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Ladakh Diaries Part 9: Lamayuru

Lamayuru is one of the most ancient monasteries in Ladakh, the oldest surviving structure dating to the 11 th century CE. What makes this monastery particularly fascinating, is its location, amidst what is today called the “moonscape”, for the spectacular natural rock formations, which truly are “out of the world”! As per legend , there once existed a huge lake in this area, populated only by the Nagas (serpents). It was prophesized that there would be a great monastery built here. This prophecy came true when the great acharya Naropa (756-1041 CE) arrived. He emptied the lake, meditated for many years inside a cave, and built the first monastery here. The present structure is a new one, built around the cave where Acharya Naropa is said to have meditated. This legend seems to fit well with the geological formations seen in the area, which suggest this was a paleo-lake, which disappeared around 1000 years ago. Lamayuru is about 130 km from Leh , and the Indus River flows along th
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Ladakh Diaries Part 8: Pathar Sahib and Saspol Caves

Our final morning at Leh began with a rather long wait for a new driver, who had gotten lost within the maze-like roads that led to our homestay! Why a new driver? Because most drivers in Ladakh don’t like to drive into Srinagar! Besides, we would be driving through Kargil and entering Srinagar on the 15 th of August, Independence Day. The date wasn’t intentional, and had we known, we would have altered our plans, but apparently tensions run high around the date, even when situation was as normal as possible. More about that later. For now, there’s a lot more that I have to tell you about Ladakh and the places we visited. Because yes, despite our intention to take things easy, we planned to make a lot of stops on our last two  days in Ladakh! Our first halt of the day was the very interesting site of Pathar Sahib. The Gurudwara here commemorates the visit of Guru Nanak to this region, on the way to Tibet, in the 16 th century. As per the legend, during Guru Nanak’s visit here, a

Ladakh Diaries Part 7: Pangong Lake

Pangong Tso, or Pangong Lake , situated at an elevation of about 4,300m (around 14,000ft), is the highest saltwater lake in the world. It is 134km long and covers an area of over 600 square metres. Only 40% of the lake lies within Ladakh. The rest is controlled by China. The lake is a picturesque sight, and is one of the most popular destinations in Ladakh. We set off from Leh at 9 AM, eager to be on the road once again. Passing the 17 th century Chemrey monastery along the way, I realized just how little of Ladakh we were actually seeing on this trip. We crossed the pass at Chang La (~17,000ft) and saw a different facet of Ladakh. The mountains were the constant, but now rivers and sandy beds alternated every now and then with muddy areas and lush green patches of vegetation. Spots of colour were added by wildflowers, yet another difference on this route. We spotted a number of yaks and horses grazing along the road, and were told that while the yaks belonged to herders,