Story of hidden meditation house, in the remote mountains of Ulley! #trekkinginwinter

Tripoto
20th Nov 2017
Photo of Story of hidden meditation house, in the remote mountains of Ulley! #trekkinginwinter by Soumik Neogi

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After watching snow leopards play in the high mountains of Ulley(details in my previous post), it was time to start our journey towards Hemis. In the next 3 days, we will walk though Hemis shukpachan, Temisgam and finally Tar.

Starting towards Hemis, on the way Stanzin(my guide) suggested that we take a small detour and visit a meditation retreat, high up in the mountains of Ulley. These individual meditation houses are spread across Ladakh. They were used by Buddhist monks of high calibre to carry their meditation alone, in the most remote environment.

The way to the meditation retreat was pretty steep, so we hid our bag in the opposite mountain top, away from foraging wild animals and started our climb.

Photo of Story of hidden meditation house, in the remote mountains of Ulley!    #trekkinginwinter 1/37 by Soumik Neogi
Meditation house can be seen around the middle of the frame
Photo of Story of hidden meditation house, in the remote mountains of Ulley!    #trekkinginwinter 2/37 by Soumik Neogi

The retreat was used decades ago by a prominent monk. Later travellers have stayed here in bits and pieces, to experience the environment and meditate.

Photo of Story of hidden meditation house, in the remote mountains of Ulley!    #trekkinginwinter 3/37 by Soumik Neogi

As we went inside we saw that it's a one storeyed building, with all required basic amenities including prayer room, bedroom, kitchen, wood storage, toilet and mesmerizing view of the mountains.

The ground floor has everything except the bed room.

Photo of Story of hidden meditation house, in the remote mountains of Ulley!    #trekkinginwinter 4/37 by Soumik Neogi
Photo of Story of hidden meditation house, in the remote mountains of Ulley!    #trekkinginwinter 5/37 by Soumik Neogi
Wood storage
Photo of Story of hidden meditation house, in the remote mountains of Ulley!    #trekkinginwinter 6/37 by Soumik Neogi
Leftover utensils
Photo of Story of hidden meditation house, in the remote mountains of Ulley!    #trekkinginwinter 7/37 by Soumik Neogi
Photo of Story of hidden meditation house, in the remote mountains of Ulley!    #trekkinginwinter 8/37 by Soumik Neogi
Toilet
Photo of Story of hidden meditation house, in the remote mountains of Ulley!    #trekkinginwinter 9/37 by Soumik Neogi
Prayer room
Photo of Story of hidden meditation house, in the remote mountains of Ulley!    #trekkinginwinter 10/37 by Soumik Neogi
Stanzin was quick to offer some prayers and light

The first floor has the room and the view.

Photo of Story of hidden meditation house, in the remote mountains of Ulley!    #trekkinginwinter 11/37 by Soumik Neogi
Photo of Story of hidden meditation house, in the remote mountains of Ulley!    #trekkinginwinter 12/37 by Soumik Neogi
Photo of Story of hidden meditation house, in the remote mountains of Ulley!    #trekkinginwinter 13/37 by Soumik Neogi
Photo of Story of hidden meditation house, in the remote mountains of Ulley!    #trekkinginwinter 14/37 by Soumik Neogi
An old handmade door latch

This place has no sound, apart from the sound of wind, a perfect for meditation. Interestingly, there is a water stream by the side of this retreat, fed by the glaciers. But the condition right now is not great and staying is not advised as Stanzin told me.

After this visit, we had lunch and then we would start on the climb that will challenge by fears and senses.

Photo of Story of hidden meditation house, in the remote mountains of Ulley!    #trekkinginwinter 15/37 by Soumik Neogi

The climb was steep, road was very narrow and had loose gravels. I put the camera inside the bag as i felt the need to focus on the climb than the pictures, so no photos from the climb, but one. I would ask Stanzin multiple times out of fear "Are we going to go over this mountain? Where is the trail?". Stanzin would reply "This is the trail, don't worry, stay with me, you will make it"

Photo of Story of hidden meditation house, in the remote mountains of Ulley!    #trekkinginwinter 16/37 by Soumik Neogi

After we reached the top i could not believe i walked up to this point and thanked Stanzin for this experience. Apart from this confidence enhancement, there was this awesome view.

Photo of Story of hidden meditation house, in the remote mountains of Ulley!    #trekkinginwinter 17/37 by Soumik Neogi
Photo of Story of hidden meditation house, in the remote mountains of Ulley!    #trekkinginwinter 18/37 by Soumik Neogi

On our way down, Satnzin lighted some fire using the dry shrubs, as it was freezing cold.

Photo of Story of hidden meditation house, in the remote mountains of Ulley!    #trekkinginwinter 19/37 by Soumik Neogi
Photo of Story of hidden meditation house, in the remote mountains of Ulley!    #trekkinginwinter 20/37 by Soumik Neogi

The way down was less steeper and you can walk very fast on the loose gravel. Its almost like running slowly without any chance of falling.

Photo of Story of hidden meditation house, in the remote mountains of Ulley!    #trekkinginwinter 21/37 by Soumik Neogi
Photo of Story of hidden meditation house, in the remote mountains of Ulley!    #trekkinginwinter 22/37 by Soumik Neogi

Before entering any village in Ladakh, there are stones with prayer carved on them. Hemis was no exception.

Photo of Story of hidden meditation house, in the remote mountains of Ulley!    #trekkinginwinter 23/37 by Soumik Neogi
Thousands of prayer carvings on rocks. They are reraly made anymore.

Hemis Sukhpachan is big and extremely beautiful village. As we entered, we could hear the sound of loud party music from far away. Later we learnt that almost the entire village was partying :D, and most of the houses were empty.

Photo of Story of hidden meditation house, in the remote mountains of Ulley!    #trekkinginwinter 24/37 by Soumik Neogi
Photo of Story of hidden meditation house, in the remote mountains of Ulley!    #trekkinginwinter 25/37 by Soumik Neogi
Old stupas
Photo of Story of hidden meditation house, in the remote mountains of Ulley!    #trekkinginwinter 26/37 by Soumik Neogi
Photo of Story of hidden meditation house, in the remote mountains of Ulley!    #trekkinginwinter 27/37 by Soumik Neogi

The name shukpachan comes from the Juniper trees found here in abundance. These are sacred trees by local culture and cannot be harmed in any way.

Photo of Story of hidden meditation house, in the remote mountains of Ulley!    #trekkinginwinter 28/37 by Soumik Neogi

One of the first things to catch my attention was the huge statue of Buddha, on top of the monastery. Its difficult to miss. After i saw this view, i wanted to stay at a place which will give me a similar view.

Photo of Story of hidden meditation house, in the remote mountains of Ulley!    #trekkinginwinter 29/37 by Soumik Neogi
Photo of Story of hidden meditation house, in the remote mountains of Ulley!    #trekkinginwinter 30/37 by Soumik Neogi

There a many homestay options here. I did not stay with the one below, but looks beautiful.

Photo of Story of hidden meditation house, in the remote mountains of Ulley!    #trekkinginwinter 31/37 by Soumik Neogi

We were invited by an old lady to stay at her house and we liked the location as well. Kitchens here have modern touches as you can see on the background, which will be missing in more remote villages.

Photo of Story of hidden meditation house, in the remote mountains of Ulley!    #trekkinginwinter 32/37 by Soumik Neogi

She offered us the Ladakhi tea. By local culture, one should not swallow the floating butter as they would be looked upon as people who do not know how to drink. Outsiders are exempted.

Photo of Story of hidden meditation house, in the remote mountains of Ulley!    #trekkinginwinter 33/37 by Soumik Neogi

After tea and some rest we went out to look around a bit.

Photo of Story of hidden meditation house, in the remote mountains of Ulley!    #trekkinginwinter 34/37 by Soumik Neogi
Photo of Story of hidden meditation house, in the remote mountains of Ulley!    #trekkinginwinter 35/37 by Soumik Neogi
Last remaining wall of the ancient fort
Photo of Story of hidden meditation house, in the remote mountains of Ulley!    #trekkinginwinter 36/37 by Soumik Neogi
Watching over

I spent some time in the evening, trying to take photos of star trail, climbing up the ladders to the rooftop. Stanzin is very interested in photography and stayed with me on the rooftop, discussing about our experiences. It was freezing cold and our hands would become numb after a while. We had to go down get home heat and come back for pictures.

Photo of Story of hidden meditation house, in the remote mountains of Ulley!    #trekkinginwinter 37/37 by Soumik Neogi

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