After a hard ride through the Manali-Leh highway, first through the pleasant sceneries and freshness passing the Rohtang pass and then entering the dusty roads surpassing places like Koksar, by 3 in the evening the bus reached a small town called Keylong. The first day ride to Leh town ended here at this place in Himachal Pradesh, and I had to catch the same bus from Keylong bus stand at 5am the next morning.
I went to several hotels on the small hills, and tried to negotiate for a room with affordable rent. All I could talk and get was rooms with Rs.400 rent minimum. Finally, I descended some steps and got into the Snowland hotel, and met with Mr. Shankar, who managed the place.
At first Mr. Shankar also insisted on Rs.400 but after some negotiation saying that I’m a writer and would write about the hotel, he agreed on Rs.300, for a very spacious room.
While washing myself from the dust and tiredness of the journey, I was contemplating whether I’d still be able to manage my ever dropping money balance while travelling alone. Solo travel had its own merits and demerits!
Mr. Shankar had informed me that there is a Buddhist monastery nearby. Considering the fact that I’d never been to a monastery before, I gave it a shot.
The uphill pathway to the monastery had a board that said Shashur monastery was 11,350 ft. above sea level, and had a trek around 5.5 kilometres. I started walking, and did not feel tired much this time unlike my previous treks. I found out that trekking alone worked better for me, if climbing the hill could be called as ‘trekking’ at all!
The path was dusty and had hair–pin curves. I met a German couple who were returning. They told me about being in Ladakh for straight three weeks, and gave me goose bumps telling that, my country India is really great!
The foreigners are indeed exploring and appreciating our country more than us!
I waved the couple goodbye. The lady had trekking sticks like a pro and as an alternative I found a long stick from a nearby tree, and used it as my walking stick. Now, I could see the monastery up above.
After a long walk, surrounded by the greenish mountains around, with small indication of snow, I could feel the altitude rising quickly, and the wind blowing the dust apart.
I reached the destination, where the stone paved steps welcomed me to the Shashur Monastery. Prayer flags were tied and flew all aside the steps. The typical white painted wall and the wooden door, passing which I entered the place.
There were two Buddhists—with the usual red robes and shaved heads—and a small active child there. They were all very pleasant and granted me permission to video graph from inside the monastery.
On the left side of the entry, there was a large prayer wheel, which when whirled, a small nail attached on the top struck a bell each time it completed a full round. And there were the long series of small prayer wheels in succession too.
I entered the first floor balcony and enjoyed the evening light, right over the mountains. No honks, no sounds of the traffic, in fact no particular sound at all—except for the echoing wind. I remained there for a few minutes, calmed by the mysterious care of the mountains. There is no other feeling quite like being in an unknown place, a place so different from all those places you have ever known, and breathe the air meditating over the vast aesthetic displays of nature.
I said goodbyes to the smiling silent Buddhists and climbed down faster, only to reach the town after it got dark. The whole trek to the Shashur Monastery was a very tranquil experience.
I bought a beer and went back to my room, and scribbled something on my small diary.
Sometimes I felt like going home, and sometimes I wished to go forward. The path forward was very risky and I came all unprepared- the journey to Leh, one unprecedented unplanned trip!
I remembered the picture of the car that had lost its control to go all the way down and kissed the bottom of the valley, just a few minutes before the bus I was in passed the spot! But somewhere somebody was forcing me to go forward, to seize the days- despite running low on money, despite getting high on fear and despite having no plan or idea of where I was heading.
When I slept due to the tiredness, the beer bottle remained half-empty on the teapot table, and even though I had to catch the bus at 5 am the next day to continue my journey to Leh-Ladakh, I cared not to put an alarm on my phone and slept the night so deep like a new-born baby…!