After you have got a call, what about the items required for the Yatra. Where can you buy it? I have seen many parts of India, and sadly I am yet to come across a place in India where one can buy all of them, and also at a nominal price. I think in India there is no such market available for KMS Yatra items. Not in Delhi and not in Bangalore at least. Because these are not the base camp places for high altitude trekking. So you end up buying wrong things at wrong places at wrong prices.
The holy Om Parvat
Is the 3-6 weeks time sufficient to make preparations to start the journey? Look here. People from all parts of India do this Yatra. They all must come to New Delhi. So in the 3-6 weeks that you have, try to book a train ticket to New Delhi. I bet, you may not even get waiting-list ticket. And try for an Air Ticket. You may have to travel in business class only. And what about return ticket? How can you? It is only a call for selection test. So how can you book the return ticket? So both ways you loose precious money and mental peace over ticket price.
We could see the Om Pravat from here
Let us proceed further. So somehow you will reach Delhi. Let us see the eligibility process and expenditure involved now.
Are you eligible?
As said earlier, the selection was only to appear for the medical eligibility test. Only if you pass the medical test, then you are allowed to undertake the Yatra. The medical test is conducted by ITBP Doctors at New Delhi. Every one must pass in that test. Remember, even if you are a doctor, or even if you produce any Doctor’s certificate from your hometown, it is of no use. You must pass the ITBP Medical test at New Delhi. And if you fail in the test, then in that year you are not eligible to appear for the test again. Better try next year. So all countrymen must come to the Capital to undergo this test.
Expenses and medical test etc:
You will have to shell out Rs 5000 non-refundable deposit to KMVN. Also shell out another 3100 for medical test. And if further medical test is required (depending on your medical fitness), you have to loose another Rs 2500. And if you fail in the medical test, you loose all this, plus your to-and-fro Delhi ticket charges. What about the leave and preparations that you have already done?
Let me take a different case. Supposing a couple want to do the Yatra. If one of them fails in the medical test, then in general, both will quit. It has happened many a times. So here also you loose a lot.
Starting point of the 1st day of the Kailash Parikarma
I must also mention here one more point. Supposing a handicapped person or a person with medium health condition want to do the Yatra. He may wish to do the Mansarovar parikrama only. He might want to see Kailash from Mansarovar, without doing it’s parikrama. Is it possible? No, never.
So let us proceed with the expenditure, after passing all the hurdles. Now you will have to pay another Rs 22000 to KMVN to look after the Indian part of your journey. You must also pay US$ 700 towards visa and other expenses for the Chinese side of the Yatra.
Expenditure on adequate equipment, clothing, food items on China side, porters, baggage, ponies and other items required for the Yatra are also extra. You might ask me, whether these expenses are not there thru Pvt route? Well, many of the items are not there in Pvt route, or even if it is there, it is very less compared to Govt route.
So the overall cost comes to around Rs 65000 + horse/porter charges, from Delhi to Delhi. These horse, porter charges etc are pretty high compared to Pvt route. Also one must consider the 30-day Yatra period against 15 day Yatra from Pvt route.
Let us start the Yatra:
Now you start the Yatra. How many people can finally get selected and undertake the Yatra? Good and easy question but difficult to answer. Theoretically and practically 944 yatris (60 – 1 Liaison Officer x 16 group = 944) can do the Yatra, but in practice only around 500 – 600 yatris do the Yatra in a year. Rest of the seats goes unclaimed because of the lacunae in the selection process.
What about the number of days of the Yatra? Oh! It is 30 days to be precise. For a working person, or for a businessman, it is extremely difficult to spare 30 days at a stretch. And some businessmen cannot spare time during beginning of the month, some at the end of the month and so on. And many young ladies might have their own difficulties for the 30 days period.
And what about the age? Only 18 to 70 are allowed. Even if you are physically fit, if you do not fall into this age group, you are out.
When you start the Yatra, who will lead you? Well, there will be a liaison Officer taken from any govt department. He will be your leader for the entire duration of the Yatra. Few KMVN and ITBP staff also will accompany you, till the Indo China border. This is not a Minus point, but just for your information.
Full moon days and the rush:
As I said earlier, there will be 16 batches, a batch for every week during the four months of the Yatra period. The KMS looks splendid during full moon day. Many people want to see and enjoy the same. But as there are only four full moon days in a season, only 25% of the yatris can make it.
There is one more point. During full moon day, there will be heavy rush at KMS. And life will be difficult, because of the rush. The ponies, horses, porters etc are difficult to get, and even if you get them, the charges will be against supply-and-demand. So many elderly people want to avoid these days. But if you happen to be in those batches, life becomes miserable. Also generally people avoid no moon (amavasya) days. But unfortunately 25% of the yatris have to under go this phase.
The journey continues:
You have started the Yatra from New Delhi. Once you reach Darchula, you must ensure that all the items required for the Yatra is in place. And many of the items must be in duplicate, I mean, it is not the papers, but the physical items like shoe, cloth, bag etc. There is nothing available once you leave Darchula and start the trek. Hence the need to carry everything in duplicate, or say backup. This increases the baggage, cost and trouble.
The trek from Darchula to Gunji is like Labour-pain. Even though it is tough, it is most welcome and enjoyable. The trail passes through superbly scenic countryside. The trees are changing as the altitude increases.
Gunji, the deviation for Adi Kailash:
But once you reach Gunji, you take a brake again for another medical test, acclimatization etc. There are instances wherein people have failed in this medical test. If so, they have to return empty handed. They will also loose all the money paid to the authorities, including the visa fee. It is sad that at least the visa fee cannot be refunded or adjusted for next year.
I must mention here two more points. We take a deviation at Gunji to go to Adi Kailash. It is a 2+2 day trek from here. And is one of the most wonderful treks I have done so far.
There is an SBI Extension Counter at Gunji. It works only during KMS Yatra period. One must really appreciate the service of the bank in operating in such harsh conditions.
SBI Branch at Gunji
After the formalities at Gunji are over, the trek resumes from Gunji to Lipulek pass, thru Om Parvat. This is one spot, which cannot be missed at all. After that soon you will be in Chinese territory.
Making a phone call:
What about phone connectivity in the Indian side so far? While there are no mobile signals, the satellite phone does not exist in most of the places. And wherever it is there, it is too costly. It is not only costly for the yatris, but also for ITBP/KMVN staff and the localities.
KMVN Camp near Adi Kailash
Over to China:
Now that you have crossed the border, let us see the Chinese territory. Is there any difference between this part of KMS Yatra from Govt route and private route? Terrain and journey wise, there is not much difference. In Govt route you go from Lipulek pass to Mansarovar from west side and there after finish the Yatra. In private route, you go to Mansarovar from east side and finish the Yatra.
But there are lots of other differences. Once you are in Chinese side, the hospitality of KMVN and ITBP ends. So now you have to carry your own groceries. The two Chinese cooks will cook the food for you, but you may have to join with them to help them out. Remember, it is not that easy job to do, in those high altitude terrains. And that too in the cold water and freezing temperatures.
ITBP Personnel helping yatris crossing a stream
Splitting the Group:
At Chinese side, you reach Taklakot, and take a daybreak. Here the group is split into two parts of 30 people each. MEA says that it is done like this, because lodging facilities on the Kailash parikrama can accommodate only 30 people. However more than 250 people from private route organizers do this parikrama in the same route along with Govt yatris, and all of them get enough accommodation.
Tibetans doing the parikarma on their own style
While one group do the Kailash Parikrama by foot/horse, the other group do the Mansarovar Parikrama by bus. And then they do the other parikrama. And because of this splitting of the group, the Chinese side of the KMS Yatra will take 10 days. Even if the entire group size is less than 30, the Yatra takes 10 days. This is as per the original scheduled plan. So the overall time and cost has gone up unnecessarily.
On the return journey, there are not much extra minus points.
Land slides and the time schedule:
However, there can be landslides in Indian side both during onward as well as return journeys. This is in no body’s hand and cannot be predicted. MEA has left few days for this cushion, but in extreme cases, plans can go haywire in spite of cushion days. And that might upset your return journey from New Delhi to your hometown. This has happened during our AKOP trek.
Read Part - 3 of Kailash Mansarovar Yatra here