Why you should travel – reasons to travel to Spiti valley and elsewhere

‘Twenty years from now you will be more dissapointed by the things you didnt do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.’ – Mark Twain
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Travel to learn a new perspective – Instead of hanging around with the same friends, talking about the same things day in day out, during your travel you will meet people with a different and alternate way of thinking and a fresh take on life which could make you see things differently. Your travel will make you unlearn a lot of things so that you can learn new things. Learn to be kind, to see kindness in others, to love, to get love from others. Travel to learn that you can be wrong and that you know less that you thought.
Step out of your comfort zone – At home or work we are set into a routine. From the moment we wake up to when we sleep, it is the same well rehearsed routine again and again. While traveling you will be forced to do things for the first time, take decisions you would not otherwise take, go to places you may not have otherwise and trust people you may not otherwise.
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Makes you see the good in people – Media tells us that the world is unsafe, poor people would rob you, people of a certain religion may detest you etc etc. Everyone is bad and to harm you. During your travel you will be surprised with the generosity and hospitality that people of different races, ethnicity and religion might show in you, help you, feed you and be curious to hear your story. You’ll realize that our true nature is to be happy and help others. That we are all the same and mean only good.
You’ll come back with lots of stories – As long as you travel with an open mind, be willing to meet and talk to strangers you would come back with lots of stories and experience to share.
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Gain  self-confidence  After having spent time by yourself, doing things you otherwise thought were not possible for you to do, confidence you would get would be permanent.
You learn new languages -There’s a big thrill in hearing a language you didn’t know existed and learning new words.
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Grow as a person – Its true than when you travel life is fast forwarded. In six month or one year of travel you would see and learn more things than you would in twice the amount of time spent on work or continuing with the life you were leading before.DSC4848
Travel is the best education – There is no denying that the world is the best classroom.
Travel to get inspired – Listen to people’s stories, experience people living their lives different to your’s. Experience that anything is possible and there is no fixed right or wrong.
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Travel to feel alive – While traveling you will enjoy simple pleasures of life and to bring a renewed interest in life.
Travel makes you humble – The more you learn you realize the less you know. Travel puts you in situations which make you realize that the world is bigger than your perspective on it.
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Travel proves that dreams can come true and to continue dreaming
Travel to get a sense of adventure and freedom
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And lastly, travel so that your dance moves can be shown to the world

Inspiring stories from Spiti

Karma Yoga

Karma and Soni from Pin village believe that their duty in this life is to help others. ‘People do not have time for the elders and the old people are lonely. We want to keep them busy and healthy.  By staying together they have company of one another and do not feel lonely. We want to create a community of old people so that the young can learn from them and listen to their stories. They should not be forgotten or made to suffer during their old age, ’ says Soni.

In  winter Soni and Karma take the elders from Pin valley to Rewalsar near Mandi where they are more comfortable.

In Rewalsar they keep themselves busy by taking koras of the lake and visiting the monastery. Soni and Karma rely on donations and you can meet them in Sagnam (Pin valley) to know more about their project. They are open to new ideas and welcome volunteers. They have plans to start a homestay to fund their project.

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The enlightened monk

Lama Gobind has been living in different retreats in upper Kinnaur for over fifteen years spending about years years at a time in a retreat. Having studied in Chandigarh lama Gobind gave up the worldly life and went to his first retreat in Malling, near Nako.

Believed to be a reincarnated Tulku, he says, ‘When I see others I feel we are all the same – inside and outside. Because of my meditation people think I am special. Meditation has made me  compassionate and when I touch/bless others I feel I am sharing my compassion.’ ‘In meditation there are many hurdles and these obstacles help us. It is possible for everyone to attain realization if we work at it’. ‘We talk about the mind but we cannot show the mind. For that we have to try the Dharma way. Millarepa way is of mantryanna – of mantras. It is very easy to say that god is like this or that. But to feel  and experience god  you need to practice meditation.’ ‘I have no connection with the body.  I am not scared of death, this is a big achievement for me.’ ‘ If you control the mind then everything is possible’.

His mother says that at the time of his birth two or three lamas possibly from Ladakh came looking for a boy who was supposed to be the reincarnation of their guru. HOwever at that time there was a shortage of boys in their family she lied to the visiting lamas and said that no boy was born in her house.

Currently lama gobind lives in Pooh in Kinnaur

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Helping the old and young

Norbu and Nawang are the driving force behind the Kachen Dugyal Memorial girl’s hostel and old age home in Spiti. From administration and funding, to the daily running of the project, Norbu and Nawang’s selfless work has positively impacted lives of girls within their community.

‘We hope our work inspires others to think about those who need our help’, says Nawang. The old age home takes care of the neglected and poor from the local community and the girls hostel provides an opportunity for girls to finish their high school who otherwise would not be able do so because of financial reasons. There are about forty elders staying in the old age home and between ten to fifteen girls every year who benefit from the hostel.

Michael joined the two in 2011 by teaching computers at the hostel. He brings in money from Canada from his family and friends and also puts in his own. Because of the scholarships that Michael provides the girls from Spiti get an opportunity to pursue college in Shimla and Kangra. He also employs them when needed for his archaeological work.

Michael and Norbu are also responsible for Spiti’s first museum. For the last 4 years both of them have been exploring Spiti for petroglyphs (rock art) which has helped local people better understand their own history. This project is funded from their own money and has broken lots of myths associated with the area.

You can meet the 3 of them at the Girls hostel in Kaza to understand more about their work.

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The 100 year old nun

Evi Pomo has been living a solitary life in the cave at Gangchumik for more than 35 years. She moved to the cave after the death of her husband . In 2016 Evi was said to have turned 100 years. When her husband was alive she had a strong desire for spiritual practice though she continued performing her household duties. After the death of her husband Evi gave her land away to her family and to the villagers of Pooh , retaining only a fraction of it. Nuns from different nunneries take care of Evi and her needs. She spends most of her time in meditation and sometimes meets devotees as well.

Evi Pomo believes that by leading a solitary life the mind is drawn inwards and made quiet by the repetition of mantras while by living amongst people the mind is drawn outwards and towards materialistic things. In 2016 Evi’s health deteriorated and she now lives in Pooh village where the villagers take care of her.

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Differences between a tourist and a traveler

Tourists take more selfies

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Tourists require their backpack to be taken to their room

Tourists expect room service everywhere

Tourists ask for their car to be cleaned by the hotel staff

Tourists usually have fixed itineraries

Tourists travel in big groups

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Tourists travel with far too much luggage

Tourists are more interested in seeing landmarks rather than talking to the locals

Tourists expect an attached bathroom in a campsite

Why Spiti is good for you

 

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Spiti reminds you to step back. Tells you to slow down. To hear your heart, feel the wind. So caught up are we with our daily routine that we are either dwelling about the past, anxious about the future or our agitated mind is trying to find excitement in new things.
In Spiti you won’t be stuck in traffic and there won’t be internet to waste time on Whats app. Like it or not you will be forced to slow down.

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My travels in India and outside have convinced me that our core nature is to help others and be kind. In South America, South East Asia, East Africa and more recently in Iran, generosity was shown to me by complete strangers with nothing expected in return. In Spiti you’ll experience the same. Give yourself time, talk to strangers and you will see how people who have much less than you are ready to part with more than you will for a stranger.

 

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When the Tibetan Guge kings came to Spiti around the 8th century, people living in this Trans Himalayan range were nomadic pastoralists. They understand the difficulty that outsiders and those travelling face in this harsh terrain. Despite tourism increasing every year in Spiti the attitude of the locals towards those visiting is extremely welcoming and hospitable. Having lived as nomads till not too long ago people here are understanding to the needs of outsiders and some are still surprised that people living in cities with the comforts that they do not have here can be so interested in their way of life.

Time spent in Spiti will inspire you to look at the goodness in life, in people and in yourself. You’ll find pleasure in small things and not just getting trashed on weekend. In Spiti you’ll find simplicity isn’t boring and life can be lead with joy without materialism.

EFFORTS TOWARDS SUSTAINABILITY AT HOTEL DEYZOR

Sunlight bathes us in far more energy than we could ever need—if we could just catch enough

Sustainability is a loosely used word. An advertising gimmick. You don’t need to live in California to utilize the power of the sun. Solar power is free, natural and cost saving. Generating up to 100% of our own clean electricity with solar is an investment that we had decided to make when we started Hotel Deyzor.

Karanbir and Skalzang from the beginning had decided to invest in harnessing the renewable elements of nature to provide an experience to their guests.

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SOLAR PANELS FOR ELECTRICITY
Deyzor now is the only hotel in Spiti valley and probably amongst the handful in all of Himachal which runs entirely on solar power when regular government supply is disrupted.
If you’ve been to Spiti you would know 5 hours of uninterrupted electricity for a week is a luxury.
Our hotel now has installed a 1KW solar panel, 250ltr of solar water heater, solar cooker and a green house.
For us at Hotel Deyzor working towards sustainability was not only a commitment to the environment, but also a great economic choice. The solar panels convert sunlight directly into electricity by converting light particles into electrons negatively charged particles.

When light strikes the PV cell it causes the atoms to release their electrons in a way that produces a direct current similar to the energy from batteries. The 1KW solar panel allow us to provide 2 LED bulbs, 1 for the room and 1 for the bathroom in every room. Besides this our refrigerator, WIFI, and lights for the restaurant and the 2 corridors are also supplied from it.

SOLAR WATER HEATER

Solar water-heating is a cheap alternative and produces massive savings as well as cuts CO²emissions. Hot water is a constant requirement for any hotel and this system can reduce the need for conventional water heating by as much as two-thirds. Our intent is to minimize our environmental impact and carbon footprint by making Hotel Deyzor energy efficient and reducing our reliance on the practically nonexistent government electricity

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SOLAR COOKER AND GREENHOUSE

DSC05208We use the solar cooker to make rice, pulses and boil veggies. The solar cooker was made using mud and straw from Spiti, a poly-carbonate sheet and a metal sheet also bought locally.
The green house was added in 2015 and while there is still lots for us to learn, we are growing tomato, mint, spinach, cucumber, zucchini, bronchiole, cauliflower, radish amongst other veggies.

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We recognize our commitment towards maintaining a greener and healthier environment and our vision for a green world. Our programme  encompasses local participation, creating awareness among employees and guests.

5 THINGS OR PLACES IN SPITI VALLEY THAT YOU MAY NOT KNOW OF

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GANGCHUMIK NUN

Evi chomo (grandmother nun in Tibetan) as she is referred to, has been living in her cave in Gangchumik above Pooh for over 35 year. Evi is from Pin valley and at the age of 61 donated her land (in Pooh village) to the villagers and went into her solitary life. A living example of the spiritual life devoted to realize the Self and a strong indication of what the Buddha dharma means to people in this valley.

Evi meets locals and others who seek her blessing and she does not speak hindi. From Pooh village its a 3hour trek to her cave. If evi is in her sadhana then it is not possible to meet her.

There is an unmistakable aura around her and evi is helped by nuns who stay with here and take care of her. Travel is the most rewarding when it broadens your perspective and inspires you. Feel for yourself Evi’s presence.

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6 reasons why you should travel to Spiti valley

1. It’ll makes you slow down and pause

Travelling makes you realize that the most precious things in life are to be savoured slowly. In Spiti you will have to come down to the pace of life Spiti lives in. No emails to answer, only BSNL works here and the locals are always ready to talk at length over tea. Wake up late, explore the landscape and at night stare at the milky way. It’s good for your harried nerves and frazzled mind and is absolutely a great way to relieve stress.spiti-3

2. Travelling makes you step out of your comfort zone

Electricity is still a dream for many in Spiti. While at our property, Hotel Deyzor we have now installed solar panels providing 24hour electricity to our guests, till last year we were running a generator but everywhere else that you go to in Spiti you will not have electricity and wifi.

Travelling in Spiti will force you to think outside the box. Depending on where you eat food may or may not br to your liking. While its generally not the case, here in Spiti valley too you could come across inconsiderate and rude co-travelers who make life difficult for you, but they will only make your tolerance for others stronger. Travelling will make you step out of your comfort zone and compel you to get used to different tastes, people, and situations that would usually make you cringe back home.

You’ll have to adapt to unfamiliar realities and discomfort stretches your mind and gives you the mental workout that was missing from your previous day to day routine. Becoming more adaptable and tolerant will only strengthen your soul.15e80f880b30a3bc7c6f36e5b4b77177

3. Spiti will teach you to embrace change and accept uncertainty

Uncertainty is most certain when you travel; embrace it and enjoy the trip. Carry this attitude back home, and go through life expecting nothing to remain the same.

Nothing is constant when you are away from home and hopping from one place to the other. The scenes change, the people change – their behaviour, their language, their culture and customs are constantly changing as you continue along your journey.

When you travel, you never know what you’ll find once you turn the corner. As much as you think you can plan ahead, there will always be bumps along the way. When you travel, you are in unfamiliar territory. Embrace uncertainty let go of control and enjoy the excitement, freedom from worries and peace of mind it brings you.

4. Become mindful after travelling in Spiti valley

‘Mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment.

Mindfulness also involves acceptance, meaning that we pay attention to our thoughts and feelings without judging them—without believing, for instance, that there’s a “right” or “wrong” way to think or feel in a given moment. ‘

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Being mindful while travelling means enjoying the sights and sounds without worrying about the mails lying unread in your inbox. Being a mindful traveller means you appreciate where you are without comparing it—favourably or unfavourably—to what you’re used to back home. Mindfulness travelling lets you discover hidden joys and simple pleasures that otherwise remain hidden from view when you look with judgemental eyes and compare with prejudiced views.

5. Travelling in Spiti will teach you gratitude.

There is something about being on the road and hopping from one exciting place to the other that loosens our inhibitions and unveils our true essence. Travelling helps you appreciate the present moment, period. It fills you with gratitude.

When you travel, you open your heart to strangers and new experiences. You learn to accept change and be at peace when things are not delivered made to order. Travelling gives you new insights and alters your perspective. Travelling is always an enlightening and spiritually uplifting experience.Kee monastery. Kee, Spiti. NCF_HAP_Abhishek Ghoshal

6. Most importantly, it teaches you to live in the NOW.

How can you bring calm and peace to the middle of a stress-full, chaotic day?

The answer is simple, though not always so easy to put into practice: learn to be present. No matter how out-of-control your day is, no matter how stressful your job or life becomes, the act of being present can become an oasis. It can change your life, and it’s incredibly simple.

Travelling embeds in us the fundamentals of living for the moment and not taking life for granted. It teaches us to say yes more often and not be afraid of what others might think. When you are on the road, every second of every day is a new journey, so you must take advantage of this opportunity and seize the day!15e80f880b30a3bc7c6f36e5b4b77177

Mountain biking in Spiti valley

Dwelling in the hurried city life of Mumbai, I struggled there and the bustling streets didn’t charm me enough. I didn’t want Mumbai or any city for that matter to be the place I’d lived my whole adult life. Eventually the monotony started strangling me. And for the better part of two years, that was good enough for me. But sometime in my last years there I began to hear a faint hissing—the sound of air leaking out of the dream. 4 years later after moving to Mumbai I bought a one way ticket to South America and hitchhiked solo across the continent for a year and a half. Leaving the life I knew was not a terrifying thought, but then again, I was to do it again when I left for a cycling trip in East Africa. It was an easy decision. I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life in Mumbai where my career, my social life, my love life had all taken place within 5 square kilometers. After experiencing living with 25million people I wanted something completely on the other end. Used by the English to get pashmina wool from Lahsa to India in the late 18th and early 19th century, Spiti valley is unknown even the most inspired traveller. I was in search of a place where I was not my job and in Spiti even if there was a job, I didn’t know what it was. Here I don’t have to go to a park to see nature which I feel is a pathetic excuse for experiencing actual nature. Working in a city and having to drive everywhere, not being able to walk to places, the big car culture, it scared the living day light out of me.

Mountain biking – Lowering is a rock climbing technique to descend. If the belayer at the bottom gives you the wrong instructions, you’re basically screwed with nowhere to go. In mountain biking you are your own belayer and you are most often than not responsible for your own fall. The rider marks his own route with his eyes, guides his bike with his knees and shoulders, and if that doesn’t work, locks the brakes and hopes for the best. Unlike rock climbing the mountain biker isn’t safely lowered with a secure rope. But if you do reach the bottom with the bike and yourself in one piece, no one can take away the bragging rights you have earned — specially if you have just mountain biked down from the world’s highest village!!! For the monks living at the Komic monastery the road from Komic to Kaza is the only connection between the world’s highest village to the outside world. After braving temperatures of -30 degrees during winters, the monks- known to practise tantra and armed only with a shovel start cleaning the road before government bulldozers and snow cutters inch their way up to their isolated village. The melting ice mixed with loose mud makes the road down to the Spiti valley from Komic an adrenaline junkie’s delight. The descent from Komic is demanding and even the most experienced of downhill mountain biker would need to remain extremely vigilant. A big part of me kept on reminding that risks were just not worth it. There was no chance of rescue and say even if I did survive the fall, I would have had no source of communication with the outside world. But I knew I was at no ordinary place and the rules required me to look at situations anew, with new eyes. I wanted to be the first person in the year to bike down the treacherous trails from Komic into the Spiti valley and despite the odds, the reward was worth fighting for. The myth-like status of the road, the ever-present danger, the dizzying elevation and the beautiful landscape meant that it really is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

I was though aware that I couldn’t allow testosterone dictate and exceed riding ability. Downhill mountain biking is an extreme sport like bungee jumping and skydiving. The difference here is that there is no expert guide controlling your propulsion and you are completely on your own. We all have our own mountains to climb but this one was my mountain to go down from. Literally. With my legs wedged tight on the pedals, and the surging water threatening to tip the cycle over, I remember thinking that I had bitten more than I could chew. On a trail no wider than a meter and with speeds touching more than 50kmph, the moments of stress aren’t few and far in between. But then sometimes better sense prevails: keep your knees and shoulder loose, your eyes focused on the track and maintain a rhythm. The first section of the road down from Komic before cleaned by the JCB is the trickiest. No more than a trail, its here that the first fifteen minutes feel like eternity as cold water pierces like needles through to my feet. The gushing waters start to push the cycle closer to the edge and I need to use all my body strength to keep the mountain bike on track so that both of us don’t get swept away. The inch-by-inch tug of war begins as I again question my decision to take on this road. Our personal spectrums go together with our characters and how to choose to build and use them is our call. This was one such moment.

The freezing wind has now penetrated right through to my bones as my pulse races and the adrenaline drowns the shivers that rack my body. To muster the courage to keep going down the trail I had to employ the Jedi mind trick: look where you want to go. Easy to do, but easier to get wrong, and don’t need to look at the scary cliff on your side. Speed is critical to safety in downhill mountain biking but that doesn’t mean you can afford to take it easy. Small rocks and dips can throw you off the bike but if you are reasonably quick your momentum can carry you through some ditches. The rider though at all times needs to judge the difficulties that can be involved in continuing a descent. As the trail becomes wider and merges with the road, I go around the first hairpin, only to look back to see a lava-like flow of earth and stone coming rumbling down the mountain. It’s slow but it’s taking everything in its path into the river below. Fifty meters behind me, Mother Nature has taken back what’s rightfully hers. I reach speed of over 75kmph on the high speed sections of this now smooth road riding past fields of curious mountain goats. Rudyard Kipling called Spiti “a world within a world” and it’s not hard to understand why. The last section of the road down from Komic into Kaza overlooks the Spiti valley. The giant rock mountains around could not have been carved by any mortal hand and only by the force of wind and water over millennia. In Spiti you’ll learn that there is more than one path into the future – a path based on the co- evolution between humans and earth. At first the outsider will see the hard life, but give yourself time and you’ll see the rare kind purity the people live with.

For the adventure traveller Spiti is a virtual ‘Natural Theme Park’, there are seemingly endless array of activities to be enjoyed in the mountains. It is a place to connect with nature and here you see that if you let indigenous people live as they have for thousands of year, then we have more to learn from them than us. This Trans-Himalayan backcountry is one of the most stunning and rugged regions on the globe with a well preserved Buddhist heritage. With its unique high altitude ecosystem and an isolation that transcends the barriers of time leaves, Spiti leaves the traveller spell bound. The villages in the valley typify the myriad aspects of Spitian culture with some ancient monasteries dating back more than 1000 years. Such is the energy of the place that you’ll feel strangely content. Maybe it is the architectural perfection of the mountains that lord their beauty over this high altitude wilderness. It’s a place which represents measureless freedom, no human no living thing, has survived under the eternal sky. The sky outlives everything, but Spiti is a place that has survived. It might sound absurd at first that an ancient culture in the Himalayas has anything to teach to the industrialized society. But in our search for the future we keep on spiralling back to an ancient connection between ourselves and the earth, an interconnectedness that ancient cultures have not abandoned. Sticking to its culture, traditions and way of live which to an outsider might seem harsh at first but as you spend time in Spiti, the simplicity and truth will make you think otherwise. Cycling I often feel is the best way to see a place. Thing go past you slower, you notice more things as a result and you have all the time in the world to listen to the running commentary of your mind.

Cycling past the villages you notice Spiti is steeped in spirituality. It is everywhere. In the prayer flags furiously fluttering in the breeze and in the wrinkles of old monks chanting as they go about their day. And if that doesn’t make you feel lucky enough Spiti’s landscape would. The river braids through the valley’s vast plains and narrow gorges, glinting like a stained-glass masterpiece in the crimson sunset. As village approaches, the browns give way to tumbling pea fields and apple trees. And not for the first time since I have made it my home, Spiti reverberates through me. My muscles relax after the long day of riding, my breath slows down, and inside me something unclenches. The meaning for adventure as Oxford dictionary says is “unusual, exciting or dangerous experience or undertaking”. I was feeling all these emotions as my bike gathered momentum coming down on a narrow trail from Dhankar. gaining speed over these barren slopes it’s difficult to imagine anything surviving here, and yet birds hop from rock to rock and lizards squirt between hidey-holes. The stunning scenery and floating clouds across azure sky are simply out of the world experience as one rides in Spiti. On the cycle one has time to notice the iron-rich mountains, their slopes textured like freshly brushed sand, with patches of red, orange and brown scree looking like ink blots across the mountains. At times I have to remind myself it’s not an art display. Instead it’s some of the most inhospitable mountain country in the world. As I continue to climb, the air becomes noticeably thinner. Let alone the cycling bit but even when I try to drink or eat, I then can’t breathe or eat and it feels the only oxygen here is inside my tyres. From my trekking experience I knew that at a time like this a Spiti staple called tsampa, a savoury laddoo of sorts made with roasted barley flour and water would work stronger than Red Bull. The light was fading by the time I get to Tabo. Adding another layer of clothing to my knackered body I cycle past apricot trees, the local school and a café with a monk eating an apple pie. Everything about Tabo makes me smile. The monastery in Tabo was made in 996AD and was closing by the time I get there but a lama gestured for me to come in anyway. The main temple was shrouded in darkness and a silence so deeply penetrating I walk on my tiptoes.