• Desert Bloom

Namaste Keylong | More than the Last Petrol Pump

If you are planning a road trip to Ladakh, you might meet Keylong along the Manali-Leh highway.

This valley is where you will find the last petrol pump along the highway, after crossing the Rohtang Pass and before reaching Leh, which is 358 km away. In the town, you can grab some supplies, get the mechanic to have a look at your Royal Enfield and perhaps rest for a night before you hit the road again. All of this makes Keylong a common one-night stopover and the tourists roaming about in the evenings on the shy, little market street are proof of the fact. They look around a little listlessly, unsure of how to spend their evenings once cut-off from the internet and with no obvious entertainment in front of them.

On the surface, Keylong is a sleepy town which happens to be the administrative centre of the Lahaul-Spiti district in the North Indian state of Himachal Pradesh. Scratch the surface to go a little deeper, and as always, you find out more. Thankfully, I had a lot of time to dig deep – 12 whole days.

12 days of no internet.

12 days of looking out the window at the Drilbu-ri Mountain every morning.

12 days of being in a paradoxical situation of peace and excitement.

I was in Keylong, being hosted by Tanzin and his wonderful family, to start off the research process for our upcoming project ‘Zomsa’. Apart from the time spent in visiting our site with Tanzin and reading more about this place and its culture, there was still a LOT of time at hand. And being “bored” was nowhere on my agenda.

There aren’t many obvious things to do if you are only stopping for an evening, and a part of the Zomsa project is also geared at enabling this soon. However, at the moment, a full day or two in Keylong can give you the opportunity to discover this fabled Land of Dakinis in a much more intimate way. This is because most of these current experiences are quite immersive, require time, energy and often, daylight. Here are the Top 5 experiences that kept me hooked.

(1) Trek up to Kardang Gompa

On my very first day in Keylong, we trekked up to the Kardang Gompa (monastery) which I could see from the window of my room on all the other days of my stay there. These two hours seemed to be more of a casual walk for Tanzin and Nawang, locals who led us, and a rather strenuous trek for Ben, Dave & myself who had just arrived in Keylong the day before. For almost the whole day, we moved through wild foliage as well as green pastures, and all along the way, we were rewarded with super stunning views of the entire valley, spring water so clean that you could taste the freshness, and a feeling of achievement in general.

Ben is a superb travel v-logger and captured the day’s memories in what I believe to be an honest and hilarious manner! His video here captures our struggle up the mountain!

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