The last destination on that trip was the Lake Moriri or Tso Moriri which is located in the Changthang Plateau in the Ladakhi part. The sun was almost setting down and so we had to leave the previous destination early because we didn’t want the trip to be incomplete.
It holds the record for being the largest one amongst high altitude lakes located in India. It is located in the bio-geographic zone of the Trans Himalayan region. On reaching the place, we came to know that its full official name is Tso Moriri Wetland Conservation Reserve.
The water in the lake comes from the springs and the melting of the snow from the mountains located in the nearby regions. There are town major streams which lead to the lake; one of them enters from the northern direction while the other from southwestern region. We also came to know that it an outlet on the southern part as well but it was blocked to due to various problems faced in the nearby regions. The water inside the lake is alkaline in nature while the lake itself is oligothropic.
Tsomoriri Lake Leh | Image Resource : wikimedia.org
We were lucky that we had gone to visit the lake in the summers because access to the Tso Moriri is completely closed during the winters. However, it is said that the Indian military has access to the lake throughout the year through several restricted routes. Tso Moriri is a remnant lake which means that it was actually structural but looks like the remaining of a big lake.
The Plateau in which the lake is located is hardly productive but is home to extremely unique faunal and floral species. The species are extremely diverse and hardly found in any other part of the world. It also has a basin which can be classified as a closed drainage one which is capable of retaining water and does not allow water to flow to any other water body like oceans or rivers. On different sides of the lake, we could see a number of hills. It was already dark when we left the place and our return journey was quite thrilling. We left Leh with a heavy heart the next day and returned to the respective destinations comfortably.
Lahaul Valley | Image Resource : ambintech.blogspot.com
Lahaul Valley : This spot is not accessible by all tourists. It is beautiful but the way to this spot is brutal and harsh and unsettling. If you are ready for the journey and are passionate about travelling, you will surely love this place. The beautiful sites, the snow and just the air that surrounds you will captivate you!
After exploring the peace and serenity at a number of stupas and monasteries, we had gathered a lot of information about the impact of Buddhism in India. The next destination in our list was the Pangong Tso Lake.
The term Pangong Tso is Tibetan and stands for narrow, long and enchanted lake. Some even call it simply by Pangong. This endorheic lake is a part of the Himalayas and is located at an altitude of around 4,400m. It has a length of 134km and the most surprising thing is that it starts in India and extends up to Tibet. So we weren’t able to view the entire lake since then, we would have to enter another country, which was not possible.
Pangong Tso Lake Ladakh | Image Resource : wikimedia.org
Since we were there during the summer season, the water in the lake was completely fresh and in its normal form. The locals informed us that despite containing saline water, the lake freezes totally during the months of winter. They also informed us that only around 40% of the lake is in India. In total, the lake is spread over an area of 604 sq. km.
The Lake During Summer | Image Resource : wikimedia.org
There are chances that the lake may be identified as an internationally important lake under the Ramsar Convention. If it turns into reality, then Pangong Tso Lake will hold the record of being the first trans boundary wetland from South Asia to come under the convention’s supervision. Unfortunately, the lake is situated in a troubled territory. The dispute is amongst Tibet, China, India and Pakistan claiming control different areas covered by the lake.
We had to travel on an extremely rough and dramatically created mountain road to reach the Lake. We crossed the Changla Pass and a number of villages namely Gya and Shey. Thanks to its location over the Sino Indian Line of Actual Control that we had to obtain an Inner Line Permit before visiting the lake. We also learnt that foreigners need to be in a group of at least three people and headed by a recognized guide in order to reach the lake. The permit was obtained from a tourist office after a small fee.
Nimu in Leh Ladakh | Image Resource : touristlink.com
Nimu in Leh Ladakh : Nimu is located at the South eastern part of Ladakh. It has a very extreme and harsh weather. It has the serene Indus River flowing alongside the road. There are many water sports like rafting, boating etc here. But above all, the beauty of this place was beyond words. A thing of beauty is a joy forever, and I experienced it here.
There are a number of monasteries, stupas and other peaceful places in Jammu and Kashmir and had already visited a number of them. People living in this part of the world were mainly followers of Buddhism and so the presence of such a large number of structures weren’t very surprising.
We were heading towards the end of our journey and felt a bit sad. But we were very happy that we could go back home with some unforgettable memories. However, we decided to hold our heart together and head for our next destination which was another monastery namely the Rangdum Monastery in Ladakh.
Rangdum Monastery Ladakh | Image Resource : wikipedia.org
Just like the others, the monastery in Rangdum belonged to the Buddhists of Tibet, the Gelugpa sect to be precise. It is built above the steep sugarloaf mountains on the Suru Valley in Ladakh at a beight of 4031m. It is close to a small village known as Julidok and around 25km away from Pensi La Pass having a length of 4,400m and leading to Zanskar.
The inscriptions inside the monastery highlight the fact that it was constructed during the rule of Tsewang Mangyul, King of Ladakh by Gelek Yashy Takpa, around 200 years back. It may be physically present in the Suru Valley but culturally part and parcel of Zanskar. We could see that the monastery is not only home to monks but some donkeys as well. On inspecting carefully, we found out that there were 30 monks in total and almost an equal number of donkeys as well.
Rangdum Gompa Inside Courtyard | Image Resource : wikipedia.org
The best thing about Rangdum Monastery is its exquisite location in a large valley over a tiny hill. You can also construct a nicely oriented camp on the hill’s foot and sleep there comfortably. One can also stop at the monastery for an overnight stay while travelling on the road leading to Padum. It also gives a crystal clear insight into the Suru Valley. One can enter the Monastery only after being checked by the Jawans of India. We could see that there were two rooms in the monastery with each one having a stone bed and a thin carpet.
We landed at Leh at 7.40am ad were simply dumb struck by the beauty of the place early morning. The air was completely fresh and we felt as if we were in a completely different planet. Since none of us had ever travelled to Leh previously, we were hardly expecting anything like this. It was quite cold and we were almost shivering. We realised that were quite tired after the break journey and due to the almost sleepless night we had to spend at the Indira Gandhi Airport. There was a cab waiting for us outside the airport to take us directly to the hotel we had booked.
Hotel Mahey Retreat Leh | Image Resource : maheyretreat.com
We reached the Hotel Mahey Retreat Leh quite easily since it is located in the heart of the town. It is extremely peaceful in terms of environment and magnificent in terms of beauty. The staff at the hotel welcomed us in traditional Ladakhi style and helped us in getting our rooms.
Rooms in Hotel | Image Resource : maheyretreat.com
We had booked four single rooms for the four of us. The best thing about the hotel was its centralized heating facility which made us feel warm and comfortable. As soon as I settled in my room, I went for a quick warm shower and then straight to bed. I was woken by a knock on the door from room service. It was time for lunch and my stomach was craving for something tasty. I was really impressed with the quality of food served to us. It was after having lunch that I realized that there was a big and beautiful garden outside my room. There was also a large kitchen garden which was laden with almost all types of vegetables.
Outside Garden | Image Resource : maheyretreat.com
After having lunch, we decided to explore the Hotel Mahey Retreat Leh and its facilities as we had decided to start our trip a day later. The staff members were extremely well behaved and professional. The hotel was located amidst picturesque location with lush green fields and ventilated rooms and offered all the requisite facilities such as laundry, Wi-Fi, etc. We also came to know that the hotel itself offers local sightseeing facilities but since we had fixed our trip beforehand, we didn’t trouble them.
Thiksey Monastery Ladakh | Image Resource : crazzyfeeds.com
Thiksey Monastery Ladakh : Thikse monastery is the most famous monastery in Leh. It is at a height of about 11 feet. It is huge and has an intricate and amazing architecture. It is very big compared to the previous monasteries I visited. It has many sculptures and pagodas that make the monastery extremely spectacular.
The next spot in our trip was the Lamayuru Monastery, also known as the Tharpa Ling or the place of freedom. It is believed to be one of the oldest and largest monasteries in this part of the world. It was pretty far away from Leh and we had to travel for about an hour to reach the place. It is situated over a steep mountain at somewhere between Kha-la-che and Bodhkharbu. It is home to the Red Har Sect of Buddhism and presently houses around 50 monks. But we came to know from the locals that there was a time when more than 400 monks used to stay in this monastery.
Lamayuru Monastery Ladakh | Image Resource : wikimedia.org
We entered the monastery and were left speechless by the magnificent collection of murals, wall paintings, thangkas, scriptures, etc. It also houses statues belonging to Buddha’s various forms and several other deities. The monastery is associated with a number of legends. Some say that it was Mahasiddhacharya Naropa who had constructed the monastery in the 11th century after meditating here.
Wall Paintings | Image Resource : wikimedia.org
Another story says that the buildings of the Lamayuru were built during the 10th century by the then King of Ladakh. A third legend says that the monastery was built in the 16th century by Jamyang Namgyal, the then King of Ladakh. It is believed that a Lama had cured the King’s leprosy. And the King decided to donate various privileges and the monastery’s buildings to the lama as a symbol of gratitude. According to this legend, the King made sure that the zone in which the monastery was built should be completely free from any kind of arrests. This is why Lamayuru is considered to be the site of freedom.
Naropa’s Meditation | Image Resource : wikimedia.org
We could see that the monastery was composed of residential buildings and a temple for monks, namely the Gonkhang and the aseembly hall or the Dukhang. The former had walls which were laden with rich and colourful paintings showcasing various forms of Buddhist deities. We learnt that the Gonkhang is mainly devoted to the religion’s guardians. We also spotted a small cave which is believed to be the site for Naropa’s meditation.
Spituk Monastery Ladakh | Image Resource : wikimedia.org
Spituk Monastery Ladakh : After a good experience at the Nyamgal Tsemo monastery, I decided to visit the Spituk Monastery. It is a Tibetan monastery with Kali as the presiding deity. This amazing architecture at the height of about 10 feet was really beautiful .The legends connected to the monastery are quite intriguing.
After visiting the Sankar Monastery, we could see that the sun was already down. So we decided to stop for the day and returned to our hotel where all of us fell asleep pretty early. We had some more places to cover the next day and we didn’t want to be late for that. Accordingly, we got up early in the morning and after getting ready quickly, left for our next destination which was the Nubra Valley in Ladakh.
The Valley is a trimmed one located on the north eastern part of Ladakh. It is like a cold desert located at a height and hardly receives any kind of precipitation. The Shyok River, a tributary of Indus, runs close to the Nubra Valley. You can find some scant vegetation on the banks of the river.
Nubra Valley Ladakh | Image Resource : wikimedia.org
We learnt that the valley is extremely fertile and can be irrigated for producing different types of fruits, mustard, nuts, peas, barley and wheat. We could see that the locals in this part of the world were followers of Buddhism; they extremely friendly and peace loved people. On the northern part of the valley, there was the Siachen Glacier. We also came to know that we were very close to very important spots like the Karakoram Pass, Sasser Pass and most importantly the LOC between India and Pakistan.
There were several villages located in the Nubra Valley in the Siachen River. These included Turtuk, Panamik, Tirith, Sumur and Kyagar, also known as Tiger. We could spot another monastery known as Samstanling between Sumur and Kyagar villages. We also visited the hot springs for which Panamik is extremely famous.
Nubra Sand Dunes | Image Resource : wikimedia.org
Then we went to the Ensa Gompa which is an isolated place near Panamik. There was also Diskit Monastery at Diskit which is the main village of the valley. We learnt that there was the Chamba Gompa in another site called Hundar. We also walked across the sand dunes between Diskit and Hundar where we could spot some Bactrian camels grazing. We also visited Baigdandu and touched the goats which are the main sources behind the world renowned Pashmina Shawls.