28 March – Yaks, ponies, Gompas and glaciers

A very chilly dawn. We set off as usual at 7:30, still wearing down vests. However, here the valley is wide and we are high so we didn’t have to wait very long for a burning sun to heat the day. We are well protected by sunscreen, and wearing brimmed hats and sun glasses as at this elevation the sun is fierce.

We enjoyed a tea break at a little farm where the farmer was busy bringing basins of warm mash to his ponies and a yak. He offered us pony rides. How tempting. Several stops to catch our breath and take pictures because the scenery is wild high alpine – stunning.

We are surrounded by rugged, towering, snow-covered peaks. Glaciers spill across cols, spawn waterfalls and release rubble as they retreat. The land scape in the wide valley where we are walking is liberally scattered with massive rounded boulders left behind from ice sheets of long ago. Yaks graze on the space vegetation, their bells ringing as they forage. The sky is a deep indigo. Sharp contrast to the peaks that reach up to pierce it.

We pass by a new chorten, its gold spire mirroring the surrounding mountains. We also walk past many mani walls, filled with the sacred script Om mani pedme hum. Sad to say, several trekkers who haven’t bothered to read about the country in which they are travelling and who don’t have a guide, blissfully, in ignorance, show immense disrespect by passing these on the wrong side. Sometimes I’m ashamed to be a tourist. (My daily rant.)

Speaking of disrespect, there’s a young Irish man on a similar schedule to ours, so we see him regularly, who is determined to go topless. He has way too much saggy belly for this to be remotely attractive, but worse – topless men, women in shorts and sleeveless tops are taboo here. Unfortunate when people like him embarrass themselves, their county men and women and give offence to their hosts. (I guess that’s two rants for today.)

I’ve mentioned that we are above the tree line. We’re also above the snow line so there are numerous patches of snow along the trail and here in the village of Kynjin Gompa at 3860 metres. We arrived here at 11 this morning and since then have done some laundry, enjoyed lunch, had freezing cold washes and are now sitting in a sheltered sunny spot on the roof of a very pleasant guest house. There was a plan to go on an afternoon hike but Michel and I decided that hanging out here eating yak cheese and watching laundry dry suites our current state of high altitude lack of energy much better.

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