We drove for hours across a dusty and barren landscape which makes up the Indus Valley. We were headed for Alchi Monastery a few hours up stream and deeper into the countryside. Alchi Monastery is a Buddhist monastery, a collection of monastic temples dating from between 958 and 1055.
According to local tradition the complex was founded by a guru named Rinchen Zangpo who was a famous translator of Sanskrit Buddhist texts into Tibetan and seems to have been quite revered back in the day. It is therefore both a very old and a very important monastery and we were here as part of our acclimatisation and cultural discovery programme in Ladakh.
Evidently the tree outside the monastery is of a kind not native to the land and according to folklore it grew as a result of Rinchen Zangpo having an epiphany that he had found the right spot to build a monastery and so he proceeded to plant his walking stick firmly in the ground from which the tree we now see grew. Great story, highly improbable but I’d still buy into it if I had been around in the 11th century.
The monastery today has three major shrines: the Dukhang (Assembly hall), the Sumtsek and the Temple of Manjushri, all dating from between the early 12th and early 13th centuries. Chortens also litter the complex but appear to have seen better days.
For us it was a chance to get away from the confines of our hotel in Leh and see a bit of the countryside. The monastery although interesting was easily seen within the hour so the thought of a two and a half hour road trip back along the potholed and dusty roads of Ladakh was not too appealing so soon after having just made it to there.
Luckily lunch had been arranged for us and so we ate in the monastery gardens before embarking on our weary journey back to Leh.
Follow along with the expedition updates being posted over the coming weeks.
I found myself sitting at a table overlooking the famous square of Djemaa El-Fna in Marrakech chatting to four people that I had just met a few seconds earlier while at the same time trying to wolf down a tasty chicken tagine that had promptly arrived in front of me! Continue reading “Jebel Toubkal Challenge – Day 1”
The Route: Jebel Toubkal | Distance: 10.6km | Time: 7 Hours Height gain: 1866m | Max Altitude: 3207m | Start: Imlil Village | Finish: Neltner Refuge Map: Orientazion – Toubkal Hiking Map ISBN: 9788493560003 | Date: 07/06/2014
I arrived with my new best friends in the village of Imlil. Imlil is the gateway to the Atlas Mountains and the start point for our trek. From here on in there was only one way and it all led uphill! We all stocked up on water supplies from a small tea shop on the edge of the main street through the village while our newly acquired muleteer loaded up our mule for the journey. Our main holdalls would be carried by mule up to the Neltner Refuge, beyond that point the mule don’t go, so we would be carrying our daysacks from that point on. Continue reading “Jebel Toubkal Challenge – Day 2”
The Route: Jebel Toubkal | Distance: 16.5km | Time: 12 Hours
Height gain: 967m | Max Altitude: 4167m | Start: Neltner Refuge | Finish: Imlil Village
Map: Orientazion – Toubkal Hiking Map ISBN: 9788493560003 | Date: 08/06/2014
There was no mistaking it there was definitely movement on a mass scale as people stumbled around in the dark gathering gear and buckling up! It was 4.00 a.m already and the last time I’d looked at my watch it read only 3.00 a.m. That hour or so earlier and in total darkness I’d crept up the stone stairwell in the refuge finally crawling into my sleeping bag having spent the previous precious hours cold and shivering downstairs on a hard bench. Continue reading “Jebel Toubkal Challenge – Day 3”