We had a more leisurely start to the day today as its not far from Nurla to Leh – we decided not to leave until 10am to give people time to enjoy the place. Breakfast included delicious fresh apricots from the tree in the courtyard.
John and I had a walk around the back of the village near the hotel afterwards and met several others doing the same. The most traditional houses have space for livestock on the ground floor and the family live above.
Others have beautiful gardens and some have interesting looking ‘corn dollies’ on the walls – we must ask Tashi about these.
Hay is being dried on the flat roofs for winter fodder and the apricot and barley harvest is ready – we find apricots drying on rocks in the sun up near the stupas and puzzle over why animals don’t eat them.
Village stupas – the orange patches on the rocks are apricots drying in the sun rather than lichens!
Fodder drying on flat roofs
Walnut trees give lovely, deep shade to the alleyways – the walnuts themselves are still green on the trees.
Willow saplings are being propagated around the terraced fields and we notice that they are always planted in pairs, though we can’t work out why. Even very young saplings are being pollarded to produce straight sticks for building material.
Pollarded willow saplings
It started to rain again as we got into the cars for the short drive to Saspol where Tashi was to show us the 11th Century murals painted in caves high on the hill above the village, now officially a World Heritage site, though there is very little sign of any regulation and few other tourists. Fortunately the rain had all but stopped by the time we got to the start of our walk up. Both the adults and children in the village were very friendly – ‘Julley’ has replaced ‘baksheesh’ as a greeting, much to our relief.
It’s a steep climb up to the caves but well worth it.
Climbing up to Saspol caves
The most intricate paintings are very beautiful – tiny miniature Buddhas cover the walls.
I’m intrigued by the formula one flags…
Tashi tells us that the lines like tally marks drawn on the wall of one cave were made by people recording the cycles of prayers or puja offered.
There are also spectacular views down to the Indus from the caves.
Today is the first time I have seen open caper fruits – they are spilling out their seeds on the path down from the caves. The blood red colour of the inside of the fruits must make the seeds very easy for animal dispersers to spot.
Caper fruits splitting open to reveal the seeds
We walk back down to the village and end up eating our picnic under the trees and in a café there, rather than by the river, as it has really started to rain. I love the cooling system for drinks here – who needs an expensive fridge?
We then drive on to the Indus-Zanskar confluence. This time we go right down to the junction rather than viewing it from above so we have to restrain Nikhi from jumping onto a raft.
Group photo at the confluence of the Zanskar and Indus rivers
We finally arrived in Leh about 4pm – the Caravan Centre hotel is nice, but a little way out of town. Several of the group wanted to head straight into town for the shops but John and I went out for a more rural walk. It’s lovely in the suburbs of Leh – there are big houses with productive gardens and plenty of flowers.
We had a light rain shower but nothing serious but some of the others were still out when it really started to rain and came back very wet. We’d planned a short pre-dinner talk on the rocks of the Indus Suture Zone we travelled through today but, unfortunately, something seems to have happened to the projector – it looks like a current surge may have blown the bulb – a real nuisance.