I got up early around 6 am and had a hot shower bath. It felt very relaxing and light. It seemed like I had gained the lost energy just by having a hot water bath. It was a luxury feeling. Karan followed after me and we started to pack our things up. There wasn’t much any mess to clear up and hence in very less time we were ready. Today was going to be a long journey for us as we planned to reach Rampur by day’s end and also Tabo Monastery, considered to be one of the oldest was on our list.
I asked the owner to prepare tea for us which was served us instantly in no time. We planned to have breakfast after few kms of drive. We didn’t want the early breakfast to slow us down and waste time. We paid the bill and loaded all the luggage onto the bikes. It was a tough task as the bikes were parked on the main road and it was a grueling 200m walk carrying all the stuff. We had to make 3-4 trips in all. After the bikes were ready, we headed straight towards the monastery entrance which was only a few mtrs away.
We had heard a lot about this monastery from the locals and hence were very excited to check it out. But first, as soon as we entered we had to find out the lama to open the door for us. The lama usually stays near the monastery and upon reaching his house we found it locked. After searching around the premises for few time, we found him walking towards the old monastery. There were two monasteries there. One, newly built, which can be seen upon entering the monastery premises and Second, which is the oldest and made up of mud and wood. The new one is of concrete. The older one was also smaller in height as compared to the new one. It didn’t look like a monastery and anyone could mistake it for a house.
The lama opened the door for us and we went inside removing our shoes. Again, photography was strictly prohibited here and we were unable to take photos. The monastery was divided into 2 chambers. On the outside, there was a restricted prayer hall which was only for the head lama and in the interior chamber, the deities were present. The inside room was built in 10th century and it was dark and damp there. The only light source was from the sunlight and the hall was constructed in such a way as to use the natural light for illumination. The deity was situated in the centre of the hall and immediately in-front of it were the arrangements for the lamas to sit and chant the prayers. All the walls were painted and that too their quality was still intact having been done in 10th century. Wherever there was golden color used on the painting, it was the actual gold which was melted and used and as for the remaining colors they were made from the powdered stone. After seeing all this, it was shocking that the painting had weathered so many centuries. Apart from the painting there were deities put up on all the 4 sides of the wall. They were mounted and all were in different bodily posture(I think ‘asanas’). At the entrance too, there were two figures of deities each on left and right side and having taken some stance which was fearsome to watch. The place really gave a feel of ancient times. We stood there admiring the atmosphere and meditated for a few minutes. The silence of the place was overpowering us.
The lama was waiting for us in the outer hall. We purchased some souvenirs like postcards, a poster of Gautam Buddha and a charm which contained the ashes from the ceremonial processions performed by the head lama. The ashes were wrapped in a circular paper on which inscriptions were there. They called it the ‘Dhukar Mantra’ and believed that whoever kept this charm with them, it offered to protect them. Taking all this we stepped outside the gompa, thanked the lama and moved in the direction of our bikes. It was 9 am, and we had spent quite a considerable time exploring the gompa. Since this was our return journey now, we didn’t want to miss out on anything which was doable and fascinating and not to repent later on.
We moved ahead towards the direction of Rampur. There is this road before Sumdo which goes uphill towards Gue Monastery. It is a must visit place as it holds a 500 yr + old Lama mummy and it is kept for display. The story of this mummy is unique and one must visit this place on their way. Sadly, due to crunch of time we could not go. It was off by 12-14 kms from the main road.
We reached Nako and decided to halt there for breakfast. Little did we know that soon in around 1 hr, things were gonna change for us. We had omelette initially and followed by 2 rounds of paranthas and finally, tea. The sun had come up nicely and we could feel some warmth inside, Nako being at 14,000 ft. There were many club stickers pasted on the window near the entrance of the hotel. We were happily gazing through all of them and also pasted our sticker there and clicked photos.
It was time to move on and then we gradually started to descend the mountain. The time was 11:30 pm. Just as we descended around 10 kms or so we could see some traffic being held up ahead. There were few private cars along with numerous army trucks and himachali buses. It looked liked the traffic was completely at halt. At one point of time we could not take our bikes ahead and inquired with people standing there as to what had happened ahead. Disaster struck us when we were told that a landslide had occurred ahead just half and hour before. We were completely numb. For a few seconds we didn’t knew what to think or what to say. We couldn’t believe the situation we were in and hence went to see it for ourselves. It was total disaster. There were no way we could move forward. The size of the boulders were almost the size of the big truck. And there were like 3 of such kind, apart from ‘normal’ size boulders. Everyone was frustrated. We also didn’t knew whether to curse ourselves for having stopped for breakfast 10 kms before or to thank god that we didn’t came underneath it. The Army was bad mouthing the GREFF people for carrying out the explosions. The GREFF are busy in the road widening activity all the time throughout the year and were convincing the Army that the landslide was not due to the explosions or rather they hadn’t carried out any. It was a convoy day for the Army and their whole unit was stuck. They too were helpless. They had to return back to Sumdo base while we also decided to return back and find some accommodation in Nako. Word was that the road was not going to open at least till tomorrow evening.
Fearing that all the public would soon rush to Nako to find accommodation, since Nako was the closest of all, without wasting much time we cranked our engines and went backwards. The hotel where we had our breakfast was going to be our stay till the landslide cleared out. It was not owned by the hotel owner but a guy who managed a small provision store in front of the hotel. We shifted all our luggage inside the room. The deal was done for 500 bucks but there was one issue with the accommodation, there was no running water and hence the toilets were locked. What ever required to be done, it had to be in open. I guessed, this was the situation for all the hotels and homestays up here, and so we did not search for another options.
How to pass the time was a big question. We had nowhere to go, no tasks to carry out and so we were happily lazing around the terrace of the hotel basking in the sun. Food was not an issue since the hotel was below our room and in plenty. We ordered Maggie and tea which made our late lunch and happily gazed at the surroundings. We could see influx of people from Kaza side and they were stopped and told about the condition ahead. Their reactions were worth watching. Soon, the no of people went on increasing as the day went by. Everyone were just helpless in front of the nature.
The remaining part of the day was spent loathing around but we still squeezed something productive from the day. We took time-lapses from the terrace capturing evening to night transition. At one point of time, it couldn’t get any more darker since the moon had come up and was overpowering the darkness with its light.
We had dinner at the same place around 9 pm. There was heavy rush in the hotel since almost everyone had come there to dine. We were given this time by the lady owner only. I think almost all the people who got stuck there ate dinner at the very same hotel where we did. There were no lights in the hotel, whole of Nako, and it was a beautiful candle light dinner for all of us. My camera was still shooting.
In the night, the temperatures dipped and it was difficult standing outside even with all the layers put in. I had to wait for some time since my shooting hadn’t finished. I was rather waiting for my battery to die. In around half and hour the camera stopped recording and without wasting much time I packed everything up and went inside. Karan and Bimal ji were almost ready in the mood of a good sleep. I packed my camera into the bag and together we all dozed off…
We kept the candle inside the room burning just in case someone had an emergency in the night. The good owner had kept a bucket full of water inside our room to take care of all our needs.
We played some soothing calm songs on our mobiles so that we could sleep faster….
There was no hurry in waking up tomorrow morning. The landslide gave us a much needed break, though we were not tired that much. I was more worried about my flight which was day after tomorrow. Somehow, at the back of my mind, I felt that I was surely gonna miss it!