Tuesday, Wednesday 7th, 8th August. Basgo

Back: Leh, the Dalai Lama, Phyang

Next: Likir

Tuesday 7th August

Lazy day, hot.

Wednesday 8th August

It’s my birthday, I wake up to find I’m 59. We go to the Penguin Cafe for breakfast. I presume that the Penguin Cafe was named after the Penguin Cafe Orchestra, you can listen to one of my favourite Penguin Cafe tracks, Life Boat, by clicking on the link:

After breakfast we drive west along the road past Phyang towards Basgo and Likir. We’ve glimpsed the ruins of Basgo on a previous drive to Lamayuru. It’s an old fort and palace complex in a magnificent location on the hill above Basgo village. Large white stupas lining the road as we approach from the east hint of its importance. Basgo is magnificent - ruins of an old lookout tower rise vertically from the highest rocky pinnacle; prayer halls and palaces and the ruin of an old mosque hang on to the hillside above eroded mud brick ruins that still lurk above the village. We’ve seen lookout posts perched on the top of narrow rock pinnacles elsewhere in Ladakh (there’s a similar one at Wanla) and they always seem impossible - vary narrow buildings with vertical sides, hardly any interior space, no space for construction scaffholding, what to build off? And a platform on the top to light a fire to raise a warning.

World heritage site recognition has provided funds for an extensive restoration program, the main prayer rooms are being renovated with new paintings  and the outer walls are being rebuilt, the original mud brick being replaced with dressed stone. Some of the older buildings, including a mosque, seem too far gone. A monk is sitting quietly reading by the door inside the main prayer room. The light ouside is intense and it takes a few seconds for my eyes to adjust and to take in the interior which contains a beautiful, huge seated painted and gilded statue of Jampa, Maitreya, the future Buddha. The wall paintings are old and some of the best we’ve seen, I particularly like an image of the Buddha inside a stupa surrounded by flames. Back outside, I descend new stone steps to rougher ground. Children are playing with Graham while their mother, or sister?, is sleeping under a corrugated iron sheet balanced on two oil drums. In an older prayer room, that’s too dark to see much, a old monk breaks my reverie by interrupting his steady drone of mantras to ask rupees for entrance tickets. Below this chapel a small building with a wood and glass veranda festooned with prayer flags overhangs the cliffside. I believe this is an important building but we don’t get to see what’s inside and it remains a mystery.

We drive on to Likir.

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