Stok Kangri Expedition, Day 2 – The Trip to Alchi Monastery

We drove for hours across a dusty and barren landscape which makes up the Indus Valley. Our mini bus was headed for Alchi Monastery a few hours up river and deeper into the Ladakh countryside. The Monastery consists of a small collection of monastic temples dating from between A.D.958 and 1055.

According to local tradition the complex was founded by the revered guru Rinchen Zangpo famous for translating Sanskrit Buddhist texts into Tibetan. It is therefore both a very old and a very important monastery and we were headed there as part of our acclimatisation and cultural discovery programme in Ladakh.

Guru Rinchen Zangpo Pictorial StoryAccording to ancient texts the tree outside the monastery is of a species not native to the land thereabouts and folklore dictates that it grew as a result of Rinchen Zangpo having an epiphany that he’d found the right spot to build a monastery and so he proceeded to plant his walking stick firmly and permanently in the ground to mark the spot from which the tree we see today grew.

Great story, highly improbable but I’d buy into it in all probability had I been aroundO in the 11th century.

Rinchen Zangpo's Walking StickThe 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. Several small Chortens litter the complex but all appear to have seen much better days. 

For us the visit was an opportunity to get away from the confines of our hotel in Leh which was becoming way too claustrophobic and a chance to get out and see some of the surrounding countryside.

The monastery although interesting was unfortunately easily seen within an hour, so the subsequent thought of a two and a half hour return road trip along the potholed and dusty roads of Ladakh was not too appealing.

Alchi Monastery - LadakhLuckily though lunch had been arranged for us by the monastery and so we ate in the tranquil monastery gardens relaxing for a couple of hours before embarking on our weary journey back to Leh.

At the end of the day although tired from the long journey we were a day further into our acclimatisation process and a day nearer to the big climb itself so all was going to plan.

Check out more photos from my adventures at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/jameshandlon/albums

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Stok Kangri Expedition, Day 1 – Arrival in Ladakh

We flew into Leh on the first day of our adventure aboard a very early morning flight out of Delhi. The approach to Leh airport is what could be termed interesting. 360 degrees of surrounding mountain ranges, a narrow valley and a dusty ex military airstrip to try to land on. It was a sick bags out and hold onto the seat of your pants kind of a landing!

Prayer Flags - LehAfter eventually clearing the never ending bureaucracy of the airport (which is in more or less lock-down mode due to volatile political tensions in the region) we finally emerged to grab lifts in a convoy of small taxi vans waiting outside which whisked us at speed through the labyrinth of dusty and bumpy roads to our local hotel.

View from my room - LehAfter a nail biting cab ride that only third world countries can deliver we arrived at our hotel/hostel where we were cordially greeted with traditional prayer scarves by the genial hotel staff.

Meet and GreetFollowing on from being fed and watered the rest of the day was spent just sleeping and gaining some much needed R&R. Later after awaking from barely enough sleep I had a quick walk into town.

Very dusty and muddy with potholes everywhere is the best way to describe the streets of Leh. The town is a strange fusion of Indian and Tibetan influenced cultures. Many Tibetan refugees have made the town their new home and Buddhist influence abounds through prayer flags, stupas and the Tibetan markets.

Ladakh House - LehI ended up wandering around one of the many Tibetan Bazaars that litter the town and made a timely investment in some prayer flags, (always good to have as much spiritual support as can be mustered when attempting to climb a 6000m peak).

Street Stalls - LehNothing else of much note happened for the rest of the day as this was just one of what would come to be all too familiar acclimatisation days.

Day two of the trip though would hold the hope of some much needed physical exertion by means of a trip to the very old and famous Alchi Monastery some distance away up the Indus Valley. Catch the next post to read all about our trip to the monastery.

Check out more photos from my adventures at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/jameshandlon/albums