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2003 Trips to Mt Kailas with Malla Treks

The pilgrimage to Mt Kailas is an exceptional experience and is well worth the effort and complications involved. Malla Treks pioneered the trekking route from Humla to Tibet and we have run many successful trips from Nepal to Kailas. The route offers a good opportunity for acclimatisation and conditioning and it affords the opportunity to take a larger trekking crew into Tibet. The Chinese limit the size of the crew we take, but because people from Humla can cross the border at Sher without formality, we have trained a group of local Humli guides and they travel with us as part of the trekking crew.

Due to the political problems in Nepal we have decided that in 2002 we cannot operate this route with the same degree of reliability as in the past and have therefore arranged to operate Kailas trips through the road border post at Kodari. This means that there will be less opportunity for acclimatisation and conditioning and the trip will involve a long, uncomfortable drive over rough, dusty roads both to and from Kailas. It also means that we cannot bring the extra trekking staff that would normally accompany us.

Because this will be a very different kind of trip from the way we would prefer to run the trip, we want you to know about some of the issues you may have to deal with during your journey. These reflect some of the many issues and problems we have had in the past 17 years of running trips to Tibet. It is important that you understand the situation in Tibet before you travel so that you can decide if you are willing to accept the conditions and, if so, prepare to handle situations during the trip in an appropriate manner. 

We’re not trying to frighten you, but you are embarking on a long, difficult trip to an extremely remote area and once you begin there are few, if any, opportunities to return quickly to a major city or airport.

Arrangements in Tibet
Because of Chinese government regulations Malla Treks subcontracts the travel and transportation arrangements to Tibet Ngari Kailas International Travel Service, which is based in Senge Kebab (Ali) in Ngari prefecture of western Tibet. Because the services provided by all Tibetan tour companies are substandard, most operators of trips in Tibet send their own leaders, guides and other staff to make the trip conform to the standards that their clientele expects. Malla Treks, therefore, provides sherpas, food and equipment for trips in Tibet and this usually ensures a comfortable, safe journey.

Hotels, Transportation & Meals
We are at the mercy of the Chinese company when it comes to vehicles, hotels and campsites, schedules and other transport arrangements. In the past we have been transported in vehicles or with drivers that the passengers deemed unsafe. Replacement vehicles and/or drivers are virtually impossible to obtain and we have only the option of using the services and transport that are available or not travelling at all.

Similarly, many hotels, campsites and toilet facilities are noisy and dirty (and sometimes non-existent). This is a normal problem for travel throughout China and you must be prepared to accept it as it’s almost always for only one night. Be sure to bring a set of earplugs to block out the noise from the nearby karaoke parlour. The upside is that our sherpa staff can usually set up their own kitchen on the hotel grounds and produce good food instead of us having to rely on the standard Chinese fare (which may include such delicacies as chicken feet and jellied yak hoofs).

We travel in caravan with land cruisers for the passengers and a truck for the staff and equipment. Breakdowns can and will happen and it is not impossible that the vehicles may become separated from each other during the drive. You must ensure that you carry all your important items with you in the vehicle in which you travel in the event it becomes separated from the rest of the convoy.

Roads are subject to flooding and landslides and may be washed out at any time. This can happen in both Nepal and Tibet. It may be possible to walk across landslides, but in the event of flooding, it may be necessary to d rive via a different route that may take much longer than the original one.

We will be travelling hundreds of miles on bumpy, dusty roads. Be sure to bring a face mask or bandana to help protect your face from the inevitable clouds of dust. Always carry drinking water with you in the vehicle and bring iodine or other water purification tablets so you can refill your water bottle during the drive.

Pack Animals
Yaks carry the loads on the Kailas and Manasarovar koras.  The government enforces a system in which yaks are hired from various nomad groups on a rotating basis. Therefore there is no ability to anticipate or control the quality of the yak drivers and/or the behaviour of the yaks they provide. In the past we have had experiences with almost-wild yaks trampling duffel bags, throwing off food loads or dragging bags through the river. The yaks also may arrive late and the drivers may not agree to certain aspects of the schedule. Everyone involved will make an effort to make the nomads and animals perform as originally agreed, but you must understand that sometimes this will not be possible. Never pack anything fragile in your duffel bag during the trek.

It will often be necessary to discuss the arrangements with the Chinese guides, drivers and other representatives. Tourism in Tibet is state or semi-state-owned and the companies often invoke bureaucratic procedures in order to avoid providing the services that we have contracted for. Travel in China often involves lengthy negotiations with hotels and transport operators and these take time as well as causing delays and frustration.

If you are travelling without a leader, you should understand that the Malla treks sirdar is not the trip leader. The group must appoint one of the members as de-facto trip leader. The leader must then consult with the sirdar and the Ngari guide and be prepared to participate in negotiations and decision making during the trip. The position of “leader” carries great weight in China and it is important that only one person act as spokesperson for the entire group. Please ensure that important negotiations do not take place in the presence of the entire party.

If you do not have someone in your party who is comfortable shouldering this responsibility, we urge you to contact us and discuss hiring a qualified leader to accompany the group. We remind you again that the sirdar accompanying you is there to provide support services and is not qualified to assume the position of leader.

Insurance & Rescue
We require that you purchase a travel insurance policy that specifically includes rescue insurance. Malla Treks will not be able to organise any rescue service in Tibet. You will have to rely on whatever the guide from Tibet Ngari Kailas International Travel Service is able to provide. Helicopters or planes are unavailable; therefore a vehicle is the only way to reach a clinic or a hospital. All extra expenses like hotels, vehicles, meals, telephone calls, escort service and medical bills in the course of the evacuation must be paid directly to the service providers in Tibet. Note that hospitals and other medical facilities in Tibet are extremely poor.

Since we will be travelling in a group on a group visa, there will be significant expenses incurred if you separate from the group for emergency, medical or personal reasons. We recommend that you carry at least US $500 in cash to cover emergency situations and also be prepared to stick it out when things get rough.

It will be difficult or impossible to communicate with Malla Treks once you arrive in Tibet and will be equally difficult for us to influence the trip if you do manage to contact us. You should be prepared to trust the appointed leader deal with the Ngari travels staff and other Chinese authorities with the assistance of the sirdar. 

Security & Regulations
Due to the sensitivity of the region, areas that are currently open may be closed to tourists and we may have to be diverted to other areas.  We will try our best to update you with any new rules, but in China important changes can take place without any advance warning. Although we expect visas for all our guests, the Chinese Embassy in Kathmandu can deny or refuse a visa for any member of the group due to their own reasons. Please consult us in advance if you are employed in field such as journalism or politics that might be considered “sensitive” by the Chinese authorities. We run our trips on the expectation of good weather, but over the course of a three-week trip there is a good likelihood of rain or snow in Tibet - even during the summer - and this can severely affect both the trekking and driving conditions.

Travel to Kailas involves many days of travel at high altitude. On the kora you will cross Dolma La, a 5600 metre (18,500 foot) pass. Malla Treks will provide a Portable Altitude Chamber for emergency use in the event of altitude sickness, but the only “cure” for severe altitude sickness is to descend, and this is not possible once you reach the Tibetan plateau. If you are travelling without a leader you must educate yourself about the symptoms and treatment of altitude sickness and carry the appropriate emergency medical supplies.

Because you will be making a fast ascent to the plateau of Tibet at 3800 metres (12,500 feet) or more, you will experience discomfort from the altitude. Please consult your physician for suggestions on coping with the effects of altitude.

Refunds and Delays
The Malla Treks Terms & Conditions state: There will be no refunds if a passenger leaves a trip for any reason whatsoever, either voluntarily or involuntarily, after it has begun. We will make no refunds for any meals, accommodation or services not used. 

This is particularly important in Tibet where we pay the Chinese in advance for the services they provide and have no ability to obtain any refund whatsoever.

Release & Assumption of Risk
Before you embark on the trip we will ask you to sign a release form stating that you have read and understand this information and you have purchased the rescue insurance that we require

Malla Treks Pvt Ltd.
PO Box 5227
Kathmandu, Nepal
Fax: USA (520) 395-6820
Telephone: 977-1-410089

Contents copyright © 1999-2002, Malla Treks. All rights reserved.
Revised: October 14, 2002