Diskit's Old Town
After passing Khalsar, buses and trucks bound for the western
villages by the Shyok turn onto a flat, grey expanse of boulders
and sand dunes with the Karakoram and the Ladakh ranges towering
above. A dusty collection of low roofed houses, Diskit, on first
impressions, feels rather dull but soon reveals its quiet charm.
The more appealing old town, with balconied houses and wind
blown poplars, lies below the main road before the diversion to
the centre. Get off at the first
bus stop on the main road where most of the small guesthouses
are located. From here a rough track runs through the old
quarter down to the bazaar.
The caramel brown hillside above the old town supports Diskit's
picturesque Gompa, built in 1420 by Changzem Tserab Zangpo, a
disciple of Tsong-kha-pa. If one doesn't have a jeep to follow
the wide track, walk beside the long Mani wall, which continues
on the other side of the road, and trace the path that winds
upwards from its end to the monastery; the steep walk takes
around thirty minutes.
The Gompa's steps climb past the monks quarters to the first of
a group of temples. Local legend has it that a Mongol demon, a
sworn enemy of Buddhism, was slain nearby, but his lifeless body
kept returning to the Gompa. What are reputed to be his wrinkled
head and hand, grey and ageless, are now clasped by a pot
bellied protector deity in the spooky Gon-khang a dark and
claustrophobic temple, packed with fierce Gods and Goddesses.
The tiny Lachung temple, higher up, is the oldest here. Soot
soiled murals face a huge Tsong-kha-pa statue topped with a
Gelug-pa yellow hat. In the heart of the Gompa, the Dukhang's
remarkable mural filling a raised cupola above the hall depicts
Tibet's Tashilhunpo Gompa, where the Panchen Lama is receiving a
long stream of visitors approaching on camels, horses and carts.
The Kangyu-Lang & Tsangyu-Lang Temples
Finally, the Kangyu-lang and Tsangyu-lang temples act as
storerooms for hundreds of Mongolian and Tibetan texts, pressed
between wooden slats and wrapped in red and yellow silk. Young
and boisterous novice monks add to the colour of the Gompa,
which is linked to Tikse near Leh.
The flat rooftop outside the Gon-Khang affords views across to
Sumur to the east the dunes and boulders of the flat southern
valley, and to Kobet peak in the north Hundur, a tiny village in
a wooded valley, 7-km north, is as far as one is allowed to go
along this part of the Nubra valley, at the end of a pleasant
walk from Diskit. The village is most notable for its indigenous
lanky Bactrian Camels. Buses continue past Diskit to Hundur, but
another way of getting there is to arrange through a local
guesthouse for a camel to carry one across the dunes.
The main monastery at Hundur, usually locked, lies just below
the main road, near the bridge and the end of the route. The
remains of another monastery are scattered along the crags a
short walk above the road.
HOW TO GET THERE
Road: Buses return to Leh from Diskit (Tuesday, Thursday, Friday
& Sunday; 6hr). Make sure to buy a ticket from the bus driver
when he arrives from Leh the previous day. There's a bus to
Sumur and Panamic on Thursday and Sunday. If one is not alone,
hitching is a good alternative. Visitors can usually get a lift
with one of the slow military vehicle running up and down the
WHERE TO STAY
Accommodation in Diskit is simple, but ample. Near the Mani Wall
people can get guest house accommodation with a camping ground,
comfortable rooms, decent washing facilities including one room
with an attached bath, and home grown vegetables from the
picturesque garden for dinner. Camel ride arrangements can also
be made over here.