Ordesa Valley

After our first lazy wander in the Bujaruelo valley, Phap Luu decreed that we’d be going down to Ordesa next. For some brothers, the first day was already more than they had bargained for. To these bedraggled monks, Phap Luu said, “If you’re tired and you’re sick, and you’re not going to join us for all the hiking, you should come today.” Ordesa Valley is the part of the Spanish Pyrenees that’s fully UNESCO’d out as a World Heritage Site. There are waterfalls and mountains and trees and all of the fancy stuff you’d expect from a beautiful valley, but the hiking path is massive and Disneyland immaculate.

This was the day that the most dire act of anti-backpacking was committed. A few of the Vietnamese brothers decided that their tea party wouldn’t be complete without a pitcher of hot water. I don’t know where they got it, but they brought a massive carafe, stainless steel and insulated. It’s the kind of thing you expect to see, filled with half and half, waiting for you next to the stale croissants at the Best Western breakfast bar. It also seemed that none of them had a backpack, so they carried it by hand, a devil-may-care gesture that caused everyone we passed to question what they thought they knew about hiking. It’s been a few days now, but I think it looked a little something like this.

The group disintegrated after the first waterfall. A few brothers were completely MIA. I don’t think we saw them for a few hours. Tea was taken, snacks were eaten, and half of the Sangha had lunch before we reached our picnic spot due to some kind of miscommunication. We also enjoyed violating the designated viewing areas to inspect the waterfalls up close. They’re real all right.

Traipsing through the woods is all well and good, and I’m not one to turn up my nose at a waterfall, but the meadows are where it’s at in Ordesa valley. Shaped by some beautiful combination of glacial activity and cattle grazing, the last leg of the hike was lazy and surreal. Trickles from the canyon walls joined up in the middle, at what I guess is the birthplace of the Ara river. The far end of the valley held yet another waterfall, and a good picnic spot. I was one of the fools, tricked into eating lunch early, so I climbed up the canyon wall to take some pictures. On the way up I ran into Thay Phap Trung, who was the hands-down winner of the “Most Like a Jedi” photo contest.

Phap Trung is a bit crazy and mysterious. He also won the “Most like a Wizard” contest, but that was on day four. He was one of the few brothers who disappeared from the group early on, and I have no doubt that he spent that time in communion with forest creatures. Heading up the side of the valley, we encountered chains and metal bars, and a steep rock face. Now we were in climbing country! I enjoyed a side of fear with my adventure, but the climb wasn’t too difficult. Phap Trung bounded to the top. We’re up high, huh? I say. “No. Not very high.” Did you climb mountains in Vietnam? “No… but I climbed trees. Big trees.”

From here the other brothers were tiny tiny, and I assume we looked the same to them, but our adventure did not go unnoticed. A few other monks followed shortly behind, and we had high-5s all around. A few continued up, one stalled halfway for fear of heights, Phap Trung dissolved into a passing dust-devil, and I was left to descend on my own. The walk back was lazy and I ran out of space on the camera. Alas!.

Next up is day 3: Spanish Hospitality!

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