The candle flickered with the beat of the drum. I could feel a droplet of sweat rolling down my neck. Slowly, my focus shifted to the chanting and music around me.

We got up this morning to ‘bed tea’, black tea brought to our tent, at 6am. We were going to a monastery just above Besi Sahar before we started the trek. It was only about 150m above the campsite, straight up. It was already humid and I struggled with the climb. We went straight into puja, Buddhist prayer, and I spent the first few minutes recovering from the climb.

Eight monks sat in a line to our right and we had the altar in front of us. A combination of rhythmic chanting, symbols, bells, drums and a bag pipe-esque pipe, along with the incense being swung through the air, created an experience that took hold of you entirely.

That is, until a mobile went off. Not one of ours, but the monk’s who appeared to be leading the prayer. Eventually the mobile was found. Puja continued, alongside his conversation. He restarted the prayer once the conversation was over.

‘The school is supported by UK citizenship’ said Resham.

James and I probed a little and found out that the school seen from Hyulsa Gumba, the Buddhist monastery, was a government-run school but there are teachers there from the UK. It was from them Resham learnt English. Resham was a local government accountant, he walks up to the gompa every morning, he tells me smiling. We all swap email addresses.

Time to leave and get back to the main trail. A detour definitely worth getting-up early for, and one not seen by those just passing through.

Sunrise casts a shadow of a vase of leafy flowers and a window frame on the altar.

Where we are now: Ngadi
N: 28°18’13.6″
E: 084°23’42.9″
Alt: 873m

Mobile signal is starting to dwindle, so smaller photos from now on!