Music was in the air. The village of Dhankar had gathered around a lake to celebrate the opening of new Monastery. Unable to contain my excitement, I started walking towards the lake where the ceremony was to take place.
The Monk who stole my happiness walked towards me as smile faded away from my face. The serious looking monk persuaded me to leave to Kaza immediately to get my bike repaired. He wanted to drive me to Kaza immediately on account of his needed presence in the ceremony a little while later. Unable to conceal my disappointment, my feeble protest fell on deaf ears.
The drive to Kaza did not take long. The monks in the pick-up truck carrying my bike were constantly lavishing praise on Bangalore and its well mannered people and occasionally taking a dig at the unruly Delhi crowd. The sight of Kaza, as we approached its entrance did not impress me. The dusty little town seemed very crowded with people running around doing their daily activities.
This town seemed very different from the general laid back towns of this region. Kaza, situated at an altitude of 3650 mts is the administrative headquarters of Spiti. The town is spread out in a controlled fashion with narrow roads leading to all administrative offices of the district.
The monks dropped me off at the mechanic shop. The lone mechanic of Kaza seemed a busy man. He acknowledged my presence with a mere nod after my ten minute rant on the problem. My patience was tested to its limit as I watched him idling his time by chatting with his friends as I stood there waiting for him to attend to my problem. The male bonding broke loose at the sight of a police man wandering in the street. No sooner the mechanic turned his attention to my bike, the problem was fixed. As I was about to leave the shop, another biker came to the mechanic for some adjustments. I soon struck up a conversation with him regarding the weather conditions ahead. He informed me that he is part of a group of seven bikers who were heading to Kunzum pass the next day. Sensing the usefulness of this information, I exchanged my mobile number with him to update me about the road conditions after they cross the pass.
Sumptuous meal was the revitalizer my body needed. Before leaving to Key monastery, I enquired about the road conditions at PWD office. The officials were blunt in putting the facts.
“You go there, no one will rescue you. Please don’t go there till it is officially open” said the man with a barfed tie resting comfortably on his perfectly shaped pot belly.
Road to Key/Kibber was unpleasant. The rocky roads made the drive unbearable. The sudden dip in weather made matters worse. The bike crawled its way to Kibber situated at an altitude of 4120 mts through Kaza – Kibber link road. Edged by steep cliffs falling sharply to the main valley, the wide, open spaces were cleaved by the narrow gorge-like courses of two left bank, the Parilungbi and the Shilla. The tiny village of Kibber situated amidst large barren mountains provided the visual treat I wanted. The village however provided no visual delight in terms of monasteries. Spending no more than thirty minutes in this village, I returned to the link road back to Key, the monastery I wanted to explore in detail.
Key monastery is perhaps the most important Buddhist religious site of Spiti. This Gelugpa center is the seat of Lochen Tulku, the 24th Lotsawa Rimpoche (reincarnation of Rinchen Zangpo, the Great Translator). Its hilltop position points to a post-thirteenth century construction. The monk dwellings rise in a closely packed cluster up the south and east face to the narrow summit, where the main temple building is situated. Strolling through the maze of this majestic three storied structure, I made my way to a small guest house. My initial plan did not include a stay at this monastery; however I changed my mind having seen the beauty of this place.
Covered under three layers of blanket, I looked up my mp3 play list for “The great beyond” by R.E.M……