Thurs 24 July  Marling to Lingshed over the Kiupa La and Margun La
By 7.30 the sun’s just creeping onto the campsite. An hour later we’re walking under a clear sky, the moon stays higher than the sun until midday. A deep chasm splits the ground by the camp, we contour round the steep hillside, looking back on grotesquely jumbled deep fissures. Ahead of us are rolling soft green hills, faint trails and small settlements on occasional flat spots of land. The 4 backpackers (Czechs?) we passed yesterday have camped ahead of us. They’re not well and are still sorting their camp as we pass them. I must be tired, it seems a long haul up to the Kiupa La (4430m); we drop steeply again then climb up to the dusty and Margun La (4370m). An hour or so later we’re at the beginnings of the very spread out village of Lingshed. No water at the first campsite by the gompa so we carry on to the second camp by the village shop which, amazingly, has a satellite phone.
The campsite is on a dry terrace below the shop. There’s a couple of streams and a little grass; a nice place that suffers from us all being tired. The downside is the awful view of the next pass, the Hanuma La, on the far side of the valley.

Fri 25 July Lingshed
We’re staying here today so we devote the morning to washing before heading off to the gompa. A Gelupga gompa, it’s extensive, built on the hillside with numerous individual monks’ cells; the dukhang, main assembly room, is near the top of the hill below a mani wall. We see inside two assembly rooms, catch the end of morning puja and get invited for butter tea. On the veranda the teapot is suspended in the centre of a parabolic metal mirror that focusses the heat of the sun. A young monk wraps a grey cloth around the handle. Lingshed gompa is fairly new, maybe 200 years old, the paintings are too new to be anything special but the decorative painting on the roof beams and around the doorways, although of the same age and provenance, is well executed, lively and pleasing. Yellow seems a more predominant colour than usual, on walls, floors, doors and on the cloths that hang in the dukhang covering the thankas, decorated with an unusual, simple, red and green cross-stitch pattern. Yellow/orange floral patterns decorate the door frames of glass cabinets containing statues of Sakyamuni and Tsongkapa. A two storey Maitreya, the future Buddha yet to come, sits looking out of a first floor window, his face illuminated by the daylight, his feet in shadow.

The monks are friendly, we take a break from exploring the corridors and balconies to sit for some time with the younger monks in a large windowed room with fine views over the green Lingshed valley. Higher up the hill, behind the main buildings, a long mani wall with prayer wheels is punctuated by three white stupas. On the wall an upright mani stone has a crudely scratched Amitabha Buddha seated on a lotus, cross legged with hands in the meditation mudra. The crude simplicity of the carving has a power almost greater than the opulence of the painted images inside the gompa.
There are few clouds to cut the sun and the afternoon is hot. A lazy afternoon, Graham brings lemons, soda and biscuits up to the rock pools by the stream up from the camp. We take cold plunges and dry off on the hot rocks. Back at the gompa we miss the 6 o’clock puja - which started at 5. So we sit on the polished wooden floor of the windowed room with views, sharing tsampa with the monks among low painted Tibetan tables, old enamelled tea caddies and copper bowls.

By 6.30 the valley is in shade, the low sun casts soft shadows on the opposite hills making tomorrow’s walk look deceptively gentle. I need to find energy and a more positive frame of mind for tomorrow, I’ve been tired today and weary of the ups and downs that are an inevitable fact of life on a trek with so many passes. Two days ago I seemed to be recovered from my diabetic episode at Photoksar, it feels like it caught up with me today. 
The day ends like all days with goats returning to the village. We use the village phone to call home. Always a mistake.


Zanskar - Marling to Lingshed