According to Hindu mythology all these places are residence of Lord Kailash (Shiva), Parvati, Ganapati & Kartikey swami. Kinnaur Kailash is relatively less famous. KMVN (Kumaon Mandal Vikas Nigam, a government undertaking) conducts regular tours to Kailash Manasarovar. Its very expensive aprox. Rs. 70,000/- per head (Rs.12,000/- to kmvn, Rs. 37,000/- to China Government + charges for hiring porter/ horse + individual expenses ). Chota Kailash is in Indian territory & inexpensive (relatively!). We spent aprox. Rs 8000/- per head. Chota Kailash or Adi Kailash is replica of Bada Kailsh. At Bada Kailas, is a lake called Gauri kund, similar to Parvti sarovar at Chota Kailash. Some times the pair of Rajhans fly from manas sarovar to parvati sarovar. We were fortunate to see the pair of rajhans.
Aum Parvat: Its miracle of nature, the shape of valley & peaks forms natural AUM. One can see white (snow) AUM on black background. No hypothesis, no assumption, no approximation & no imagination is required to visualize Aum. Its so clear that in Aug -Sept month even dot (bindi) on the crescent (chandrakaur) is also clearly visible. According to puranas there are 8 such Aums in Himalaya. At present world knows only one AUM!
Entire trek is along Indo-Nepal border. Special permission called inner line permit is must for the visit. It could be obtained by submitting passport xerox (no-objection certificate from police commissioner, incase passport is not available), character certificate, personal information along with photographs & day to day schedule at Dharchula, magistrate's office. From Chiyalekh onwards ITBP (Indo Tibet Border Police) jawans check the pass regularly at all the check post & no one is allowed in the region without proper documents.
Team members & preparation: 1. Sanjeev Bedekar 2.Prasanna Gandhi 3.Nitin Gokahle 4. me. We decided to arrange it on our own; no porter, no guide. Trek preparation & planning started well in advance, gathered information from different books, maps, internet as well people who visited there in the past.
Mumbai to Pithoragad: Started journey on 2nd June at 10 pm from borivali station via Golden temple mail, it reached New delhi at 7 pm. Catched connecting train for Kathgodam from Old Delhi railway station at 11 pm. Next day early in the morning we reached to kathgodam. Hired here sumo Jeep for Pithoragad (district place, 200 km)
Hilly area's traveling experiences: certainly best mode is Government bus, but problem is most of them take off early in the morning & if one is late then only alternative is Jeep. Sumo & Mahindra jeeps are available; Mahindra is preferable. Reason! sumo's peak up & braking is very fast, good feature for plane areas but definitely not for hills. Regular ups & down and cornering needs frequent braking & it causes uneasiness & vomiting. Bus is safer as well better than jeep because most of the jeep drivers are young & inexperienced. Its one of the preferred profession by unemployed youth. Many r buying their own jeeps via bank loan & starting the business. Roads in himalaya r not straight but ups & downs with lot of dangerous bends, mountain on one side & valley on other & white out or foggy atmosphere makes driving as well traveling very risky. We met a team from Jaipur of 18 people at Adi Kailash, in the return journey jeep carrying 9 people from the group fall down in the river near Almoda. Two women & driver lost life, injuring others seriously...
Inner line permit: After night halt at pithoragad & 3 hours (90 km) jeep journey in the morning, we reached Dharchula district magistrate's office at 11.30 am. Good preparation & proper documentation resulted in quick innerline permit. Dharchula is one of the place to enter Nepal. River Kali Gandki forms natural border between Nepal & India. Just cross the bridge on the river and now its Nepal! No passport required and the entry is very easy. That's probably the reason why many terrorist are entering India via Nepal also. There r reports in newspaper about ISI activities in Nepal. Nepal is a free market & goods from Japan, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Korea etc are available, but we could not buy it because of heavy import duty. Our government introduced anti dumping law before couple of years in favour of Indian industries. In the border areas currency of India as well Nepal & China are accepted for trading. conversion rates in June 2002 were 1 Rupaiya/rupee (Nepal) = 0.60 rupee (India) 1 Yuan (China) = 7 Rupee (India).
Dharchula to Tawathat is one hour jeep journey (19 km). At Tawaghat there is sangam of two rivers namely Dhauli Ganga & Kali Gandki. Big project for power generation is inprocess at Dhuali Ganga & soon the area will have power supply. We reached Tawaghat at 3 pm. Planned trek route was Tawaght - Pangu - Sosa - Narayan Aashram - Sirkha - Samry- Simkhola - Gala - Malapa - Budhi - Chiya Lekh - Gunji - Kala pani - Nabidhang (AUM Parvat) - kalapani - Gunji - Kutti-Jollingkong ((Adi Kailash, Parvati sarovar) - Shinla pass - Darma valley - Bidang - Baun -Bauling -Twaghat.
Tawaghat (4000 ft) to Thanedar Ki Chadaie (7 km, 7200 ft) : Villagers informed that Pangu is at 1 hour walking distance.We thought probably with the heavy sack we would make it by 7 pm. Thanedhar ki chadhai is a steep climb . It was the first day of walking, with aprox. 28 kg weight on the back (tents, pressure cooker, cylinders, burner, utensils, food, clothing, sleeping bags, mat, water bottle, torch, medicines, camera etc.). With torches in hand, we reached on the top at around 10 pm . There was no sign of any village near around. To add to it, confusion whether the village is in right direction or left! in the end we pitched tents on the top, no body was in a mood or condition to cook so we had biscuits & water as quick dinner option. Next day after getting up early & instant upma and tea as menu for breakfast we started at 6 .30 am to locate pangu. It was just 2 km away, but since there is no electricity in the area & usually village people sleep early we could not trace it. Availability of variety of instant items (like upma, shira, kheer, pulav, zunka, sambar etc) has made cooking very simple as well as fast. Open the pack, add it to boling water and wait for 5 minutes that's all!
Rivers: There are 5 rivers in Kumaon region, namely Kali Gandki, Dhuali Ganga, Gauri Ganga, Sharyu & Kutti. Interestingly rivers of Gadhawal region i.e. Ganga & Yamuna are very famous & worshiped, but not so with above rivers. Although Kali Gandki which is called so because of its black color is not worshiped to the extent of Ganga,Yamuna but big black stones (shila) of the river are believed to be very holy & used for carving idol of god & goddess. There is a proof that Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj acquired shilas from Kali Gandki for idol of Pratapgad's Bhavani devi. His trusted people visited the region in 16th century. It means people of Maharashtra have been visiting this area for last few centuries. Even today max. no. of travelers are from Maharashtra, Bengal & Gujrat.
Thanedar ki chadaie - Sosa - Narayan Ashram (10 km, 8400 ft) : Villagers at Pangu greeted us with Aum Nam: Shivay! To reciprocate gesture of namste with Aum Nam: Shivay is a usual practice on trek route. Narayan Aashram was designed & built by Narayan Swami in 1936 for sadhana & helping devotees visiting Kailash Manas sarovar. He was Civil Engineer by profession. Ashram has a nice Narayan (Lord Vishnu) temple, spiritual books library, museum & rooms for visitors. It is situated at perfect location, surrounded by green trees, snow peaks in the front, no sound of kali river, nice garden with vast variety of flowers, fruits, vegetables etc. At present their trust is carrying out lot of social work like education, hospitals etc.
Narayan Aashram - Sirkha - Samry (5 km, 8750 ft) : Next day morning we were late, started around 9 am. Enroute is Sirkha KMVN guest house . KMVN Staff tried to frighten us by saying that don't stay at Samry, there are many bears & wild animals in the area, u may land in to trouble.We could smell their marketing strategy to make us stay at their guest house. We continued for samry & pitched tents near village. Cooking under such circumstances is as enjoyable as eating. A cup of tea & watching wonderful surrounding makes one feel fresh & energetic. Few minutes relaxation & then preparation for lunch cum dinner. We used to share the responsibilities in rotation as cook, load ferry for water, washing utensils etc. For cooking we had 20 no. butane gas cylinders & burner attachment. One Cylinder last for 6 hours. There was dense forest all around except in the front, lot of valleys, kali river & snow peaks were visible from the camp. We did not see bear or any other wild animal, probably they got frightened of 4 donkeys carrying 25 kgs on the back......
Samry - Rungling top (9500 ft) - Simkhola - Gala (13 km, 8050 ft) : Started with steep climb of Rungling top via dense forest. On the way saw land slide destructed house. It happened last year killing one resident. We observed few villagers in the jungle who were searching for special kind of worms (about one inch size, black color). They r paid Rs. 20 per worm. Traders from China buy it, villagers were unaware of the use, but some people said its used for polio medicine. On the route we met an old lady with 4 puppies (pamerian dogs) . She was going to next village for selling the puppies. One puppy cost around Rs. 500/- while cow Rs. 300/-. Surprising!!! but the reason is local cows deliver only 0.5 liter milk per day that too after eating lot of grass, also maintenance is time consuming as well costly. At gala we stayed in a school. Met here Batch no. 2 of Kailash Manasarovar. They arrived directly from tawaght via shortcut (jeepable road till near by village Mangati) . Satellite telephone facility is available here but inner line permit pass is strictly checked before allowing STD. This precaution is being taken in view of Mauovadi's problem in the territory. It was a new experience for us to contact family members from such an interior portion of himalya. After 1998 Malapa Tragedy Indian Government decided to provide max. possible facilities & security to the bada Kailash devotees. Till Aum Parvat our route was common. Visit to Kailash Manassarovar for Hindu's is of as much importance as is visit to Makka Madina for Muslim's.
Gala - Lakhanpur - Malpa (10 km, 6750 ft) : Next two days were most scenic as well risky. Entire trek is along Kali river. It offers beautiful waterfalls, glaciers, dream combination of valley, river, green trees, flowers & white peaks. We stayed at Malapa PWD guest house. Sign's of 1998 tragedy were clearly visible.
Malapa Tragedy: It was raining heavily on 17 Aug. 1998, roads ahead were blocked due to land slides, around 400 people including a complete batch of Manasarover, PWD workers responsible for road cleaning, ITBP/army jawans & villagers were waiting there for past 2 days. Malpa is situated on the bank of 2 rivers Kali & another Indian river flowing down from perpendicular direction. At 11.30 pm suddenly a huge portion of mountain on the top of Malapa collapsed on huts, buildings and indian river. High pressure wave blew some of the huts in Kali. In short time span all the debris & big stones lying in indian river were pushed in to Kali. Huge accumulation of debris resulted in natural dam on Kali. Due to this obstruction Kali changed the path & started flowing through Malpa village, whatever left was forced away by river. After a few min. kali due to dam action (immense accumulated water pressure) cleared all debris & started flowing through its original route. 400 people were killed. Only survivals were from PWD house since its situated slightly out of the reach of mountain & away from the two rivers. 11 people (PWD staff) sleeping at the time of incident, were disturbed when few stones fall on the roof, followed by a big sound like explosion. In a frightened state they ran out to find themselves in cloud of clay & debris. It was very difficult to breath. They ran away in opposite direction & spent remaining night in depressed state.Next morning they were shocked to see entire village under debris without any sign of life. Since there were no means to communicate & road was blocked on either side, with a great difficulty they could convey emergency message to outside world. Pratima Bedi (Kabir Bedi's wife) was one of victim. After this accident government decided to provide max. possible security & installation of latest communication devices on the route. We stayed here at the same PWD guest house. After dinner at about 10 pm we were in the lawn, watching remaining portion of mountain as well thinking of 400 people lying below debris. Probabaly Prasanna will never forget that night. He had horrible dreams ......
Now the obvious question is if its so then why KMVN or villagers selected the spot for living/camping. First of all there is as such no ideal place to camp on the entire route (Gala to Budhi), everywhere its surrounded by skytouching big mountains. Another point is for last 100 years there has not been any incident or hint of land slide at malapa. Infact Malapa is or rather was one of the most beautiful place to camp, and after all still science has to invent a device which would intimate human being about what's going to happen in future & on what day one is going to die.....
Malapa - Budhi - Chiyalekh (14 km, 11,000 ft) : It was a pleasant morning, wind blowing in opposite direction & path was via beautiful green valley with nature's music on; birds were the singers & kali river's sound was like supporting musical instrument. Just before budhi is the best waterfall of the trek. Aapi & Nampa peaks are visible from budhi. Observed here few hydro power stations used not for generation of electricity but as wheat mill i.e. for making aata/powder from wheat & other beans. For electricity generation wind power, solar panels & diesel generators r common with Army/ITBP and KMVN. Villages are still with out electricity. At budhi local people advised us to stay on the top of enroute mountain called Chiyalekh. There r big camps of ITBT & army here. We stayed with ITBP Jawans. They were very cordial & treated us like their own guest. After the dinner we had cultural program. During Nov. to Apr. this place is under snow. Previously they used to vacate these posts at the start of snow fall & reoccupy it in Apr. but after Kargil war (Pakistani soldiers occupied our army post well in advance before our jawans could reach there & thus started Kargil war) now they are living there even in those tough & hostile conditions & performing duty. Visit to army & ITBP/BSF border camps to see the ammount of sacrifice they r making is none less than a pilgrimage.
Flies & Mosquitoes: We were irritated by large no.of flies (Makhkhie) & mosquitoes on the entire route till budhi. At village hotels we used to remove flies from the cup of tea & good amount of hand movement exercise to keep them away. At home probably we would have thrown the tea/eatables if found a fly or mosquito, but it not possible here, how many time will you throw it. Its like living in sea of flies here. Rather taking out the fly & throwing it is a more sensible approach. Sunset used to be departure time for flies & arrival time for new guest i.e. mosquitoes. This problem exist till the altitude of 10, 000 feet. After 10, 000 ft we did not notice any fly or mosquito. Probably less oxygen, pressure, temp & high wind velocity are unfavorable factors for their survival & growth.
Chiyalekh - Garbyang - Gunji (14 km, 10,625 ft) : Near Garbyang is sangam of Kali & Tinkar river (Nepal). Difference in colors (black & milky) of the two is clearly visible. At Grbyang we observed many tilted abandoned houses. New garbyang village is situated few meters away from the old one. Before centuries this village was build unknowingly over a glacier (not visible, its few meters deep down the earth). Over the decades glacier started melting & tilting the houses built over it. Near Gunji we crossed Kali nadi for the first time. Previously area ahead of Gunji was part of Nepal but after China war prime minister Indira Gandhi via political process got it from Nepal & Mahindra gad near Tanakpure was offered in exchange. Its strategically important place from war point of view. Aum parvat lies in this exchanged territory. So 40 years ago Aum parvat & Kala pani were part of Nepal & not India!
Gunji - Kalapani (9 km, 11,850 ft) : Kalapani is origin of river Kali. Situated here a nice & holy temple of Goddess Kali & Lord Shiva. Vyas Guha (cave) is visible from the temple. Its believed that Bhagvan Vyas stayed here. The cave at present is unapproachable & requires rockclimbing equipments. We stayed at dharmshala in the premises of temple. Pujariji informed us, according to hindu puranas there are eight Aum parvat in himalaya & at the moment world knows only one. Also visible from Kali temple a mountain resembling with the shape of cobra, known as Nag devta. Pujariji told us that when nag devta is visible Aum parvat is also clearly visible at Nabhidhang; When Nag devta is under clouds, Aum Parvat would also be in clouds. (interesting theory! because Aum Parvat is not visible from this place & approx. 9 km away).We had taken tennis ball with us, with woodden bat made by armymen we enjoyed cricket with army people. It was difficult to play cricket at such an altitude, but still enjoyed it.
Kalapani - Nabhidhang (Aum Parvat) [10 km, 13,800 ft] : We were fortunate to have clear darshan of Aum. Pitched tents near army helipad. Temp was very low (around 2 to 3 degrees) with high velocity wind & could feel the altitude. A river originates from Aum parvat & some times stones with natural AUM shape are found in it. Near Aum Parvat is Tri-Junction point. Its clearly visible on Indian map. Its junction of three nations namely India, China & Nepal. From Nabhidhang Kailash manasarover people go ahead to lipulekh pass (one day trek), beyond lipulekhpass is China! Our permit was up to Aum parvat. For Adi kailash we had to return to gunji via kalapani & trek towards northwest direction .
Gunji - Kutti (19 km, 13,000 ft) : Kutti is the name derived from pandava's mother Kutni. Its believed that pandvas stayed here during 12 years vanvaas. Enroute we found many Bhujpatra as well deodar trees. In ancient time Bhujpatra were used for writing Granth/Pothi even as on today writing on bhujpatra with ordinary pen gives feeling of superior quality over regular paper.
Kutti - Jollingkong (Adi Kailash) [15,500 ft] : Enroute to jollingkong crossed few glaciers & had first darshan of Adikailash, Nikurch rama & 5 peaks in series called pandav parvat. But in evening & even next day it was clouded & invisible. Parvati Lake is situated at the base of Adi Kailash and 2 km away from KMVN guest house. Next day we visited parvti sarovar & had parvati sarovar parikrama. Its believed that Parvti devi spend many years here during the tap:charya. Near the sarovar is small temple of Lord Shiva & Parvati. 3rd day at Adi Kailash was sunny with perfect blue sky infact it was the best weather day of the trek. Clicked lot of photos from different angles. We saw here a pair of Rajhans. We were informed that the pair is from Manas sarovar. It some times fly to Parvati sarovar. Probably u might be aware about a pair of dove at Amarnath cave & pair of eagle at pakshi tirtham near Tirupati. Its believed that these are not mere birds but Lord shiva & Parvati devi. Its amazing that average life of doves & eagles & hans is only few years & for last few centuries people are observing & mentioning about them!!!! Kala Pani, Aum Parvat & Adikailash-parvati sarovar are the places where we really felt something special & holy. . Shinla pass: Because of heavy snowfall shinla pass trek route was very risky. ITBP did not allow us for darma valley hence we return via same route i.e. kutti, gunji, Budhi, Lakhanpur, shortcut to mangti & then via jeep reached dharchula, pithoragad. Since we had access days visited Patal bhuvaneshwar, Bageshwar, Kausani & Nainital also.
Note: Pictures put here might not correspond exactly to the adjoining explanation /paragraph in the article.
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