We leave Tingmosgang, and head back towards Leh,
catching momentary glimpses of a child’s unfathomed life.
Pictures taken on the road from Tingmosgang, Ladakh.
Initially, arriving back at our guest-house, we failed to notice there was no electric power.
But as the darkness grew ever denser, it became very apparent.
Not only were we unable to read, the temperature had begun to plummet.
There was little to do other than listen to our anxious host attempting to start his petrol-powered generator.
Once light was regained, he invited us to join his family in “the kitchen”: a large, gloriously warm room, heated by a wood-stove.
Suddenly, we were en famille with four generations of Ladakhis:
the owner’s grandmother with her beads and prayer-wheel, oblivious to our presence and perpetually focused on another world;
his mother supervising the cooking; his wife serving us hot and delicious food;
the host himself, along with his brother, joining us for supper;
the youngest generation, fluent in English and busy on the internet.
All of us, seated on mats and cushions.
The room warm and welcoming, but without even a single chair.
When the meal finished, a gas-stove was taken up to our bedroom.
The generator continued to give lighting for almost another hour – but there was only ice-cold water for washing.
We disconnected the stove’s gas cylinder, turned off the light switches, then buried ourselves under several layers of thick blankets..
At seven o’clock the next morning we were awoken with a large pot of hot Tibetan tea: an infusion of tea-leaves, butter, sugar and salt.
Thirty minutes later, a single bucket of hot water arrived.
Though the bathroom was so desperately cold that we could only stand on its freezing floor if wearing shoes, it was finally our chance to wash!
After shamefully hasty ablutions, and having dressed as quickly as possible, the warm kitchen again awaited us,
along with an amazing breakfast of freshly cooked, hot pitta breads, butter, local apricot jam and steaming cups of coffee.
Pictures taken in the Namra Guesthouse, Tingmosgang, Ladakh.
The day’s touring was almost done.
We had visited two monasteries, passed through alien landscapes and taken lunch in an exotic Ladakhi home.
But still we had no idea where the night would be spent.
As our car drove away from the last monastery, it seemed we might be retracing our path.
After an hour or so, I began to make sense of our itinerary.
We were returning to the house where we had lunched.
Suddenly I understood why the owner had first shown us a bedroom – though the explanation for its remarkable, bordering on louche, décor was maybe a matter best left unresolved.
The sun sets late in the Himalayas:
great altitude gives longer hours of daylight.
With the evening still bright, we began to explore the village in which we would stay.
Music could be heard drifting up the hill and, wondering if it might signify a local wedding, we followed the Tibetan melodies until reaching a roadside field, to find instead an archery competition was underway.
A very beautiful young woman smiled sweetly, offering us hot tea and savoury snacks as we watched the men taking turns to shoot a bullseye.
When an interval was reached, the competitors retrieved their arrows, then the entire company moved into a tent where local barley-beer and rum were served.
We happily accepted several glasses of the beer, but unsure of the strength of their liquor, we declined it.
A second round of archery followed, in which we were also invited to try our hand with bow and arrow.
Once more, but this time with the well-being of the local population foremost in our minds, we politely declined!
It had been an amazing and beautiful day.
But the surprises were not yet finished:
a fascinating evening meal still awaited us…
Pictures taken in Tingmosgang, Ladakh.