We turned off the Indus road behind Khaltse and drove through the Moonvalley, through Lamayuru to Atitse. I only knew Atitse as a road sign a few kilometres after Lamayuru – there should be a monastery there. We drove higher and higher in a side valley and there it was: at the upper end of a small village with a few old houses was a magnificent monastery building.
There were some special features here like the big fat laughing Buddha in front:
A family had just arrived before us, so we were also lucky that the monastery was open. After the visit, the monk locked everything again. He said he was alone here.
There were old statues to see and a cave where Naropa was said to have meditated. Next door, an old kitchen was furnished with utensils, a kind of museum.
Besides all the old things, there were also new things to see, e.g. a whole puja room with wooden guards in front of it (I think the breast flowers are special).
Then we drove back to Lamayuru, where we found shelter with Dolma, the owner of the Dragon Hotel. Eva knew her and she opened a room just for us.
Then I took a walk from below around the monastery and through it via the meditation hermitages to the old road.
Lamayuru is the most picturesque place in Ladakh. Moonland landscape and the monastery on sandstone look simply fantastic. I went there by bus in 1993. At that time there was only one road around the top, i.e. before the Moonvalley it went up in serpentines and some way above the village you got off. This road was not so easy, accidents happened all the time. and then they sort of built a road around the bottom and the upper one lay fallow. I went there and remembered a lot. At that time there were some buildings there with practical things for travellers. Now there was only one with all the walls, the rest was ruins. On the building there was still old text to read.
I then also saw the brilliant view from back then again, from there you saw the monastery for the first time:
At that time, there was almost nothing. The monastery didn’t have that many buildings and there was hardly any accommodation. One was a dormitory in the monastery, I had taken that. It was a bit dingy and there was only one outdoor squat toilet without walls and in the fierce evening wind it was impossible not to pee on your leg. I found it insanely exciting and adventurous at the time and felt very very far from home. And happy to experience it all.
Today it’s all very familiar to me, I still enjoy the beautiful sights, but adventure and excitement? Not really any more.
And the next day we drove back to Leh.