Day 5 - The fun continues! Err, it actually gets magnified!!
No words are enough to articulate what the eyes have seen. No photographs taken from the best camera phone available in the market can tag the soul which can be found in every single pixel on the nature's absolutely royal canvas. If yesterday's starter served in the form of exactly half way length of Srinagar - Leh highway couldn't satiate this vagabond's voracious appetite today served more than a seven course meal.
During the entire stretch from Kargil to Alchi we got treated with some of the most beautiful delicacies served by the kitchen of mother nature that human eyes are privileged to relish for now and cherish forever. Vivid landscapes thetrically presented themselves in all possible hues n colours. The pleasant atmosphere all along the journey just so very well complimented the scenery & acted like the perfect garnishing. I felt like "Deena ka Lal" only that i couldn't fixate my sight on a single object-de-desire & keep wailing with "Main to loonga wohi khilauna" as literally every passing moment presented a challenge to the photographer inside me if i dared close the shutter! I had to, very regularly, as even the most generously horse powered battery of my SGS-3 would also threaten me with a drain rate better than what BMC's over-flowing nullah could boast about in the ongoing monsoon season. I tried my hands on few new functionalities like "Burst Shot" & "Panorama Mode" which actually gave pretty cool results but everything comes at a cost. These smart features eat more than double calories of the normal and that ebbed my enthusiasm to some extent.
Due to the (probably ever) ongoing construction/repair activity on the treacherous highway we got stranded on at least five occasions (to get the right of way) for a duration ranging from ten minutes to ninety minutes with the last one evidencing in no less detail that for all progress the (wo)mankind has made we still have to bow our head when the forces of nature decide to take us on. Not so surprisingly i took all such opportunities in my stride & like a shameless begger grabbed every bite of such doles with both hands and a twinkle in my eyes. Mumbai traffic conspirators can take a clue from it & do something about the dull n dead city roads to instill some life to them to make their own lives easy as then they won't hear the routine expletives they are so used to in their daily lives.
Lamayuru monastery is at a distance of 106 Km from Kargil & once again, if you start your daily early, say take off from Kargil sharp at 8 AM, it gives you that much extra bandwidth to soak yourself with the abundant self-induced halts enroute besides leaving ample room for some unforeseen road blockages. If not already done so i take this opportunity to sensitize the readers that unlike what your usual vacationing experience elsewhere Ladakh as a region could best be enjoyed by devoting much of your time on road. Use your hotels just for dinner & an early morning breakfast. My limited experience thus far any way doesn't inspire too much of an excitement about my carefully chosen hotels'/resorts'/cottages'/camps' self-sustenance if i were to indulge myself in their property. I had my expectations toned down considerably by my travel operator who got immediately concerned when i narrated my luxurious stay at some of India's finest leisure properties in Sikkim & West Bengal at around the same time last year.
Apologies for that slightly emotional digression from the agenda. Lamayuru is very strategicsllu situated amidst some of the most enthralling hills which render it an imposing facade. As you enter in the tranquil structure you hear chants of monks in the central prayer hall. Such is the impact of this atmosphere that one immediately gets at complete ease forgetting all wordly anxieties. After paying respect to all the deities i got suddenly stuck when i read a humbly written note behind a glass pane, "This is the cave which Naropa (1016-1100) used as his place of meditation". It was an out of body experience to visualize a hermit praying at the same place almost thousand years back!
I didn't have any idea & it entirely was a chance discovery to find that Lamayuru has an amazingly well managed restaurant offering full menu a vegetarian can even think of in such a remote location. Price was also reasonable for all your truly's chosen dishes including a banana cake which turned out to be a crepe when served but was indeed more tasteful than any cake.
Barely 2 Kms from the monastery is the "Moon Land" which i do not have any doubt would replicate what Mr. Armstrong narrated about man's first rendezvous with the Moon some 43 years back. It had an exclusively chosen colour for its mysterious & crater looking like arrangement of mammoth carvings. It indeed was a sight to be hold.
Like Kargil, Alchi also is a sleepy town at a 2 hour drive from Lomayuru covering another blissful 58 Kms of breathtaking landscapes with a slight (4-5 Kms) detour from the main highway. Nearby town of Ule could be a better option as it's close to the highway if visiting Alchi monastery is not your priority. Alchi has a peculiar challenge for its visitors. Power (electricity) supply is ensured only between 7 PM & 11 PM. For the rest 20 hours of the day you have a candle placed in advance in your hotel rooms! If you do not get jitters with this idea of living in a near pre-historic era do try this unique experience. A handful of foreigners gave us the company & they also for sure liked the place with some compromised privileges.