Monday, June 27, 2016

How I Got Leh'ed: Day 3 & 4 To Dah and Back

Day1: LEH - Do Nothing
Day2: LEH-Around
Day8: LEH

Day-3 & 4

It was day 3 and we were ready for more activities. Climbing steps was an indicator of acclimatisation, and it was getting easier. However, since we had a 5 minus and a 70 plus traveller with us we planned day 3 and 4 such that we do not gain altitude.

The plan was to travel to Dah (182 kms from Leh) and Lamayuru (108 kms from Leh)  having similar altitude to Leh (3510m/11520ft). We started at 9am after breakfast. Our car drove through the Indus-suture zone (containing Indus group of rocks). Indus Group is a marine to terrestrial sedimentary deposit that formed in fore-arc set-up as the neo-Thethys closed because of collision between Indian and Eurasian tectonic plates. Towards our north were the Ladakh Batholiths (on which Leh is located) emplaced (102-50Ma) during island-arc magmatism as Indian place subducted below the Eurasian plate. On the way we stopped at Gurudwara Sri Pathar Sahib Ka, 25 kms from Leh. If you are in time you can have awesome roti-sabji (Indian bread and curry) there for free. The gurudwara is maintained by Sikh regiment of Indian Army.

Guru Nanak arrived here in 1517 (his second journey). According to the legends a wicked demon lived here who terrorised the villagers. On hearing about the demon Guru Nanak started meditating. The angry demon threw a big boulder at Guru ji. On touching Guru ji the stone turned into wax. His back got imprinted into the boulder. Seeing Guru Nanak alive the demon kicked the boulder with his right foot, which also sank into the boulder. The demon realised that the man infant of him was no ordinary man but a holy disciple of God. He fell at his feet and begged for mercy. Guru Nanak opened his eyes and asked him to give away his evil habits and serve people instead. The demon did as asked and lived happily ever after.

Imprint of Guru Nanak

Our next stop, magnetic hill, was not far away. Check out the video to see the mystery magic of this place.

From Magnetic hills we drove to the Indus-Zanskar Sangam (confluence) near Nimmu. Indus is green while Zanskar is muddy. Zanskar river gets frozen in winter and this is the starting point for the popular Chander trek up the frozen river.

Looking East. Indus towards left and Zanskar on the right.

One can visit Basgo Gompa & Fort and Likit Monastery on the way to Alchi if there is time. We went directly to Alchi Monastery (60 kms from Leh). It is one of the oldest and finest monasteries of the region, now under ASI protection. It has many Thangkas (Tibeto-Buddhist religious paintings on cloth) dating back to 11th-12th century. 

One if them is the famous Wheel of Life. The wheel is hold by Yama, the god of death. The circle at the centre of the wheel contains a pig (ignorance), a snake (anger/hate) and a cock (desire/lust). They are the root of all evil that keeps the wheel turning. The middle circle is divided into six segments depicting six segments of existence: Devas on the top, followed clock-wise by Asuras, and ghosts. Hell is in the bottom after which there are animals and then humans between animals and Devas.  In the outer circle on the left the monks and lay-folks are moving up on their way to happy rebirth, while on the right the naked figures are being dragged down to woeful rebirths. Outside the circle on the leftist are the twelve casual stated of individuals based on Buddha’s ‘law of dependent origination’ (ignorance, constructing activities, consciousness, name and form, six sensory organs, contact, feeling, desire, clinging, becoming, birth and death). 

There are five temples, each holding beautiful murals. Sumtseg has idols of Avlokiteshwara (bodhisattva who embodies the compassion of all Buddhas), Mayetryee (future Buddha representing hope), Manjushri (goddess of wisdom). The deities wear beautiful ‘Dhotis’. Mayetryee’s dhoti depicts the life of Buddha, the Avlokiteshwara's dhoti shows holy places and royal palaces and Manjushri's dhoti has adepts printed on it. Avlokiteshwara is red, and holds a lotus. He helps suffering beings. Vairocana Temple has the main celestial Buddha representing the Dharma body of historical Buddha. The walls are painted with the five dhyani Buddhas (explained in last post). Lo-Tsawa represents the Tibetan Buddhist texts. Manjushri temple (built in 1225) contains four images of Manjushri. All the four-armed Manjushris holds a sword, a book on top of a lotus, a bow and an arrow. Manjushri is the Bodhisattva of wisdom. He is a white boy wielding a flaming sword that cuts down delusion. Apart from the temples there are amy Chortens. Don't forget to check out the view of the river behind the temple. 

Celestial Buddha

River behind the temples

This is a good place for lunch. Lots of restaurant. We hopped into the Zimskhang Restuarant. It serves mostly vegetarian dishes. They may have egg and canned tuna as well. Veg buffet is expensive. A-la-carts a cheaper and better option, unless you came down after trekking and is really really hungry. If you do not have your lunch here you have to go to Khaltsi market, on the way to Dah-Hanu . There are smaller shops and mostly thali system.

After having lunch we started our long drive towards Dah to meet Alexander’s kin. Our luck ran out and we were stopped 5 kilometres from Dah. The heat from the scorching sun has melted too much snow increasing the water in the river. Indus has overflowed and blocked the road to Dah. However, we came to know from the locals that we are already into the region where the so called ‘Pure Aryans’ live. We took a difficult curvy road, up the mountain, to reach the village of Sanith. The village consists of 24 houses where the people look and speak a language different from the Ladakis. They are Caucasians and not Mongolians.

These Western Ladakhi people belong to Brokpas or Minaro (native) tribe. They speak archaic Shina language and are identified by their flowery head-dress. They prefer to call themselves ‘pure Aryan’, while some people have claimed that they are Alexander’s lost army. Genetic studies show only a faint Greek connection. ‘Aryan’ is also not a race, rather a linguistic division. Whatever their origin is, the mystery and our romanticism with fair skin and ‘Aryans’ helps them with tourism. Being ‘pure Aryans’ did not attract tourists, rather the tourists made them ‘pure Aryans’.

My driver insisted that they speak Aryan language that is a mixture of Hindi and English. Interestingly, though he understands both English and Hindi, he cannot decipher their language. The good thing is that the villagers know Ladaki, Hindi and English. Which meant that they could explain to us the direction to the pre-historic rock-art. The road block was actually a boon in disguise. If we had gone to Dah we would have never found the rock-art, one of the reason why we traveled so far in the first place.

The rock art happened to be right beside the road for where we took the sharp turn for Sanith village. There is a man made wall of boulders on the side of the road. Climb it and go towards the extreme end towards west. That's where the paintings are. Look for smooth polished surfaces, a sign that the rock surface survived thousands of years since some pre historic artist drew their emotions. Pre-historic hunters and gatherers flourished along the banks of Indus. They have left their mark as petroglyphs over a 150 kms stretch along the Indus bed. It is not just painting, but work of art etched on the rocks. The figures includes Ibex hunting, dancing, caravan scenes etc. 

From there we went back to Nurla for the night stay. We stayed at Faryork Resort (2500INR/night including food) which had cottages right beside Indus river. The resort had good food and friendly staff. Actually one super active staff, while the rest just relaxed.

Next morning we started late at 10 am and headed towards Lamayuru. In-between we stopped at Moonland, which appeared like a miracle of Geology. These strange looking rocks are actually paleo-lake deposits. The water of the lake has been uplifted and drained out.

Lamayuru is probably the oldest monastic site in Central Ladakh. This place was a holy site for the Bon-chos religion long before Buddhist influence spread along the valley. The monastery originally had five buildings, now mostly in ruins. The surrounding view is awesome. The weathered rugged typography, with houses constructed defying gravity is a special sight. 

On our way back we had lunch at Nimmo. We ate at a special mutton and veg restaurant named 'Jigmat'. Mutton thuppa and mutton momos were awesome. 

Our next stop was at Hall of fame war museum. It consists a bit of Ladakh history and culture, and a lot of military heroics and sacrifices.

By the time we were back at Leh it was evening. It was still brightly lit. The light stays here till 8 pm at this time of the year.

Click for Day 5-6-7

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