Day 6 - Of Spirituality & Adventure
Alchi monastery has in its proud possession murals & carvings which are hundreds of years old. It has few temples dedicated to different menifestations of The Great Buddha. The moment you enter any of these places of worship your head involuntarily bows down & you try to infer what teachings each of these masterpieces created scores of generations ago intended to pass on. So subtle is the message that unless one has undertaken at least a refresher's course in Buddhism it would be next to impossible to even make an educated attempt of decoding.
Mid-way enroute to Leh is another magnificent monastery of Likir which lets its presence known from miles away as you approach it. It is slightly more elaborate in work as compared to its Alchi couterpart but what makes it stand out is a gigantic 90 feet high Gold plated statue of Buddha which incidentally is not in a closed premises. For its sheer size this work of art underlines the message of humility for the visitors.
After the early morning tryst with spirituality it was time for some adrenaline junkies as we reached "Sangam", the meeting point of two or more rivers. What a heady cocktail i had on menu for the day! Water rafting in the Zanskar river had me excited the most from among all the activities i had planned in the entire 15 day long vacation but when i got to know that we'll raft a length of full 28 Kms, to be covered in nearly 2.5 hours, my sense of the anticipated thrill scaled a new peak. I discovered that since my Pa opted out of the fun, in the 9 member team i was the only Indian flag bearer! 2 persons each from Germany, Italy, Holland & Chillie completed the formation. We had 2 Nepali guides, one in the raft & the other one in a micro small rescue dingy.
We all were so excited about this adventurous ride that when we were told that today the difficulty level was 3, representing a medium level from a maximum of 6 many of us got slightly disappointed with me being the one with the most beaten up expression.
After changing into the mandatory gear we started our expedition in relatively calmer water body but when the stretch to be covered is so enormous the unexpected could always visit. That's precisely what happened on many occasions when huge water waves riding on spoilt rapids would splash us with more than handfuls of chilled chemical composition of Hydrogen n Oxygen. The ones who had worn an oversized wet shoe, including this poor soul, had a tough time from the word go as the near freezing water would seep in generously & even in my jubiliant mood i feared my feet might just get amputed once i am back on shore again.
All of a sudden i heard the Chiilian sitting right opposite me shouting, "My Jokey, i had just one." Only moments later i could emphatize with him. I felt better off though as i could successfully preserve a couple of them for a rainy day :)
For the entire duration of our sojourn on Zanskar i kept getting amazed on the way this river was so unsuspectingly perched between some mighty rocky mountains (all along its length) which were chiselled in every possible way your imagination can wildly think of and many times over. On quite many occasions we felt that our raft was ferociously heading into one of the crushing rocks & on as many times just when one of us was to let go his/her vocal chords with hitherto unexplored hysterical throttle we would be off the collision just in the nick of time!! How? Our guide would know each next movement of the raft like the back of his palm.
I do not have any twin thoughts on filming the climax scene of the next generation 707 thriller in these imposing heights & depths should its franchise reading this piece finds me a worthy candidate to direct the Bond, James Bond.
While paddling i saw that in the concrete n rock filled mountain there was a yellow object moving at a height of not less than 100 metres above the river level. On looking closely i identified that it was a dozer heavy duty vehicle trying to do what it always does i.e., clearing the mountain terrain. With a bemused look i asked the guide why was it needed in the first place & quick came the clarification. He pointed at a remote house perched precariously on one of the rocky mountains & told that for even one house the road gets made. For all my sensitivity I felt jealous of the royalty the house owner was accorded to.
The thrill hungry lunatic inside me was getting desperately restless before signing off in style & i decided to do something crazy. I don't even know that when hard prssed if i would be able to float up the aquarium of a certain Mr. Ambani at all (to save myself from drowning, what else?)!! But that couldn't deter my confidence in the life jacket i was wearing as i took the strides of a triple jumper on the raft only & took the leap of faith while fancying my chances to break the olympic reward. I don't know what hit me then (and once again later) but as i rose above the water surface from the freezing depths of Zanskar i felt as if i had conquered every fear. It was such an inspiring & humbling experience to even make efforts to put words to. I just loved it though not before scaring our country's guests who had their eyes wide open when they got to know i didn't know any swimming at all.
As i still was feeling on top of the roof of the world it warranted the divine intervention of the Holy Shri Guru Nanak Dev Ji at his abode so aptly named "Gurudwara Pathar Sahib". Legend has it that 500 years back He had humbled a man-eating demon at this place. This shrine is right on the main highway & is being served/managed by the ever smiling community members.
Our driver made a customery halt in the middle of road & asked us to get down to see what's going to happen. For some moments i didn't realize anything & was wondering what this otherwise amazing guy was up to. Then he explained that even after his switching the car's engine off it was rolling back, upwards!! I couldn't believe my eyes & thought it to be gimmick to promote the "Magnetic Hill" as a tourist spot. But when i observed that in fact this miracle was officially endorsed by the Indian army all my doubts died their natural death.
Last on the day's menu was paying a homage to our country's fighters who laid their lives unrepentently in the service of the nation as we visited "The Hall of Fame" in Leh. It depicted in great details the challenges our armed forces face 24x7 in their bid to ensure that the integrity of their mother land is not compromised by any nafarious elements. Some of the galleries take the viewer away to the battle field and we salute all our real heroes.
1. Don't take the schedule shared by your local tour advisor / driver for granted. If s/he asks you to leave your hotel in Alchi by 8 AM make sure you do so if you also wish to visit Likir on way to rafting. You might just miss the boat if you don't reach in time. It takes 90 minutes from Alchi to Sangam.
2. If you can back yourself without forcing your near n dear ones to get jitters please do not miss the full length water rafting on Zanskar & also the fun of plunging in the depths of the river. For all legal complications (for me) arising out of this unsolicited inducement just keep in mind that your life jacket n helmet are tightly hugging you & that your trip guide / fellow passengers are supportive of your exuberance.