Friday, July 20, 2007

Ki Gompa - A Trip Is Born

I saw a picture of this monastery in a magazine a few years ago. I tore it out, and for a long time it hung on my refrigerator. Every once in a while I would take it down and look at it, read the brief description of the area, and daydream about an epic hiking trip to the Indian Himalaya. Sometimes I would forget about it, then something would spark memory. A dinner at the local Indian restaurant, a steaming bowl of daal, and some chai, and I was off to dreamland again, feeling the icy air rush down from the snowy peaks – a land known as the abode of the gods.

The trip would go; it just was waiting for its time. My yoga teacher has a quote about patience. He says; “patience is not waiting, it is knowing” - knowing that everything is happening, has happened, and will happen at exactly the right moment. Here’s how the pieces started to fall into place. My friend announced a family wedding in Kerala – a long way from the mountains of Himachal Pradesh, but at least on the sub-continent. Work called, I had 2 months vacation coming, as we were fully staffed for the summer. I started planning; this was my third trip to India, but one that would encompass all of its environments. Kerala is a steamy tropical coast, complete with coconuts, bananas and monsoons. Ki Gompa is situated around 4000m, in the stark, dry, cold Spiti Valley. How do you pack for a trip like that in India, where the number one rule is take as little as possible in as small a bag as possible?

The next thing I knew, we were landing in a monsoon raked Mumbai. We took a quick detour to the wedding, and then an epic train journey for 2000 kilometers to the foothills of the Himalaya. That only took about a month. All the while, hearing vague news reports that severe flooding had closed Spiti for the summer months, all roads impassable, no public transportation. The reports varied, but continued with enough regularity that we knew the completion of the trip to Ki was in jeopardy. After so many daydreams, and so many miles, we pressed on, through Manali, and over the pass, only to encounter the first of countless landslides blocking the dirt roads. Ki was still hundreds of kilometers away, and we sitting on the side of a dirt track in the mountains, trying to find a ride.

We eventually made it to Ki Gompa, and all the way around through the Spiti Valley and out to Sangla, in a year where the area was closed by Mother Nature. A Tibetan lake flooded, causing massive road damage and flash flooding along the Sutlej River. When we crossed the checkpoint in Thangi, the logbook listed only three other people passing south for the entire month. Ki Gompa is perched high on the side of a valley, with stunning views. We stayed on location with the monks, eating thukpa, and drinking butter tea to ward off the evening cold.

I stared at that picture so long that an epic trip was born, unfolding in ways I never imagined. I didn’t wait to go to Ki, I just knew I would be there, and yes, it was worth the trip.


Restless Cynicism said...
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Rice Guy said...

Can I just ask how you planned the trip? I'm only 16 and don't know anything about planning something like this...But i'd like to do it some day! Can you give me an idea please?