Ladakh in April - Day 3 - Alchi
Within minutes of driving from Leh you find yourself alone. Initially you encounter a lot of army bases of varying sizes but soon the only reminder of the army’s presence is the near-perfect road that you are driving on. Shortly we were moving along the Indus river:
A visit to Alchi was the only thing on our itinerary. That gave us a lot of time to enjoy our journey. We drove down to the bank of a river on the way and collected colorful round pebbles. Some of them had been soaking the morning sun and were pleasantly warm to hold in our frigid hands while those that had languished in the shade were hail-cold.
The moment we passed the ruins of the 11th century Basgo monastery we found ourselves stuck in a traffic jam. Traffic jams in the mountains are not as much traffic jams as they are stalemates that can linger from 30 minutes to 3 hours. We almost look forward to them because they allow us to step out of the car, stretch our legs, and even go for a short stroll. This time our car happened to stop at a small village courtyard that had a cluster of apricot trees in full bloom. Between admiring and clicking those delicate flowers we forgot that we were on moments borrowed from our main journey and had to run to our car as the traffic started moving.
We were visiting Alchi on a friend’s recommendation who had mentioned the spectacular Apricot blossoms at the monastery complex. We were about two weeks too late. Most trees there had shed their flowers. But it took hardly any imagination to deduce how beautiful it must have have been.
While looking for our way out of the monastery, we ran into an old monk who insisted that we were going around the monastery in an anti-clockwise direction. He took us under his wing and made us do three clockwise rounds of the monastery.
On emerging out of the monastery, we were eager to walk in a straight line and told our driver to pick us down the road after a few minutes. It was 1 in the afternoon and the local school had just finished. Kids returning from school were enthusiastic about having their pictures taken. The brother in this brother-sister duo posed for me while the sister posed for the wife:
By this time, breakfast was already a distant memory. None of the restaurants we had seen during our visit last year had opened yet. We decided to continue our journey back to Leh and keep our eyes peeled for restaurants on the way. As we got closer to Leh the weather had turned a little ominous. Eerie light illuminated distant mountains. Barely-existent flakes of snow occasionally swirled down from fat grey clouds overhead.
On reaching Leh we bolstered oursleves with hot food and a short nap. In the evening I went to our hotel’s roof-top restaurant for a cup of hot ginger-honey tea. The mountains of the Stok range visible from here, were cloaked in clouds and mist. But what I’ll always remember this evening by, is this picture of a small monastery atop a hill aglow in the dying sunset against a dark, grey sky.