Tso Kar and Tso Moriri
We need to push our acclimatisation and so we set off south east from Leh to Rupshu and the lakes called Tso Kar and Tso Moriri, which are over 1000 metres higher than Leh.
The road takes us over the Taklang La, at 5970m the third highest road pass in India.
But first we stop at a small monastery at Gya. Faded frescoes in the old open courtyard are still visible in spite of the rain damage, the faded protector deity Vajrapani looks even more terrifying being only half visible.
In the new monastery a monk chants prayers for us and we look round the remaining buildings of the older monastery. Many villages are building new monasteries. In time they’ll have the atmosphere of the older ones but for now the antiquity of the older ones has a deeper resonance.
We camp near Tso Kar which is home to migrating birds. The nearby village of Thugde is bathed in the warm light of the setting sun. A small monastery on the hillside has an older section with a narrow dark cave containing a beautiful small statue in white alabaster of the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara. The new prayer room has a larger 1000armed Avalokiteshvara.
The village is deserted and has the strange atmosphere of a dusty film set. In the summer the villagers go to the high pastures and return here for the winter.
We spend a cold night in a tent.
Tso Kar, like many lakes in the Himalaya, is shrinking and the habitat for migrating birds is deteriorating. Nonetheless, we are blessed with the sight of two black necked cranes, sacred birds for the Buddhists of the Himalaya. The salt deposits erupt in mounds and create little floral outbursts on the ground.
The next day we make the three hour drive to Tso Moriri and the town of Korzok but arrive too late for a important commemoration of the life of the Rinpoche of the Korzok monastery. The Rinpoche, only in his early 30s, was killed in a road accident about six weeks ago and many villagers and other Rinpoches and lamas have come to Korzok for the day.