Phugtal monastery

For the drive to Phugtal monastery we get a driver who looks about 14 years old.
Our guide will luckily not accompany us. Today it is possible to get a lot closer to the monastery with a car than some time ago.
The road is an ordinary Asian road, the car rolls 10 kilometers per hour between stones. First on the left then on the right rushes Tsarap river. It takes exactly three hours to reach Cha village.
From there goes a walking trail. It goes along dark orange cliffs above grey-blue river on the mountainside and takes one and a half hours. Mostly down. And finally there it is, the monastery in rock cave. We help the novices to carry water and look into dukhang. A young monk comes to open the door, writes down passport data and introduces the holy icons. Old paintings have been re-planted from the old building into the new one. The boys are sent in to sweep the floor. An important lama is supposed to arrive. Soon lunch begins. An old monk eats with the boys. Looks like rice and an apple for dessert. Some eat with their fingers, some with spoon. My eyes have now seen this place.
The way back goes almost as fast despite the ascent. There’s a sauna in the car, the driver rounds the stones with unchanged slowliness and the local songs play at least fifty times. Other cars start to appear. Not enough room for passing by. The driver of one car comes to back ours but gets stuck. When I go to push together with our driver then four sturdy Russians jump out of the other car and lift our car from the spot. Something starts to drip from under the car and smell of burning clutch accompanies us for some time. Also this time we take a hitchhiker onboard. A monk needs a ride from Bardan and we stick him impolitely in the back seat with luggage.
In Padum there is same routine: shower and dinner. In the crowd filling the main street are two women: me and Mari. We have bought all of Padum’s bottled water.
When the roads connecting Pafum with Leh-Srinagar highway from one side and with Manali-Leh highway from the other side are ready then Zanskar’s relative isolation will be finished. Now the only access with car is through Kargil.
ninth or last hiking day
from Padum to Kargil

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