Most visitors just spend a night at Keylong on their way up to the rugged cold desert regions of Ladakh. But, it is worth the while to spend a couple of days in this small town as it has much to offer – from picturesque landscape to old monasteries and temples nearby.
by Arun Bhat
IT is surprising that the town of Keylong even exists. In a place dominated by mountains – where slopes are so steep and peaks are so high that even a small patch of flat terrain is a luxury – there somehow exists a part of the valley that is wide enough to accommodate the people of Keylong. Nestled on a small patch of land on the Manali-Leh highway, the town is the last place where some greenery greets the travellers who, more often than not, stop here before starting the second leg of their long journey towards the stark landscape of Ladakh.
It is such a journey that took me to Keylong one evening. I briefly stopped here to rest for a night before heading further north into the trans-Himalayas. But the amazingly tall peaks near Keylong with just a little bit of snow left on their summits, the steep valley where River Bhaga meandered, the green slopes with sweet-pea fields and willow trees, lured me to extend my stay here and postpone my travel.
Lady luck approved my decision to stay on and blessed me by making my presence coincide with the annual festival at the town’s Shashur Monastery. On the day of the fest, I made the long climb up the slopes, breathing heavily in the rarefied air above 10,000 feet. But what kept me going were the views of the valley that kept changing with each step. Mountains on the other side of the valley lost height as I moved up, but still appeared formidable and loomed large. Bhaga River carved a deep gorge in the valley far below, consuming every drop of snowmelt from the mountains. The town of Keylong appeared like a bunch of haphazardly arranged boxes that created an unlikely distraction to an incredible landscape.