The Guge Kingdom: Day 11 – 13 (Elevation 3800M / 12467FT)
July 30, 2010, 2:51 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

As mentioned in the last post, the incubation of something nasty had begun in my stomach by the time we reached Tirthapuri.  It was that evening, as the rest of the camp slept (and snored) sweetly, that the process of becoming ill began in earnest.  I stumbled through our little meadow in the moonlight, with gangs of mean dogs prowling the close vicinity, to make hurried trips to the latrine tent.  As we’ve probably all experienced at one time or another, being sick (especially stomach sick) anywhere but home, sucks.  I assumed it would pass but it just took a greater hold as the next day went on.

And that day had been much anticipated as we were on our way to the remote ruins of the Guge Kingdom (pronounced gooo-gay).  For those few moments I was able to keep it together and enjoy myself, I can say that it was a gorgeous drive through country that resembles a montage of the American Badlands and the Grand Canyon.  But I’m afraid I don’t have a single photo!  It was here too that we had our third and final wolf sighting, but as I mentioned, I was down in a ditch at the time having a private moment with myself. 

The road to Guge is long, unpaved and courses through deep ruts and inches of powdery dust.  The area is currently still remote but a new road is under construction and will be sealed and ready to deliver tourists in throngs within the next few months.  But for now we battled across some very bumpy territory and took many rest stops at my prompting.  Simon, Tim, Dan, and Pema (my most excellent carmates) took good care of me, so I remained well-hydrated and giggling when I could.  The big effort of the day was just keeping my eyes on the prize (a hotel bed and toilet) from the front seat.

We reached Tholing, one of the former capitals of the Guge Kingdom, a few hours before sunset.  I spent the next 20 hours in bed.  Craig, the all-compassionate wizard of antibiotics that he is, gave me a wonder drug of some persuasion that was able to kick the bug from my system almost immediately.  Whatever that miraculous drug was, it came to the aid of nearly half of the group at one point or another.  Anyway, I was up by late afternoon the next day and ready to limp around the ruins a few pounds lighter.

The Guge Kingdom was founded in the 10th century and stood as a major regional power until its fall in the 17th century.  It’s power extended into much of northern India, including Ladakh.  Guge’s rulers were devout Buddhists and ushered in a new major diffusion of Buddhism to western Tibet.  Its capitals were established at Tholing and Tsaparang and the religious artwork that remains in these ruins is magnificent, especially when you contemplate their age. 

The murals above taken at Tholing are in poor shape, but many of those in the interior of the remaining temples appear almost pristine and are absolutely breathtaking (as is the statuary). Unfortunately, no photos allowed indoors!  Though I did manage to snap this one of Tholing’s kitchen stove:

It was the old capital at Tsaparang, a 20-some kilometer drive up from Tholing, that proved the most incredible.  The fortress, temples and cave dwellings had been dug into a pyramid-shaped mountain that rises out of the valley.  Exploring the ruins, you could imagine the thriving community of thousands of people who lived within the soft sandstone(esque) rock:  

Somebody’s home-sweet-home for several hundred years:

I managed to slowly hobble up to the top in my weak state.  Here’s a particularly heinous shot of me hanging out in the royal quarters:

And two of our favorite crew members, Choempel & Pema, who were in charge of driving us safely across the country:

Guge eventually fell due to regional power struggles and there are some interesting stories about the role that a few Jesuit missionaries may have played in its downfall.  I believe that it was the Ladakhis that eventually laid seige to Tsaparang, so most of its treasures were actually pillaged long before the upheaval of the middle of the last century.  Still, so much remains!


2 Comments so far
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Boo! Feel better soon!

Comment by Savilla

Thanks lady! But luckily this blog is not in realtime; I’m currently in Chengdu, China and as fit as a fiddle (word is they’re fit). Xx

Comment by wayuphigh

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