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.
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 valley.
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.