Waking up in a warm room in Xia Dawu on the 8th day of our trek was a nice change after some very cold nights in the tent but the plan was to get back on the trail and back into the tent by nightfall. Because we'd hitchhiked through some of the prettiest terrain on the trek we felt like we'd missed some special places and chances to meet more Nomads. So we decided to do what is actually a taboo in the Buddhist faith.. we would go backwards, counterclockwise, around the base of the mountain. Because completing a full circle around the base of a holy mountain (clockwise) is such a sacred act to the Buddhists, most of the folks we told our plan looked at us like we were crazy. But in the end, the locals just laughed us off and told us not to worry since we weren't Buddhists. (maybe they were right after all)
Before rambling on, to give some perspective on how remote this school and little town are.. some screen grabs from Google Earth with the school in the dead center of the photos..
Before we could hit the road we were invited to stick around for the Teachers' Day festivities. Little did we know that we'd be bestowed with almost the same honor as our host Puraja and his fellow esteemed teachers. When were asked to enter the event with the parade of teachers and were on the receiving end with them of the room full of students cheering and applauding. Pretty embarrassing to be honest.
After a few hours of skits and songs and group photos, and selfies with monks and teachers, we got short tour of the upper levels of the school's tiered temple and some history of the ornate drawings and sculptures lining the hall. The to our surprise we were invited into Paraja's humble dorm to see his own colorful Thangka masterpieces.
And then it was time to say our goodbyes and head the way of taboo breakers... northeast around Amne Machin in the sacrilegious northeastern loop around the mountain base. It was getting late and to reach a place remote enough to find a nomad camp and have the mountain views we wanted, we tried to hitch a ride. Of course it was almost impossible to find someone who would even just drive around the mountain the wrong way. What about all the people who just live that way? Surely they don't drive a full day's drive around a mountain range when they go to the market just so they don't have to break the sacred rules of Buddhism? It was starting to seem that way but we finally got a ride late into the day. But not before watching a cute horse scratch his ass on a barbed wire fence.
After a short ride to a higher elevation we came across a place with streams for water and majestic views of the mountains. No Nomad camps but a primitive house or two not too far off, and some horses roaming by in the evening to check out our backpacks. Just enough time to set up the tent before dark, a quick meal and the another cold but beautiful night in the tent with a stunning vista outside the tent in the morning.