathroom at home now, toilet rolls are out on their ears !), trekking poles, hand sanitizers, head lamps,   quick dry towels, blister socks, hiking boots, those sexy bandannas which Kavita gifted everyone (which not only covered your ears, they also formed a halo around your head),  water bottles, frost,  chap sticks (buy flavoured ones, they do the job and keep you smelling good too), deo,  thermals,  a 70+ sun screen, and a button-down rain jacket. You can even go to the Everest base camp armed with these!
·         On the way back we all had our ‘what do I want most right now’ list. Someone wanted hot shower; another, a kickass drink; a third wanted clean sheets to sleep on. I said I want water to clean my bum.

·         I now must be an evolved species as one of the nights I had woken up with a blistering nightmare that I had run out of wet wipes!.

·         Post script : As I took a dip in Manas Sarovar, and gazed at Mount Kailash draped in snow,  looking majestic and  mysterious, I did not feel insignificant or vulnerable or humbled. I felt strong and proud and special that the mountains saw it fit to take me on a conducted tour of their world. 

Photo Courtesy:  Joydeep Chakrabarty, for more pictures check out my Facebook page.