On our third day at Leh, following two days of acclimatization, we were all set to explore Ladakh and take in the sights. We had planned to drive up to Lamayuru Gompa, a little over 100 km from Leh on the Leh-Kargil road, and return in time for dinner. After tucking into an absolutely divine breakfast at the hotel, we set out for the great outdoors, and were shortly driving along NH1– the Leh-Srinagar Highway.
Our first halt was at the Hall of Fame, a museum in Leh, dedicated to the Indian armed forces.
Driving on through spectacular, rugged landscapes we reached Gurdwara Pathar Sahib. This is a 16th century gurdwara built to commemorate Guru Nanak’s visit to Ladakh.
It was here that my 10-year old first encountered snow. There wasn’t much, but it was enough to make him euphoric, and throw a few small snowballs my way.
Beyond this, the surrounding terrain of this Himalayan ex-kingdom became predominantly brown and white, yet ever so stunning. This was where we found Magnetic Hill. A signboard by the side of the road here invited us to park our car within a box marked on the road, and experience a gravity-defying phenomenon. A firm believer in the laws of Physics, I was rather sceptical. However, our car rolled uphill,slowly but surely, when switched off and parked on neutral. It was simply bizarre!
Beyond Magnetic Hill, we witnessed the scenic confluence of the Indus with its tributary, the Zanskar.
Further on, we crossed the villages of Nimmu and Basgo. At Basgo, we stopped for a picnic on the side of a little lane fringed with stately willows. After feasting on some chicken rolls, sandwiches, fruit, juice and tea, we drove on towards Lamaruyu Monastery.
Just a few kilometres before the monastery, our driver stopped to show us Ladakh’s famous moonland. This surreal landscape momentarily transported us to a different world – or perhaps, as the name suggests, to the moon!
A few more twist and turns down the mountainous road led us to the Lamaruyu Gompa, one of the oldest monasteries in Ladakh.
This 11th century Tibetan Buddhist Gompa is said to belong to the Red-Hat sect of Buddhism. While the monastery originally consisted of five buildings, only the central one remains today, while the rest lie in ruins.
It was freezing cold when we visited the monastery, with ice and snow lining the ground in places, and frigid winds defying our coats and caps. The cold encouraged us to take a speedy look around the monastery, before hurrying back to the warmth of the car.
We encountered this lady who was happy to pause in the middle of prayers and pose for a picture!
We found numerous stones inscribed with mantras, strewn in various places around the monastery. We found many such all across Ladakh.
The homes of the monks, perched high on the rocky slopes made for an impressive sight!
However, these little monks-in-training, enthusiastically playing cricket, made for an even better sight!
It was early evening by the time we started back for Leh. We passed this flock of sheep being shepherded by two women peering intently into their cell phones. I guess no one can escape the curse of the mobile phone. 😀
We returned to the hotel in time for a hot, satisfying meal of butter rotis, lamb rogan josh, salad, and ice cream.