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The next morning, considering this was the second time we had stayed at the Temisgam Guest House (or maybe they do this with all their guests, but I doubt it), we joined the owner’s family for a traditional Ladakhi breakfast in their kitchen. Due to the large wood or yak-dung burning oven / stove dominating the larger room, I also suspected that the family spent a lot of their time here in the winter (sometimes the kitchen becomes the only room when the temps drop low enough). Anyway…
We formed tsampa – roasted barley flour into balls with butter, a little tea and sometimes sugar, which one can eat on their own. They are very good, and because the flour is roasted, it is easily digestible. Or we made little scoops with the dough and ate their traditional curd (a runny, very flavorful yogurt) – which of course was from the milk from the cow outside. Local anyone? It was a filling and delicious breakfast. And actually it sure beat the strange looking eggs we were fed at other places – I’m not sure if it’s the altitude, but the eggs in Ladakh looked quite unusual. Unfortunately it has been 2 and a half years but I seem to recall the coloring is different. In all honesty, it could be their eggs look “right” and our eggs are from funky, modified chickens. Don’t know.
On the way back to Leh, we stopped at the Basgo Palace. This was one of the two lower palaces in its day – which judging from the look of it, was definitely decades or more likely centuries earlier. The place was quite dilapidated and only one shrine room was kept up well. One “building” was barely that – the red clay walls seemed to be melting over time, and it had been at it for a while. However.. They have been maintaining a large Maitreya statue – I wrote 40 ft in my journal but that sounds generous. It is very fascinating – the statue has windows up high so that it can gaze out across the valley. There was another bronze statue but unfortunately I did not write down who / what is it of. However, see these photos – the ceilings are very high and everything (like usual) is painted or stenciled. Very very beautiful, colorful. You can see in the first picture how Maitreya’s face is lit up by the sunlight through his windows.
I will also share a little about peripheral details I noticed from the pilgrimage, about Ladakh in general. It seemed like Leh was the “happening” cosmopolitan city (as it is the only city in Ladakh, this makes sense). People’s style was more varied and colorful in the city. It seemed to take on a more “Indian” flavor in Leh, not that I have a clue about fashion mind you. I was especially fond of all the different hats you can see on people. If you know me well, I try to keep track of which metaphorical hats I wear with whom – because it is good not to have too many on at once. But here I am talking actual tangible hats. Both men and women wore them – there were many traditional seeming hats, some with square flaps, some heavier (like you might expect them to be worn in the winter – which leads to the question of, “what in god’s name are people doing wearing such heavy clothing / hats in the summer?” Apparently some Tibetans / Ladakhis don’t mind sweating a bit.) There were also some baseball caps.
On another note, I do not envy the road workers their jobs in India – they make gravel by hand, which requires, uhm… well loads of elbow grease! Sometimes we passed big vats of tar which was boiling so they could fill pot holes with it – asphalt on the fly anyone? Some workers were making squared stones for bridges and roads. They had a team effort when it came to shoveling – one person had the shovel in hand and did one direction of work while another person had a cloth attached to same shovel who would pick up the load and get it moving in the other direction – teamwork! Oh – and one final tangent, the buildings in Ladakh don’t have screens on the windows – which is great because you get more breeze. There aren’t any mosquitoes at that altitude, so it is not a problem!
I am putting this picture of the Basgo World Heritage site description here at the end. Click on it to enlarge and read about the history if you like. You can tell the author’s first language was not English.