Saturday, 20 October 2012

The Chronicles of Ladakh - Set 6 - Turtuk Village, Once Across LOC

Previous: Nubra Valley
Day 6, 13th September, 2012
Hunder > THOISE > Turtuk > Deskit (185 KM)
Next day our major attraction, as planned, was Turtuk – the-village-which-was-once-across-the-LOC.
After a sumptuous breakfast, we started from Hunder around 8.30 in the morning. Within no time, through the smooth roads and the ever-charming and gorgeous landscapes, we came near to THOISE.
THOISE is not a village – it is a Transit Halt Of Indian Soldiers Enroute and arguably the highest military airbase in the world. The place was fully inhabited by the Indian Army and full of military installations. For reasons not unknown, Photography was strictly prohibited of these installations.
THOISE Airbase
Can you see the chopper?
Spot the same chopper if you could - shot behind the closed window of the car
On the way
On the way
On the way - Shyok Valley
Turtuk, a different world
Once we crossed THOISE, it was a straightforward drive towards Turtuk. Through the rugged mountains and keeping the Shyok river besides, we drove towards the LOC. The landscapes were us usual too mindblowing to be missed.
We had to submit our permits at a checkpost while nearing Turtuk. Turtuk was still around 25 Kms from this checkpost. Rigzin mentioned that prior to the 1971 Indo-Pak war, this place used to be the LOC. So we already entered the region which was once in Pakistan – in fact we were heading towards the new LOC and so was the river Shyok.
The feeling was inexplicable – we were spellbound by the victory of the Indian Army, while we realized that Pakistan was no different from India on the other hand, as far as the natural beauty was concerned. Nature does not bestow its generosity based on the barriers of the countries.
All through the road there was heavy presence of the Army, which was no surprise. At one point we were stopped by them, as a firing practice was ongoing. We were fascinated to see our jawans in (dummy) action from such a close distance.
When we reached Turtuk it was around 11.30 in the morning. The village was small and could be covered within an hour or so on foot – in fact the village is situated on such a hillock that a car cannot enter inside the village and one has to roam around on foot.
We also donned our explorer-suit (not literally, of course!) and started to visit every nook and corner of the small village. One has to cross a small stream to enter the village. Just besides this point, one road goes straight towards the LOC and beyond – obviously civilians are not allowed beyond Turtuk. Within just 20 Kms of Turtuk, the first Pakistani village, Franu, can be reached through that road.
The overall look and feel of the village was different from the usual Ladakhi culture – the people too. Most of them speak a language called ‘Balti’ and the region is called as Baltistan in local language. The ethnicity of the people was also different from what we can see in other areas in India.
Turtuk village is nestled on a flat valley over a hillock and surrounded by high mountains – some of the mountains house army bunkers from the respective countries. The flatland on top of the hillock was mostly covered by farmlands.
The village was small as we could cover it within an hour on foot and we reached to the bottom of the hillock through a series of steep stairs.
There was a small but newly built guest house (Ashoor Guest House) cum restaurant where we had our lunch. I engaged in a conversation with the friendly young manager. Most of the information I supplied above were the result of that chit-chat.
Abdullah also mentioned that the culture is absolutely similar in the Franu village as well because that also belonged to the ‘Balti’ region. Residents of both sides of the border wear the same clothes, eat the same food and speak the same language. They use the same water supplied by the same Shyok river and breathe the same air. It is us, the humans, who decide and divide.
We were so engrossed in the conversation that we did not even notice how the time had flown; it was already around 3.00 pm. Time to go! So we had to bid farewell to the cute little village at the frontier, its people and my newly found friend. We both agreed to meet again before we parted – a promise we have to keep.
Our Trusted companion Shyok
Rigzin - the great climber
An amazing pose by Rigzin
Pakistan Village - within 100 kms
Just outside the Turtuk Village
A typical Turtukian house
A naughty little one
The village - surrounded by mountains
Another Turtukian
Mother and Child
This memorial signifies hard-fought battle
LOC - 20 kms down this road
The rest of the journey was uneventful. With a great joy emanated in our hearts we drove through the familiar roads towards Hunder this time. We crossed the military airstrip at THOISE, we surpassed the Sand Dunes of Hunder, for we had to go to Deskit.
Since we had to travel towards Pangong Tso next day, we wanted to stay at Deskit instead of Hunder. Compared to Hunder, Deskit had nothing to offer if one had already covered the Deskit monastery. No, I was wrong, Deskit had internet connection and phone booths!!!
In Deskit we lodged at the Eagle Guest house since all the renowned ones were occupied by a large shooting group. This guest house is not recommended for the travellers because of various reasons (I shall cover that under the Logistics post), but only go there if it is the last option.
Anyway, we reached Deskit at around 6 pm so we didn’t also have much time in hand to pick and choose. Rigzin advised us to take rest, since we’d have a long journey towards Pangong Tso the next day.
Shyok from a closer look
Rigzin's 'Baba Ramdev' avatar
Shyok at its roaring best
Approaching Nubra
THOISE Runway - classified
Hunder Sand Dunes once again
Deskit - a non descriptive village
To be continued....
Next: On the way to Pangong Tso


  1. Your journal of your Leh trip is great! But one thing I want to point out especially in this article is since you know Thoise air base is classified, you should take down the pic of the airbase from your blog entry.

    1. Thanks a lot for the encouraging words. You are right, I shall remove the photos of Thoise. I uploaded as there is no classified information to be seen on the photos. But will do the needful

    2. its been nearly one year, but you havent lived up to your promise. please take down that THOISE air base picture from your blog. The inter-se locations of various shelters with respect to the runway is clear from your photo. that is what is to be guarded from revelation.

  2. Really interesting and very nicely written.. and yes very informative also .. photos are amazingly beautiful ...

  3. didnt you go to the Gompa, where a very small temple is built? i was told Indian Army had built that temple when they maintained a base at turtuk. The view from this place which is on a hill is just amazing and feels out of the world

    when i went there last year i stayed at the same guest house run by Abdullah and his son, who is a civil engineer.

    1. Actually we were not aware of this gompa so we couldn't visit it. Perhaps the next time :)

      We still remember the Ashoor Guest House, a tiny little cosy abode in the picturesque hamlet. Thanks for the info