This Tibetan Buddhist annual festival takes place in Korzok Monastery, on the western bank of Tsomoriri Lake in the Trans-Himalayan mountains at an altitude of 4,595 m (15,075 ft).
I travelled 7 hours on a 4×4 to Tso Moriri less than 24 hours after arriving in Leh. It is advisable to acclimatize for at least 2 days in the capital(3524 metres) before going any higher specially if you arrive by flight but the festival would start the next day and I was planning to see it long before I travelled to India. I only had time to process the inner line permit necessary to visit a protected/restricted area.
Hiring a private car for the 3 days journey is expensive and travelling with a tour group is not exactly what I like to do -mainly for photographic reasons- but there was not choice and I joined Amy, Viki and Ed from Australia who were not only very enthusiastic about photography but very cool people to share this journey with. We made several stops for photos and between jokes, music and stories, the seven hours journey flew!
Kurzok was packed with tourist and we ended up sharing a room with 4 matresses on the floor. No sight of a shower or toilet anywhere so we had to use the neighbour’s toilet which wasn’t more than a hole on the floor. Forget about a shower.
The sky at night is so beautiful at this altitude and I have never seen the Milky Way that clear, it was almost unbelievable! How not to take some photos of this magnificent moment? That was one of the few instances I was glad to have my tripod with me.
The day after we dedicate the morning to see the festival. To be honest I was a bit disappointed. It didn’t look as colourful and vibrant as I expected it and there were more tourists than locals! It was hard to find an angle without having another photographer in the frame and some photography groups took possession of the front line with tripods. A French woman got hysterical because I sat next to her tripod for around 30 seconds. And she wasn’t even taking photos at that moment. I never understand why someone would shoot something like this from the same angle. I like to move around, explore different views, get closer, try different techniques but anyway, every photographer has his/her own view.
The light was harsh after 10am and the slow dance of the monks rather boring so I started pointing my camera to the few nomads in one corner of the corridor. Chang-pa women were wearing their most beautiful jewelry and big hats covered with blue jade stones. With the help of my driver, I took some portraits at the end of the first day of the festival. The rest of the afternoon I explored the surrounding area, the view of the lake and the mountains is breathtaking!
The next and final day of the Korzok Gu-sor Festival , more local people arrived and the dancers were wearing bright colourful costumes and masks. The day started with the blessing and release of a horse, goat, yak and a dog. Again, with the help of my driver to translate, I managed to take some portraits of the nomads.
The festival ends with the destruction of a sacrificial cake or ‘Storma’ by the leader of the Black Hat dancers in a ceremony called ‘Argham’ (Killing). The ceremony symbolizes the destruction of evil and pays homage to the assassination of the Tibetan apostate King Lang-dar-ma, by a Buddhist monk in the mid 9th century.
I wish I could stay longer here, the afternoon on the way back to Leh the light was crispy and golden, herdsmen with goats and horses engulfed in dust created a wonderful opportunity for photos but we were late for our long journey back to our base in Leh.