How can one describe this experience? It is difficult to put into words the beauty and wonder of this place – and finally, even I felt some vibes!
Since the parikrama had been completed (the primary objective of the yatra), there were those who felt that Wednesday to Monday at Qugu, the lakeside resort (sort of), was a little extended. But, it was the best part of the whole excursion!! And well worth the time spent – the lake has many moods, it shimmers and shines in sunlight, is dark and moody under clouds, glistening and mysterious at night….. it is not possible to capture all its moods which change with the time of day. At any given time you can see many shades og blue over the lake and the cloud formations are awesome!
We transited by bus from Darchen to Qugu on 15th August – were cautioned by the guides not to shout ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’ too loudly after the National Anthem (the subtle vibes that we were after all in China!). The 85 Km drive took us up to the edge of the lake – the last 25 Km was drove all along it to reach Qugu. It is a highly protected area, with even less population than other parts, and we had to show permits art multiple points.
Qugu is the site of an ancient monastry, and the new resort is beautiful – a typical Tibetan facility. Do not imagine a ‘Resort’ in the context of what we see elsewhere – we had 5-sharing dorms, with lovely decor and windows with a view of the lake. There were clean Indian style loos, for bathing it was only the lake, where the water was zero degrees and no soap or anything else is allowed!! However, it is cold enough to be able to manage without the daily shower , and by this time we were kind of used to it all. Here, we were totally cut off from the world as there was no telephone access. Of course, those who had bought Chinese SIMs were able to make international calls. The Chinese telephone network is quite amazing, the porters were all getting and making calls here and even at 6000m en rout to Dolma!!!
The days were relaxed with no pressure of any planned activity! Lazy staggered getting up, food timings and always the lake in sight! We were lucky to have very little rains, and so most of us spent our time walking in groups or alone along the lake or just sitting by the lakeside. As elsewhere in Tibet, there is limited flora and fauna, although the seasonal yellow flowering moss formed a carpet along the lakeside and there we few birds on the lake. There was also these cute dormouse like little animals that kept darting out of their burrows and were not bothered with the human bodies sitting close by!
Most people (barring a few like me) had carried elaborate pooja accessories and did collective or personal poojas every day. I had done my little bit with Purnata on the first evening of our stay – but the climax was the community havan which was planned for Saturday afternoon. Elaborate preparations were made and dry fruits and the elements for the rituals (samagri, firewood etc) were collected from everyone. The dry fruits were cut into small pieces for the prasad in a huge community activity. The location had a formal haven platform at the banks, with the view of Kailash across the lake.
The monastry, next to the resort was an old one. It had the usual collection of yak horns outside – could not get any information on this. We saw it in many places.
The inside was clean and there was considerable traffic of Tibetan visitors.
Many of the yatris took daily dips in the lake – I could get myself t0 do it on 2 of the 5 days! Besides the cold water, the logistics of doing so, especially for the women, (I had carried a swim suit) in the absence of any covered place within 200 m of the lake, made the dip a complicated exercise. I am not sure if my sin clock was reset to zero, which is what the faithful believe, but it was an exhilarating experience. The truly devout took a dip every day!!
We also spent a few hours on 2 mornings cleaning up the lakeside.You may wonder as to how it would be spoilt – but a lot dead weeds tend to clog the shore. And there is the usual litter that can never escape us – plastic packing, aluminium drink cans, plastic bottles etc… Unfortunatelly, we could not enthuse many people to take part – but it was heartening to see the enthusiasm of those that did! The thing that upset us the most was the large amount of the plastic bags were of various pooja related articles and probably dropped by our very own colleagues!!
There was also this mystical lights that appeared over the lake at night. They appear suddenly, rising form the water, hover for some time and disappear. Th light is highly intense and is believed to be the sapta rishis coming out to bathe. What kind of phenomenon it is no one can explain – people had stories that it was not possilel to be capture the lights even by the best cameras. That at least was disproved as one of the yatris was able to click it. People stayed up all night watching for this – some were more lucky that others. The night temps in the open was close to zero and it also rained on some nights – all of which was no deterrant for some. Others, including me, used the lake facing windows and watched it from the comfort of the room. I did see the phenomenon but my scientific curiosity remains unquenched about its scientific basis.
As the stay drew to an end, the general mood changed – everyone was aware that we were coming to the end of the yatra. There were mixed feelings of both a sense of loss at the impending parting with friends and of excitement that we would be soon seeing our families.
I too had mixed feeling – but we were already away from home for 3 weeks and returning was inevitable.