Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Road Trip Back to Leh. Village Unknown.

Door leading to Saspol Caves. That tiny blue dot in the middle of the picture is Chantale's hat.  Dorje is standing next to her.

From Rizong Monastery, Dorje took us to a place that I can only describe as a teeny, weeny, itsy, bitsy village in the middle of absolutely nowhere.  The ride to the village took us through more of the spectacular landscape of Ladakh.  For Dorje, this is every day scenery.  For me, it's special and so my eyes don't leave it unless they have to.

Even the experience of traveling on the bumpy roads is something I do not want to forget.  I'm forever capturing snippets of our rides.

The village was located just a short drive from Rizong.  Dorje parked the car at the base of a hill. 
We got out and Dorje pointed up the hillside, towards a red speck on the hillside. 

I had to use the full length of my 300mm zoom lens to see that the red speck was actually an opening in the hillside

That's where he wanted to take us but with his very limited command of English, it was hard to figure out what Dorje was trying to tell us was so special about this place.  Something about paintings.

The path looked steep and rocky and not knowing exactly what was behind that door, I opted out of going as did Ayşe.  I'm not very sure footed and with my fear of slipping, falling and re-injuring my foot, I decided it was not worth it.  In hindsight, I should have made the trek up because the door marked the entrance to the Saspol Caves, named after the village.  The caves are rock cut temples, four of which are richly adorned with Buddhist paintings dating from the 13th - 15th century AD and representing a fusion of Indian and Tibetan Buddhist art.  So, the ever intrepid Chantale made her way up with Dorje accompanying her.

While they made their way up, Ayşe and I set out to explore the village. 

Sadly, with its ramshackled buildings this village looked like it was abandoned but it's actually not.

I always forget how poor the Tibetan people, in general, are.

While I wandered back to see how things were going for Dorje and Chantale, Ayşe disappeared into a field somewhere.  Wherever there are vegetables growing, you will find her.

The path leading up to the opening in the hillside zigzagged up the hill so it was taking Chantale longer to get up to the opening than I had thought it would.  I noticed that every now and again, she would stop.  I had forgotten the altitude we were at - high enough that uphill walks are not easy for those of us who live full time at sea level!  Had I gone up with her, I would have been taking far more stops because of my cursed weak lungs!

Thankfully, Dorje was there to lend her a hand if she needed it.  If he hadn't been there and she had taken a tumble, it would have been horrible.

Chantale wasn't inside for long which made me think that there wasn't a lot to see.  Of course, I was interested to see what photos she had taken.  To better capture the paintings, she shot video instead.  I will have to ask her if she is willing to share the videos with me and allow me to post them up.

Update:  January 17, 2018.  Here's the video that Chantale took of the paintings inside the cave.  Remarkable!

As Chantale was making her way back down, Ayşe reappeared with her shirt all drenched in water.  What the ???  Apparently, between the road and the field was a small grove of trees with was a small stream running through it.  She was squatting down near the water and next thing you know, lost her balance and fell in.  I was shocked by her story so the first thing I wanted to know was whether or not she was okay.  She was fine and in fact was chuckling over the silliness of what had happened to her.

Well, on the plus side, it is a hot day today and I'm sure it was cooling to be wet ergo, the reason she wrapped her scarf around her head.  Not sure about putting her hat on top of the scarf though.  Oh you sillly woman, you!

At the lower part of the hill, the path flattens out and by the time I was done listening to Ayşe's misadventure, Dorje and Chantale were barely a few minutes away from the car.  

As we left the village, I looked in amazement at Chantale's video of the cave paintings.  The whole time that we were in the village, there was literally no one around except for one woman making her way down a hillside to the main road.  That was it.  Not a villager and not a tourist.  If anything, Saspol Caves are a hidden gem.  So, don't tell anyone to go there.

Our road trip back to Leh continues.  It's time for lunch and one more monastery.