Ladakh - Lamayuru

Journal entry on July 07, 2016


I reached Lamayuru around 12:00PM. It took me exactly four hours including stops. The journey wasn't interesting. The landscapes had nothing to boast of until the last five to seven minutes before reading Lamayuru. The terrains began to change drastically and then came the signboard: Welcome to the moonland. Yes, indeed.

I checked myself into the monastery hotel but it was not as I expected. It was too nice and too modern. Unlike that of the Kee Monastery in Kibber where the accommodation was affixed and joint within the monastery itself, this one was a proper hotel. But then again, I did only see male traveller in Kee so I reckon maybe women aren't allowed? I need to stop expecting and reimagining things I read. The price for the room was okay though, especially for the amenities. I was approached by some home stay people an they quoted the same price that I was paying here. It was yet another uphill climb to the monastery but I did manage to drag out my last ounce of strength to bargain just a little bit for the room price, my excuse being that I was just a solo person. I got a nice room with a great view so that worked out well. 

The first thing I did? The post office. I finally posted all my postcards. Lamayuru had a Post Mistress which was a first and the post office was a residence (which wasn't a surprise anymore thanks to Spiti). I thought I had a lot to post but clearly I had company in an elderly British lady. I wrote a lot of cards even to people who clearly don't deserve it. The only problem is whether it's going to reach the people. The postcards were so nice. It would be a loss...

Initial plan was to stay for two daYs but I wouldn't be able to catch the bus if I stay on till Saturday so I think heading back tomorrow itself would be better. It's too bad because I really wanted to head on forward to Kargil. Well, Shergole was what was exciting me more... but maybe another time. I think it's been far too long and I am exhausted. From the looks of Lamayuyu though, I think I can pretty much cover it in a day so I think I should be okay. 

It's a tiny and a very quiet place. I reckon most of the tourists just pass by to see the Monastery. Seemingly its the oldest in Ladakh. I might have to check up on that though. And on that note, I wonder whether I should visit it later or in the morning? Considering I am just a minute away, anytime would do.

It's lonely being alone here I suppose, especially since I've been in great company for the last 10 days. But when you're alone, you tend to notice things more. You become more attune to your surroundings. And there's no rush too, to get things done.  There's a bunch of little Lamas (little monks?) in training that would make a great photograph. I wonder if I can catch them... would they oblige though? Is it even allowed? 

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I understand that traveling in India means meeting/coming across/being in the company of Indians obviously but that doesn't mean I enjoy it one bit! They are a mostly crude bunch with no manners. They are obscene and lewd and no matter what you do or don't do, make you feel out of place and uncomfortable. And clearly there are a lot of those here and I really wonder why. I thought I had the roof top corner to myself but it's just gotten a tad bit crowded and I am just feeling terribly uncomfortable. I think it's time I make my exit from here and walk around the moonlands. 

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It's 18:41PM and I  have pretty much covered everything there might be in Lamayuru. Almost every house is a homestay and from the short conversations I had with two homestay offerers, the flow of foreign tourists have decreased drastically in the last two years. "It's mostly Indian tourists who visit these days" one said, not very pleased. 

I am throughly confusing and confounding people here. I didn't think that that would be the case HERE! I thought I would fit in and just blend in but apparently not. The hotel reception staff treated me as if I was a foreign tourist and so did the cafe I had my lunch in. It was getting a bit tedious and I think I might have shown some irritation to the guy serving me. But honestly, what can I do? I'm okay with answering questions but I just hate that initial "where are you from?" question followed by "you don't look Indian". It's gotten absolutely tiresome. I even caused the young bus conductor some panic at the checkpoint where foreign tourists have to get their papers checked. "Madam! hurry, passport check!" he said, frantically waving at me from outside. I had to reply in Hindi to calm him down. He later came, stood next to me and of course, started off the usual line of questioning. "I thought you were Japanese" he said. He did know where Manipur was though and after a few minutes, he asked me where I was going and gave me some helpful tips for the bus next day. At least one good thing came out of it. "Okay then, bye" he said when I got off and we waved at each other. He would've made a good picture. 

I did visit the monastery and while I didn't get my group of little Lamas, I did get one and he made it worthwhile. 

Rigzin is 12 and has been at the monastery for eight years, meaning he came in when he was four. His parents live down in the village and he gets to see them on Sundays. I saw him peeking through a window when I entered the main monastery. His head sticking out of the window would've made an amazing frame but when I looked again, he had disappeared. After a round below the monastery ruins and a stop to check photos, he reappeared again with two plastic jerry cans.  I said hi and asked whether he would like a photo taken and he said yes, eagerly and I was relieved. I think he found the polaroid very intriguing so I asked him if he wanted one to which I got the most excited set of nods. I made him pose for me with the polaroid as well and then just chatted with him for a bit before sending him on his way. Clearly he had a job to do! He ran to his friends first though and I heard a roar of giggles and laughter. The little Lamas reminded me of The Last Airbender, of Ang who remembers his childhood days at the Air monastery before he ran away. Judging by the terrains though, Rigzin and his friends are all earth benders. 

The kid was so happy at having his picture taken and that made me glad. I don't think I'm a nice person. I'm not very kind nor am I charitable. I think that's just who I am... but at times I do wish that I had that grace. I'm not unkind but wanting to do good, helping people or even playing with little kids for that matter don't come naturally. It's another matter than I am scared of kids but it makes me wonder just what kind of person I am. Which is why I guess I like to take photographs of some people. So far, I've taken so many pictures but there have only been a few people that I've shot with the polaroid as a gift to them. I don't know... this is probably not the best time for a self assessment but that kid. He was stoked. I wonder what his life will be like a few years from now. 

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It's 20:22PM and there's a crescent moon over the moon land. I walked and hiked around the moorland terrains today as well as the highest vantage point, past the Monks in solitary prayer and fasting. It's understandable why its been dubbed as the 'moonlands'. The resemblance to the moon scape, craters and structures are uncanny, the only difference being the colour. I think in a weird way, I am still chasing that childhood dream and it makes me blue. "What if I studied harder?" is the biggest question of all but even if I did, then what? I'm sure it would've been completely improbable. People talk about reaching for the stars metaphorically and that dream, no matter how much I wanted it to become real, will just remain that. I never thought that a childhood dream would be so hard to let go especially one as impossible as that but I'll just have to live with that. It's not all that bad because I realized that somethings do last a life time. Astronomy will always be my first love. I guess this is the closest that I will ever get to the moon, so to speak, and you know what? I guess I'm okay with that. I hope ME in the alternate universe is living out the dream.