We left Saga at 8am to drive 250 km to Paryang.
|Amazing landscape from Saga to Paryang|
Once on the road, I found out that the sand and dust of yesterday was nothing as compared to the sand and dust of today. The surroundings are spectacular but oh, look at the road we travel on. :) Many vehicles got stuck in the sand and had to be pulled. We stopped for breakfast on the banks of the Brahmaputra.
|The surprisingly peaceful flow of the divine Brahmaputra, the highest of the seven male rivers in India|
Deep-fried bread pakoras for breakfast on the banks of the Brahmaputra - again the question arises, must we binge and purge? I am sure Adi Shankara would have composed something sharp along the lines of "punarapi janmam punarapi maranam..." - again birth and again death, for the ritual binging and purging caused by fried foods before bumpy rides. For lunch, it was rice, palak dal, paneer sabzi and stir-fried karela. I ate my fill of the crisp karela - not sure that's a good thing before the drive but love it too much to ignore it, and then my two spoons of rice and dal water and the Frooti drink. People appear to enjoy the lunch, clearly our group had bouts of nausea in our near future.
|The mud-house at Dong Ma where we will return on a magical afternoon 7 days later|
The lunch place in Dong Ma was called "Yak House"- a typical Tibetan mud-house building with a good view of distant snow-clad mountains and of the sand dunes that regularly blow in sand. And again a couple of dogs roaming around the place, the icons of Kal Bhairav.
|Kal Bhairav outside the kitchen at Dong Ma|
|Sand dunes changing shape as the winds blow across the desert, close to Paryang|
We were booked at the Sheeshbamba Hotel - a mud-house with four beds to a room and common bathrooms with non-flushable commodes - fill the bucket outside, and take it into the restroom with you. I live and learn. There was a dim light in the room. I am glad I had seen all the youtube.com videos and read all the travelogues and blogs I could before coming here - at least, the element of surprise was not there.
I think the most useful things that Bhavna and I had purchased in Dallas were flashlight headbands, and we had practiced wearing them while taking early morning walks in the dark around White Rock lake. From Paryang on, I had the headband around my head or neck at all times, even when I slept.
Satsang - discourse was at 9 pm. Our group's youngest traveler, Varsha sang a beautiful bhajan - hymn. So maybe I listen to bhajans when children sing them. A child invoking the Divine is positively angelic. The two pictures that follow are from Sairam Appaji's collection, he was the official photographer for this trip - again perfect selection of a volunteer by Swamiji.
|Varsha leading a hymn in the evening prayer session at Paryang|
|Waiting for a yes to my name as Swamiji announces Yes/No/Not Sure for each traveler to trek around Kailash|
Again, I was glad I had come with the Chinmaya Mission group here, Swamiji was leading, coaching, advising, recommending trip logistics. My own expectation had been that the travel agency would have this expertise, but my experience was that they were booking agents for flight, hotel, porter and pony. And they had a team of super-efficient Sherpas to cook food and load and unload duffel bags into trucks. And they gave a Diamox a day for each person on the trip.
Ultimately our planned group of 80 that dropped to 71 by the time the trip started, had 68 people wanting to trek around Kailash. I was concerned about my ability to trek and I was hoping I could make it. I was not sure how people with headaches or fever or nausea or diarrhoea or breathlessness were going to make it. Tonight we needed to make the payment to book a porter and a pony+pony driver - 1600 yuans for the 3-day trek around Kailash, whether we walked or actually sat on the pony. People who may decide tomorrow to not come for the trek would lose the money - there would be no refund from the Tibetan organization.
Tomorrow we will be at the Manas Sarovar lake.
Aum Namaha Shivaaya!!