On Top of The World: The Travelogue Part-3

When I made the itinerary for the ride, I kept it pretty water-tight since I did not want to loose out on any place in and around Leh. As per the plan, the day after we reached Leh, we were supposed to head out to Khardung-La and proceed on to Nubra Valley for a night stay. Unfortunately, when we reached Leh, we got to know that our permits for Khardung-La and Nubra were not ready and won’t be available till the next day. So with plans changed, we quickly decided to use the day for local sight-seeing and also getting our bikes checked from a mechanic.

I feel it is high time now that I introduce the riders. We were a total of 11 riders-Anil, Sukrit, Harsh, Sandeep, Gaurav, Prajosh, Jitendra, Himanshu, Royd, Ashish & yours truly. As I am an ardent bullet lover so I am also proud to share that out of the 11 riders, 7 were riding the mighty bullet. We also had two more people-Aditya and Abhishek-who chose to descend from heaven on Leh, basically they gave the road a miss and decided to take a flight and join us at Leh for the rest of the ride.

Ok, so now getting back to the agenda. The first evening in Leh was very light. We were spending time finding our way around the hotel and also to the mechanic shop. We had our dinner which was not worth mentioning and retired to sleep. The next morning we were all relaxed since the entire day was available for us to just roam around. Our plan was to visit the famous palaces and monasteries in Leh. But first, we went to the bike mechanic to get our bikes checked. We then took an opinion from the mechanic on the places of interest in Leh and he gave us a few tips. With all formalities done, we first decided to visit Shey palace. Since I had been here before therefore, I was able to recollect the way to Shey palace.

Shey Palace

view from the top of shey palace

Shey palace was built as a summer palace in the year 1645 A.D. As is the norm in the valley of Ladakh, this palace is also perched on a vantage point looking over the vast expanse of the city of Leh. The climb to the palace was quite difficult for us, with high stairs giving us an impression of the physique of the people who existed The palace also has an adjoining monastery in the top with a stunning 2-storey tall statue of Maitreya Buddha made of brass, copper, gilded with gold and silver and studded with precious gems. The colossal icon is over 40 ft tall and is an artistic genius. This statue is said to be a replica of the one in the Tsemo Gompa that was made 100 years earlier. I have always been fascinated by monasteries, gompas and Buddhist religious architecture and after Langza, that I visited during my Spiti ride, this was the first time I saw a Buddha statue of such epic proportion. The sight was awe-inspiring and to be in such close proximity to such a magnificent work of art made me feel blessed. To the naked eye, the statue was visible only till the face. The rest of the body of this statue in sitting position is said to be veiled from the common eye. The walls of the enclosure have the fossils of the famous “Thangka” paintings. One can only wonder how these would have been painted so many centuries ago.

the 40 ft statue of Maitreya Buddha

the famous thangka painting on the wall of the monastery

It was unfortunate to see these paintings withering away due to the onslaught of time. The monastery was watched over by an ageing gatekeeper who insisted that we do not take photographs with flash since the flash from our camera could further damage the wall paintings. If any of you visit monasteries in Ladakh and Spiti, please make sure you take photographs without flash to do your bit in saving these magnificent pieces of art. We got down from the Shey palace and from a nearby shop we purchased small prayer flags for our bikes. The prayer flags are a unique component of the Ladakh valley. Tied between ends at high points of buildings, palaces and monasteries, these flags are said to carry the prayers of the devout to the heavens.

the bike adorned with a prayer flag

From Shey palace, we moved on further down the road to Thiksey Monastery. This monastery is built on a hill top and looks over the wonderful Indus valley. The monastery is nearly 12 storey and was built around 800 years ago making it one of the oldest monasteries in India. When we reached the monastery, it was the lunch time due to which the main temple was closed. We had to wait for nearly an hour for the gompa to open and once it did, we realized the wait was worth it. Thiksey monastery also had a similar statue of Buddha. It had the same glow, glisten and grandeur that were there in the statue at Shey palace. We spent some time taking photographs of the monastery before leaving.

Thiksey Monastery

A Buddha statue at the Thiksey Monastery

The monastery, on one side, looked over a vast expanse of empty land that was being used as a parking lot for the visitors. One of the riders had a brilliant idea and he made all our bikes stand in a circle. From the top, it made for an amazing picture that my camera was privileged to capture. Himanshu and Ashish also lend a hand in taking these pictures. What followed was even more amazing. As Himanshu stood on the top, we all started our bikes and took a couple of circles before riding off.

the nomads in a circle formation

And here is a short one minute video.

From Thiksey we returned to Leh. En route, we passed through Chuglamsar, a village that was devastated by the cloud burst last year. However, the place had moved on so quickly that there were no signs of the calamity whatsoever. It was really nice to see how the locals have recovered so quickly and resumed normal life. It was a moment from which we drew a lot of inspiration for the rest of the ride. As we came back to Leh, we went to the hotel to find our permits ready. This meant that we were all set to reach the top of the world tomorrow.

5 Comments

  • Nandan says:

    Kudos for coming out with part2 and part3 quickly.

    The ‘thiksey monastery’ pic has green shade all over, including skies. Has this been processed ? If yes, then the s/w has done more than necessary or may the software in the camera itself has got this bleeding thing.

    Please post the video at youtube and send me the link. I would add it in the story. And finally I get to comment on this first.

  • ??? ?? ???? ?? ?????? ?? ???????

  • Goood post…………..

  • Vas says:

    @Nandan: the photo is indeed processed. i keep playing around picasa a lot and i tried a gradient look for this photo since the original photo was way too bright. i thought it came out rather nice but thanks for the feedback. i will keep in mind not to overdo such stuff in the future.

    as far as the video is concerned, i am uploading it as i write this note. i will send the link to you on your email so that you can post it.

    Cheers..!!

  • Nandan says:

    Now with video.

    Do not miss the thump Ghumakkars.

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