"Full many a ray of purest ray serene the dark unfathomed caves of ocean bear:
Full many a flower is born to blush unseen, and waste its sweetness to the desert air."
from "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard" by Thomas Gray

Monday, June 28, 2010

Kailash 2010 Day 4 : Acclimatization at Nyalam, Jun 28 2010

The morning started with Vedic chanting - it always amazes me how so many people from Andhra have all these chants memorized. They all had books in the Telugu script which helped me not at all. All of us who read the Devnagari script don't appear to read much Sanskrit. Whereas bhajans - hymns, help me relax to the point of dozing off that I really do need to keep a check on, the vigorous chanting invigorates the mind and energizes me to a higher consciousness. And, it always feels like the chanting ended too soon.
Cattle on the mountain we will climb for the acclimatization trek, Nyalam

Starting from Nyalam, along with morning tea, we were given a 2-liter bottle of distilled water each for the day from the travel agency - NOT ENOUGH. In walking around White Rock on hot Dallas days, while Bhavna would barely sip from her first 1-liter bottle, I would have finished three bottles and sipped and splashed my face and hands at every water fountain along the way. Everyone has a different capacity and need for hydration, and people need to buy water from the Tibetan towns and keep it in their cars to supplement whatever the travel agency is providing.

Also, one of the essentials on this trip was a thermos that we filled daily with hot water from the Sherpas. Bhavna had brought a thermos for me, one thing less that I had to worry about. Drinking hot water is a healthy habit that keeps one going in Tibet. Again, more is better, but you make do with what you get. The cleanliness of the water is an issue. Though I was carrying tablets to clean the water during this trip, I did not use them. Some people who fell sick suspected their non-bottled warm water was the reason. I would recommend water-cleaning tablets as a requirement on this trip.

Also, highly recommended to start from Delhi, but definitely starting from Nyalam, frequent application of sunblock, vaseline, moisturizers, lip balm and chap sticks is a must.

The one topic that shall stay on every traveler's mind, and needs to be mentioned is the multi-storeyed restrooms at the Shesha Bangma guesthouse in Nyalam. Free from gender bias, everyone was to use the common restroom with the five stalls at the end of the passage. I was freaked out on seeing a man entering the restroom. The toilets were Indian-style, yet the doors had a fascinating 8-inch clearance from the floor as if these were commode stalls. Perhaps commodes are a part of the future plan, and the doors have already been installed. Why people will not maintain cleanliness is a bigger mystery than where mankind has come from and where we are headed. I set the alarm for 4 am so I would not have to go near the restroom when others were awake. Swarn warned us this was good as compared to what is to come, I could hardly wait.

Around 10 in the morning, Swarn took us for the acclimatization trek to the top of yonder hill behind the guesthouse. After the first 15 minutes, my heart palpitated and I had to stand, breathe slowly and walk really slowly for another 15 minutes. I was fine after that, other than having to catch my breath every 30 steps or so. I had climbed a hill at 12K feet. It was a feel-good exercise, and should not be taken as an indication of my ability to circumambulate Kailash. But if you cannot manage this, please do not plan to walk around Kailash.
View of the hill for the acclimatization trek from the guesthouse, Nyalam

I did not have my camera on this little trek, these photographs are from Rajeev's and Seema's collections.
Before the acclimatization trek (Rajeev's collection)

People behind Rajeev climb for the acclimatization trek (Rajeev's collection)

Rajeev with Swami Shivayogananda (Rajeev's collection)

Seema with Swami Shivayogananda (Seema's collection)
Back in the hotel, Swamiji had a good collection of pictures.

Checking out Swamiji's pictures
Param-ji after the acclimatization trek
Having seen the fascinating toilets, I was not enamored of the idea of a heavy meal. Also, I will never again complain about sweetened yogurt. There was no fresh yogurt to be had in Tibet. Going without yogurt for twelve days was an added challenge for me. For meals, I was now determined to eat a bowl or less of steamed rice and a couple of spoons of dal water for flavor. The group appeared to appreciate the heavy food, more power to them.

The evening satsang - discourse, was given by Swami Shivayogananda from Madurai. He had a hypnotic effect on the audience. His personality, his eyes, his voice, the way he weaved the discourse connecting abstract concepts and stories from the past - suddenly it did not matter that the group was large, that it was not homogenous, that not everyone was a Chinmaya Mission member, I think everyone present would agree that he successfully reached out to each and every person that day. He appeared to know so much that it was overwhelming to receive, and his message was very simple - that knowledge comes through contemplation, each person needs to realize the Truth for himself. If we were to quietly meditate and tune in to the Supreme Consciousness that is the Brahman, we will become aware, conscious and filled with the knowledge that is all around us.

One more night in the guest house at Nyalam, with my alarm smartly set up for 4am. Tomorrow, off to Saga where Swarn has said there will be hot water from 8 am -12 noon and 7-10 pm. Oh yes, forgot to mention earlier that there was no facility for showers in our Nyalam guesthouse except if you went down to the market to the public bathhouses. Travelers need to read such blogs and catalogs and be mentally prepared for psychological hardship, besides the physical challenges.

Aum Namah Shivaaya!!

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