Sunday, June 12, 2011


I woke up super dehydrated with a minor headache but overall not feeling too bad. Last time I had some minor nausea and a bad headache from the altitude change even though I had stayed the night in Reckong Peo, so I was worried that this time, having skipped the night in RP, I would feel worse. None of the shops were open yet so I went across the street and had a chai while I waited to buy water. I bought a couple of bottles, went back to the hotel, brushed my teeth and washed up, then went back out for breakfast. Kaza was surprisingly busy; taxis kept pulling up and unloading people (all locals, I didn't see any tourists until later that afternoon). After breakfast I walked down to the main shop area and tried to call the states, but the phone lines were down. I had another chai and hung out a bit people watching and reading, then I walked over to the Sakya gompa where they were preparing for the Budh Purnima/Saka Dawa celebration), however everything seemed slightly subdued. Given the time of day/importance of the holiday I would have expected folks to be lined up and things underway already, but the monks were sort of milling about and slowly putting up banners.

I walked back to the main area and started chatting with Lodrey, who owns one of two internet cafes in Kaza (his wasn't up and running yet and probably wouldn't be for another week or so). I asked Lodrey about what was going on at the Sakya gompa and he said that the festivities were partially canceled because a young man had died the day before. He didn't say who or how and I didn't want to press it, but that explained the strange air that was hanging over the monastery and the sort of sluggish pace of the monks setting up. He said all of the folks who had come in from neighboring regions for the celebration (which would have included some 'chams dancing) were milling about the town without anything to do because they had come to spend the whole day at the monastery celebration that was now canceled. I tried the phone again and eventually got through to the states (it took forever to get a line), had some lunch, then went to the main bus stand to ask about bus times. A few people told me the buses hadn't started running yet this season because the roads were still too bad. That was fine, I figured I could catch a taxi later that afternoon and went back to the market to kill time with Lodre. We drank tea and chatted about Spiti; he knows most of the Bhuzhen in the area so we talked about them for a while, which was really interesting. Around 2:30 I went back to the taxi area to try to find a ride to Kungri and met with absolutely no luck. Everyone who had come in for the festivities was trying to leave Kaza. The taxi/bus area was packed, but everyone I asked about Kungri already had a full car. I went back to the main area and told Lodre I was having trouble finding a taxi, so he walked back over with me and found a group of people who were all waiting to go to Kungri. There are only a few jeeps that go between Pin and Kaza, so he located their drivers and, sure enough, they were all full. However they were apparently coming back to Kaza to do a second run after dropping the current set of passengers, so I just hung out at the taxi stand waiting with the rest of the folks going to Kungri.

Around 5, the taxis had still not returned but a group of monks walked by who I recognized from Kungri, so I went over to say hi. They were also waiting for a ride but had apparently secured one of the returning taxis, although they weren't sure when it would return. Their car was full, but they said they would make sure I got on the other taxi going to Pin. We hung out, drank chai, and chatted a bit until 6:30ish when both taxis came back about the same time. Everyone rushed the first taxi when it returned and the driver said I couldn't get on because it was full. This was pretty frustrating and I was worried I would have to stay another night in Kaza and catch a ride the next day when there were fewer people (I found out later on in Kungri that the driver thought I was tourist and he apologized for not letting me on right away, which made me feel a bit better, oh ego). When it was clear he wasn't going to let me on, I went back to the area where everyone was waiting to see if there were any other taxis going. I guess one of the monks went to argue with the driver because he came rushing over, grabbed my bag, shouted "dro!" (go) and took off. He opened the back of the jeep and two of the girls from Sangnam, who had also been waiting the whole time, moved over and squeezed three to a seat so that I could get in. The monk shut the door behind me and threw my bag on top of the jeep and we were off.

I tried to chat with the two girls, who I was pretty sure I had met a few times last time I was in Spiti, but they just giggled and whispered to each other and pretended they didn't understand me. Later on when I was showing pictures to the nuns from my last visit, I found a bunch of pictures of both girls. They were friends with the nuns and in 2009 had come over for a couple of parties. I had pictures and videos of them singing and dancing. I told Yeshe that I rode with both girls on the taxi to Kungri but that they pretended they didn't know me. She kind of laughed and said that was weird and that they were probably just being shy but maybe they didn't recognize me. Interactions like this make me wonder how difficult it will be to do field work in this area, especially when folks who I've met before won't talk to me.

In any event, the taxi ride from Kaza to Kungri isn't very long, but I quickly saw why the buses weren't yet running. The road was in terrible shape! There were several land slides (small enough or cleared enough for the jeep to get around but impossible for a bus), and in many places we were pretty much driving through small rivers from all of the melting snow. I wasn't sure if the monk who put my larger bag on top of the jeep had tied it down at all and spent the whole ride gazing out the back expecting to see my bag fly off. Every time we took a sharp turn or hit a large bump, I would look out at the road and visualize where my bag would land, whether it would bounce along the road getting dirty but recoverable, or whether it would drop off the side of the mountain into the river below. When I got off the taxi in Gulling, I found that the bag hadn't been tied down at all and felt pretty lucky that none of my visualizations materialized. Gulling is the first town on the main road into Pin and is just before Kungri. Since the taxi was headed to Sangnam and not up to Kungri, they dropped me in Gulling. The taxi driver also charged me 70rs, which was a little too much (standard is 50rs), and may have been part of why he later apologized. It was maybe 8pm by then and dark out. I stood on the side of the road with my bags waiting for another car to come through that was going to Kungri. A few younger local guys stood in their doorways staring at me and hassling me a bit. Eventually the taxi with the monks came by and I hopped onto that for the rest of the ride up to Kungri.

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