The monasteries, villages and wildernesses of Zanskar

(In 2012, a friend and I hired a horseman from the village of Darcha and trekked through the high pass of Shingo La into the villages of Zanskar. This is a continuation (and the conclusion) to the journey I began to recount in the previous post. The focus of these posts is to showcase the photography. I will do a more detailed report of the trip on a future post.)

The terrain below Shingo La was steep and punishing as we slipped and slid through vertiginous snowfields and mighty scree slopes to reach the campsite of Lakong. The lone granite peak of Gumbarunjon would be the defining feature of the spectacular wildernesses between Lakong and Kargiak as the Kargiak river photogenically wound through the arid technicolor moonscapes. 

https://flic.kr/p/2a6XfhJ

https://flic.kr/p/2968eQY

https://flic.kr/p/28Pg42e

https://flic.kr/p/28PC1wT

https://flic.kr/p/2adisNt

 

Although the goal of the trek was to spend as much time in the wilderness as possible, we couldn’t believe how relieved we were when we reached the stupas lining up the trail to the village of Kargiak and met its people at the trekkers cafe on the outskirts. The five days spent outside the realms of civilized society were beautiful but we were craving for genuine human warmth and conversation. The architecture here felt one with the landscape, whitewashed stone and wood houses set amidst green fields with the craggy mountains of Zanskar hanging above. 

https://flic.kr/p/299d3Jm

https://flic.kr/p/28RZRo6

https://flic.kr/p/28T37KZ

https://flic.kr/p/27vZ5AU

https://flic.kr/p/N9Ti63

https://flic.kr/p/29cKMRd

https://flic.kr/p/N1QWmu

 

Beyond Kargiak, the trail passed through more villages and increasing human activity until we reach the campsite of Purne, the trailhead for the walk to the monastery of Phugtal. After you’ve walked through a landscape of sheer scree-ridden canyons, you cross a bridge, turn left and up there hanging in the sky on a sheer vertical cliff would be the Phugtal monastery. The first sight of this magnificent sanctuary is bound to impress even the most jaded eye. I spent 2 nights at the monastery guest house, a humble, spartan establishment, conversing with the monks and making repeated trips to the monastery above to have a closer look at the ancient murals and rituals at the monastery. It was a fitting end to what had a spectacular few days walking in the Zanskar mountains.

https://flic.kr/p/292q9Fu

https://flic.kr/p/2a7yaxH

https://flic.kr/p/27jygz3

https://flic.kr/p/MXCvcd

https://flic.kr/p/28Gzzar

https://flic.kr/p/2a3TVyK

Continue Reading