Trek to: Hilsa & cross the Nepalese border into Tibet
Internal Transfer: Landcruiser to Purang (aka Taklakot)
Visa required: Yes if British plus an Aliens' Travel Permit
Currency:Chinese Renminbi (RMB)
Time Zone:+8hrs GMT
Day 2, 22/06/10 - Mt Kailash, Tibet
Left Purang early this morning and drove to Lake Manasarovar (Mapam Tso) passing close to Lake Rakas Tal. These two Lakes form a significant part of the pilgrimage and have been a recognised place of worship for millennia. From a personal perspective and previous work with the shadow the very existence of these two Lakes absolutely fascinated me.
Within the realms of psychology/psychoanalysis Freud & Jungian analysts often make reference to the unconscious; to symbolism, to the light & the darkness, the forces of good and evil but such things are rarely apparent or recognisable within our natural habitat. Here however, amidst the western flanks of the Tibetan plateau I believe such a representation does exist.
Lake Manasarovar (the force of light) has a simple, understated & natural beauty. On a superficial level it can neither be considered exquisite nor ostentatious, but look deeper and one soon discovers this lakes' true beauty. Home to a hidden mass of rare wildlife, Manasarovars' unique ecosystem sustains and nurtures all life. It is to here that pilgrims travel from great distances, in harsh conditions to bask in the water & rinse away a lifetime's culmination of sin.
In a geographical sense Manasarovar represents the manifestation of life, of vitality, of forgiveness but as with all aspects of life & humanity to have one side is to also have its opposite. Light only exists in the presence of darkness, so it's curious that Manasarovar is neighboured by Lake Rakas Tal, the force of evil.
Lake Rakas Tal, is visually divine. Set against a backdrop of sand colour peaks my breath was literally captured by the calm serenity of its still, turquoise waters. Its external beauty is exquisite, however this is merely an illusion, like a precious gemstone it lures you in and it is only upon closer inspection is it realised how barren are its shores.
Nothing grows or lives here, its shores & surrounding areas are desolate. This Lake represents the forces of evil, a Lake greatly feared amongst the people here, a Lake representing darkness, infertility and death.
We pitched camp on the Southern shore of Lake Manasarovar, a heavenly place radiating absolute peace. At times, I felt as if I was literally looking above the clouds such is the vastness of the sky here. Rare and wonderful species of wildlife appeared to flourish on these shores, there were grass mice (apparently that's what they're called?!), wild geese, butterflies, huge bumble-bees and an abundance of birds. Oh and let's not forget the millions upon millions of tiny sand spiders which seemed to cover us like a scene from 'the Mummy'.
Upon the shore of Manasarovar I experienced an essence of purity, of stillness yet at the same time, a sense of vitality. In the distance, across the deep, royal blue waters stood the widely depicted, scarred South face of Mt Kailash. I'm so delighted we are spending an extra day upon these shores, it's like I've stepped into an imaginary world, a world without limitation. With such familiarity I'm sure this is the Lake I've conjured up through many a visualisation and I can now fully appreciate why it's considered celestial for so many.
What takes some getting used to is the physical conditions out here; with the hot sun and striking blue sky its surprising just how cold and bitter the wind blows here. A couple of pilgrims have told me to look across the Lake at about 3am. With the almighty sky above they believe they witnessed stars falling from the heaven's and bathing in the celestial Lake waters.
What an incredibly inspirational place & I'm so glad that apart from the nearby monastery and a few Tibetan nomads I am the only tent on these shores - what an experience, what an opportunity and what an absolute privilege.
It seems everyone is quite fascinated that I'm out here travelling alone & I have been told by the nomads to be careful after night-fall because of wild dog attack. In all fairness I haven't actually seen any yet, though I'm sure as we get closer to Kailash that will all change.