Day 8, September 6, 2014
Hundar (10km and back!)
Pangong Tso became a popular destination after it was featured in the hit 2009 movie 3 Idiots. Its unparalleled beauty is set amid a landscape very harsh and weather unpredictable. Given the incessant rains and the gloomy forecast, the lake would have to wait…for the next visit. This trip, we were getting an extra day in Hundar to spend at leisure – visiting the Nubra Sand Dunes and exploring the Diskit Monastery. Luckily, we were able to transfer our bookings to Nature’s Nest camp here without losing the deposit.
After breakfast we set out for the Monastery. It was not raining and it was not windy though the clouds were still hanging low. We spent a couple of hours walking through the monastery that, like so many others, is like a small village on a hill. We had landed in the middle of special week-long prayers. A brightly-coloured fresh mandala made with powdered precious stones was on display in the main prayer hall. It commemorated the special prayers underway and had taken the monks a week to prepare. After the conclusion of the prayers, it would be consigned to the waters of the river flowing in the valley below. Only saints could be this detached from something so beautiful created with so much effort.
Like Alice in Wonderland, I didn’t hesitate to walk through whatever doorways presented themselves. This one was labelled ‘kitchen.’ Inside a few monks were earnestly at work, washing large vessels, and preparing the lunch. I was welcome as long as I did not take any pictures or get in their way. I respected their wishes and just watched as one of the monks went about preparing tingmo, a steamed Tibetan bread. The giant metal stove in the center of the kitchen was idle today. On one of the smaller stoves on the side bubbled some dal, and a large karahi contained a dish of bias-cut stir-fried beans. The large number of guests for the special occasion meant the monk-cooks had no time to indulge curious tourists. Quietly, I left. The rest of the group went to check the new Golden Buddha statue just across from the monastery as we drove down and into the village streets of Hundar. We spotted a picturesque ruin, supposedly owned by the monastery. There is so much history around us that we become almost insensitive to it.
We drove through what appeared to have been the main street once, and then out to the new market. Fresh vegetables were being hawked; just what we needed for a proper cookout that was finally going to happen today. I bought fresh haak, potatoes, cauliflower, and carrots.
We found a spot by the stream and cooked a good mince curry and aloo-gobhi with rice. Some fun was had while trying to fish-out the frisbee. In the end, we all managed to stay dry.
By late-afternoon we were back to the area where all the camping resorts are, but tonight we were staying at the Organic Retreat. As we transferred our belongings from the other camp, tea was set out for us high up on the machan. It was fabulous to drink tea and enjoy the views through beautiful Aspen tree-trunks at that elevated level. We hung around in the expansive garden full of all kinds of fruit trees – apples and apricots. There were a few large walnut trees too. Some decided to play a game of badminton as I dozed off in one of the many hammocks hung all around.
I had my haak from the morning purchase and sought out the camp manager. He was okay with me using the kitchen before the cooks got working full steam. The cook looked at my greens and said that is what was on the menu for dinner! I was only too happy to hand over the haak in very capable hands and go off for more tea. Later there was a party of sorts in Ravi’s tent with more single malt and rum-and-coke for lesser mortals like me. The party then moved to where a bonfire had been lit. There was music, more drinking, and an impromptu laser-light show (whose laser-pointer was it?). Those beams can really create magic when reflected off the smoke of a fire! I don’t recall the spread at dinner, but I do remember that it was big and very good with a variety of vegetables, all grown on the retreat-land. That is how I like my meals, lots and lots of vegetables! It had been a fun day, one with little driving. Part I Part II Part III Part IV