Monday, July 13, 2009
Our base camp was a pretty little village called Lamayuru, known for its monastery. Here we got our first glimpse of the sights that would repeat over the rest of the journey. In the course of the next five days we were going to be bombarded with visuals that are otherworldly. For instance, the sand mountains that surround Lamayuru village resemble Hollywood's impression of a far away planet. A further distance away endless folds of mountains hold you captive with all the stories that they seem to be dying to tell; about the rivers that patiently but cruelly carved the gorges, the winds that eroded the soil, the ice that left the scars and above all the tectonic tortures that gave them their identities. The most striking aspect of the upper regions of the mountains is their lifelessness. The valleys, however, invariably cradle streams of different sizes mostly fed by distant glaciers. The water supports bright green vegetation that stands out in stark relief among the bald and brown mounds. I looked all around stowing away montages for later recollection.
The man-made structures are beautiful too. The buildings are nestled randomly but harmoniously on the contours of the hill. The settlements have grown unhurriedly in a quiet organic way. Their intention seems to be to coexist with the mountains not to conquer them. And they look as old as the mountains.
Our camp was very close to the monastery and we paid a visit. When we got out of there after a spell of intensely moving silence the sun was setting. The softening light made the terrain look a little more dramatic. Until dinner time I sat by myself on a hill just drinking it all in. Once I stepped out of the dining tent, the stars had come out in unabashed glory. Like so many other times in the day, it was difficult to stop staring.