We drove for hours across a dusty and barren landscape which made up the Indus Valley. Our minibus 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.
According 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.
A great story, highly improbable of course but I’d have bought into it in all probability had I been around in the early 11th century and it still pulls in the punters a thousand years later.
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. Several small Chortens litter the complex that all appear to have seen much better days. ￼
Disappointingly the monastery itself was rather underwhelming. Although interesting it was very easily seen within an hour and all too soon thoughts turned to the rather uninteresting two hour dusty and bumpy drive back to Leh.
The resident monks seemed jaded by pilgrims and tourists and the whole visit was rather hasty. But the old carved deities to the Gods were undoubtedly impressive and once inside the dark confines of the sacred halls it was not hard to imagine that little had changed in a thousand years.
Interior Monastery shots used in this blog post are all sourced online and not my own due to cultural sensibilities and to preserve the interiors of the ancient buildings.
Check out more photos from my adventures at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/jameshandlon/albums
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 (including Stok itself), 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!
After 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.
After 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.
Following 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.
I 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).
Nothing 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 photos from my adventures at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/jameshandlon/albums
Due south of the 1000-year-old pink walled city of Marrakech, the Atlas Mountains rise to a commanding 4000 metres and include the famous Mount Toubkal (4167m), the highest peak in North Africa and my target for this little expedition.
The planned trek & summit route
Reached after a two hour drive across the Moroccan plains on the back of an overnight in Marrakech my adventure really begins with a strenuous five hour hike up to the Neltner Refuge (Base Camp) which at just over 3200m is strategically placed for a good summit bid the following day. Continue reading “The Jebel Toubkal Adventure”
“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.” – Ambrose Redmoon
The late great Fredrik Ericsson ascending Laila Peak
“The brave may not live forever but the cautious do not live at all!”