Mon 21 July Photoksar    
In the morning light Graham takes some lovely photos of a goatherd coming through the camp. We wash clothes then walk down towards Photoksar village. I veer off to a stupa on the hilside and walk into a puja - the villagers are consecrating a new stupa or the repainting of the old one - I’m not sure which. A monk from Lingshed is sitting inside the stupa reciting prayers; we’re made welcome and join in, throwing barley and tsampa into the air as we walk clockwise round the stupa. We hand over Rs10 notes to be pasted on the upper walls of the stupa and drink butter tea, light incense from a juniper fire and push the smoldering sticks into cracks in the brickwork. The women have long platted black hair with coral and turquoise beads, traditional costumes with large goatskin purses round their waists; they move their fingers quickly over their malas, strings of 108 wooden prayer beads. As the puja ends we drop back down the hill and over the bridge to the village past fields of peas coming into flower, unripe wheat, wild geraniums by the walls and paths, bright yellow flowers by the stream. 

Rough mani walls and red and white stupas lead to the two small gompas on the hillside above the village. The lama wears a long faded marroon coat of course wool, doubled across the chest and tied back with round brass Tibetan buttons. He grins incessantly and keeps putting flowers up his nose and in his ears. Padmasambhava is a recurrent image in the gompas. On the mani walls there are very fine carvings of Manjushri, Avolokiteshvara and Vajrapani who are also represented by yellow, white and blue stupas. An older gompa is perched precariously on a steep scree slope high above the gorge, too dangerous for even the villagers to reach. 
Down in the village we have tea and tsampa in delicate China teacups, poured from brightly patterned, cork stoppered, Chinese vacuum flasks. Vote Congress posters line the wall. The village seems poorer than Hanupatta but equally friendly and it’s delightful to wander through the rough lanes. A small niche in a wall contains an unusual prayer wheel made from discs of palm leaf or paper, I can’t tell which. Through an adjacent hole in the wall I see more of the discs  strewn around a small painted Buddha. I give some mints to an old man wearing a dirty red duvet jacket sitting in the shade of a doorway. We passed him earlier and he surprised us by asking for bon bons. As I give him the mints I realise he’s blind. It’s unusual to see someone old and incapacitated. He takes my hand to his forehead as if it’s me that’s blessing him - I’m thinking that it’s us who are blessed, that we can see places and people such as these. 

On the way back to camp we call out ‘Juley’ to three women from the stupa celebrations. Walking back uphill I realise I’m tired from this lazy strolling and ready for lunch. Noodle soup. Bev’s reading Colin Thumbron’s Shadow of the Silk Road. We share New American Language on the iPod. There’s a cool breze and we change into warmer clothing before walking up the valley. The light is flat and no good for photos, we don’t go far. Goats littering the opposite hillside are being slowly guided down to lower slopes. Four backpackers are coming down from Hanupatta. Ray and Odette are back at their tent. Odette’s a serious flirt with a Caribbean attitude and asks Bev if she can have me for the night - on account of I’ve shaved and Ray hasn’t. Is that all it takes? Ray’s a semi-professional photographer with heavy Nikon lenses. They’re on their second India trip this year, travelling light with a guide and four horses, cooking for themsleves or eating at tea tents. 

A man passes by our tents with a wicker basket on his back which he fills with dung with a adept flick of his dung spade. He gives us a demonstration of his craft, strokes his chin and jokes about our shared white beards; he shrugs his shoulders to say: getting older, what can you do about it? Dinner includes a fine, slightly tart, brinjal dish, strange large noodles, chana dhal. Banana fritters. This has been a very friendly village. On the iPod Gillian Welch is singing I’m Not Afraid to Die. So easy to say. It’s been cloudy and cool all day but in the late afternoon there were blue patches and then light showers. Some night stars, colder.       
Tues 22 July Photoksar         
The early sun catches Photoksar as we walk past yesterday’s newly inaugrated stupa. A mile further on I’m behind the others, taking photos, when I misjudge my diabetic control, have low blood sugar and have to abandon the walk. A ride back to camp on a pony and the rest of the day spent recuperating in the tent. That hasn’t happened for a long time. Photoksar is host to a group of mobile doctors (tomorrow they’ll be in Hanupatta) and a walled compound has been painted red and white to indicate it’s status as a hospital for the day. In the evening Graham goes down to the village for the party, a night of drinking and dancing with the doctors and villagers.


Zanskar - Photoksar