Tabo, Saturday August 20

Apart from some rather annoying flies, I slept very well last night at the lowest altitude we’ve been at for some time (3050 m).  We thought if we turned up for breakfast at 8 am there would be food there but, in the event it was served just before 9 am.  It didn’t matter at all today but we’ll need to make an early start tomorrow as we have a long way to go.  We discovered the hotel has a ‘Stargazing roof’ after breakfast, with excellent views and no flies, so that seems a winner for later.

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Looking west from Tabo, from the hotel roof

This morning we got Hotam to drive us back to Poh, just a few miles west of Tabo.

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Apple orchards alongside the river at Poh

John had a paper with particularly good information on a couple of outcrops there.  Hotam clearly thinks we are completely mad now – he was all psyched up to take us to the gompa at Dankhar.  We walked up the stream beside the government rest house in Poh but had some difficulty negotiating walled and fenced orchards to get to the rock outcrop John wanted to see.  There were plenty of pretty streamside plants to keep me happy.

Lactuca macrorhiza (left) and an un-named lilac Compositae (right)

The walls are topped with dried sea buckthorn to deter intruders but pretty yellow clematis also clambers over them.

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When we finally got there, the exposed rock turned out to be mostly quartzite, with some interbedded shales and also layers of agglomerate.  We found one bryozoan fossil, though not the most convincing, but also what looks like a dense layer of shells in the agglomerate.

Possible shelly layer in situ (right) and showing the putative shell fragments

While mooching around I unearthed an ants nest under a rock and watched the poor things scuttling around trying to carry their eggs away to safety.

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Getting down from the site was a little quicker and easier than climbing up, fortunately, but still not the easiest thing to do with a group.

We were back in Tabo at a more reasonable lunchtime today and headed for the monastery café on the basis of the real coffee they advertised.  This turned out to be non-existent, but we did enjoy very good vegetable and cheese momos.  We went back to have another look at the monastery itself and were able to get inside at least some of the temples.  I’d forgotten the instruction about bringing a torch but the wall paintings we could see were very beautiful (no photos allowed) and the place had a very ancient and peaceful feel.  Nowadays it seems surprising that Tabo should have such an old and important Gompa but apparently it was once at the crossroads of two key trade routes and a key seat of Buddhist learning and culture.

We then headed up the hill to the caves we’d seen from below – these date back 1000 years to the start of the monastery too.  Many look like they’ve also had much more recent inhabitants.

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Caves on the hill above Tabo

We knew that one cave had restored paintings inside and hit lucky when we met a group with a guide who had a key to the building protecting it.  The painting was very beautiful and detailed – at least as much as what we saw as Saspol (no photos again).

We heard a rumble or two of thunder whilst at the caves so beat a fairly hasty retreat – it’s much easier and quicker going down than up! It started to rain just as we got back to the hotel so John and I sat on the shared balcony and chewed the fat.  My guide book variously describes tomorrow’s route from Sumdo to Sangla as along ‘an exciting mountain road… frequently blocked by landslides and rockfalls during the monsoons’, and ‘a hair-raising excursion by precipitous, winding rough road’ so I think we deserve a more restful day today!  I managed to fall asleep for a while when writing up my blog.

Our Inner Line permits arrived, as promised, this afternoon though John’s has him down as an Irish national, for some reason.  I hope no-one looks too carefully at that!  He can always claim Northern Ireland, I suppose.

Just before dinner, when there was electricity, I thought I’d switch on my water heater and see what happened.  No lights came on to indicate anything was happening but, after a while, it started making promising noises and hot water came out of the taps.  I wanted to wash my hair but it was too late by now so left the heater on for part of the evening in the hope the water will still be warm tomorrow morning, even if there is no power then.  Too cloudy for star gazing this evening, sadly.

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