|Kailash-Manasarovar Yatra continues: Day 5, Blue Skies Over Nyalam|
Once we reach Kailash, the plan was to do a parikrama, or a walk around the mountain. It encompasses a 40 km hike over three days, at elevations starting from 15,000 ft and reaching over 19,000 ft. At sea level it was easy to assert, "Yes! I will do it!" But at 15,000 ft, reality is different. To permit each to decide for themselves, the organizers arranged a short hike on our free day in Nyalam. Even though we would start at 12,000 ft and hike another 1000 ft, it was an important part of the self assessment before continuing onto Kailash.
Even at 12,000 ft, I could feel the reduced oxygen levels in the air. On one occasion, I lightly ran up a flight of stairs and found myself kneeled over, gasping like if I had a plastic bag over my head and could not breathe. After a few minutes I was back to normal and remembered our instructions to "walking slowly". Even a short walk through town would leave me panting. Thus this hike was not going to be easy.
After a leisurely breakfast, we started on the trail a few 100 meters from our guest house. Within a few minutes of walking, the elderly folks were taking long breaks. A few had already given up and started walking back to their rooms. I brought up the rear and tried to motivate many to rest well and walk only till the next large boulder. "Then you can give up," I pleaded. Once there, I would point to the next rock and so coaxed many onwards. Yet many would not be able to complete this small, but exhausting hike. Even I was winded on reaching the top. Certainly the marathon training gave me the physical endurance, but it did nothing for my oxygen requirements.
And without further adieu, the spectacular mountains of Nyalam! Notice even at this altitude, there are no trees on the mountains. Along the slope you do see a few scrub bushes. At about 13,000 ft, there is not enough oxygen to support a tree! The mountains here are covered with 2-4 inches of grass, yielding the green velvet look. Once we reach the Tibetan plateau at 15,000 ft and on out, we would see nothing but a little bit of grass. We would have to wait another 10 days to see green trees!
As we hiked, I was surprised at the deep cerulean skies. You will notice this in my pics from here on out. This is a common finding reported by many photographers, and I think there are several reasons for this appearance. Firstly, there is zero pollution here and you are looking at the plain sky. Secondly, at the higher elevation there is even 'less' of the atmospheric layer; thirdly, at the higher elevations, the angle of the incident light from the sun is different, yielding higher saturated colors and giving the sky a deeper blue; fourth - I use a circular polarizer which further reduces extraneously diffracted light from reaching the sensor; and finally, I love this one, it is said that our minds are cleansed by the journey permitting us to "see" more purely!
It would be criminal to hide the other pics behind a cut. Thus, only one here. Will post others over the next few days, one a day, so you can do them justice!
Click the link below for the next post on the Kailash Manasarovar Travelogue:
Blue Skies Over Nyalam, 2