Thursday 17 July
Penguin cafe breakfast. We discuss trek menus at Snowleopard and get a lift up the Leh valley to the small village of Gonpa. We need to start walking and acclimatising to the altitude; up to now we’ve been taking it easy. Children play by the big prayer wheel near the shop at the bottom of the village. The walk up through the village is steep. There are numerous lanes and Bev and I soon get separated from Graham. A fierce dog is thankfully tethered, his owner comes out of the house and attempts to help us find Graham. It turns out later that Graham heard the dog barking at us but went a different route. We make our way to the Nezer gompa above the village, it’s hot and we’re glad of the sparse shade. Gonpa is a beautiful, prosperous village with fine shrines and stupas, Indian red paint surrounding doorways on white walls, prayer flags on rooftops. The large Nezer stupa sits on high ground above the gompa. 
A lattice of prayer flags transforms the hilltop and stupa into a magical place and we linger some time in the sun before walking north along the stony ridge. The lower slopes are dotted with the ruins of old stupas. After an hour we drop down to the valley and rest in the shade of trees. The valley floor is a jumble of fields and stone walls but we can’t see a way through them and decide to walk back along the narrow path along the bottom of the ridge, frustratingly close to the cool, lush greenery of the fields. We drive back to Leh, giving lifts to three women and a baby.

Tea on the guest house balcony then we shop for a hold-all, incense and prayer flags for the trek.
At the Leh gompa the teachings on duality and non-attachment are finishing; after the Lama departs the crowd circumnavigate the gompa, spinning prayer wheels, their own and those mounted into the walls. Om Mani Padme Hum. Hail to the Jewel at the Heart of the Lotus. The mantra of Avolokiteshvara, the Boddhisatva of compassion. The mantra of Tibet.
Mushroom salad and chips at the Ibex; Bev and Graham have slight headaches so we lay off the beer.


Zanskar - Leh, Gonpa