“Ladakh is all about space - the sense of openness can be almost overwhelming. And at sunrise and sunset even the mountains seem to lift off and become diaphanous and made of light.
“Last year in September a small group of travellers set off with Jayachitta to visit Ladakh, its many monasteries, lakes and mountain passes. The group was made up of people practicing within Triratna and also in the Dzogchen tradition. Elizabeth Ebbutt, a Mitra from Triratna’s North London centre commented "Ladakh is possibly the most beautiful and peaceful place I have been and one that I will never forget. Ladakh touched my heart; the people are very gentle and I had the most amazing and exciting road trip ever."
“A highlight was visiting Alchi Monastery, outside Leh, with its ancient wall paintings in the ancient Kashmiri style, and Buddha figures three storeys high. Also walking in the mountains, travelling over the highest motorable road in the world, and a valley with turquoise rivers running through it.
“But Ladakh had suffered a great tragedy, just 6 weeks before the trip. A massive cloudburst had erupted above the eastern side of Leh, unheard of in this high mountain desert. The rain that poured down swept away houses, people, cattle and farmland. The mudbrick houses were not built for water and could not withstand it. So for some weeks it was unclear if the trip could happen at all.
“After much deliberation and searching out news from many sources we decided to proceed, having come to the conclusion that we would be safe, and also, very importantly, would not be a burden to people there. In fact, by then, the Ladakhis were eager for visitors to come back, as in the short summer season tourism is very important in the region. They asked people not to stay away, but come and support them by giving them work.
“It was a decision we did not regret, even though signs of the disaster were visible around us. A lot of work had already taken place to repair roads and houses. Even better, the group was able to support the Ladakhi people with some contributions and donations. There’s a Facebook page if you also want help the Ladakhi people.
“Our time there passed quickly, and we had time, really, for only a taster of that magical country, where Buddhism is still alive in its original roots, and has been for 100s of years. Time was of a premium as winter comes early, and the passes are closed after October, and then winter comes with its sub-zero temperatures.
Jayachitta will be returning to Ladakh and Kashmir this summer (August 2011) - details at www.ladakh2011.wordpress.com