Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Still in Spiti

I'm back in Kaza again, Spiti's big town. I made a mistake last time I was here, I needed to apply for an inner line permit to travel back to Kinnaur and didn't realise that the day I was planning to do it was a Sunday. So I'm here again.

I've spent the last couple of days going for long walks up mountains in the morning and then crashing at the monastery in the afternoon. I don't think I've ever been so fit. And on top of that, I'm clearer of celiac symptoms than ever. It must be the diet of rice, dal, vegetables and occasional fruit and yoghurt. Plus plenty of chai. At the monastery it's like chai is on tap.

Every time I walk I say to myself that I won't do anything that difficult again. And then I do something harder the next day.I went over 5,000m yesterday and the day before. You can see the start of the path I followed going up the hillside below.

I'm handling the altitude fine but the camera is not so healthy. I pulled it out to take pictures of some mountain goats yesterday and started screaming when it wouldn't even start. It now seems to be taking pictures but the viewfinder isn't working. Luckily I made a second sighting of mountain goat things. Without the viewfinder, however, I didn't manage to zoom in on them.

As much as I'm loving it, I need to calm things down a bit. My hands and face have had a bit too much sunn (despite incredible precautions) and don't match the rest of my body. And with the exercise and diet, I look like I'm auditioning for 'The Machinist II'. I can't afford to lose any more padding because roads here are really bumpy. In a bus yesterday passengers forced a crazy old saddhu to get off the back seat and move forward. As soon as he did, the seat flew off the frame and landed on the floor!

On the same bus trip, we drove past a field where 100+ people were standing in a circle. Our bus stopped to watch them and it turned out they were doing the hokey pokey/cokey!

There were a couple of foreigners there so I guess they were to blame. Earlier that morning I was walking towards a mountain village when a kid started shouting from the top of a cliff. I stopped to listen and realised he was singing 'Inky pinky ponky'. I have no idea who to blame for that!

And the monastery has also provided plenty of ridiculous moments. There's a French girl staying there at the moment and we're having a lot of fun sharing observations. It really is the Fawlty Towers of monasteries, it's a lovely place with lovely people but it's incredibly dysfunctional. The young lamas seem to run wild. I sat in on prayers this morning and they were playing and giggling through the whole thing. The ones nearest me were even playing with a very realistic looking toy gun!

Being a Hindi speaking foreigner often makes me a confidant and at the monastery it's particularly true. Several of the younger lamas have told me that they find monastery life pretty boring but think that it is better than doing farm work in their village. Monastery life is weird enough when you've chosen it yourself but even weirder when you were thrown in at a young age. Lamas can get released but their family needs to pay a sum of money to the monastery. I guess that plenty must do this because there is hardly anyone there between the ages of 20 and 40.

Anyway, I leave Spiti tomorrow and I'm going to miss the place incredibly. Lamas at another monastery in the valley have asked me to come back next year to teach and even with my misgivings about the system I'm considering it. The monastery is gorgeous.

And the view from the monastery is just as amazing.


Jean said...

It sounds like you're having a wonderful adventure. Take care of yourself and I really look forward to hearing more stories & seeing your pictures when you return. Your absence from Ldn is sorely missed! :)

Iqbal Khaldun said...

Sounds like a great monastery, and a French girl to boot! Don't worry about the physical side of things, it comes with the territory. Think of it as detox from Portugal and Spain!! Hope your camera is working ok, post some pics up!

j a s o n said...

Ohh la la Joe, wish I was there. For the chai, and exercise...

Instead I am at Mercer Street Cafe using the internet connection and sipping on the Peppermint tea and doing no exercise. Lazy lazy day!

Weeks of cooked breakfast and steaks have taken their toll!

Sad to hear about the camera, was hoping to see some wonderously inspirational indian travel snaps.

Miss Mogfa is off on her trip just now, she is all packed with her 6kg (amazingly economic packing) backpack and stressing over the watering of garden!

Cal said...

You inspired me. I made rice & dal for lunch yesterday.

Sadly the only walking I got however was down to Angel and back.

Joe said...

Thanks Jean! I'm really looking forward to seeing everyone again! And hearing all the travel stories!

Mus, after writing that entry I became quite certain that the French girl was having a fling with one of the monks. It really was a hilarious place.

Oh, and I spent time talking with ladies from the village who were advising an Indian guy that he should ask the tall monk if he wants to know more about women hehe...

Jason I'm so glad that the flat has been so incredibly well utilised while I've been away! And I'm so jealous of you having moved to HK!

Ooh Cal, I've just finished reading 'A tale of two cities' and 'Oliver Twist'. Suddenly a walk to Angel seems so much more exciting!

j a s o n said...

So if i shave my head and wander around in an orange cloak all day...

Joe said...

Yes - you'd be a magnet for hot French tourists.