Day 19: Leh to Alchi, Likir and back to Leh – 130 km – relaxed riding… 6 hours.
Now, ask anyone. I’m all for workers’ rights and the right for workers to strike and protest, but the dispute going on when we were in Leh left me baffled. The union for taxi drivers and goods carriers are not happy that so many people hire cars and bikes from outside Leh to visit Leh, so they were currently blockading some of the routes out of town to any vehicles registered outside of Jammu and Kashmir. It means that, if we want to travel to Alchi (and tomorrow for Khardungla) then we need to hire new bikes in Leh. Conveniently, you don’t need to shop around, the union will find one for you… handy that.
So, my usual bike was left at our hotel and I had a new (to me) shiny Bullet waiting outside. No pannier racks, so carrying luggage / equipment was limited and no power socket for charging batteries – great. It was clear within a few hundred yards that my foot peg was moving and a quick look showed the frame was cracked (in the same spot that mine went in Kazza a week or so ago). So, back to the hire company. The guy grabbed another bike and told me to take it. I rode up and down the road, and found the clutch didn’t work (more like an on / off switch than a progressive control). So, the guy gave me another bike – this one only had 3 indicators, had no mirrors and the brake lever has more than 4 inches of travel before anything happened. Begrudgingly he fitted a mirror from another bike and after I showed him how to do it, we adjusted the brake. I can’t help but think that if they spent more time looking after the bikes and less time picking daft disputes, then maybe they’d have more customers… The lesson for potential bikers wanting to go to Leh to hire is don’t do it on line, shop around, visit the bike shops, try the bikes, look them over, double check everything.
Eventually we set off. About 30 km out of Leh on the main highway is a site known as Magnetic Hill – apparently cars left in neutral will roll uphill attracted towards the hill. It didn’t work for a bike parked on it’s side stand, but it made for a cool picture. Check out YouTube for cool videos of cars defying gravity.
Further along the highway is another site I’d read about in the Adventure Motorcycle Handbook – “Around 30km from Leh is a viewpoint where the clear turquoise green Indus mixes with the sediment-heavy Zanskar river coming up from the South (or so it was or us)” Well, here you go. Looks far more impressive from the top of the hill than it does from the river side.
Alchi Gompa (monastery) is actually a set of four monasteries spread across the little village of Alchi. The oldest temples are over 1000 years old. The buildings are quite simple and photography is banned inside the temples. These two pictures are taken from google – they show two of the large (20+ foot) Budavistas that are in one of the temples.
Alas, my photos of the outside of the building weren’t great – aperture and shutter speed settings all squiffy – but thankfully, this women was happy to pose and I managed to get a few great shots. I’d watched her walk along a row of prayer wheels, stopping to spin each one and then turning the very large wheel at the end of the row, I respected her privacy and didn’t try to photograph her praying, but when I caught he resting on a wall later, she looked stunning in her traditional dress and cool shades.
Likir Gompa is a more modern affair, established in 1065, and far easier to photograph – both on approach and inside. The small white shrines at the side of the road in this first shot is a Stupa – the area of Ladakh is known as the Land of the Stupas because of the number of them in the region.
Not for the first time, I was the only tourist in the temple for the period I was there (I left Moti behind in the village).
You have to remove your shoes before entering any Buddhist temple, I got creative with my Docs at the top of the stairs.Inside the walls are adorned with striking murals – again, I’ve no idea what they represent, I must try to find out more about the Buddhist stories.
Once again, the views of the Himalayas from the top of the Gompa are wonderful.