Today could actually be the first day of getting Leh’d, for we venture out into the city, its nearby monasteries and villages and meeting the locals.
The day begins with a good breakfast and we head to find us a cab to take us to the various places we want to see. The excursion begins at around 11 AM. Our driver for the day is Irfan, a boy of maybe 21. He informs us that he is from Srinagar, but has spent a good deal driving around the Ladakh region. He looks amateurish.
Our first halt is the Phyang Gompa, in Chhiwang about 22 kms west of Leh. Phyang gompa is also known in Ladakhi as the Gouon gompa, which means “blue peak” for it is beautifully situated on a hilltop. The monastery was built by King Lkra-Shis-Namgyal, founder of the Namgyal dynasty in 1500. He filled the monastery with beautiful statues, thankas and copies of the Kandshur (the translated word of the Buddha). Phyang has over 100 lamas. The statues at the front of the temple are of Mahakala flanked by four statues of his various manifestations. The faces of these statues are covered with cloth and only displayed to the public once a year during the Phyang festival. Also preserved are some ancient Mongolian armaments, including armor, shields and helmets taken from defeated Mongolian soldiers.
Next we head to the famous Gurudwara Pathar Sahib. This is a unique place of worship for the Sikhs and others alike and is highly revered by the Indian Army in the region. So much so that the day to day operations and maintenance of the shrine is undertaken by the Indian Army. The people are very friendly and they share the guru’s langar (community kitchen) with . It is a fantastic lunch for us. Chai is always available and quenching our thirst we move ahead.
We make a stopover at the confluence of the rivers Indus and Zanskar, near a village called Nimmu, about 40 kms west of Leh. this is a pretty sight. The remains of the ancient ocean Tythes and its seabed are apparent in the form of the lose sand and gravel that abounds on the banks of the two rivers. In the picture, the Indus is to the left whereas the Zanskar is on the right. Indus is relatively cleaner, because it carries less sediment with it.
A short drive from the confluence is the village of Nimmu. The small village has an army base camp and also has its own set of monasteries. We unwind and relax at a small restaurant in the village and make some plans for the evening. A painting of what looks like an old Mongolian warrior to me catches my eye. The guy seems happy and content. To me, he looks like a descendant of Chengiz Khan (Genghis Khan to the west).
We head back towards Leh again. It is late afternoon and a bottle of Maaza keeps me good company. Before we get back to the city, we decide to take a halt at the Spituk Gompa.
By now, I am getting a little fascinated by the windows at Gompas. They are made in a very basic architectural fashion. A wooden beam rests on the side walls of the windows.
It serves as the top ledge and holds up the intricate wood carving that further decorates the windows on the top. Spituk was founded in the late 14th century. It houses the seats of his Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Bakula Rinpoche. The annual festival is called the Spituk Gustor, held in the summers. Since the dates are based on the Tibetan Lunar calendar, it is advisable to check every year.
Back in Leh, we decide to hit the Leh View Cafe again. It is turning out to be a good place for me.