The baggage movement of the yatra is a military style operation, perfected over years of experience! But every batch needs its own people to keep track of all the baggage – and on the first evening of the journey the nominations were made and a committee put in place. Why is this so important?
The yatra involves trekking from Narayan Ashram (on day 4) up to the Lipuleh Pass on day 10, during the Kailash parikrama and on the way back. The luggage is transported by mules on the Indian side and by yaks on the Tibetan side and they move independent of the yatris. In short, the luggage is not available to you every night, but on alternate nights and during the parikrama you don’t get it for 3 days. There is the facility of being able to leave some baggage at Dharchula and Gunji,to be collected on the way back.
So, all the packing has to work around this. Oh boy, was i glad for the extra rucksack which i had acquired, courtesy the Delhi sarkaar! By the time we reached Dharchula on the 3rd day, enough briefing had been done by the veterans for the rest of us to get a feel for things.
So at Dharchula, I packed all the stuff I had worn on the first 3 days and 2 sets of fresh summer clothes (for the return stretch) into the extra rucksack and left it there. The rest of the stuff went into the 2 original bags which then went back into waterproof outer covers and were then handed over to the baggage committee the night before we left Dharchula. I also had small knapsack which had to carry my immediate essential needs for the night without the baggage!! This included night clothes, toiletries, next day change etc.
The first duty of this committee was to negotiate with the contractor and weigh (charges per kilo) and count the luggage. At every stop thereafter where we received the luggage, they had to count them to ensure that nothing was lost. And then recount them the next morning before being handed back to the contractors. Besides our personal luggage, they also had the ‘common baggage’ – which was the vegetables and dal and cereals and Maggi etc… which the food committee had bought in Dharchula. You will hear about that later…..
When we reached Gunji, the luggage, like us, had suffered the constant rains as well as the waterfalls. To my dismay I discovered that the water proof bags were not proof enough – and why we had been asked to put individual clothes into plastic bags. I was grateful to my dry cleaner who had given me the many plastic bags, in which my clothes had remained dry. The larger of the 2 bags was wet inside and out, the small leather was a bit better off. Fortunately, many others had a similar experience and the weather God was kind – it was sunny and with the 0% humidity at that altitude, everything dried out in the extra day that we had at Gunji.
At Gunji, I segregated the summery clothes to put into the smaller bag, which I left behind there. All the warm clothes went in the larger bag for the Tibet part of the trip – so from 3 bags I was down to one! On the return journey, > than 2 weeks later, it was no longer raining and so the problems were less daunting. And I guess the thought that we were heading home made it even easier!!
The baggage committee did a marvelous job, getting all our stuff from and back to Dharchula without any major mishap. Of course there were some hiccups – the baggage count was short by a few pieces when it reached Gunji. Then we were told that one of the mules had slipped and fallen into the Kali River. There was suspense till the delayed consignment arrived – the owners of the missing bags were sitting around in borrowed clothes (all theirs being wet). But fortunately, the missing bags were all part of the common baggage – so no one lost their woolens or other essentials – but we were without some of the food!!
So, what is the best way to manage this? Pack each set of clothes in separate cellophane bags. Distribute them into multiple smaller bags – the best is the kind that small traders use to get their supplies from the wholesale markets ( You can see these on many motorcyles) – put one of these inside another so that you have a double layer. Do not carry too many clothes – few sturdy lowers and many uppers of all kinds – short sleeved cotton, full sleeved, warm etc. If you are not certain about your walking shoes and are not confident if they are water proof – carry an extra pair. Lots of socks and one set of thermal lowers and uppers! You will also need a warm jacket for the parikrama. Pack with the assumption that you will get no chance to wash any clothes, any opportunity to do so, being a bonus!! But then also remember that there is no fashion show – and no one really cares who is wearing what!