Himalayas of India: Buddhist monastery perched above Markha River

Monastary Perched high above Markha
Monastary Perched high above Markha River in Ladakh, India

How powerful the Himalayas of India are! Countless Buddhist monasteries perched high above us as we trekked along the Markha River in Ladakh, India. The ruins in this picture appeared to be ruins, but strings of prayer flags fluttered from similar monasteries built many centuries ago. It seemed impossible that anyone could have climbed to them, much less built them in the sky.

To walk here is to feel time as if it wavers in the air like a heat mirage on the horizon. There is a sense that people in the time of Buddha, 2,600 years ago walked these same paths, looked up at cliffs and ridges like these. Of course, it would be centuries later that the monasteries would be built, perhaps around 1200 C.E.
Kate Troll & I spent 10 days this summer trekking with 8 other friends in the Markha Valley, a challenging journey with the river bottom at 3,350 m (11,000 ft) to 3,390 m (13,000), and across 2 passes at 4,961 m (16,276 ft) and 5,260 m (17,257 ft).

This is the dry side of the Himalayas with annual rainfall similar to the Sahara Desert, yet the Markha River cascades between mountains topped by these impossibly inaccessible Buddhist monasteries. Water from glaciers and snowfields on surrounding peaks that rise above 6,096 m (20,000 ft).

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William Arthur Hanson (Bill Hanson) is an Alaskan writer who searches for the roots of life in landscapes and the inhabitants they shape. He draws on 30 years as a biologist, forester, and ecologist. He has worked from the rainforests of Southeast Alaska to the subarctic taiga of the Interior. His writing mixes his deep knowledge of Alaska with people and places from his worldwide travels to Vietnam, Russia, Mexico, Ecuador, Europe, Malaysia, and much of the United States.

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