A visit to the little Balti village of Turtuk

Turtuk has a special place in the heart of most Indians (of course that’s an assumption I’m making) because of it being the last Indian village on the northern side from Leh Ladakh touching the Balti region of Pakistan. The reason for my interest in it is because of the glimpse it gives us into the culture of Baltis which would be otherwise impossible as there’s very little information available to citizens across the border between our two countries.
After the 1947 war, Turtuk was taken under POK and remained there until the 1971 war, when India regained control of it.
And thus, keen to know more about the region, it’s people and culture and amalgamation with India, we decided to visit the village this time round during our trip to Ladakh. Lying in the Nubra valley, Turtuk is about 85 kms from Hunder and took us about 3.5 hours to get there owing to the road conditions. But the drive along the Shyok river is simply superb and would possibly be the main reason to revisit Turtuk (if I ever do).
The Shyok is impatient on the ladakhi landscape almost as if on leash, stumbling, gurgling, raging and rushing through the terrain before slowing down to a placid pace near Turtuk and then calmly carrying on with her journey to the other side of the border.
The terrain is mountainous and barren with practically no trees and just the road which is maintained by the Indian Army between Hunder and Turtuk. We didn’t see any villages or inhabitation on our way there except for some Indian Army camps. One such Army post is the Nine Post where we stopped to have some chai (tea) and Jalebis (Indian sweet) at the canteen there being made by a unit that had just moved in from Bihar that very day. The jalebis were very sweet and the tea average but the experience of sitting there, among the Army jawans and looking at the mountains surrounding us is indescribable. Here’s a picture.
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Coming to Turtuk, was like coming to paradise after the barren rocky terrain. It was green and lively. Here’s a picture of myself entering the pretty village.
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Like I’d mentioned in my earlier post, Turtuk is divided into 2 parts, one part across the bridge contains most of the guest houses and some tourist attractions if I may call them so, and is more developed; while the other part where most locals live is pretty modest.

The village, as is not surprising for such a remote part of India is rudimentary in design, but still fairly clean. Balti houses of the area are mostly made of stone and wood, the wood being used primarily inside homes. The lanes are made of concrete/cement with exposed drains running on both sides and you’ll find a lot of fallen apricots swimming along the drain water 😉 The whole village and lanes are covered with these apricot trees which are just plentiful and be sure you carry some fresh or dried produce from here back home.

The people do manage to speak Hindi though their native language is Balti. It’s thanks to the commercialization of the place (I heard the Indian govt did it’s bit in trying to integrate the area with India pretty well) with tourists being welcomed everywhere, people offering village tour and food mostly Indian and (not Balti as one would expect. We saw a lot of Indians and Israeli tourists during our 1 night halt there. It was easy to find the one home serving original Balti food, and we relished the Buckwheat dosas with walnut chilli chutney served with fresh apricot juice right from the garden where we sat. We topped the meal with ‘gurgur’ tea, which is not made of gur but rather owes its name to the handheld contraption that you push to and fro to mix the tea. The one day we had in hand, we spent trekking up to the mosque up the hill close to the village. The view from the top of the village was to die for. Do check picture 1 below- credit @restlessonmyfeet (instagram). You can see the Shyok river placidly flowing against the apricot fields. Another big attraction of Turtuk is the view of the Indian and Pakistani posts over the mountains keeping watch over one another. Do remember to carry your binocs or zoom lenses if you’d like to see these. One can also see a triangular snow-covered peak across the mountains in the distance and most people claim it is the famed K2 summit. Let me however tell you that if you visit Turtuk solely for this glimpse of K2, you’ll be disappointed as it’s just a tiny bit in the far distance. Pic 2 shows the village lanes and houses. Then there’s me amidst the buckwheat flowers and then halfway up to the mosque. All in all, it’s worth a visit for not just for the place but the oh! so awesome drive to it along the Shyok and oh yes, the pretty but shy women (they simply refused to pose for a photograph 🙂

 

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I’d be happy to provide any information to any of you in case you’re planning to travel thereabouts. You can write into me here and I’ll be happy to respond.
Hope you enjoyed reading this travelogue. Happy travels!!