I bid farewell to the person who gave me a ride till Kaza from Mudh, shut the car door and waved him goodbye as I watched him drive away. I was again left stranded in the middle of the road looking forward to whatever the day had to unfold. I walked down the road for some 15 minutes before I spotted a café and found myself instantly craving for tea. As I sipped on the blissfully warm tea, I got into a conversation with a fellow traveller and he suggested me to stay at the Key monastery for a night and I realised I had been wanting to do that for a while. I spent that night in a guest house, a little more excited for the next day than usual.
Breathtaking view of Spiti, Himachal Pradesh
It was around 9 a.m. when I left for the monastery and decided to hitch yet another ride, to create yet another story, however short it may be; what is life other than a collection of short stories anyway? So, I started walking towards the fabled monastery in hope of finding a ride; but, does anything ever goes according to the plan? I did not find a ride that would take me to the monastery and I was skeptical about how would I manage to reach. I did not lose hope and kept walking when I saw a man sitting on a rock beside a bridge, admiring the view. I was unsure if I should disturb him in his peace-seeking moment but I was needy and hence, within 2 minutes, I found myself shouting hello with a wide grin on my face. Cutting out all the crap, I straightforwardly asked him if he was going to the monastery and unfortunately, he wasn’t. He just came by to soak in the view and would leave back for his hotel room soon after. He gave me a very welcoming smile and asked me to sit beside him. He started asking me about my life, my passion and my perspective about certain things. While we were conversing, I was secretly thinking to myself about how travelling makes you rich; not in terms of money, not at all, but in terms of experiences, knowledge, and enlightenment. He told me he was a businessman and came all the way from Punjab, driving his Pajero. A man in his 60’s travelled so far out to experience life and I immediately respected him from my heart. He told me he was leaving for Manali the next day and this would be his last night in Spiti so he wanted to just stargaze and lose himself in all the good memories he has made over the years. I just smiled to myself and thought about how some people are gorgeous; not on the outer layer but down to their very core, and he, was one of them. I asked him if I could come along to Manali the next day as I too had to leave. ‘sure’ he replied and I was ecstatic. He told me to meet him at 5 a.m. sharp at the same place if I had to tag along and I agreed in a second. I got up, said goodbye with a promise to meet the next day and again, started walking towards the monastery. Fate plays weird games. I did not get a ride to Key but I did, however, get a ride to Manali. I laughed and kept walking hoping to reach as soon as possible.
Distant View of Key Monastery
The monastery was about 14 km away from Kaza which took me almost 3 hours to cover. The sun made me really tired and when I finally reached the monastery, I was super exhausted but extremely content. I checked my watch at 1 p.m. when I was entering the main gate. I started looking for somebody to assist me with the lodging facilities and the procedures and finally met a monk who arranged everything for me. Unlike other monasteries, Key does not have a separate guest house for travellers who come to reside but are made to stay at the existing Lama quarters and that made me even more excited. You get a bed for Rs. 200 per night inclusive of all meals that are prepared by and for the monks. What else do you wish for? Local food with local people.
An unusual cup of butter tea was served at around 5 p.m. following which I started walking around the monastery aimlessly and entered the kitchen that was made in a very old style. The kitchen seemed quite busy with monks making arrangements for dinner in huge utensils I hadn’t seen anywhere else. I struck a conversation with one asking about where I could watch the sunset in peace. He told me to go behind the monastery and look for a trail that goes up the mountain to get the perfect view of the sun setting behind the silhouette of the key monastery. I did exactly I was asked to do and was not disappointed. I sat down and as the last rays of the sun hit my face, a thousand things came to me all at once. My love for travel, the hunger to explore more places, the question of what I wanted out of all this wandering and the key to my happiness. My inner child knocked haphazardly on the door of my heart and I couldn’t do anything but to let him in. All good memories came back to me. All the things I’ve seen, the people I know and the places I’ve been, cities, fields, farms of green and in the middle, a fragile little me. It felt like I was dreaming. Dreaming with eyes wide open; like flashings of all the important milestones I achieved and I realized how important it is to be true to yourself and follow your heart to all extremes because a little inconvenience is better than a lot of regrets. With a peaceful heart, I got up when the sun had set and made my way back to the monastery.
As soon as I returned I was greeted with a swarm of Julley’s and served hot dinner of Rajma and Tingmu (Tibetan bread) at 7 p.m. the monastery was swarmed with travellers and like-minded people who were all very willing to talk. The atmosphere was light and filled with a sense of togetherness and compassion for each other and the world. Strange but impressive how every person there was separate but as a whole, we were all a group who had the same beliefs and ideologies.
Content, I went to bed as I had to wake up early to meet Mr. Suresh who would get me to Manali.