Once you have a frozen on the tour operator, ask him to inform you at the time of opening of the bookings. Normally for next year KMS Yatra (say for 2012 season), the bookings will open during the end of this year (Sep/Oct 2011) itself. And what is the rate for early booking? Fabulous discounts.Adi Kailash covered with clouds
Let me give you some exact figures. For this year, i.e. for the Yatra to be undertaken during 2011 June to Sept, the bookings were opened during Oct 2010. We booked many seats at 40% discounted rate. The actual fare of this tour operator is Rs 90,000/, ex Katmandu and the 40% discounted price came to Rs 54,000/ only.
It works out like this. They get Chinese visa at a discounted rate if they apply early, and the same benefit is passed on to us; that is what they claim. So during Oct 2010, they give us 40% discount, Nov – 35% discount (Rs 58500), Dec – 30% discount (Rs 63000), Jan – 25% discount (Rs 67500) and so on. All that we have to do is – decide on undertaking the Yatra, and pay the full amount in one go.
Now comes the passport. You need not have to posses a passport at the time of booking. There will be enough time to get the passport done. Once you get the passport ready, the same may be intimated to them.
Now some time during Jan 2011 or so, the tour operator gives you the exact departure dates from Katmandu. It includes both full-moon days, as well as non-peak-rush days. You can decide on any departure date according to your convenience. And there will be a final call during April or so. The chosen date can be changed even at that time also, due to any last minute adjustments. Here you may keep in mind the full moon day and the rush, along with non-availability of porters etc.Yatris singing bhajans in the temple at Kalapani
Look at the advantages. Any number of friends can go together, can be well planned, the seat is confirmed; all the other bookings can be done at your convenience.Is cancellation allowed?
Now let us say, for some reason, you can’t undertake the Yatra, and want to cancel it. Is it allowed, after the payment is over? Normally if you give them an alternate person, they will accept it, and might charge a small amount for the same. And if there is no alternate, then the cancellation charges depend on when you do it.Yatra duration:
What about the Yatra duration? It is just 15 days, ex Katmandu. When I went in 2009, more than 50% of the route in Tibet was asphalted. And this year it might be completely asphalted. Once this is done, I am sure, the Yatra period will come down to 14 or 13 days. This will also reduce the overall cost.Some points on the costing:
Now having done the seat booking, you can start preparing for the Yatra. If money is a constraint and not the time, then you can do the onward and return journey to Katmandu by train and bus. From Bangalore it might take 3 + 3 days, and the total cost of journey may be around Rs 5000 only. And if money is not a problem, an early booking of flight ticket from Bangalore-New Delhi-Katmandu and back will cost around Rs 16000 only. And if you decide this way, then they overall Yatra period from anywhere in India will be only 15 days.
So what is the total cost? It is Rs 54000+ to-and-fro fare from your hometown to Katmandu. In our case, it is Rs 70000 (54000 + 16000), from Bangalore to Bangalore. Other expenses are very less compared to Govt route. The details have been explained in subsequent points.
Before finishing the ticket booking, let us look at the other plus points. Nepal survives on tourism only. So it is a tourist friendly nation. Our currency is accepted everywhere in Nepal. And 1 INR = 1.6 NPR. So the buying power is also more.The Nepal tour, an added bonus and advantage:
There are plenty of places worth a visit at Nepal. Anyway as you will be going to Nepal, you can make use of this opportunity and see places like Muktinath, Pokra, Manokamana, Lumbini etc. All of us have heard of Mt Everest, but have never even dreamt of scaling it. There is a perfect chance of looking at it by taking Everest flight, which will cost around Rs 5000. You know, the journey from your hometown-to-Katmandu-and-back is any way covered in the KMS Yatra.
And as you know, Nepal has a big market for Rudraksh also. We can get any quantity, quality, size, face Rudraksh here at damn cheap rates.
So if you have time and money, then you can visit entire Nepal and come back.About the preparations, and the THAMEL Market:
After the ticketing is done, let us start the preparations. Now comes the question, what are all required for the Yatra and where to buy them? As I said earlier, India does not have a proper market for such items.
There is a big; I mean extremely big market at Thamel, Katmandu. Here you can buy all the items that are required for the KMS Yatra. You can buy many more travel-and-trekking related items here. In Bangalore, we have Decathlon, Wildcraft, Adventure worx etc who deal with trekking goods. But at Thamel, we can get many more items that are not available here, that too at dirt-cheap rates.
Now the question is why should you invest on Yatra items that you may never use it again in your lifetime? You are quite right. This KMS Yatra is a special one and only once in a lifetime for most of the people. So why should one invest on the clothes etc. Here the Thamel market comes handy. There are many quality items available. You can also get second hand items if you want to save on cost. You can even get them on rental basis and return them after your Yatra. Tremendous cost saving.
And there is no actual requirement to buy every item in two sets, or as a backup. Just buy whatever is required only. Because as you will be traveling in Land Cruisers, the chances of items going bad are remote. Also in Chinese side you get shops everywhere, and you can buy any item there.
A few things that I could not find in Indian market, but bought from Thamel were lightweight poncho (raincoat), thin hand gloves (which are ideal to use with cameras). I could not find these items anywhere in India.
Tar Road and Petrol Bunk en-route KMS
How many can go at a time?
Now coming to the number of yatris who can travel in this route. It is almost unlimited. You just have to ensure that your group is not over crowded. When I went in 2009, on the day of parikrama, our group size was 59. And a total of not less than 215 people did the parikrama together, from different tour operators in different batches. Compare this to the limit of only 30 people by Govt route!! And even though there were more than 200 people, the overall experience was very comfortable.Let us start the Journey:
Now coming to the actual Yatra. On the first day, you start from your hometown and reach Katmandu. You will be shifted to a 3/4/5 star hotel. Next day is normally reserved for Katmandu local sight seeing, including Pashupatinath. You can visit Thamel on both these days and buy the required items.Kathmandu City
I have a gut feeling that the Katmandu tour operators do not give us the best exchange rates for Yuan. You see, Nepal is a country, where you can transact with Indian rupee, Chinese Yuan, along with Nepalese rupee. So you may try elsewhere like in Thamel about the better exchange rates. You will be requiring Chinese Yuan for your Chinese part of the Yatra.Making a call:
As I said earlier, making phone calls are extremely easy in Nepal and Chinese territory. Making a call to India from Nepal, where Internet phone connection is available, will be damn cheap. And during the Yatra, except the 2nd day of Kailash parikrama, you will be able to make calls to India from every halting place. And it is not all that costly. In fact it is dirt cheap compared to satellite phone charges of Indian side.Things to take extra:
All the halting places at china are in small villages. And these villages have markets, and you get almost everything that is required for the Yatra. So if you forgot something, or if something goes wrong, you can always buy a new one. But remember, they might be costly in those places. Also, as they are Made-In-China, the quality might be extremely inferior. Be careful.The Yatra continues:
The 3rd day we start the Yatra, cross over to China over Friendship Bridge and halt at Nyalam. From here onwards, the scenery is desolate, stark but stunningly beautiful. It is completely arid. From Nyalam we move on to Saga, Paryang, and then to Mansarovar.Friendship bridge between Nepal and China
The highlights in this section are Milarepa caves (we did not stop and visit but I understand that some operators include it in their itinerary), beautiful Paiku lake, spectacular views of Himalayan range and Brahmaputra.Yatris having lunch/dinner at Nyalam
All the arrangements for the entire 15 days are taken care by the tour operator. So we don’t have to worry about our food, cooking, stay etc. Here also there will be a tour manager, along with cook, sherpas and porters. Proper lodging accommodation is given to everyone for all the days, except on the shore of Mansarovar. At Mansarovar, you can enjoy the beauty thru the tents.Nyalam
The Chinese side of the KMS Yatra in Govt route takes 10 days, but the same portion of the Yatra takes only 5 days in Pvt route. Out of these five days, 1st and 5th days are Mansarovar parikrama; 2nd, 3rd and 4th days are for Kailash parikrama. All the parikrama are done together by all the yatris and there is no question of splitting the group. Only the MEA says that more than 30 people cannot be accommodated during the parikrama, whereas the private people take 200-300 people together.Saga Village
Let me also tell you about acclimatization in Pvt route. As I said earlier, in our group, there were 59 Yatris. In the beginning of the Yatra itself, four of them had decided that they would not do the Kailash parikrama. So out of 55 people, 47 people took Ponies as well as Porters. And in the remaining 8 people, 5 people took only porters. Myself, my friend, and one more yatri decided to do the parikrama on our own, without porters or ponies. Every one, I repeat, all 55 yatris did the parikrama successfully. There were no problems with any body. The timing was June-July 2009. I agree that just one KMS Yatra experience may not be sufficient to come to any conclusion, but it will give you a fair idea of the acclimatization in Pvt route.The villagers have their own recreational activities, which I also tried
Now coming to the landslide issue, it can happen in Nepal side on 3rd day or on 14th day. But the chances are minimal. On Chinese side, the chances of landslide is only near Nyalam and it is also almost nil.The Subsidy by the state Government:
The Karnataka govt gives a subsidy of Rs 30000 to all the KMS Yatris. I believe some other state governments also give it. You can claim this subsidy even if you travel from Pvt route.Now which route to take?
So now you are going to ask me “what do you suggest”. Well, I leave it to you to decide. My job is only to compare the differences between the two routes and give you a clear picture.Author at Dolmala Pass
You might also get influenced by what I did. In 2007, I went to AKOP trek along with my wife; thru KMVN and Karnataka Mountaineering Association. This covers almost entire portion of the KMS Yatra in Indian side, and much more. But most of the minus points of the KMS Yatra does not exist here, as we will be trekking in Indian Territory only. And in 2009 I went to KMS Yatra from Katmandu side. I think my decision was right. So this year my wife is going with a like-minded group of more than 40 people.Gaurikund after Dolmala PassWhat is your role now?
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