Bardan Gompa To… Padum.

Wake at 5am to sit and listen to the place come alive. At 5:30am the kids are back on the roof to present more free jazz to the world. They appear to play for each corner of the building so the notes are loud and then quiet. Still a lovely way to wake up.

First things first is a huge lovely shit. I was told I could use the high end Lamas Only shitter next to my room, or the regular person shitter down by the courtyard. I don’t want to besmirch lama shit with my own so opt for the common monk’s shitter. And here I find that Bardan does things differently than the entire rest of India. Their shitter has a decent view!

On every hiking, climbing, rafting, everything trip I’ve ever been on, the breakfast and dinner and lunch conversation will quite often cross over to the quality of the shit one has, and particularly to the quality of the location. For example a particularly dramatic one is to shit down through the cracks that split the overhanging white rim 2000′ above the colorado river in canyonlands park. Especially during the stillness that comes before sunrise… anyway. Bardan’s got a decently situated shitter. Just wanted to make that clear.

Head down for breakfast and kitchen is just getting started. I even get to help chop vegetables. Volunteers arrive by car to help prepare for the big breakfast for the monks. Two people work full time to produce a huge turine of Tsamik (the local tsampa.) The monks eat well!

Finally time to depart I head out to my bike to pack.

Just as bike is ready a monk walks up. Asks if I have a bandage?

Me: Uh… what’s wrong?

Monk: Oh… uh… I fell off my motorcycle last night.

Me: Can I see?

Monk timidly pulls up his skirt. His entire leg is a mess of black scab and hamburgered flesh.

Me: Oh man. You need to go to the doctor.

Monk: I need to do purde (prayer duty.)

Me: Uh… you need to get that taken care of.

Monks friends show up looking concerned. Since the injured monk is being dumb I appeal to his friends.

Me: He needs to go to the doctor, he needs stitches.

Monk: I can go in two days.

Me: Nope. You need to go today. I’m not going to help unless you go today.

Monk: Ok. What do I do.

Me: First, we get some warm water thats been boiled, and you scrub it clean with soap.

The entire leg is covered in scab, can’t see the injury because there’s a 1cm thick of black and scab in places, with blue and dark red inflamed skin showing through.

Friends bring the warm water and the monk timidly starts cleaning. He does a half-assed job and I make him clean it out properly. This takes approximately 3 minutes. Once it is all actually clean we can see there’s a 4″ tear through his skin and its very inflamed underneath. He needs it cleaned properly, proper antiseptic applied, maybe even antibiotics. AND he needs stitches.

I get out my kit and sterile bandages, we clean it out again using betadine. Then I apply topical a thick layer of triple-antibiotic, finally I tape a big square bandage over the wound.

I’m emphasizing to his friends that he must now go to the doctor, that I’m an unqualified idiot and he can lose his leg if he isn’t careful. Friends agree but monk then asks me for a spare bandage.

Me: No! You aren’t getting another one, you must now go to the doctor!

Friends thank me and help him away out the front gate. They are actually taking him back to padum, which is good.

Out the gate myself I run into some elderly french tourists with cameras. These french speak no english so don’t know what to say when I greet them. They look embarrassed and look away, then talk at each other in french.

I work my bike back down the steps feeling sorry for the french. So many speak no english, they travel where no one speaks french and are just so isolated.

At the bottom there’s a Mahindra with more french loitering around. These are older and less fit and not willing to make the climb to the gompa. Imagine what sort of hell this trip is driving clear from Leh to ride on bumpy roads and not see the sights?

And there amonst these french is a monk with yellow hat speaking french with them. I chat with the guy a bit and he’s a real character, a wheeler-dealer, he’s their guide. Great english and a super-wiley sense of humor. I’d love to chat but his main job is to entertain his clients so I bit adieu.

Its only later I realize that I know that monk. He was the guy that finished his trek in Pishu and Wayan and I hired his horsemen for our own hike.

I say goodbye to lovely Bardan and head down to Padum, which this time really is all downhill from here. ooh! Literally and figuratively.

There’s a bunch of hotels in Padum these days. I had several picked out before leaving the US. I’m particularly intrigued by the Hotel Mount Blanc. From the name I imagine a lovely green garden cafe that serves yak cheese omlette and excellent coffee. But I pass by on the way into town and its a dump.

I definately won’t stay in the Ibex because it was so horrible when my wife were in Padum in 1999, so horrible that we moved out and slept in our tent! What I don’t know is that the Ibex changed locations and is now probably the best hotel in Padum, at least if youre a backpacker. Great management and guests and the cooks are good too.

So I head to the Mentokling, a new hotel a few hundred meters away from the main street.

Mentokling is almost full, just one ground floor room available so I take it.

Lucky me.

Padum is a huge town now. In 1992 there was literally a single restaurant, a chinese place. The food was so bad that we threw it out and cooked dal for lunch and dinner on our camp stove.

These days the food is still pretty bad but there’s good stuff if you know where to look, or who to ask.

Ensconced in my nice hotel I eat a hearty breakfast, a thermos of Chai and then I have a nap. Several days of lounging ahead, steeling myself for the difficult part of the trip.

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