Day 5: Chui Gompa to Darchen

Distance Traveled: About 25 Kms

Did not have too much of travel scheduled for this day as pooja on the banks of Manasa Sarovar were planned. We were extremely lucky that our guruji, Sri Krishnamurthy ji, and his team of pundits were traveling with us and they had come fully prepared to conduct Rudra Homa here. Guruji is one of the very few Ghanapati (highest possible degree)  of Rig Veda in India and has taught Vedas / Rig Veda, not only in India, but in Holand and Germany as well. So most of the photos from this day were from the Rudra Homa, that was conducted on the banks of Mansas Sarovar.

Manasa Sarovar lies at 4,590 meters / 15,050 ft above MSL and  the one of the few sweet water lakes, on the mostly saline lake studded Tibetan Plateau.

Manasa Sarovar is relatively round in shape with the circumference of 88 kms (55 mi). Its depth reaches a maximum depth of 90 m (300 ft) and its surface area is 320 square kms (120 sq mi). Four mighty rivers find their source near Lake Manasarovar.  Source of the Sutlej River, which is the easternmost tributary of the Indus, is near by. Also nearby are the sources of the Brahmaputra River, the Indus River, and the Karnali River (Ghaghara), an important tributary of the Ganges River.

Manasa Sarovar is connected to nearby lake Rakshas Tal, by the natural Ganga Chhu channel and in fact overflows into lake Rakshas Tal, which is a salt water lake. These lakes used to be part of Sutlej River basin and got separated due to tectonic activity. Here is a satellite image of the two lakes (Source: WikiPedia )

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Unfortunately for us the weather, which was pleasant the previous day had turned very cloudy and hence was extremely cold. Guruji and the rest of them had a very tough time conducting the Rudra Homa.

Cloud cover over Mt. Kailash at the beginning of the day. As the day progressed, cloud cover increased and so did the intensity of the wind and cold as well.

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View of the Chui Gompa, which faces the lake.

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Guruji  (third person from left) and maava (first person from left)  performing the homa. They had brought home made ghee to be used for the homa, but was frozen solid when they removed it from their luggage and got to the spot where homa was being performed. I remember it took Prakash (second from left)  almost an hour to get the ghee out of the container and melt it, so that it could be used for the homa.

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It was extremely cold for guruji and other to sit on the banks. So they stood up after about 30-40 mts after the start of the pooja and completed the homa standing up.

Guruji performing maha mangala-arati.

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Guruji offering purnahuti . Mt. Kailash completely covered by clouds in the background.

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There was another group of people, without whom none of us could have completed this yatra i.e. sharpas. Here you see Tenzing ( the head sherpa) and Neema on the right, filling all the bottles / cans that we had taken there to get the holy water of Mansas Sarovar. We could not stand a minute in these waters, these guys probably took about 15 + mts in order to fill all the cans that we had and did not even flinch. Hats off to these guys.

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In spite of the cold weather, guruji and team finished up homa by about 12 noon. Then we all went back in, packed up and left for Darchen, which is the base camp for the Mt. Kailash parikrama.

From Choi Gompa, Darchen was about 20-25 kms, which we covered within 30 mts or so. We had to go through yet another Chinese checkpoint, before they allowed us to get into Darchen, where in we checked into our hotel rooms and started preparing for parikrama.

As mentioned in an earlier blog, Manasa Sarovar gets its waters from the glaciers that are found on Gurla Mandata and Mt. Kailash. Following were the snaps of of Gurla Mandata from our Darchen hotel, shot during late afternoon.

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Zoomed in on Gurla Mandata.

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View of Gurla Mandata from our Darchen hotel, shot during sunset. This was the only time, where i got to shoot some snow covered peaks during the twilight zone.

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Gurla Mandata during sunset.

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We spent the entire evening preparing for our three day parikram around Mt. Kailash. There were lots of discussions and decisions to be made about who will be walking, who will be hiring either a porter or a pony or both, about oxygen cylinders, clothing, trekking shoes etc.etc.. From our group of 16, three of the ladies were going to hire ponies and the rest of us were going to hire about 8 porters. After decisions were made and money paid, we all went to sleep, but we were all a little anxious about the cold weather and the dark clouds that had persisted the entire day.

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