Sunday 5th August. Sangtha to Leh

Back: Yar La to Lingmoche

Next: Leh, the Dalai Lama, Phyang gompa

The ponymen come back with the horses during the night, we have a restless sleep. It’s a cold morning, the ponymen leave at 6.30, we take time to pack. It turns out that the French couple know Dawa from a previous trek. Our jeeps arrive and we decide to drive to Sangtha. A wonderful drive over rough tracks and pitted rocks brings to a bluff overlooking the deserted village and 10 white stupas of Sangtha. Mani walls and this number of stupas imply a gompa, there’s no sign of one but the ponymen seems to know of one - but where? Boots off for the river crossing to the stupas, it turns cold and I borrow Bev’s spare fleece. Even in this cold light it’s a special place, there’s a nice row of stupas, some fine mani stones and painted images of the Buddha contained in the niches in some of the stupas. We burn incense to show our respect. Behind the nearby hills to the east lies a powerful range of mountains and deep valleys, we find them on the map but the map indicates no major routes through.

My thoughts are that this would be a wonderful place to camp at the start of a trek to the east to Tso Moriri. Having said that, the land is quite flat, which I find is more tiring than walking up and down hills, and it would be good to have a horse to ride across the plains. We recross the river to return to the jeep as it starts to shower. A spectacular drive along the valley to the east brings us to the Leh Manali highway where we turn north, to the Taglang La and then on to Leh. It’s a slow, slow ascent to the 17,000ft Taglang La, Stenzin spots the ponymen riding in the valley below. Riding quickly on the old road to get to their home village of Rumtse before nighfall. Taglang La is a very bleak summit, light snow and army trucks; soldiers taking photos in front of a Hindu shrine. Really nothing to linger for. Stenzin says that the Bihari roadworkers earn Rs 130/day. A hard life. We descend quickly, the landscape becomes interesting near Rumtse, the stupas here have some different characteristics; we pass Gya, twice, and Latho. No wonder the map’s confusing. Red and green hills, a great drive. Momo soup at Upshi where I buy a stupid pale straw hat that doesn’t suit me.

Back in Leh we say our goodbyes and tip the crew. Beer and pakoras at the Penguin Cafe; time to check emails and make phone calls. We check into the Muryel Guest House, room with a balcony, nice garden, shaded breakfast area, Nepalese staff - Raju wears blue and white socks and a towel around his head.

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