The Himalayas of India:  Ladakh and Dharamsala, Summer 2008
Ladakh -  Leh Palace, Hot Dogs in a Can, Lamayuru, Alchi
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Later in the evening on the 4th of July, we walked up to Leh Palace, which looks like the Potala Palace's ugly cousin.  It's in a serious state of disrepair, a bit surprising since it's a national monument of great importance.   Tom somehow got lost, eventually wandering back down to Old Leh, while I continued up to the front of the palace, with Tsemo Gompa high up in the distance.

5 July - The next day, I walked up to the Leh Palace again, and then up the very steep walk to Tsemo Gompa high up above Leh and the palace.  Although I felt strong, I still had to stop several times to gasp for air and rest.  I ran into some Italian people who asked if I ever found Tom yesterday.  I scrambled up the boulders and loose dirt to the white fort above, where two young Americans with flip-flops were hanging out.  They slipped and slid back down behind me as we scrambled down before it got dark.  I made it back to the Yak Tail hotel to meet Tom, and ate at some tandoori trout at the Penguin Cafe around the corner.

The view that evening from the window of the Yak Tail Hotel where we were staying.

Hot dogs in a can, where we purchased some water and supplies for our trip the next day to Lamayuru and Alchi Monasteries.

6 July - We got a late start on the 6th of July, the Dalai Lama's birthday, and as we drove to Lamayuru Monastery, it began to rain, and remained cloudy much of the day. 

The Lamayuru Monastery, on the right, is beautiful, but it's the spectacular moonscape peaks that make this Kagyupa gompa particularly amazing.

I'd been wanting to go to Lamayuru Monastery since I was here in Ladakh 11 years ago.  One of the principal monasteries of Ladakh, it rises out of the rocky mountain as if it is of the earth, not built upon it.

 Although it was rainy and cloudy, the rain stopped by the time we got to Lamayuru, some 124km away from Leh. It's in an isolated valley, extremely craggy and moonland-like, as the locals love to say, and the monastery sitting atop a mountain heightens the drama.


This is one of three photos that were selected for the Top 100 travel photos in the 2009 Photo Issue of the Los Angeles Times!

The Lamayuru Monastery, looking like its always been part of the earth.

Yak butter lamps inside Lamayuru Monastery.

A offering inside Lamayuru Monastery, burning lamps and incense.

Butter lamps inside Lamayuru Monastery.

One of the highly decorated entrances to the temple in Lamayuru Monastery.  The Ladakhis and Tibetans have a way with their near-psychedelic colors and musty incense, and mixed with the high peaks, can almost put the visitor in an altered state of consciousness simply by being there.

Still more butter lamps, which I was quite taken with at Lamayuru Monastery.  The softly glowing butter lamps made me feel extremely peaceful.

We drove back down the road with Delek, the same driver as the Tso Moriri trip, following the Indus back.  We heard from Namgyal, our guide, that the headwaters of the Indus River is Lake Manosarovar by Mount Kailash in Tibet.  The Indus River flows down through Ladakh, continuing downward through Pakistan before emptying into the Arabian Sea.

We stopped in Alchi, Delek's home town.  I walked down through the tiny town to see the a thousand year old tree, which sprouted from Lama Zangpo's walking stick, although Namgyal believes that he had actually planted a tree and not a walking stick.  In either case, Lama Zangpo is greatly revered as The Great Translator, who translated many manuscripts from Sanskrit and Pali.


The Alchi Gompa, or Sum Tseg Gompa, was founded in the 11th Century by The Great Translator, Ringchen Zangpo, upon his return from India, which accounts for the gompa's Indian and Kashmiri influences. 

Lama Zangpo brought Kashmiri artisans back with him and oversaw the architectural work. You can see some of the lavish woodcarvings both inside and outside. Photographs were not allowed inside the complex unfortunately, but we saw clay statues and some amazing frescoes.  Sadly, some of the frescoes are badly water-damaged, and some have been garishly, incongruously restored.

After visiting the Alchi / Sum Tseg Gompa, we drove down a short way to the Basgo Gompa.  Here, where Tom and Namgyal, our guide, posed for this photo, a Bollywood film was filmed here, with the actors cavorting and dancing with the majestic Himalayas in the distance.

The Himalayas of India:  Ladakh and Dharamsala, Summer 2008
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