30 July – Monasteries & climbs

We continued the religious tour today with a visit to the Gotsang Retreat Centre, a small temple at 4,000m in the mountain above the more famous Hemis Monastery.  Of course, that is part of the problem… it is ABOVE the Hemis Monastery which is the end of the road.  To get to Gotsang, we had to walk only about 1.5km but up from 3,600m to 4,000m high.  While we are better acclimated to altitude, we still had to huff and puff quite a bit.  Since they are still building the place (construction here is measured in centuries), Buddhists are encouraged to assist by carrying logs, bricks or other construction materials and equipment up the hill.  After a brief consideration, I remembered that I was Catholic but Andreas helped another man carry a log.  He is a good guy.  I am not 100% sure of the significance of this small retreat but I understand that Khandro-la has some history here.  I believe that she spent part of her childhood here based on the stories she was telling of her memories.  After taking in the views, we went inside and met the resident lama.  He, Khandro-la and a young Australian monk who we met on the climb led us in prayers for a while.  It looked to me like Khandro-la was lip-synching to most of the prayers but since we didn’t know a single word, I can’t complain.

One funny story from the day related to the interpersonal relationships of our merry, disparate band of travelers.  We know we are all very different from each other in many respects but we also know that we will all be together in close conditions for two weeks.  Therefore, we all also tip-toe around anything that may cause offense to each other which could disrupt the harmony.  There are obviously things that do bug us a bit about our travelling companions, just as I am sure we bug them some too but we keep quiet to keep the peace.  Our newest friend doesn’t know these rules though and doesn’t know how to be circumspect.  Kanya walked up to Gotsang having a conversation with the Australian monk.  When they finally got to the top, she seemed to brag about how easy the climb was and she didn’t even break a sweat.  The monk quickly replied that this was no wonder, considering how slow she walked.  We all had to stifle our snickering.

After our descent, we visited the 17th century Hemis Monastery and their museum.  We took a tour with the monks and had tea with them too, despite the fact that we were all hungry for dinner for quite some time.  The views from the roof of the stars at night were rather impressive.

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