On the first day I was sitting in a daze as my friends were planning the itinerary with the travel operator and local agents. I was just nodding my head to whatever they were planning. I was feeling so free from it all. I just wanted to be led this time, not ‘lead’ anymore.
The next day with our confidence that we were acclimatized to the altitude in less than 24 hours, we got set to go to La Mayuru monastery. A 3+ hour drive from Leh and it was just 3 of us.
Located in the Leh District, this was one of the oldest Tibetan Buddhist monasteries known as ‘Gompas’ in Ladakh.
I had no knowledge of Buddhism until it slowly unfolded during this trip.
La Mayuru Monastery was patronized by the Indian Buddhist saint/Mahasiddha ‘Naropa’.
Naropa is considered the patron Saint in Ladakh and as a Buddhist Ladakhi told us, all Budhhist Ladakhis consider Naropa as their Guru and Saint.
So off we started quite early at 7.30 am considering how cold it felt in Ladakh. The place reminded me of New York purely in terms of it’s weather.
You can feel the wind chill cutting you, so cold you want to tuck yourself in bed but when the sun comes out, you can get badly burnt, charred and get blinded by the sun if you don’t wear shades.
We had a congenial and smiling patient driver Ramzan who made our journey so easy. Why am I saying this? Because in two days we would experience a driver that would test our patience,our limits, test all my fears of falling to my death at the edge of the road 🙂
As we set off, I observed my friend being the practical guy he is, insisting on leaving early and not stopping anywhere except answering nature calls till we reached our destination.
On the other hand, was his smiling soft friend who was a wild life photographer quietly insisting on stopping when he saw a rare bird, animal or a breathtaking landscape.
I quite enjoyed their banter. Old friends knowing each other for years, traveling together for years comes with knowing what the other is thinking and trying to get their own way:-) I learnt so much from them.
The passionate wildlife photographer made me look at landscape, a particular scenery or even a small ridge so differently. My entire view on photography took a different turn.
It was so subtle, so beautiful and such a learning curve just watching him, observing him and keenly listening to how he was perceiving every rock to a mountain to a small valley.
We passed through the massive Indus River, all grey and blending with the stark massive mountains, the Zanskar river that comes from the other side of Jammu and joins the Indus river and in turn becomes ‘Sangam’.
I could feel and sense the vastness of this region. The wind, the hot sun the raw wild mountains that loomed so large you felt you could get swallowed in it and somehow you wanted that to happen. The mountains to engulf you as you watched in silence.
Then my friend sensing the mood which he aptly felt, took out his pen drive and we started listening to old songs of Dev Anand, to a beautiful song by Eva Cassidy as we drove across beautiful villages..
Where there was a rush of green, we knew there was a village just like how civilizations were formed in fertile regions.
Nimmu Village, Basgo village. During the war with Pakistan, the Pakistani army made their way till Basgo and forcibly took the young Muslim population to join them and killed the rest of the older population who were unable to do so.
Zorawar Singh – the name came out often as he was the one who conquered Ladakh, parts of Tibet and Baltistan- now half divided between India and Pakistan. Even in the army museum,he is venerated and honored.
One thing I must say about the trip, wherever we went we had Hot Chai – Tea on the road. In this wilderness, in this isolated region where you just can’t see anyone for at least 30 kms or more, we would find a small hut that served chai and simple food cooked by a hearty mountain lady with her family!
We reached La Mayuru Monastery in the afternoon and the walk uphill was a first time for me because the vehicle could only go so far. The altitude effect was still showing but we felt better and we could manage the climb.
Throughout Ladakh, the monasteries – Gompas are all built high above and each one of them dates back from 10th century, sometimes earlier and you wonder what will and energy it took for the monks and kings to tame this wild region and persevere to make one??
I will not describe the Monastery or the landscape because I believe a picture speaks a thousand words..
As we rested and had a lovely lunch at a restaurant that was right next to the monastery/ I felt a state of bliss, a bliss that was neutral.
I was neither feeling overjoyed nor sadness but a middle way. I would realize what the ‘Middle Way’ would mean later in this journey.
We cruised through the road, a road that seemed endless, going on forever, cruised through Mountains that resembled moon craters so much that they were named Moonland.
I could only take a deep breath and let these moments sink in, the unimaginable force of nature that looms large at you, the gushing water, the rocks, the beautiful sunset when we stopped at a road that seemed like it was going nowhere.
I felt STILLNESS, I felt purity, I felt in the MOMENT. It’s so rare that one can feel being in the Present as our thoughts drift from the past to the future.
We watched the sunset move to a beautiful almost three quarters of a moon.
A beautifully bright dark blue sky lit with the Moon and the road going on for miles and miles, I felt that this was HOME…