Leh–Gonpa

Diary

A short trip up the valley after failing to get my sim card activated. Turn off Road up the irrigation channel. In front is a couple who look just like an older version of Grace and Billy. The concrete path eventually brings me out onto the main stream down the valley, by the iron bridge and the prayer wheel with resident dizzy pigeon.

Turn down the road towards Shanti stupa then right and upwards, past the Tisseru 'stupa', its bottom tiers now encased in concrete, with ruined stonework visible above. After a while the road veers right; I carry on straight along a dusty track between compounds.

At the top of the track is a small shrine building containing an old Buddhist rock carving (possibly the same one photographed by Francke) and a ventilated butter lamp hood. Various old chortens are scattered around, part eaten away by wind to expose the courses of stones. The conglomerate slopes also have layers of larger and smaller, flatter or smoother stones, with the effect that it is only on careful examination that one can distinguish a ruin from a natural formation. Self-manifest chortens appear on the ridges, by the streams; human-erected chortens crumble, become one with the geology.

Walk some way up the valley (but presumably not as far as Francke---no sign of the 'rgya mtsho' ruin*). A French woman is sitting by the road. She and her brother tried to go over to Phyiang, but the path was too difficult, as she explains with hand gestures and at one point an imitation of the sound of a goat.

Return to a bridge and cross over to the village of Gonpa. The road winds up to a large chorten at the very top of the village, from where there is a fantastic view over all of Leh, the Indus valley, Stok and the mountains. The chorten sits on a concrete platform on a moraine of rounded stones. Many of these stones have been stacked one on another to form balanced towers sometimes over a metre high. I'd noticed this rock balancing on the passes between Keylong and Leh, especially at the and .

Descend through the village, which is picturesque, composed of traditional houses, pressed up against each other on a steep slope. The gonpa which presumably provides the name to the village is a very modest structure below the chorten, just a small prayer hall and a terraced yard with flagpole. By contrast many of the houses in the village are quite large, certainly bigger on average than the houses in Leh's old town.

At the bottom of the village is a modern prayer wheel with a couple of chortens. Crossing the main stream I find another path beside an irrigation channel which eventually opens out onto the road on the other side of the valley. I follow this back into town, past 'Lamdon', so completing the circuit of the valley.

*I suspect this ruin is the old gonpa ruin on the TR side of the other (Ganglas) branch of the valley, surrounded by decrepit chortens.