Tsarang to Shyangboche

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Tsarang August

Tsarang was once the capital city of Mustang and is an interesting place to stay two nights. We have an easy day wandering around the lanes; there are many beautiful stupas, a large gompa and an old fort, now a museum, that unfortunately we didn’t enter. It contains the mummified hand of the architect who built the Potala in Lhasa, Leh Palace in Ladakh. After he built the palace for the king of Tsarang, the king ordered his hand to be cut off so he couldn’t build another. That’s the legend.

There’s a puja at the gompa and we sit in for a while, then it stops for lunch. It’s being led by a charismatic, very tall young Rinpoche but they’re using terribly distorted loudspeakers and the sound quality is terrible. The prayer room has a stunning 3D brass mandala with small bronze stupas and at the back of the hall are several large stupas and figures in painted wooden cases. There’s a break for lunch and we look around the courtyard. A young monk runs across to the main gate to scrutinise a notice board detailing the school timetable and schedule for the exams. There are some young monks sitting outside the school room on a balcony with a Tibetan teacher who’s teaching them the basics of English. They have very mixed ability and have exams next week. He too has no papers or work permits and an uncertain future.

The Rinpoche has completed a kora round the outside of the prayer room and is engaged in conversation with Graham. He’s from the Kargyupa lineage and has come for two weeks retreat with 20 monks from Sera monastery near Mumbai. He has a wonderful smile and is highly amused by Graham’s photos of himself and the monks. We wander round the village and eat lunch at the Guest House but miss the start of the afternoon puja. After the puja we wander up to roof but bump into the Rinpoche sitting at a large table. He invites us to join him and then three other English people appear, astonishingly from Bakewell, only 15 miles from where we live back home. The Rinpoche is very well educated, speaks excellent English and is lively and interested in our thoughts. He has a long conversation with Graham and keeps smiling at me, as if asking me if there’s anything I want to ask him. I tell him I have a difficult time with the Buddhist idea of no-self. Me too! he laughs and admits to a long argument about it with his teacher. It seems to me he’s be a good candidate to represent the Tibetan Buddhists once the Dali Lama has passed and I ask him about the rumours that His Holiness has very little contact with the Karmapa. Not true, he says, they see each other a lot. What we heard was just a rumour.

The late afternoion is harvest time in the village, just outside the gompa the ground is covered with grass in the process of being separated from the seeds. In another compound a mechanical device is performing the same task. Just don’t show it to health and safety. A shop staffed by a monk has opened opposite the Guest House. They don’t have the tissues we want but run off to get some, from another shop?

To Shyangboche Aug

Today’s a long day and in part is a return route so we’ve chosen this day to ride. I like the smell of horses and the idea of riding but we expected it would be faster - it’s actually frustratingly slow because Kancha didn’t get himself a horse and has to walk. I’m riding a brown horse, the others are white. I get my horse to move a bit on a couple of occasions but mostly it’s slow and the ponyman prefers it that way. I think the horse would prefer to have a bit of a canter. Leaving Tsarang we pass a large gateway stupa and climb to the Choga La at 3770m for good views up the valley to Ghar and the path across green hills that we took a few days ago. Mostly we’re on a rough road and from that perspective it’s better to be riding. The problem with a road in these environments is that you don’t feel as isloated and the relationship with the land is different, less intimate. We drop down towards Ghami and pass the large stupas, the long mani wall and the Japanese hospital. Just before a short climb back up to the outskirts of Ghami the path crosses the river over a short suspension bridge that’s been built over a lower and more beautiful old wooden cantiver bridge.

Just beyond Ghami we stop for lunch at a new guest house with a beautiful garden full of hollyhocks. Nice place but a bad move, we wait 90 minutes for the food. The road climbs to the Nyi La at 4011m, the weather deteriorates as we pass Zaite and Gelling, we end up quite cold and wearing waterproofs. The large stupa above Gelling is set well against a cloudy sky. At 6.30 we say goodbye to the ponyman at the small pass above Shyangboche and make our way quickly down to the Guest House, the Hotel Dhaulagiri. There’s black and white checked lino on our bedroom floor, the room is sparse. In the dining room we talk to a Chilean man and an Italian girl who’d teamed up in Kathmandu to do the Mustang trek. He’s fit, their guide is very fit, she isn’t. Tomorrow they plan to walk to Tsarang. I wish them well.

The Dhaulagiri Hotel


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