ultramarinus – beyond the sea

Posts tagged “hike

TAKINO’O PATH & SACRED BRIDGE, Nikko (日光), Japan

Every visitor who comes to Nikko would be impressed by the century-old cedar forests surrounding the shrines and temples.  What looks like a natural forest is in fact partially orchestrated by people 400 years ago, creating what we now called the Cedar Avenue of Nikko (日光杉並木), a 35.41km tree-lined path with 13,000 Japanese Red Cedar. The Cryptomeria tree (Sugi), also known as Japanese Red Cedar, is the national tree of Japan.  We didn’t walk the Cedar Avenue of Nikko, the world’s longest tree lined avenue in Nikko, but instead, had our own close encounter with the magnificent cedar trees in a along the Takino’o Path.  We came across the Takino’o Path from online research.  For about an hour, the trail led us through its tranquil cedar forest and peaceful Shinto shrines.   We began our journey from the Futarasan Shrine, passed by the Takino Shrine (瀧尾神社) and ended at the Sacred Bridge of Nikko, the Shinkyo (神橋).

01The trail head of Takino Path was right beside the forecourt of Futarasan Shrine.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe trail passed by the the Taiyuin and Futarasan Shrine.

03A few minutes later, we arrived at a small shrine by the path.  It reminded us of Kumano Kodo, where we enjoyed a few days of hiking on the Kii Mountains of Kansai.

04For a very long day hike, some visitors would climb the Mount Nyoho (女峰山, 2,465m).

05The cedar forest soon got denser.

06Along the trail, we could closely the centuries old Japanese Cedar.

12Along the way, many old cedar trees were very photogenic.

07After the crowded and relatively noisy experience at the Toshogu Shrine, only five minutes into the trail brought us to a completely opposite world of tranquility and lush green.

08After about half an hour of leisure walking, we were soon approaching the Takino’o Shrine (瀧尾神社) in the forest.

09After walking up the hill of Takino’o Shrine (瀧尾神社), we passed by a number of atmospheric small shrines.

DSC_7881Kaji Sadayoshi, a supporter of Tokugawa Iemitsu, built the Undameshi No Tori (運試しの鳥居).  Like many visitors, we tested our luck by throwing a pebble through the hole between the two horizontal members of the tori gate.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACertain parts of the trail were covered with historical paving stones.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Kodane Stone (子種石) behind an old tori gate near the Takino’o Shrine is believed to have the power of child birth.

13On our way back out of the forest towards Shinkyo (神橋), we passed by Kannon Do Shrine, the Shrine of Safe and Easy Delivery of Child or Kyosha-do (香車堂).

14After a little over half an hour, we returned to the main entrance of the World Heritage Shrine and Temple Park.

15Across the street from the UNESCO World Heritage plaque, we finally reached the Shinkyo (神橋), the Sacred Bridge of Nikko.

16We didn’t pay the admission fee to walk onto the Shinkyo (神橋).  We walked over to the nearby bus stop for a ride to Lake Chuzenji (中禅寺湖).  Beside the bus stop there was an interesting telephone booth made of a recycled gondola.

 

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PILGRIMAGE JOURNEY ON LANTAU, Lantau Peak (鳳凰山) and Ngong Ping (昂坪), Lantau Island (大嶼山), Hong Kong

Not a particular fine day in Mid-December, but our souls yearned for a brief departure from the crowded streets and densely built-up neighborhoods of Central Hong Kong.  We picked the Lantau Peak (鳳凰山) on Lantau Island.  At 934m above sea level, Lantau Peak is the second highest peak in Hong Kong, and we expected there would be a considerable amount of steps to climb.  After less than an hour of ferry and a bus ride, we arrived at the trailhead at Pak Kung Au (伯公坳).  Known as Section 3 of the Lantau Trail (鳳凰徑), the 5.5km hike from Pak Kung Au up to Lantau Peak and then down to the Big Buddha of Ngong Ping would take about 4 hours.

DSC_4247With our back facing Hong Kong’s 3rd highest peak, the Sunset Peak (大東山, 869m), we followed the signs to begin the climb of Lantau Peak.

DSC_4250The climb took us less than two hours, on a mostly exposed mountain trail winding on mountain ridges until reaching the final portion of the hike which was largely uneven steps.

DSC_4254Camellia (茶花) is quite a common sight when hiking in during the winter months in Hong Kong.

DSC_4280The air of Hong Kong during the winter months could be quite hazy.

DSC_4284On our way up, despite the haze and smog from China, we could still faintly see the beaches, Tung Chung New Town and Hong Kong International Airport below.

DSC_4287The steps seemed never ended, but we pushed ourselves to go for the final assault for the summit.

DSC_4290The air was much cooler as we approached the last bit of the uphill climb.

DSC_4301The mountainous landscape down below was quite scenic.

DSC_4316Up on the summit it was foggy, windy and cool.

DSC_4317At the top platform, there was a simple shelter for wind protection, a wooden plague stating the height of the mountain, and lots of visitors taking pictures.

DSC_4321_01The wooden plague stating the summit of Lantau Peak at 934m.

DSC_4332It was windy up there and we didn’t stay for long on the summit.

DSC_4347The downhill hike towards Ngong Ping (昂坪) was uneven steps all the way down.  Facing Shek Pik Reservoir (石壁水塘) in a distance, we took our time for the descend.

DSC_4354The stepped trail then switched north towards Ngong Ping.  We could recognize the silhouette of Tian Tan Buddha (天壇大佛), Po Lin Buddhist Monastery (寶蓮禪寺), and the sea beyond where construction of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge was almost completed.

DSC_4359Although we could see our destination, there was still quite a long way of steep steps to go before reaching Ngong Ping.

DSC_4370The Buddha was getting bigger as we gradually walked closer to Ngong Ping.

DSC_4391Reaching the gateway of “Sunrise on Lantau Peak” signified that we had reached Ngong Ping.

DSC_4388After about 3 hours on the trail and just a stone throw away from Tian Tan Buddha and Po Lin Monastery, we reached a unique landscape feature known as the Wisdom Path (心經簡林).

DSC_4393The Wisdom Path is consisted of large wooden columns set up in the pattern of an infinity symbol (8).  On each column, text from the Heart Sutra (心經) or Mahayana Sutraare inscribed onto the wood.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFinally we reached Tian Tan Buddha.  Up on the upper platform where the Buddha sat, here were six angle-like statues handing offerings to the Buddha known as “The Offering of the Six Devas”.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAInstalled in 1993, Tian Tan Buddha (天壇大佛) is a large bronze statue of Buddha Shakyamuni.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABelow the Buddha, Ngong Ping (昂坪) has been developed by the government as a tourist corridor with retail, restaurants, and entertainment businesses.  We didn’t check out any of the shops.  All we wanted was to catch a bus for Tung Chung, where where we could switch to the MTR (Hong Kong’s reliable metro system) for our journey home.


NATURAL vs. MAN-MADE WONDER, High Island Reservoir East Dam (萬宜水庫東壩), Sai Kung (西貢), Hong Kong

Completed in 1978, High Island Reservoir (萬宜水庫) is the largest reservoir in Hong Kong in terms of volume.  Situated at the southeastern end of Sai Kung Peninsula, High Island Reservoir is surrounded by some of the city’s most scenic country parks and pristine beaches.  Designated as an UNESCO geopark, the coastal areas near the East Dam (東壩) of the High Island Reservoir is filled with hexagonal volcanic columns unseen anywhere else in Hong Kong.  140 million years ago, catastrophic volcanic eruption covered much of the area in layers of tuff.  The tuff cooled throughout time and gradually solidified to form rock.  The hexagonal columns were formed from contraction during the cooling.  Today, remnants from the highly active volcanic era become one of the most spectacular natural sights in the city.  Equally impressive at the East Dam are the concrete dolosse blocks at one side of the Dam along the coast.  Each dolos block weights up to 20 tons.  They are used as wave breakers to protect the dam against the rough sea.  To complete the beautiful picture, there are also sea caves and stack islands dotted around the coast, and the azure sky and boundless South China Sea.

01From Sai Kung Town, the taxi ride to the East Dam, the furthest point of High Island Reservoir (萬宜水庫), takes about 45 minutes.

02The spectacular High Island Reservoir East Dam separates the buffer lake of the reservoir and the boundless South China Sea.  Known as Po Pin Chau (破邊洲), the magnificent stack island outside of the East Dam is famous for its tall volcanic columns on one side of its cliff.

03The concrete East Dam structure that separates the two sides of blue water is really photogenic.

04The dolosse blocks pile up on the seaward side of the East Dam, creating a chaotic yet beautiful barrier.  Walking on the dam, we could hear the waves but weren’t be able to find an open view of the sea unless we climbed on the dolosse blocks.

07Once we climbed on the dolosse blocks, we were immediately overwhelmed by the sight of the powerful waves hitting against the coastal volcanic hexagonal columns.

05We climbed down the dam, sat on one of the step and had a quick picnic lunch.

06Looking inland, we could see the inner East Dam that separating the buffer pool with the main reservoir above.  The massive dam structure looked to us as if merged with the adjacent natural landscape.

08Sea caves are common features near the East Dam.

09At the East Dam, natural volcanic hexagonal columns appear side by side with the manmade dolosse blocks.

10To explore a bit of the surrounding coastal landscape, we decided to walk further into the trail heading to Fa Shan (花山) and Pak Lap (白臘).  The trail was not very well defined, but we managed to find our way in the hill of shrubs reaching waist height.

10aOur goal was to at least to have a closer look at the cliff of volcanic columns of the stack island of Po Pin Chau (破邊洲).

11The coastal landscape in the area was truly spectacular.  Some like to explore the area by sea kayaking.

12Passing by the stone beach of Kim Chu Bay (撿豬灣) or Rolling Stone Beach (滾石灘), we saw a few hikers watching the powerful waves.

13Some visitors didn’t mind to get wet and chose to explore by boat.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFinally, we reached the closest lookout overlooking the magnificent Po Pin Chau (破邊洲).

14The stone columns of Po Pin Chau (破邊洲) appeared like a gigantic church organ.

16We then found our way down to the Kim Chu Bay (撿豬灣) or Rolling Stone Beach (滾石灘) to get a even closer look and even touch of the volcanic columns.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAll cliff sides at Kim Chu Bay (撿豬灣) or Rolling Stone Beach (滾石灘) were covered with stone columns.

17After the hike out to Po Pin Chau (破邊洲) and Kim Chu Bay (撿豬灣), it was already late afternoon by the time we returned to the East Dam.

18.JPGInstead of calling a taxi, we decided to walk back out to the main road where we could take a public bus.  The route led us to go along a little over half the perimeter of High Island Reservoir and took about two hours.

19Beyond the haze we could see the Sharp Peak or Nam She Tsim (蚺蛇尖) in a distance, a popular challenge for hikers in Hong Kong.

20Soon the full moon was up over the tranquil water of High Island Reservoir.

21The scenery of High Island Reservoir was serene and calm.

22We enjoyed a few minutes of perfect sunset when we reached the West Dam (西壩).  Beyond the West Dam was Port Shelter Sea (牛尾海) and a series of islands.  The closest island was Tai Tau Chau (大頭洲).

23As the sun gradually set, we picked up our pace of walking.  Known as the Maclehose Trail Section 1, the trail surrounding High Island Reservoir was long but relative flat and easy.  By the time we reached the bus stop at Tai Mong Tsai Road it was almost dark.


DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 1, Kyoto (京都), Japan

For several years the famous Shinto shrine Fushimi Inari Taisha (伏見稲荷大社) has been voted as the favorite tourist attraction in Kyoto on a number of travel websites.  The images of the vermilion Senbon Torii (千本鳥居, thousands of torii gates) winding up the Mount Inari (233m) and the clusters of miniature shrines and private graves hidden in the woods certainly nourish the public imagination of a mysterious old Japan.  We thought of visiting the shrine in late afternoon or early evening when the twilight was gradually fading away, shifting the tone of everything from orange to violet and then blue.  Somehow that wasn’t realized, and instead we chose to explore this highly popular and spiritual place early in the morning of our last day of the trip.  To beat the crowds, getting up before sunrise was crucial.  It was only a short JR train ride from Kyoto Station to Inari Station.  By the time we set foot at the entrance route of the Taisha it was a little before 7:30am.

01To make the most out of the last day in Kyoto, we get up before dawn and carried our backpack and luggage to Kyoto Station.  At daybreak, we bid farewell to the tranquil Shirakawa River in our Higashiyama neighborhood.

02At Kyoto Station, we stored our belongings at one of the many lockers and hopped onto a Nara-bounded train for Inari Station.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe ride to the peaceful Inari Station took only a few minutes, and the entrance route of Fushimi Inari Taisha was just right across the road.

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Fushimi Inari Taisha (伏見稲荷大社) was first established in the 8th century dedicated to Inari (稲荷大神), the God of Rice and Sake.  In the agricultural nation, the God of Rice was a powerful figure who governed the fortune of lives.  In the modern age, the power of Inari had been shifted to offer blessing on the prosperity of businesses and people’s lives in general.

04A large torii gate led us towards the Romon Gate (楼門, Lower Gate).

05The Romon Gate (楼門, Lower Gate) was a donation in 1589 by Toyotomi Hideyoshi (豊臣 秀吉), the famous daimyō (大名, feudal warlord) who unified a large part of the country.

06There were only a few visitors at the Worship Hall in front of the Honden (Main Building).  After paying our respects, we couldn’t wait longer to begin the hike up to the peak of Mount Inari via the remarkable Senbon Torii.

***

On Mount Inari, two features stood out.  First was of course the vermilion torii gates.  Donated by individuals and business companies, there were over 5000 torii gates guiding our way up the Mount Inari.  The second feature was the kitsune (fox).  Uncounted statues of foxes appeared along the trail, usually came in pairs standing in front of the Shinto shrines.  Foxes were believed to be the Kenzoku, the messenger of god.

07We walked past the first pair of bronze fox statues right after the visit of the main shrine.  Many fox statues here carried a key in their mouth (to the rice granary).

08Our hike up the 4km trail began at this cluster of the vermilion Senbon Torii (千本鳥居, thousands of torii gates).

09Only a handful of visitors were there, such a blessing given this place is also famous for big visitor crowds throughout the day.  The record was 2.69 million during the 3 days of New Year period in 2006.

10Soon we arrived at the trailhead of the dual route.  Both route would ultimately converge back to a single path.  We picked the left route.

11From one direction, the Senbon Torii appeared clean and minimal.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALooking back we could see columns of dates and donor’s names along the path as far as the eye could see.

14We stopped at most of the sub shrine along the trail.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter a while, the trail gradually turned steeper with stone steps.

18Half way through the ascend, the view from the Yotsutsuji Intersection was amazing in a clear morning.  Many tourists would turn back from here.

19We continued on the uphill journey, and stopped by a number of miniature shrines and grave clusters.  Mini fox statues, mini vermilion torii gates and candles were often seen as offerings.

20We often made detours from the trail into groups of mini shrines and graves.  We bumped into this what looked like a shrine guardian cat.

21The cat came from behind the shrine and jumped from a a stone stele to another, and finally stayed on a small tablet under the morning sun… just for a few seconds.

22A pair of stone lions and foxes were on guard by the small shrine of God of Rain.

23The early morning sun was nice and warm, and cast a magical highlight onto the torii gates.

24Fallen autumn leaves added an extra sense of solitude to the quiet trail.

26While at certain spots the autumn leaves gave a vivid background to the otherwise greyish setting of stones steles and statues.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABy the time we reached “Second Peak” we knew we were just minutes away from the peak.

27At around 9:15 we reached the top of Mount Inari, after about an hour and 45 minutes of hike.

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Our posts on 2016 Kyoto and Nara:
OUR FIRST KYOTO STORY, Japan
DAY 1: ARRIVAL AT HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: RYOANJI TEMPLE (龍安寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NINNAJI TEMPLE (仁和寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KINKAKUJI TEMPLE (金閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KITANO TENMANGU SHRINE (北野天満宮), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NIGHT AT KIYOMIZU-DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: MORNING STROLL IN SOUTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA to KENNINJI, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: ○△□ and Chouontei Garden and Ceiling of Twin Dragons, KENNINJI TEMPLE (建仁寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: SFERA BUILDING (スフェラ・ビル), SHIRKAWA GION (祇園白川), KAMO RIVER (鴨川) & DOWNTOWN, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: YAKITORI HITOMI (炭焼創彩鳥家 人見), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: MORNING IN NORTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (北東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: NANZENJI (南禅寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: PHILOSOPHER’S PATH (哲学の道), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: HONENIN (法然院), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: GINKAKUJI (銀閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: CRAB AND SAKE, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 4: HORYUJI (法隆寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: TODAIJI TEMPLE (東大寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KASUGA TAISHA (春日大社), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KOFUKUJI (興福寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: NAKAGAWA MASASHICHI SHOTEN (中川政七商店 遊中川), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: RAMEN & CHRISTMAS LIGHTS, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 1, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 2, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 5: FAREWELL KYOTO, Kyoto, Japan


DAY 6: ZINGCHEN GORGE, Ladakh, India

Before the trip, we thought of doing the Markha Valley Trek, but then gave up the idea because of the lack of time.  On our last day at Ladakh, the hotel manager suggested us to make a short hike to Zingchen Gorge, where many travelers started their Markha Valley Trek.  Tashi again was our driver of the day.  We left the hotel at around 7am.  Our car headed south, passed the Spituk Gompa and continued our journey until Tashi pulled over on a country road where a lady sat below a tree.  Tashi told us to get a ticket from the lady for the admission of Hemis National Park, where Zingchen Gorge was located.  Soon our car drove into a desert valley of the gorge.  Tashi dropped us off at the end of the road.  We then crossed a bridge and entered a natural portal flanked by majestic stone cliffs to begin our half-day hike through the Zingchen Gorge.

We had no particular destination in mind, but aiming to walk as far as we could in a few hours of time.  We walked leisurely on a stony road at the bottom of a rocky valley for about half an hour until reaching a local home where two donkeys were resting under a tree.  From then on we walked for another hour or so on a mountain trail in the Zingchen Gorge towards the Village of Rumbak.  During the hike, we crossed the river a few times via wooden bridges.  After about two hours on the trail, we finally had a glimpse of the snow-capped mountains beyond the gorge.  After we exited the gorge, we reached a small pile of stones and goat skulls that signified the gorge’s mouth.  Further down the trail at an open area we sat by a large round pile of mani stones where we had our lunch break.  After the break, we decided to head back into Zingchen Gorge to meet up with our driver Tashi.  We took our time to hike back to the entrance of the gorge, and walked further down the main road until we saw Tashi and his car at Zingchen Village.

Despite short, at the last two days of our stay we had a good taste of hiking in the mountains near Leh.  Hopefully in the future we would have an opportunity to do a multi-day trek in Ladakh to really experience the natural beauty of this region.

DSC_5983.JPGThe natural rock portal formed a perfect entrance to the Zingchen Gorge.

dsc_5993For the first half hour we were walking on a valley road.

dsc_6004The arid landscape and the greenery down at the river valley.

dsc_6013The surrounding landscape was extremely dry.

dsc_6024We met two donkey at the end of the road.

DSC_6028.JPGThe path get narrower beyond the end of road.

dsc_6058Just like the other days we experienced in Ladakh, the weather in the morning and early afternoon was always sunny.

dsc_6077White khatas, prayer flags and mani stones were common at rest stops.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter two hours of hike, we had our first glimpse of the snow-capped mountains beyond the gorge.

dsc_6137At the end of the gorge.

dsc_6141The pile of stones and goat skull.

dsc_6149The round pile of mani stones where we had our lunch break by the river.

dsc_6175Heading back into the gorge for our return journey.

dsc_6180Impressive rock formations and wild flowers.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALocals and their donkeys.

dsc_6278Wild flowers close to the gorge entrance.

dsc_6287We planned to stay for only half day in Hemis National Park. We walked as far as we could and then returned to the gorge entrance on the same route.  Despite the same route, the views and experience were never the same at different times of the day.  On our return, we were attracted by the rock patterns of a mountain near the gorge entrance, something that we didn’t take notice when we entered the gorge earlier in the morning.

dsc_6331We were attracted by interesting rock formations during the hike.

dsc_6342The landscape was always dry and rocky.

dsc_6357After 5 hours of hiking in Hemis National Park, we returned to the park entrance to meet up with our driver Tashi.

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Other posts on 2016 Ladkadh & Delhi:
Introduction – LADAKH – The Land of High Passes, India
Day 1.1 – ENROUTE TO LEH, Ladakh
Day 1.2 – WALK TO MAIN BAZAAR, Leh, Ladakh
Day 1.3 – LEH PALACE, Leh, Ladakh
Day 1.4 – HOTEL LADAKH GREENS, Leh, Ladakh
Day 2.1 – NAMGYAL TSEMO GOMPA, Leh, Ladakh
Day 2.2 – LALA’S CAFE AND TIBETAN CUISINE, Leh, Ladakh
Day 2.3 – SPITUK GOMPA, Leh, Ladakh
Day 3.1 – MONASTERIES OF THE INDUS VALLEY DAY ONE, Ladakh (with map)
Day 3.2 – THIKSEY GOMPA, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 3.3 – CHEMREY & TAKTHOK GOMPA, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 3.4 – HEMIS & STAKNA GOMPA, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 3.5 – MATHO GOMPA & SHEY PALACE, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 4.1 – ON THE ROAD WEST OF LEH, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 4.2 – LAMAYURU GOMPA, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 4.3 – ALCHI & LIKIR GOMPA, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 4.4 – FORT ROAD IN THE EVENING, Leh, Ladakh
Day 5.1 – SHORT HIKE NEAR PHYANG, Ladakh
Day 5.2 – PHYANG VILLAGE, Ladakh
Day 5.3 – NOMADIC WOOLLEN MILLS & BON APPETIT, Leh, Ladakh
Day 6.1 – ZINGCHEN GORGE, Ladakh
Day 6.2 – SHANTI STUPA, Leh, Ladakh
Day 7.1 – LEH AIRPORT TO RED FORT, Delhi
Day 7.2 – RED FORT, Delhi
Day 7.3 – JAMA MASJID, Delhi
Day 7.4 – FAREWELL OLD DELHI, Delhi
Day 7.5 – UNITED COFFEE HOUSE, New Delhi


DAY 5: PHYANG VILLAGE, Ladakh, India

Our driver Tashi dropped us off at a bridge at the highest point of Phyang Village.  He suggested us to walk further downhill to first visit the tiny Guru Gompa atop a rocky mount and met us at the Phyang Gompa downhill.  We walked leisurely along the main road into Phyang, the village famous for the Phyang Gompa under the majestic backdrop of Mount Stok Kangri.  The glacial Phyang Nullah carved a narrow river valley into the rocky landscape, extended from the highlands where we just visited down to the village.  Along the nullah were terrace fields of barley, corn, rapeseed flowers, wheat and local vegetables.  Occasionally the lush green fields in the middle of the valley were used as pasture plains for livestock.

We passed by several local homes and reached an open area where several stupas stood.  We climbed the pathway beside the stupas up to a rocky mount where a small Buddhist shrine stood.  We figured it should be the Guru Gompa.  In front of Guru Gompa, there were a few dried goat horns and a colourful prayer flag.  The door was locked locked and no one was around.  From Guru Gompa we had a clear view of Phyang Village, Phyang Gompa and the mountain range beyond.  After a quiet moment on the rocky mount, we headed back down to the main road and continued walking downhill towards Phyang Gompa.  Founded in the 16th century, Phyang Gompa is one of the two monasteries in Ladakh belonged to the School of Drikung Kagyu.  The lamas opened the doors of one of the prayer halls for us.  We spent a short while wandering around the monastery and checked out the colourful stupas in front of the monastery.  By the time we were done visiting Phyang Gompa, Tashi was already at the main parking lot waiting for us.

dsc_5755Water channel led the glacial water of Phyang Nullah downhill to irrigate the farm fields of Phyang.

dsc_5774Terrace fields of rapeseed flowers offered a peaceful utopian setting for Phyang.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWalking down the main road of Phyang Village.

dsc_5779A village school at Phyang.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHigh up on a rocky mount stood the Guru Gompa.

dsc_5800Dried goat horn by the entrance of Guru Gompa.

dsc_5791From Guru Gompa we had a clear view of the village down below and the river valley upstream.

dsc_5830Further downhill from Guru Gompa stood the famous Phyang Gompa.

dsc_5839Local shepherd and livestock.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASeveral green fields were used as pasture lands.

dsc_5845Stupas in front of the Phyang Gompa.

dsc_5892Lamas resting after lunch break at Phyang Gompa.

dsc_5900Young lama at a prayer wheel in Phyang Gompa.

dsc_5906The Phyang Gompa viewed from the stupa cluster.

dsc_5907A cluster of colourful stupas outside of Phyang Gompa.

dsc_5917View of the village from Phyang Gompa.

dsc_5921The Stok Mountain Range viewed from Phyang Gompa.

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Other posts on 2016 Ladkadh & Delhi:
Introduction – LADAKH – The Land of High Passes, India
Day 1.1 – ENROUTE TO LEH, Ladakh
Day 1.2 – WALK TO MAIN BAZAAR, Leh, Ladakh
Day 1.3 – LEH PALACE, Leh, Ladakh
Day 1.4 – HOTEL LADAKH GREENS, Leh, Ladakh
Day 2.1 – NAMGYAL TSEMO GOMPA, Leh, Ladakh
Day 2.2 – LALA’S CAFE AND TIBETAN CUISINE, Leh, Ladakh
Day 2.3 – SPITUK GOMPA, Leh, Ladakh
Day 3.1 – MONASTERIES OF THE INDUS VALLEY DAY ONE, Ladakh (with map)
Day 3.2 – THIKSEY GOMPA, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 3.3 – CHEMREY & TAKTHOK GOMPA, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 3.4 – HEMIS & STAKNA GOMPA, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 3.5 – MATHO GOMPA & SHEY PALACE, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 4.1 – ON THE ROAD WEST OF LEH, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 4.2 – LAMAYURU GOMPA, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 4.3 – ALCHI & LIKIR GOMPA, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 4.4 – FORT ROAD IN THE EVENING, Leh, Ladakh
Day 5.1 – SHORT HIKE NEAR PHYANG, Ladakh
Day 5.2 – PHYANG VILLAGE, Ladakh
Day 5.3 – NOMADIC WOOLLEN MILLS & BON APPETIT, Leh, Ladakh
Day 6.1 – ZINGCHEN GORGE, Ladakh
Day 6.2 – SHANTI STUPA, Leh, Ladakh
Day 7.1 – LEH AIRPORT TO RED FORT, Delhi
Day 7.2 – RED FORT, Delhi
Day 7.3 – JAMA MASJID, Delhi
Day 7.4 – FAREWELL OLD DELHI, Delhi
Day 7.5 – UNITED COFFEE HOUSE, New Delhi


DAY 5: SHORT HIKE NEAR PHYANG, Ladakh, India

Originally our last two full days in Ladakh was planned for a two-day tour to the Nubra Valley on the opposite side of Khardung La Pass, one of the world’s highest pass that can be reached by car at 5,359m.  Unfortunately, in the evening before our departure, we were told by the manager of Ladakh Greens Hotel that out trip to the Nubra was no longer possible.  In order to visit the region near the disputed border between India and China, all travelers are required to apply for a permit.  Since we were born in Hong Kong, our application was rejected by the local authorities.  As a result, we had no choice but to figure something else to do for the two days.  The hotel manager made a few suggested alternatives, and we picked two short hikes near Leh.  Trekking is big in Ladakh but we didn’t have enough time to do a decent trek.  Day hikes around Leh at least gave us a brief taste of hiking in Ladakh.

In the morning, Tashi picked us up at the hotel and drove us to Phyang, a village about 15km west of Leh.  The hotel manager suggested us to start our hike at a village called Dokla, but Tashi had trouble finding the way.  Instead he drove us further uphill from Phyang and stopped at a village where a few houses stood and a series of farming terraces were constructed overlooking the Stok Mountain Range.  Leaving Tashi behind, we get off the car, walked through a gateway of prayer flags, and headed up a small path towards the mountains behind Phyang.  We were told that the path would ultimately reach Nubra Valley in a few days’ time, where we were denied access to in the first place.  We hiked past a white stupa and followed a man-made irrigation channel uphill until we saw the clear running water of a mountain stream of melted water from mountain glaciers.  On a rocky mount dotted with wild flowers we sat down and had some quick snacks that the hotel chef prepared for us.  Across from where we sat a few tiny singing birds flew around piles of small pebbles.  After a brief stop we continued to walk uphill in the highlands near Phyang until we saw a small herd of grazing cattle from a distance upstream.

On our way back to Phyang we once again passed by the point where stream water was diverted for the irrigation system downstream.  Before reaching Tashi’s car, we passed by the white stupa once again.  A few people were putting fresh white paint on the stupa.  We exchanged some smiles and greetings with the friendly locals before heading back to Tashi’s car.  After a fine morning of hiking, Tashi suggested us to take a little break in the car while he drove us downhill to Phyang, where we could walk around the village and visit Phyang Gompa.  We gladly took his suggestion.

dsc_5521A tiny village uphill from Phyang where we started our hike.  The majestic Stok Kangri and the Stok Range offered a magnificent backdrop.

dsc_5517Gateway of prayer flags marked the exit of the village.

dsc_5522Many farming fields in the area were enclosed with low stone walls.

dsc_5530The white stupa overlooking the village.

dsc_5542The Stok Range in a distance.

dsc_5544Local agriculture is well organized by stone walls and irrigation channels.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn the rocky mount where we had a quick snack time.

dsc_5602Wild highland flowers stay low near the ground to avoid strong wind.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe kept walking uphill to follow the stream.

dsc_5603The river valley continued winding through the mountains uphill.

dsc_5640We reached a point where stream water was diverted into a small channel that fed the irrigation system downhill.

dsc_5608Further uphill we saw a small herd of grazing cattle.

dsc_5664Pile of stones left by perhaps hikers or local shepherd.

dsc_5680Strange earth formation beyond the stone walls

dsc_5709Cheerful locals doing maintenance work at the white stupa.

dsc_5719Once again we passed by the gateway of prayer flags on our return.

dsc_5726Close up of a prayer flag.

dsc_5731On a low wall someone left a book of local text.

dsc_5507Not all farmlands were planted with crops, but for the ones that had they looked healthy and green despite the arid climate.

dsc_5748Tashi drove us downhill to Phyang and dropped us off at a bridge.  We planned to wander around the village and met Tashi at the Phyang Gompa.

* * *

Other posts on 2016 Ladkadh & Delhi:
Introduction – LADAKH – The Land of High Passes, India
Day 1.1 – ENROUTE TO LEH, Ladakh
Day 1.2 – WALK TO MAIN BAZAAR, Leh, Ladakh
Day 1.3 – LEH PALACE, Leh, Ladakh
Day 1.4 – HOTEL LADAKH GREENS, Leh, Ladakh
Day 2.1 – NAMGYAL TSEMO GOMPA, Leh, Ladakh
Day 2.2 – LALA’S CAFE AND TIBETAN CUISINE, Leh, Ladakh
Day 2.3 – SPITUK GOMPA, Leh, Ladakh
Day 3.1 – MONASTERIES OF THE INDUS VALLEY DAY ONE, Ladakh (with map)
Day 3.2 – THIKSEY GOMPA, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 3.3 – CHEMREY & TAKTHOK GOMPA, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 3.4 – HEMIS & STAKNA GOMPA, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 3.5 – MATHO GOMPA & SHEY PALACE, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 4.1 – ON THE ROAD WEST OF LEH, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 4.2 – LAMAYURU GOMPA, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 4.3 – ALCHI & LIKIR GOMPA, Indus Valley, Ladakh
Day 4.4 – FORT ROAD IN THE EVENING, Leh, Ladakh
Day 5.1 – SHORT HIKE NEAR PHYANG, Ladakh
Day 5.2 – PHYANG VILLAGE, Ladakh
Day 5.3 – NOMADIC WOOLLEN MILLS & BON APPETIT, Leh, Ladakh
Day 6.1 – ZINGCHEN GORGE, Ladakh
Day 6.2 – SHANTI STUPA, Leh, Ladakh
Day 7.1 – LEH AIRPORT TO RED FORT, Delhi
Day 7.2 – RED FORT, Delhi
Day 7.3 – JAMA MASJID, Delhi
Day 7.4 – FAREWELL OLD DELHI, Delhi
Day 7.5 – UNITED COFFEE HOUSE, New Delhi