Day 10: Trekking visit Lamayuru and camp Ulitokpo

Lamayuru Travel Blog

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Leaving Themisgam.

Owing to some mishap the previous evening I woke up quite ill-tempered at 6:15 AM. After the daily ritual of tea, washing water and breakfast we left the Themisgam camp at 7:30 AM, just after it had started to rain. Today was the last day of our trekking and we had been told it was going to be a tough one. We had to cross our seventh and last pass, the Bongbong-La (3630 m). To reach the start of the path to this pass we left Themisgam, followed the road to the little town of Tea, which continued down the valley where Themisgam ended. At 8:40 AM we took a short rest, after which we continued our way uphill.

Leaving Themisgam.

 

This was definitely one of the biggest challenges of the trek. The path was narrow and often made of extruding bits of rock. The rain didn't make it any easier but bright hot sunshine would probably have been worse, as we've felt in the previous days. As the Dalai Lama has once said, the only good thing about anger is that it creates determination. And this proved to be very true. In my bad mood I was determined to get up this damn hill without too many stops and I was one out two persons to reach the Bongbong-La first, at 9:20 AM, forty minutes after starting at the foot of the mountain. The view was of course marvellous again. We could see Tea and Themisgam and the fertile valley disappear around the mountain.

Climbing the Bongbong-La.
The two monasteries were also clearly visible, looking out over the towns.

 

This time it was the turn of the two Buddhists in the group (me and Andre) to tie-up the prayer flags, followed by three times 'Larga-Lo' and a group picture. At 9:50 AM we continued walking over the very gently descending barren plain that lay behind the pass, flanked by mountains on both sides. Annoyed by the continuing rain and still in a bad mood I took the lead, walking in the front with Dadul. I wasn't feeling too much like small talk with anybody and this front position gave me some desired rest.

It still took us 1,5 hours before we reached the jeeps that were parked on the road that runs along the murky Indus. In this time we had descended 500 meters from the Bongbong-La.

View towards Ang from the Bongbong-La.
When the group was complete we got in the jeeps that took us for a short drive to the town of Khalsi, which was filled with shops and restaurants, something we hadn't seen for several days. While the drizzle turned into a heavy rain we sat down in a restaurant to have tea and eat our packed lunches. For some reason this place was pestered with lots of flies, making the twenty minutes it took the owner to prepare 17 cups of tea feel like a lifetime. 

 

At 12:35 we got back into the jeeps. The rain had finally stopped and the rest of the afternoon would be sunny or slightly clouded.

View towards Tea from the Bongbong-La.
Another day, another gompa and this time we would visit the Lamayuru monastery, where we arrived after an hour. The road to Lamayuru (3390 m) was beautiful, winding itself up the mountain while you could view the river snaking in the gorge below. At times it was quite scary to see the depth below while the jeep came dangerously close to the edge of the road.

Lamayuru lies at the end of the gorge and the town itself proved - how shall I describe it? - a real shithole. Houses were in various stages of disrepair and most of the place smelled like an open sewer. According to legend Lamayuru had once been the bottom of a lake but some Buddhist saint had prayed to guardian spirits to have the water drained away. Maybe it wouldn't be a bad idea to have the place flooded again, just for a short while, to wash away the filth.

 

The reason why we were here was the Lamayuru Gompa - beautifully situated on a cliff above the town - which proved to be well worth the visit.

Conquering the Bongbong-La.
The gompa is the oldest one in Ladakh, dating back to the 10th century. It featured an assembly hall that was the most colourful one I've ever seen, filled with those tube-like collections of coloured ties. There was also a room with three jewelled chörtens, containing the ashes of the head lama's of the gompa. The roof offered beautiful views of the surrounding valley and a young monk took us to a hidden room below the monastery where a very old 11th century prayer hall was located.

 

After this visit we returned eastwards to our final camp site, Ulitokpo. During this drive of 1,5 hours we had a short delay at a location where road constructions were taking place. While we were killing time, lingering outside the jeeps, there was a sudden series of explosions right behind us. Only a few hundred meters behind they were blowing up the rocks with dynamite to broaden the road! For a second it almost seemed like Pakistan had invaded Kashmir and the Indian soldiers that seemed to be all over the place in this area had to get busy.

Conquering the Bongbong-La.

At 16:30 we reached the camp site Ulitokpo (3450 m) where the tents had already been patched up, this time with prayer flags strung between them. Tea, biscuits and snacks were also waiting for us.

 

Tonight we would say goodbye to our fabulous crew. The original idea had been to hold a competition with silly traditional Dutch and Tibetan games. To be honest, not something I was particularly looking forward to in my current mood. The continuing bad weather would however make this original plan impossible.

Conquering the Bongbong-La.
While we were enjoying a wonderful Italian dinner that Dorje (our chef) had prepared, it started to rain again and this soon developed in a thunderstorm. No way would we be doing silly games under those conditions. When the wind died out we heard a rather scary roaring sound not far from the camp site. This proved to be the nearby river that was flowing incredibly strong because of the heavy rainfall. Dadul ensured us that there was no danger...

 

The crew still their minds set on the traditional end-of-the-trekking camp fire, rain or no rain, and when the thunder and lightning had died out they gathered wood and with a proper amount of gasoline they managed to start a fire. Tashi, who had joined the festivities, turned on his car stereo and before long the whole crew was dancing around the fire to the beats of European pop music. Some of my travel companions, among whom Judith, immediately joined in but I didn't quite feel like dancing in the rain. For some reason however I found myself joining the wet madness within several minutes, a bottle of beer in one hand and a cup of chang in the other. Indeed, Dadul had arranged a small jerrycan of chang on my request but would later tell me that he found that the crew had already drunk half of it by the time he retrieved it from the box he had stored it in.

At the Bongbong-La.

 

Several hours of complete lunacy followed during which crew and travellers danced like madmen on what seemed to be Tashi's only two CDs. When Tashi's car battery failed he and the crew tried to restart it but for some reason the car actually backed up straight into the camp fire! Probably scared shitless Tashi seemed to have pulled the handbrake and when the crew tried to push it out of the fire it wouldn't move an inch. I think that Paul detected the problem and after the fire had been burning right below the car's fuel tank for what seemed like ages we were able to push the car away. Surely, one explosion a day was more than enough!

After we had shaken off the shock of this incident the party continued. The crew gathered anything that seemed flammable to keep the fire burning. Sticks, wooden and carton boxes and they even came running with a complete tree! Dadul and Dorje frequently threw more gasoline on the fire and when the rain finally stopped our wet clothes quickly dried because of the intense heat of the fire.

Barren plain beyond the Bongbong-La.
When there were only a few beers left we continued to hand them around the circle of dancing Dutchmen and Ladakhi that was moving around the flames.

 

At 1:00 AM, when several people had already gone to bed, Kirsten decided that it would be better to stop to give everybody their well deserved rest. Tashi insisted on one more song and a very special moment followed in which we all sat around the dying fire and meditated to an ambient tune from his car stereo. 'Big Jan', who had come from his tent for a quick toilet visit was absolutely flabbergasted by this sight and must have though that we'd finally lost our minds ... After Tashi had wished everybody a good night we went to our tents. A great night that will remain a vivid memory for a long time.

bamiforall says:
It ain't a party without a jerrycan of chang and some exploding cars (looks like an average Kissconcert to me0
Posted on: Aug 19, 2008
Devika1985 says:
awww geweldig weer..
toch maar n wijze vent he die Dalai Lama :D
en ja het klinkt als een mooi moment, dat aan het einde, maar ja ik snap ook dat die andere gast zoiets ha van..eeh??!?!
:D

x
Posted on: Aug 19, 2008
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Leaving Themisgam.
Leaving Themisgam.
Leaving Themisgam.
Leaving Themisgam.
Climbing the Bongbong-La.
Climbing the Bongbong-La.
View towards Ang from the Bongbong…
View towards Ang from the Bongbon…
View towards Tea from the Bongbong…
View towards Tea from the Bongbon…
Conquering the Bongbong-La.
Conquering the Bongbong-La.
Conquering the Bongbong-La.
Conquering the Bongbong-La.
Conquering the Bongbong-La.
Conquering the Bongbong-La.
At the Bongbong-La.
At the Bongbong-La.
Barren plain beyond the Bongbong-L…
Barren plain beyond the Bongbong-…
Beyond the Bongbong-La.
Beyond the Bongbong-La.
Beyond the Bongbong-La.
Beyond the Bongbong-La.
Beyond the Bongbong-La.
Beyond the Bongbong-La.
Getting the jeeps in our sight.
Getting the jeeps in our sight.
At the jeeps.
At the jeeps.
On the road towards Lamayuru.
On the road towards Lamayuru.
Lamayuru.
Lamayuru.
Lamayuru.
Lamayuru.
The colourful assembly hall of Lam…
The colourful assembly hall of La…
Ties, any colour you like.
Ties, any colour you like.
Butter and dough statue.
Butter and dough statue.
Lamayuru town ... not your average…
Lamayuru town ... not your averag…
View from Lamayuru Gompa.
View from Lamayuru Gompa.
View from Lamayuru Gompa.
View from Lamayuru Gompa.
View from Lamayuru Gompa.
View from Lamayuru Gompa.
Butterlamps at Lamayuru Gompa.
Butterlamps at Lamayuru Gompa.
View from Lamayuru Gompa.
View from Lamayuru Gompa.
Shy young monk showing a hidden sh…
Shy young monk showing a hidden s…
Roadworks with dynamite.
Roadworks with dynamite.
Camp site at Ulitokpo.
Camp site at Ulitokpo.
The crews farewell cake.
The crew's farewell cake.
Who says you cant build a campfir…
Who says you can't build a campfi…
All you need is enough gasoline an…
All you need is enough gasoline a…
Campfire madness!
Campfire madness!
Campfire madness!
Campfire madness!
Campfire madness!
Campfire madness!
Do the DJ!
Do the DJ!
Tashi & Kirsten.
Tashi & Kirsten.
Lamayuru
photo by: edsander