Saturday, August 22, 2015

Ladakh diaries - Day #3

We hit the road on our third day. On the way to Uleytopko- a popular camping site on the banks of Indus river- we head past Magnetic Hill, Basgo Fort and Likir Monastery. Our first stop, though, is at Gurdwara Shri Patthar Sahib. This is a Sikh place of worship but a popular spot for all travellers passing by. The place is maintained by the Indian Army. The story goes that once upon a time Guru Nanak meditated here. One of his enemies threw a huge rock at him, but when the rock hit him, it made an impression of his posture on the rock. Nothing, of course, happened to Guru Nanak; he escaped un-hurt and the enemy got convinced by Guru Nanak's powers and became his disciple, thereafter. That rock- with Guru Nanak's impression- is still here at this Gurudwara.

The place of worship is very popular among tourists and army people alike. It is a revered and respected place; you could see the devotion. You could see rows and rows of plaques being engraved in the walls by various army people, army generals, and so on, thanking the Gurudwara for looking after them during their military postings in Kashmir, Kargil and such border areas.

After paying our respects to the Gurudwara, we continue and head past the Magnetic Hill. We didn't stop at Magnetic Hill because my guide tells me it's not as big as it is made out to be on the internet. Sure- he claims- there is some magnetic power in the area, but not enough to pull a car up without being driven, as many claim on the internet.  A few meters ahead is the confluence of the Indus and Zanskar rivers. The Indus river comes from Tibet and flows to Pakistan. The meeting point of both the rivers is visible as the colours of the two rivers are very different. The difference in colours is more pronounced in the month of September. This is also a popular river rafting point.

After a half hour's halt at magnificent Basgo Fort that is very delicately perched atop a hill, we stop by the Likir monastery. We were fortunate to go there when the prayers were on. The monasteries are very welcoming towards tourists so we sat there for a good half hour and shot videos of the prayer ceremonies. From elders to middle aged men to young kids, monks come in different age groups. It's a pleasant experience to attend a Buddhist prayer ceremony. Despite a large gathering of monks, chants, drums, conch shells, those long trumpets or Dungchen, there's a sense of calm that prevails upon us. About 45 minutes of prayers, listening to chants and paying our respects to a tall Buddha statue and admiring the house of the Dalai Lama (he has a house at most monasteries where he stays when he visits them, across Ladakh), we move on.

We arrive at our Ule Ethnic Camp at Alchi, Uleytopko. This is a lovely resort that offers tented accommodation, but with all modern facilities. It's an eco resort so usage of electricity is at its minimum. They use solar heaters for hot water. Food is organic and grown mostly in-house. Being in a Buddhist region- as is entire Ladakh- they serve only vegetarian fare. You do get non vegetarian in Ladakh, but many resorts in remote locations serve only vegetarian. But food is good and prepared with lots of love. The whole property is full of apple and apricot trees. And the location is so beautiful; the resort is in a valley surrounded by tall mountains. At the far end lies the edge of the valley where the Indus river flows in full force, below.

I drop my bags, have some light lunch, rest for an hour or two and head off to Lamayuru monastery; one of Ladakh's most breathtaking monasteries. Purely for its location. The drive up to Lamayuru- about 60 kms one way- is beautiful with moonscape landscape. The rock formations that you get to see on the way is amazing and I doubt you'll ever see anywhere else in India. The whole of Ladakhs mountain ranges is unique and gives you the impressions that the mountains come in various shades of blue, green, violet, pink, orange. But the landscape leading to Lamayuru is something else; something even more unique. The rock formations reminded me of Bryce Canyon of the US. We were fortunate that the new road was shut and the old road, instead, was open. The old road offers more panoramic views than the new road. Lots of hair pin bends, but thanks to God, I was good. God has been very generous. End of a very profitable day.

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