Many would say that adventures are for the young. But Bela Mohta and her husband Shree Mohta make you change this stereotypical opinion. Instead, you realise that life is just as special as you make it and that there are no fixed rules for having that perfect adventure. It can happen whenever you decide to step out of your comfort zone and take up the challenge you were apprehensive about.
This year, 60-year-old Bela decided it was time to finally do what she had planned long ago for her 50th birthday. The situation was just right. This time enough friends had agreed to come along and Mansarovar Lake at 21,573 feet didn’t seem so daunting anymore.
“I have travelled a lot with my husband. In fact most of the travelling I have done has been with my husband, including joining him on work-related travels,” says Bela Mohta. “Later on, we would take the children along too. But soon he would get busy with work and I would be on my vacation alone.”
“So I now equally enjoy travelling in a group rather than only with my husband. Even if you have a fight with your partners, there are other people you can talk to,” she says laughing.
Shree Mohta cuts in, defensive but laughing along, “It’s but natural. Even if one’s mixing business with pleasure, when I travel for work, I have prior commitments and I can’t afford to spend all my time with my wife. So she complains and even says that she never gets her way. But that’s not true. At least we are seeing the world together.”
“As far as this trip to Mansarovar was concerned, I was a little apprehensive about doing it just as a couple,” admits Shree. “It wouldn’t be such a good idea for just the two of us to go all the way to China, brave that kind of weather and altitude. Besides, I’m 63 and she’s 60. One needs to keep a few things in mind at such an age.”
So they signed up for a tour with 25 other people, of whom 13 were close friends. The planning started in February and a general sense of excitement hung in the air. This wasn’t going to be another business trip. This was getting away from business into the lap of Mount Kailash.
When all the visas were arranged and everything else was taken care of, the group set out to Kathmandu on 12th June. It took them around 3-4 hours to fly from Ahmedabad to the crowded and somewhat chaotic capital of Nepal, where they were to stay on for two nights. The idea was not just to explore Kathmandu but also to get acclimatised to the sudden change in altitude before heading further up.
For the next leg of their journey, they flew to Lhasa on 14th June, another astute halt for some more acclimatization. Perhaps because they made such stopovers on the way, almost no one in the group felt the kind of breathlessness they had anticipated. Shree Mohta recalls that they had even packed SOS oxygen but thankfully no one felt the need for it, despite the average age of the group being 60 years.
From Lhasa they were to be reliant first on trains and then on buses, as the road conditions deteriorated steadily. The train to Shigatse was slow and took about 8 hours to cover a distance of only 300 km. From here the next day they boarded another bus that took them up to Saga at 14,000 feet, an 11- to 12-hour journey that took them past sand dunes and a rather cold and barren desert, something that really got to Shree. He says he wasn’t quite prepared to deal with it.
The hotel they stayed in was quite basic, but they were particular about their electric blankets. “Naturally, because the temperature can stoop as low as 2 to 0 degrees at night and it’s extremely windy here. I wore all my other warm clothes to keep warm under the electric blanket. It was freezing,” explains Bela.
However, by now, Bela and her husband were almost there. They were almost at the climax of their spectacular journey as yet another bus took them through the terrain and further up the cold desert to the lake. They set out next morning at 8.30 and rattled away for 8 to 10 hours non-stop. And by 5 in the evening, they were there. And there was still time to see the sights. Bela explains, “The sun sets at 9 in the night there. Really it’s miraculous how that happens but the altitude is so high that it’s bright well into the night. It’s only properly dark after 9 p.m.”
So they had enough time. Enough time to marvel at the ice-packed Kailash in the background, to stare and stare at the beauty of the lake and to take a couple of dips in the freezing lake, wading over the mossy, slippery rocks on the surface of the lake. They stayed in the area for the next three days, which gave them time to do the 110 km parikrama around the periphery of the lake as well. “Of course it seems a bit scary while planning something like this. But the idea is to simply go.”
Shree recommends all travel lovers to go after the adventure they have been waiting to experience. “Go chase that adventure. If we had done this earlier when we were younger, maybe we could have also trekked. But, that’s not much of a regret. At least we saw Mansarovar with beautiful sights that we shall never forget. It’s never too late,” he concludes.