Three weeks going – one week coming – and once we started back we were glad for the rapidity of the return. On the last day at Manas, the sense of the impending return had settled in. After a last walk by the lake and an early lunch we were packed, in the buses and off by 1.30 pm. It was a long 182 Km drive with a couple of interesting stops en route. First we stooped at a high point where we could see all 3 sites -Kailash, Mansarovar and Rakshastaal. That was to be our last view of these ….
With that we completed the parikrama of Manas. The next stop was the memorial to Jarawar Singh memorial – built in memory of a General in the army of the King of Kasmir, who had fought and died here in the later part of the 19th century.
We drove past Taklakote to then see the temple at Korchak – which is actually a monastry but houses a shrine to Ram, Sita and Laxman. The monastry itsekf is >1000 yeras old. The Hindu connection is linked to 3 Hindu Pilgrims who lost their way to Kailash and anded up at this spot. They left some instructions with the local chief, that if they did not return the locals may use the contents of the baggage they were leaving behind. This turned out to have a lot of gold and so the Chief built a Hindu shrine in their memory.
Finally we reached Taklakote for dinner. We had a whole day to do shopping and pack the luggage. The major point of concern with everyone was the ‘jal’ (sacred water form Gauri Kund and Manas) that had to be carried back home safely. Om Prakash had got the jal for me from Manas – it has to be collected a little further out into the lake to get clean water. I only had 2.5L of jal – people had up to 10 liters and carrying it all back was a challenge.
We had a whole day at Taklakote where every one went on a frantic shopping spree. A lot of the Chinese made jackets, shoes etc…. I could not really find much that was attractive or worth buying. I found the vegetable and fruit markets interesting
And then on the 20th (day 21), we started the trip back home . That was an exhausting day – we started early, had the customs check and then the short bus ride to Lepu. At the bottom of the steep incline we transferred to jeeps which carried us to the top. So it was an easy move over the border. There was some tension tha thad built up – would our pony and porter be there? A lot of discussion had taken place on how much they should be paid when they dropped us off on our way into Tibet – some people feeling that only 60-70% of their total should be paid – otherwise they may not be there on the return. Many of us felt that this would be unfair, and had paid them the majority of of what was due to them. So, when we reached Lipu, we were happy to see that most of the porters and ponies were there to receive us. It was good to see Dharmesh and Govind with Shera waiting for me. As we crossed out, we greeted the 13th batch which was going in.
We also had to walk upto Gunji that day – we had done this 26 Km over 2 days. The Lipu-Navidhang stretch lay well above the tree line and had dramatic scenary – we had done this stretch before sunrise on the way towards Lipu.
Nabhidang greeted us with idlis for breakfast and then a special meal at Gunji. We also retrieved the luggage we had left there – and got to wear some clean clothes. The next day we did the 17 Km to Budhi and the walk even more beautiful than on the way out. The rains had stopped and more flowers were in bloom. Govind seemed to have a good knowledge of the local flora and stopped to pick various leaves and routes – while he explained their used to me – for cough, allergies, to keep away mosquitoes etc…. How little of this traditional knowledge we appreciate or try and preserve. And then when we stopped for tea, I saw this sign and I thought how insensitive we are!!
The Budhi to Gala stretch along the Kali waseven more challenging on the return journey, because now the 4400 steps had to be climbed. The route along the river was more enjoyable as it was a warm, dry day and we could admire the fury and majesty of Kali! On the 25th (day 26) we walked from gala to the roadhead at Mangti and took the jeeps to Dharchula – there was no stop at Sirkha. On the penultimate day we drove from Dharchula to Jogeshwar via Pithoragarh and Merthi where once again the ITBP camp gave us a grand welcome. Jogeshwar an old temples and it is one of the Jyotirlingas – one of the Shiva temples dating back to Adi Shankara time, that is almost 1200 years ago. It is believed that the Jyoti (lamp) has been burning continuously since then.
And suddenly we were back into this world – cell phones ringing and the sound and movement of the traffic. On the last day we made an early start and drove all the way back to Delhi. And when we reached Gujarati Sadan, around 10 pm, Mukta and Rahul were there to receive me. The scenes of reunion were all around us… and then we were home