After staying for a night in Alchi, our plan was to visit Lamayuru. The owner of the guesthouse that we stayed in informed us that there’s only one bus going to Lamayuru coming from Leh which passes by the main road at 9 am. Alchi is 8-10 kilometers away from the main road where different busses from neighboring town passes by. He suggested that we take the morning bus from Alchi to Leh and get off at the main road to wait for the bus from Leh going to Lamayuru.
We woke up early the next day and hurried with our backpacks to the center of this small town where the local bus to Leh leaves at 7 am.We wanted to avoid walking all the way to the main road while carrying all our stuffs so our goal that morning was to catch the bus going to Leh and get down at the main road to catch up the bus to Lamayuru. However, when we arrived at the town center, the bus was already completely packed with the locals and their stuff. Most of the villagers take their harvested goods to Leh to sell. Based on the looks of the bus, we had absolutely no chance of getting in!
We just let the bus go and sat down at a small eateries and had some breakfast and prepare ourselves for a long walk. When we finished our breakfast, we started to walk and wishing that we won’t encounter any dangerous wild animals along the way. We rested every once in a while and enjoyed the view of vast arid land dotted with white stuppas.
Unfortunately, we arrived at the main road past 9 in the morning and missed the only bus which goes to Lamayuru. At the main road, there was no shade to protect us but there was a stone wall along the riverbank which we could sit and rest our legs. We found a local man from Alchi, who had not been able to get into the bus like us. We asked him if there’s a chance to get another bus to Lamayuru but he can’t understand us. We noticed that the man was flagging to every vehicle that passes by until he successfully got a ride.
We decided to do hitch-hike and hailed every vehicles that passed by. Only a few vehicles passed by of which only a couple of trucks stopped when we flagged then down and neither of them were going to Lamayuru. After waiting for nearly 4 hours for a ride, we finally got a truck which was bound to Srinagar and will pass by Lamayuru.
Lamayuru or locally known as the Yuru Gompa is a Tibetan Buddhist Gompa in Kargil District in the state of Jammu & Kashmir of India. Also known as the Tharpa Ling which means “place of freedom”, this monastery is considered as one of the holy sites and largest monasteries in Ladakh.
According to the legend, at the time of the first (founding) Buddha, Lamayuru Valley used to be a beautiful clear lake, ruled over by the King of Nagas (holy serpents). Predictions suggested that the lake would eventually dry up, making way for the construction of a Buddhist monastery. Later, in the 11th century, a crack in the hillside surrounding the lake appeared, said to be formed by a Buddhist scholar who sat for many years in a cave, meditating. Through this crack, the lake started to drain and when all the water was gone, a dead lion was found lying half way down the rocky banks. On the same spot, the first temple of the area was constructed, known as the Sengye Gang (Lion Mound). The temple is known as the “Oldest House of Faith” in Ladakh and is believed to have been wrecked and reconstructed several times.
The Lamayuru monastery and the surrounding structures give the Lamayuru town its iconic look and character. Imagine the mighty Himalayas in the background and the old monastery structures which is sitting on the edge of the rock mountains as the foreground.
The monastery is famous for its rich wall paintings, collection of thangkas, murals, scriptures and statues of different forms of Buddha and other deities. Inside the monastery has Dukhang, the assembly hall, Gonkhang, the temple and residential buildings for monks. Walls of the Dukhang are painted with colourful images of Buddhist deities.
Besides its monastery, Lamayuru also attracts tourists for its landscape quite similar to the lunar terrain. This area is popularly known as the “Moonland”.
After having travelled in the Ladakh area of India, I consider Lamayuru as one of the highlights of this leg. In fact, while writing this post, I found myself missing Lamayuru. It is a place definitely worth a visit when you are in Ladakh.