The land was undulating plain, with stretches of scrub and marsh. The colours and moods of the lake were versatile: I once counted six different hues of blue. The southern side of the lake is dominated by the Gurla Mandhata peak, which looks like a celestial staircase. Around Manas we saw herds of musk deer running free and Tibetan wild asses (kiang). One day I saw a large black animal walking confidently some 100 metres away. It stopped for a while, enough for me to take a photograph. Later were identified it as a Tibetan wolf. There were scores of exotic birds, plovers and ducks, the Ruddy Sheldrake and bar-headed geese. The creeks flowing into the lake teemed with fish – but no one fishes here. Dead fish found on the banks are used by shamans for medicinal purposes.
Soon we entered the stark valley that surrounds the mountain and passed by Choku Gompa on a cliffside, remote and barely visible. Kailash now appeared in full splendour. I took a photograph of the peak through a solitary stone archway named Shershung. Around the peak were ranged high crags of black rock, so sheer they looked like ramparts upon which no ice could remain. In a few hours we passed the west face, stunningly close, appearing like an entity with arms stretched outwards, welcoming the world-weary pilgrim. We made our first camp soon afterwards, as pilgrims on ponies made their way in the distance. There was ice nearby, and we slept amid sounds of running water.