Hemis monastery and national park, Tuesday August 9

Today we visited the other side of the Indus Suture Zone at Hemis monastery and High altitude national park, both sites on the contorted, multi-coloured sediments of the Indus formation.

The cars coming to pick us up this morning were delayed by traffic around Thiksey but as the Dalai Llama was teaching from 8-11 am, everyone was inside by time we went past and we weren’t held up.  There were even more prayer flags along the road than yesterday.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The road up to Hemis monastery was a pleasant surprise – much improved since last year due to preparations for the Khumba Mela to be held there in September.  There is also a very grand new entrance to the monastery and much evidence of repainting.

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The grand new entrance to Hemis monastery

We enjoyed the museum and ambling around some of the back alleys and roof tops inside the monastery.

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The one disappointment was that the gramophone and disc of ‘Wine, Women and Song’ we so enjoyed last year was gone (see Hemis).  The new school they were starting to build last year is progressing well.

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Whilst it had been quiet when we arrived, the monastery was heaving with people by the time we left around 11.30.  We drove down the road a little way and stopped for a teabreak where we’d identified a good rock for doing lichen quadrats on the way up – as it was a great big lump of conglomerate, there was plenty to interest the geologists too.

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Afterwards, we drove up through the fantastic sediments of the Indus molasses to the national park for lunch.

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It was very hot by now, after a cool start.  There were lots of tents at the spot where we’ve stopped in the past so we drove further in and had our picnic lunch sitting on the bridge amidst breath-taking scenery.

After lunch, some of the group went off to have a closer look at the rocks around…

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…whilst others did plant quadrats beside the stream.

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There was a surprising amount of diversity in what initially looked like well-grazed grass.  Two types of Pedicularis

Pedicularis longiflora (left) and P. pyramidata (right)

…and a tiny, white gentian, amongst others.

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Several of us wanted a bit of a walk so we set off back the way we had come and walked until the cars picked us up for the drive back to Leh.  For ‘school’ we went through some of the lichen results before dinner and Nikhi and Luci stayed up late counting stomata on some leaves from the hotel garden!

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