Hundar Sand Dunes and Camels

After Diskit Monastery, we travelled on about 30 mins further till we came to Hundar, home of the Nubra Valley sand dunes. On our approach, we stopped by the side of the road, as you do, & snapped a few shots looking down onto the dunes. They didn’t extend for miles, but there were quite a few – certainly enough for some nice shots.

Descending to the dunes, we saw the Bactrian camels go by (hot tourist activity which we didn’t partake in – glad as I don’t really like riding camels). Bactrian, or middle Asian, camels are unique to this area, & I hear love munching on the Seabuckthorn berries abundant in the area. Lots of tourists were camping here as there were small streams to bathe in, drink from, & wash clothes in. Completely missed the golden light on the dunes as we’d arrived too late (too much time climbing up those monastery steps, I bet). Busting to go to the loo, I ended up wandering through the dunes till I came upon a man-made mud-brick wall with no apparent purpose which proved an excellent facility. Almost got lost finding my way out – can only imagine what it would be like in an actual desert.

Pics to come…..

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Diskit Monastery

In the afternoon, we headed off in the other direction. First stop, Diskit Monastery. Still burning hot & again we had to climb all these stairs – why does the gompa have to be at the very top of the hill? Around 100 monks live here & there’s some major restoration work being undertaken as I write this. Met some guy from the Czech Republic who’s on the restoration team, & he said the roofs leak here. Perhaps it’s because they get bucket loads of snow in the Winter, & it just sits on these flat roofs.

The monastery is of the Gelugpa tradition, same lineage as H.H. Dalai Lama, so his pictures are displayed prominently here. I was aching to go into the ‘Protective Deities’ room adjacent to the gompa. Jigmet said I’d need to wear a face covering to protect myself from being recognised by them. I knew Palden Lhamo (female warrioress & protector of the Dalai Lama lineage) would be in there as a main protective deity & wanted to see her statue. But today was not the day for it, as we were asked to leave promptly. I found out the Dalai Lama made a surprise visit into Leh for a talk – & I missed it with all this travelling around.

Pics to come…..

Hot Springs in Nubra Valley

The next day, every cell in my body refused to get up at 4am & visit some distant monastery. Enough is enough! Geraldine rescheduled the itinerary & made it a 5:30am start to Zimskhang Monastery (again). Fabulous! Absolutely no need whatsoever to venture up there again. So I got a gloriously rare sleep-in – just over 8 hours after I’d done some pre-sleep inhalation & popped a Valerian pill.

After breakfast, we hopped in the cars & drove up the valley to shoot the Hot Springs, quite famous in the area for bringing relief to the ailments of locals, Indians, & foreigners alike. It was almost midday by the time we arrived, sun at its brightest, stinking hot, & not really much to see. Can’t compare these at all with the standard Western Hot Spring experience – not sure I would’ve stripped off & immersed my body in the bath (yes, singular) – would probably have picked up an ailment instead of healing one.

Pics to come…..

Zimskhang Monastery

 

Zimskhang Monastery

 

Outside Zimskhang Monastery

 

View over ruins to mountains

 

Stupa with carved tablets

 

 

After unpacking, we headed up to an abandoned monastery atop a hill (aren’t they all) just down the road from our hotel. From where the car parked it was a steep, unstable climb – something I always crave to do with an 8kg pack on my back. With camera in hand, I slipped about 5 times, but kept my balance. The climb was definitely worth it. Stupas scattered half way down the hill set the scene for some lovely shots up to the monastery.

The 500 year old monastery was now classed as a ruin, the monks having been relocated down the hill. You could see why. Rickety is a good adjective, as it decrepit. Only one room remains, filled with Buddhist statues, & is locked to all but the maintenance monk, so we didn’t get a sneak peek.

As the sun set over the not-so-distant mountains, the surrounds lit up & the clouds were stunning.

Pics to come…..

Road from Pangong Lake to Nubra Valley

Up extra early this morning (4:30am) for a long day of driving on to the Nubra Valley.As we drove up the road heading back, big chunks of the road had simply been eaten away by the torrent of water from yesterday’s snow melt. But we did manage to get through.

We had to go up over the Changla Pass again, then all the way back down to Thak Thok Monastery, then make a turn & go up & over the Warila Pass. This pass is also very high but hardly anyone drives on it – we found out it was a restricted road being so close to the disputed Pakistani border; a road suspicious characters (like us) take seemingly. No cafes at the Warila Pass; still bloody cold though.

As we descended down into the Nubra Valley, it was around 4pm in the afternoon. The valley was alive with green vegetation, sprinkled with alpine & desert flowers, dusty mountains surrounding. We checked into the Hotel Rimo (named after the glacier up this way – the 2nd largest in the world) at Tegar (used to be called Tigger, like from Winnie the Pooh). Much of the snow melt in this area is a result of glacial melt. So, moderately different scenery…..

Pics to come…..

Sunset and Rudeness at Pangong

At around 3pm, we heading off to shoot the sunset, which I thought far too early. We were only 10 mins down the track when we came upon this roaring snow melt river. Due to the intense heat of the day, more snow melted than usual & we found this torrent of water pouring down the mountain across the road. Some cars attempted the crossing, we decided not to as it would only get worse as the afternoon wore on.

So we found a lovely spot close to where we were & set up there for the next 3 ½ hours. I preferred to wait a bit as the light was too bright & I knew the gorgeous colours would start from 6pm. I sat & sang, admired the mountains, & reflected on lots of stuff with no one around – glorious & emotive. My peace was unfortunately interrupted by the rudeness of one of the group members, Hilde, who, for some unknown reason, has been quite abrupt & just plain rude to me since just after we began the tour. I told her I was over her rude attitude & to just leave me be. Methinks there’s some inner frustrations at play in her…..

Puffy Body Parts

Up again at 4:45am to head back up the valley to catch the sunrise on the mountains. We stopped just near the nearest camping village & we there for over 3 hours shooting the changing light. Thankfully, Jigmet was thoughtful enough to bring us chai tea, biscuits & leftover cake for our pre-breakfast snack, which went down very well indeed in the rather chilly conditons (I had thermals & 3 extra layers on).

Perhaps I’ll never be a photographers bootlace – I don’t mind getting up really early now & then, but I find it difficult to sleep in the day, so never get to catch up on sleep like others. Also, over 3 hours shooting in the same place can get more than a tad boring. I often find myself contemplating life & Nature, finding inspiration, then shooting something new I’ve just discovered or seen differently. Shooting continually when in a group of photographers at times feels more like an ego competition – who’s better, more dedicated – I really don’t see the point in that when it’s such a personal expression.

We actually got some extra power back at the dining tent as Geraldine bought some generator time for us – yay! So I spent nearly 4 hours inside that bloody sweltering hot tent downloading all my images, backing up, & writing my blog (first things first). And this morning Geraldine, her detectors on the lookout for signs of altitude sickness, noticed my hands & face were puffy. Great! Just another thing to add onto my Ladakhi body crisis. She gave me some Diamox to take, which I did, & 20 mins later the first side effect appeared – really painful pins & needles in my toes, like the ones that ache & take ages to go away. They moved later to include my fingers also & come at the most unexpected of times.  I mean if the tingles were all over my body, I may have found some delight, but they positioned themselves only in my extremeties & are annoyingly unpleasant.

Pics to come…..