I had boarded the 7 am bus from Turtuk to Diskit and the lure of observing bactrian camels in Hunder had resulted in me getting down at Hundur bridge. It was understandably chilly in the month of January and to my dismay I found that there was no camel to be spotted. I was almost lost in the sand dunes of Hunder and the gloomy weather compounded my hunger pangs. The clock showed 1130 and it was realised that I hadn’t eaten anything since morning.
It seemed like a day destined for failure when I started walking towards Diskit and no vehicle would come. The army camp passed on the left and people spoke about some 20-20 cricket tournament final being held in Diskit (also Deskit). To my chagrin, a stiff breeze started blowing across the frozen valley, even during the day the temperature must have been below freezing.
I somehow walked the 10 km distance from Hunder to Diskit (Altitude : 3100m approx.) and nearly collapsed in relief upon finding a functional guest house, after seeing that most hotels were closed for the winter.
A meal of rajma chawal in the homestay gave me a brief glimmer of hope, but it had started drizzling and walking to the Diskit monastery seemed out of question. I was happy when the owner came and directed me to my cosy room. Nubra Valley was being revisited after many years and my desire to see the Giant Buddha Statue up-close was revealed to the owner.
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My luck was about to change. Although the weather was not clear, my time spent with the family in the homestay kitchen melted their hearts and resulted in the owner driving me to the Diskit monastery at around 430 pm. The monastery is spectacularly located above Diskit town on a mountain and appears to be hanging when seen from a particular angle.
It took us around 10 minutes to reach the monastery and the road passed through mani walls and hordes of pretty whitewashed chortens. I remember marvelling at the huge Chamba Maitreya Buddha statue and clicking photos of it overlooking Nubra Valley before entering the monastery.
Read : A Photo Essay from Ladakh
Diskit monastery seemed like a maze. There was also a small map drawn just before entering the pathway. A network of connected paths weaves through the monks’ quarters to reach the ancient prayer halls. Even though it was almost dark, I was pretty excited to see whatever I could in the dimly lit halls.
Since a local was with me, a Lama started showing me around the different rooms; the lha-khang and du-khang. Diskit monastery is the biggest in Nubra Valley and is supposed to have been founded in the 14th Century, although the current structure was built in the 17th Century. It is a yellow hat sect monastery under the Gelugpa order.
Diskit Gompa is famous for the statue of a protector deity (Kali) holding the head and arm of a medieval Mongol soldier. Sometimes it is difficult to find entry to this particular hall but I was lucky to see it. There are superb views from the front side of the Diskit monastery of Nubra Valley with the Shyok river flowing by. It was still cloudy and gloomy and there was a huge chance of snowfall very soon.
After walking around different parts of the monastery, we were back in the car to have a closer look at the Chamba Maitreya (Future Buddha) statue. It was formally inaugurated by the Dalai Lama in 2010. I got some very nice photographs of the sweeping valley views from here. More than anything else, I remember this day for somehow having a successful ending after largely promising the opposite.
Dinner was a tasty affair in the warm kitchen of the family’s home on the ground floor of the guest house. I was glad to be in a real bed after the rigours of Turtuk and slept like a log. A glass of Chaang that was washed down with dinner aided in the same.
Stunning views in the far distance as seen from the open courtyard of Diskit monastery complex. The photograph on the right shows a door handle studded with turquoise.
Next morning was memorable when the clouds had made their way to the earth and small snowflakes fell gently for a minute or so. It was time to be on one of my most adventurous journeys.
Check for one of my craziest experiences :
If memory serves me right, the owner at Lhasthang Guest House only charged me 500 Rupees including food and the room was as comfortable as I’ve ever been in the entire Nubra Valley.