Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Ladakh - Day 9 - Nyamgel Tsemo

We returned from Pangong lake when it was still bright and sunny in Leh. That would be my last evening in Leh. The next morning I was flying to Delhi.

So in the few hours that were left, I decided not to rest after the long journey, but to cover some more places that were left. I was greedy. But I am also proud of my never tiring limbs and never never tiring spirit.

And Fee decided to join. So I and Fee started. It was a short walk to the foothills and then the climb to Naymgel Tsemo.

The crest of the palace ridge, high and away to the east crowned by an imposing red building is the Nyamgel Tsemo that can be clearly seen from most parts of Leh.

The obvious route is the climb to the peak from the palace. But we took an alternate route of ascent, up the northern slope from chubi - I think. However, we climbed down via the obvious palace route.

The climb which offered splendid views of the fields below was a reward in itself. This was certainly higher than the palace and may be higher than Shanti Stupa which we could see perched on a hilltop at a distance.

Nyamgel Tsemo is ‘The peak of victory’.

Leh's first fortress was built here. The remains of this, besides two temples - one of which is the Maitreya shrine, is the red structure visible from below - stand on the crest.

Maitreya temple, Gonkhang and Avalokiteshwara for you…

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Ladakh - Day 9 - Pangong Lake

Fee was the first one to wake up. Very early. She went out with her camera and took some pictures in the dark.

It was 10 by the time we all got ready.

I had suggested to everybody the previous day that we all go for a walk on the lake shore as far as we could, take a peek at China if possible and by 12 noon, return to the camp and from there, back to Leh.

It was a beautiful sunny morning. I was to realize how lucky I was for that morning and thank the Sun for that day a year later on a cloudy day in the same place.

Our driver, reluctant, drove us to a point where we got down and asked him to wait at that spot for us to return.
We ambled along, pausing every few minutes to stand and stare in disbelief at the variety of blue, all contained in one single water body, at different places.
Peacock blue, ink blue, powder blue, sapphire, aquamarine, sky blue, copper sulphate blue, teal, azure,…

The mountains changed colour from beige to grey to beige as clouds passed above them. At first I thought I saw a grey mountain in the midst of beige ones. Only after the clouds had drifted I realized that the hill was actually beige and it was the cloud that made it grey.

Here and there, were small stagnated pools of lake water with ridges of earth separating them from the main water body. Positioning myself strategically, I bent down till I could see the reflection of the mountains in that small puddle. I did not expect it to look so grand.

We walked until we reached this small piece of land projecting into water, an island of sorts. We were lucky to spot orange birds there that I learnt later were known as Brahmini Ducks.

I could walk on the whole day, walk to China and beyond if they allowed but had to retrace my steps.

The earth beneath our feet was crusty and white. As I mentioned earlier, the water of the lake is salty and it was the salt deposits crunching beneath our feet.

It took me some time to locate our car parked in the distance. I turned my face away to look at the lake.

There was a breeze and the surface of the lake became pockmarked as if it were drizzling.

We drove back to our camp, packed and just one last time before returning, I asked the driver for the favour of stopping briefly at the spot where water birds had gathered.

And this is how Fee caught me unaware. I look funny with that pointy hood on my head. Strangely cute I think. And that should be the defining picture of my pangong visit. I just stood before the lake and stared and stared in awe...