Thursday, September 17, 2015

Lamayuru to Leh – A Cultural and Heritage tour

Day 3 was our journey from Lamayuru to Leh. It was more of a cultural tour. We wanted to reach Leh as soon as possible because my eye was hurting. Since we had settled our hotel bill the previous night check out process was very easy. After a peaceful sleep at night my eyes opened even before the alarm could ring.  I could see bright light from my window. Sun had already risen. Sunrise happens quite early in Ladakh region. I came out of my room at 5:00 AM only to see the spectacular view of Lamayuru. I was thanking God, Yd and the French doctor for helping me out of the terrible situation. At least I was lucky to view the spectacular scenic beauty with my lenses on. The light blue clear sky and the Moonland was in front of me. 

The beautiful view of Lamayuru in the morning

A part of the Lamayuru monastery captured from the hotel's terrace

Thanks Viren for this beautiful and memorable capture

We freshened up quickly and left for the monastery. We spent sometime in the monastery witnessing the morning payers. There were many tourists who were sitting along with us for the prayer session. A group of monks sat there chanting from their scripts probably written in Tibetian language.  It is a form of musical verse which they recite continuously. They also have a bowl of water beside them which they keep drinking from. Little Buddhist monks wearing the traditional Buddhist gown go around pouring water in that as each monk complete the bowl of water.  I do not know whether is just hot water or it had been added with some herbs. I have not done enough research on Buddhism and neither have I gone deep in knowing about their lifestyle and their prayers. May be some day when I really have the interest I would like to read up more on this. For me, as I sat there I could only feel peace. All sat in silence with their minds in sync with the musical chants. They were also using the instruments such as the Tibetian Horn, singing bowl, tibetian prayer wheel, cymbals, skull drums etc while praying. These instruments were common in all the monasteries we visited. Incense sticks were lighted. I am yet to find that exact aroma when I light incense sticks at home. Their mass chants reverberating in our ears. I found this interesting : Buddhist sacred music.

We started from Lamayuru by 6:00 AM. The weather was perfect that morning. The mountains had taken up a different colour this morning with faint light and bright blue sky. We stopped at Khalsti for breakfast. There weren’t many options for us. Paratha with curd and chole was the only option we could take. Tea was all that made a difference there. It was warm and nice for the morning weather. My sunglasses also broke while I sat in the hotel in Khalsti. There was certainly something wrong happening with my eye wear. We drove continuously crossing Nurla and Saspol.

Lamayuru to Alchi route

Between Saspol and Nimu we had to take a deviation to enter Alchi Monastery. The road to Alchi village was beautiful. The faint sunlight was making all the difference. It was good day. Indus River flows along the Alchi village and the monastery also.  Alchi monastery is built on lowland unlike the other monasteries in Ladakh that are located on a hill top. Alchi village is called a Model Village as they have developed the village well and also have their own electricity supply with good schools.  As we entered this village we saw many school children passing by and waving to us. They were very cute and adorable kids. We managed to click a picture of the little ones who were waiting for their school van. We had to go through a narrow path to reach the monastery. The entire path was full of shops selling jewellery and handicraft. My eye was fixed on some of the stone beaded jewellery but I had to control my urge to buy them until we completed our monastery visit.

Alchi Monastery or Alchi Gompa is a Buddhist monastery which is a part of the Alchi Chhoskhor  Temples Leh, Ladakh. Chos-khor means a monastic complex.  There are different settlements of the monasteries. This is also one of the ancient monasteries in Ladakh. Alchi is one of them and is managed by the Likir Monastery. The entry ticket holds good for visiting both the monasteries. The first entrance of the temple complex was very small but once we entered we were surprised to see a tall Buddha statue which could have dated back from the 11th or 12th century. There were old and new paintings on the wall. There was also a prayer hall where one old Buddhist monk was chanting prayers and playing a huge skull drum- A Buddhist sacred instrument. I felt so much at peace there that when I sat outside one of the temple complex closing my eyes, I could only hear the musical drum’s sound, the fragrance of the incense sticks, the chirping birds around and the sound of the flowing Indus River. I had never been to a place and had heard varied sounds that could give peace.  We walked down from here to see the flowing river and turned all the prayer wheels. On our way back we did a bit of shopping as planned.

Prayer Wheels in Alchi Monastery

Ancient paintings on the terrace walls of Alchi Monastery 

Apricots in Alchi Monastery
 While we left from Alchi monastery the weather had changed. Faint sunlight was spreading its warmth on us. After about half an hour we reached Likir Monastery. We had to ride up the hill to reach the monastery. 

This happens to be one of my favourite pictures. I manged to capture is with my phone's camera. 

First bike- Spiti Viren, Second one- Savy-Deepa

There is a huge 23 m statue of Maitreya in a seated position. Maitreya is regarded as a future of Buddha. We have to climb up narrow steep steps to reach the Likir Monastery complex. They have different paintings depicting Buddhism. I am yet to understand the message behind those paintings. We all felt that in Buddhism there was a mixture of Hindu culture also. We could see the image of Lord Ganesha, Goddess Kali and also Lord Shiva in some of the paintings. The temple tops were also having a ‘Gopuram’ like structure in some places; some have a dragon like appearance depicting the Chinese culture. Everything seemed to be merged into one culture called Buddhism which talks about peace.

While we were at the Likir Monastery my eyes started burning more. They had become dry because of the lack of a lubricant. I washed my face in fresh cold water coming from a tap which directly came from the Indus River. It was cold and provided relief to my eyes. Everyone was tired by the time we left from Likir. Seeing my discomfort Saveen suggested we leave early to reach Leh. We met Sayantan from Kolkata who was very impressed that we had come on a bike ride from Leh. He also clicked a picture of us together. This is the link to his blog -

Picture clicked by Sayantan
Spiti was very excited about the place and she captured a beautiful video of us with the three bikes coming out from the Likir Monastery.

The sounds of the 500 cc Thunderbirds were roaring there. There weren’t any bikers around when we left. The calm surroundings made the sound of the bike very loud and clear. When we connected to the main highway we saw many tourists in cars coming in to visit Likir Monastery. It was the only time during the day when we saw some tourists on the way.

Yd suggested we go to Nimmu/Nimu to check for river rafting. We reached the point where we saw Sangam and took a route from there seeing a sign board where Chilling was written. The road was freshly laid and it looked very comfortable for the next ten minutes. We were going along the river Zanskar in search for a river rafting origin point in Chilling. We kept going without finding anyone to guide us about the route. After a while, the roads became bad. There were sharp stones and rough patches on the road. It was a bumpy ride. We still did not turn back. We kept moving ahead. There was a sign board which said that we were entering into the Cold desert sanctuary. Everything was barren with huge mountains around. We were not at an altitude now. The mountains were higher than us. After going for about an hour we realized that the road did not lead us anywhere. We reached a point which could have been Chilling. There were many tourists who were seen doing the river rafting. On asking them we found that the river rafting starts at Nimu/Nimmu which was the point where we saw the sangam. Disheartened, we rode back till the same point bearing the bumpy ride again. It was afternoon by the time we reached Nimu. We had lunch at a restaurant which was also a river rafting organizing center. Yd and Saveen bought some information about rafting activity which they conducted. We thought of keeping it for the day after and left from there. 

One the way back I was clicking pictures with Yd’s camera when the lens cap flew because of the strong breeze. I realized immediately and asked him to stop. No other vehicles passed by so we started our search from where I saw the cap falling. The other two bikes also came and we started our search. Finally, I found the black cap fallen in one corner without a single scratch on it. The breeze was strong enough to pull it from there and make it fall into a pit too. Luckily we got it. At the same time Yd faced a tragic situation. His spectacle frame’s handle broke. I had bought spare spectacles for him but it was in Leh. It would be difficult for him to see long distance without spectacles while driving. So he fixed his frame back and put on his helmet. The helmet kept the frame intact.

The entire ride from there till Leh he kept his helmet intact. We decided not to stop. My eyes were hurting a lot and I desperately wanted to remove my contact lenses. It was a jinxed day for our eye wear. On our way back from Nimu to Leh Yd’s bike started making a weird noise. It seemed like stones rattling inside an empty petrol tank. He stopped in between to check if it was a problem with the tank but it wasn’t. We also thought that petrol would have been splashing against the tank. We both did not stop at Gurudwara Pathar Sahib while the others went. 

Yd was riding very slowly. We reached Leh somehow. I was in search of medical shops to find a lubricant eye drop or a tear drop. I went to three medical shops but they did not have any. While we were searching for this eye drop, Savy-Deepa, Viren-Spiti joined us. We rode back together to Leh form there. We reached our hotel by 5:00 PM. I removed my lens solution first. After a hot shower I felt a little relieved. Thankfully, Yd had his spare spectacles. We decided to go to a medical shop and get eye drops, extra lens solution and Yd’s spectacle repaired. Meanwhile Yd, Saveen and Viren got their bikes checked. The mechanic told that he will bring the bikes to the hotel once they were checked.

While we were about to go out, it started raining heavily. So, we sat in our rooms looking at the Ladakh map. We were looking at the route to go to Tso Moriri. We were looking at different options- Like, covering Tso Moriri and later Pangong Tso on the way back. Later, Dawa suggested us not to deviate from our plan and leave for Tso Moriri very early, stay there at Yak Camp which he had booked for us and come back the next day. Also, he took me and Yd in his car around in Leh market seeing the heavy rain. We could get time to go to an ATM and also buy the eye drop I required. The shopkeeper there told us finding a contact lens solution is rare even in Leh and even a spectacle shop for that matter. Actually, we had not seen people wearing spectacles there. May be, they never needed spectacles. The shopkeeper also scared us saying that there were rumours of flood alert in Leh. Feeling tensed we went back to our hotel. Dawa told us to wait and see the morning weather before deciding to leave for Tso Moriri. We had dinner in our hotel as it was raining very heavily. Heavy rain like this was quite unexpected in Leh in the month of July. We had also checked the weather predictions but it wasn’t useful for us to decide whether to travel the next day or not.  We were also worried about Tom and Apoorv as they were not lifting our calls and neither had sent a message about their travel updates. According to our plan we were supposed to meet them at Tso Moriri. We tried asking our friends in Delhi if they had received any updates from them but they were also not sure about Apoorv or Tom’s location. We packed for the next day before sleeping keeping our fingers crossed. If it continued to rain the next day we would have to change our plan. Yd was very worried and he prayed for the rain to stop so that we did not have to change our plan.


Unknown said...

Very interesting and informative narration. Please keep writing.

Unknown said...

Very interesting and informative narration. Please keep writing.

Power of Words said...

Thanks Appa :-)

Unknown said...

Bit late to comment. But again very interesting archu! I cannot wait to see these places after all what youve said :) Beautiful beautiful beautiful

Power of Words said...

Thanks Sandy :-) It is a must visit place when you come to India.