Turtuk: Ladakh’s heaven on earth

While difficult to access, the drive to Turtuk in Ladakh with the turquoise blue Shyok amid sky high snow clad peaks is worth every bit.


When people call Kashmir the crown of India, they probably include Ladakh too. Just like Kashmir, Ladakh has its fair share of awe inspiring vistas,and has also been a war zone since time immemorial. While the Chinese war of 1962 left us protecting our land, the 1971 war  brought a bigger portion of Ladakh, which was once controlled by the Pakistani administration, under India’s control.

To explore this part of Ladakh, take a drive ahead of Hunder in Nubra Valley. You will be greeted by Shyok, a turquoise river which snakes through the valley and crosses the Line of Control to enter Pakistan. At the end of this trail, towards the Indian side, is the tiny little hamlet of Turtuk.

Turtuk, and a lot of other small villages, were brought under Indian control after the 1971 war, when the Indian army pushed the Pakistani soldiers past the mountains towering the Nubra Valley. Turtuk lies at the extreme corner of the Indian border, and hence its accessibility is a challenge. Due to treacherous roads and sensitive army base camps, permits were not issued to Indian civilians until late 2010.

Turtuk, a fresh wave of greenery

Although the roads are marred by landslides and shooting stones, the 3 hour drive from Hunder to Turtuk is nothing less than exceptional. Throughout the journey, one has the company of Shyok, as well as the vistas, that define the barrenness which is characteristic to Ladakh. The unbelievable turquoise blue Shyok amid sky high snow clad peaks is a sight that was probably the inspiration behind the famous Persian saying: “Gar firdaus, ruhe zamin ast, hamin asto, hamin asto, hamin ast” (if there is a heaven on earth, it is here). I can’t help but nod in agreement.

A visibly uncommon dressing in Ladakh

Apart from being remote, Turtuk is unique for various reasons. While the whole of Ladakh is essentially a Buddhist dominated area, Turtuk follows Islam as its primary religion. The people are visibly exclusive in terms of their dressing, facial hair (long beards iconic of Muslims as opposed to the clean shaved Buddhists), and body language. Essentially a town of 500 families, the village is mostly reliant upon agriculture, and beginning this year, tourism, for their economy.

Being lower in altitude than most towns in Nubra Valley, Turtuk is a breath of freshness in the form of green pastures, in an otherwise barren landscape. Everything from apricots, apples, tomatoes, cauliflowers, and cabbages grow in Turtuk. “But it is not the men who plough these fields”, says Nuwang, our driver for this trip. He goes on to say, “Men here are considered a superior race. Men can spend their time smoking and chatting, while women are left to take care of the household as well as the fields.”

Boys, the most superior breed of Turtuk

We cross the village primary school a little while later and see little girls playing in their classes. “Some reassurance of better times to come”, remarks a friend. I couldn’t help but smile and agree.


  ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Aashish is the tax guy next door by profession, and an avid traveler and photographer by choice. When not doing the either, he can be found working on his travel forum promoting causes for Himalayan villages among tourists through his blog http://www.devilonwheels.com/india/ more

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  ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Aashish is the tax guy next door by profession, and an avid traveler and photographer by choice. When not doing the either, he can be found working on his travel forum promoting causes for Himalayan villages among tourists through his blog http://www.devilonwheels.com/india/ more
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