The Kailash Manas piligrimage is the journey of a lifetime for people from all faiths – Hindus, Jains, Buddhists and a Tibetan religious sect called Bon’s. Located in the Transhimalayan region of Tibet, Mount Kailash and Lake Mansarovar pilgrimage is a tradition dating back to over 1000 years.
The traditional route from India takes the faithful through some rough but extremely beautiful and picturesque terrain of Uttarakhand and in to Tibet via the Lipulekh pass. Over 200 kms of this terrain still has to be traversed on foot; This includes 52 kms of circumambulating the Kailash Mountain. This is where one begins to realise the importance of the journey and what one undergoes in the process of reaching the destination, and most importantly returning safely. A journey of this nature provides a great opportunity to reflect.
- Living with a group of people (40+) from diverse backgrounds for close to 30 days. With a common cause in front of all of us all barriers including language just evaporated and people just blended in. As the journey got tougher, even the so called obstinate came around
- Over 10 – 12 hours spent trekking, End of day access to a satellite phone, Electricity for only 3 hours, no access to electronic devices and newspapers – All these led people in to each other’s arms; The word ‘Empathy’ was clearly understood by all
- Even though the organizing teams and paramilitary were conducting the pilgrimage, the group had to sort out things like finances, baggage, Medical and food all by itself. It sure is a tough ask getting volunteers for such activities that are deemed thankless, given that people have signed up for their personal reasons. Yet, it is possible to find committed folks who know where and how to get involved and switch off without getting too attached to the task. These folks keep the wheels turning without a hitch
- In a span of 30 days the focus remains on completing every leg, every day successfully without any unforeseen event. In reality however we all know that this is rare. Group Liaison Officers along with volunteers have the responsibility of handling Accidents, Accidents leading to medical evacuations, psychological trauma arising from long stretches of trek and the fright of next day challenges getting bigger and of course death. All of this while ensuring that people start and reach a destination as per a plan. Staying the course without being emotionally ruffled and motivating the larger group is absolutely testing
- As citizens cross borders they transcend in to becoming Ambassadors. Any improper conduct arising out of political messaging, rude behavior jeopardizes the entire group which is on a time bound mission. We faced an embarrassing situation and were held up by the political authorities for an inordinate period of time. The disciplinary teams had their task cut out and had to ensure that conduct remained uniform and any disagreements/frustrations were sorted out through private one-on-one discussions
- Sub-contractors, temps and support staff play a huge role in successfully moving a group to and back to base camp. Even though rate cards and rule books have been written, one is always prepared for the unwritten, unsaid and subjective elements. During these times local wisdom always prevails and it is wise to keep eyes and ears open to the same
- The journey is not complete till the return is as safely done as the onward journey. The route may be the same but the very thought of the finish line nearing can put anyone off course. If you descended you have to climb and vice versa. All along, nature has a way of helping the focused stay on course. Whether it is stamina, inner strength, religion, dynamics or faith – many routes to take when the goal is set
This amazing journey provided a lot of insights in to nature and people around us.
Yes, it mattered as much as the destination.