Deraphuk: A Trek in lively La-chu Valley

Trip Start Aug 19, 2006
Trip End Sep 13, 2006

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Tuesday, August 29, 2006

After an excellent stay here at Darchen we are now fully prepared for our 52 km parikrama of Mount Kailash . We start for Deraphuk early in the morning. Deraphuk is situated at a height of 4900 meter (16200ft) and is 20km away from Dharchen of which ten km is a bus drive.

We carry with us only articles of basic necessity for two nights and the rest we leave here in charge of the caretaker of the tourists' hostels. From here onward we have to make our own food arrangements and we decide to put them under the efficient charge of Mrs. Deshpande one of the yatris from Maharashtra. .

We drive clockwise in the westerly direction along the periphery of the foot-hills of Mount Kailash. As we pass over the Tibetan school for children we sight the dark blue Rakshas-Tal shining far in the south. After a while we enter into the fascinating valley of La-chu. After a drive of nearly 5 km from Dharchen we reach Sershung where a big flag-staff is hoisted in honour of Buddha, the Enlightened. A fair is held here on full moon days in the month of May. Within 200 m from here is a chhorten (a monument) called Yamdwar (gateway of the Lord of Death). It is an arch like construction with a spire on top. It is considered auspicious to pass through this arch for our onward journey. The valley now opens up. It is called the valley of the Amitabh Buddha wherein flows a lively stream, La-chu, the River of Gods, which carries crystal clear water brought from far away glaciers. This valley is considered very rich in medicinal herbs.

Mt. Kailash
After walking for a while we take the bus ride again for few more kilometres at the end of which the mules and porters are waiting for those who have booked them. Many of the devout do the entire parikrama on foot. It is a pleasant day and an enjoyable walk under a clear sky. Occasionally as the wind howls in the hills, stones large or small roll down in to the valley which echoes with resounding moans. The journey is through a rugged and barren landscape. Bald, grey, rocky mountains stare at you. A complete absence of greenery adds to the severity of the landscape. We encounter a herd of yaks grazing on the slopes. We are still 4 km from our camp when we get a clear view of the western face of Mount Kailash. It looks peculiar in shape. As we slowly plod along on almost level grounds we find ourselves amid the magnificent statuesque rock cliffs with water flowing on them.
Along the way we come across a lone young monk doing prostrate parikrama. We have heard of such penance performed by devout monks but see it first hand now.
From Deraphuk we have exceptionally clear and closer view of the imposing western face of Mount Kailash. It has a dazzling aura. It is dome-shaped mount of sparkling snow standing on a pedestal flanked by lesser mountains guarding it. We are so close yet so far from it. The very thought that we have such close view of Holy Kailash, the abode of lord Shiva, seems dream-like and unbelievable. Slowly however, it sinks in. And yet we are not satisfied and want to be still nearer and have darshan from the close quarters. We therefore, climb up about 300 m of steep ascent to be in close proximity to Him. Some of the yatris go even further up but Kailash remains elusively....the hunger, however, remains.
"And I am blissfully lost here,
In these rugged desert valleys,
A captive of serene stillness,
Where Mt. Kailash stands tall,
And dazzling with its beautiful aura
This is the closest and clearest view of Mount Kailash, a spectacular sight especially when illuminated by the rays of setting sun. One can only imagine what a treat it must be to have a glimpse of its spectacular view on a clear full-moon night. We are told such clear view of is a rare sight
Each side of Kailash has a unique grandeur and grace of its own. It stands tall and beautiful among snowy peaks. I don't know of the mystery that lies beneath or the million myths that surround it but I am deeply overwhelmed and spellbound by the ethereal beauty that it presents amid the grand rugged surrounding landscape.
What more is needed than this? Don't mortal beings strive to surmount the pain of the journey to be amid such serene and sublime surroundings?
Our camp is situated on the left bank of the river La-chu. It is newly constructed stone masonry structure with several cubicles. Each cubicle accommodates 4-5 pilgrims. Mattresses, pillows and comforters are provided. Deraphuk means 'Cave of the female yak's horn' and refers to the monastery which is inside a spacious cave about a kilometre away across the river La-chu. It is visible from our camp.
By evening it is very cold even inside the cubicles. We are very tired and after a small meal we retire early to bed. With this we bid adieu to the memorable twelfth day our journey.
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