Kargil is a regular trading town, slightly ramshackle, surrounded by apricot orchards. It is nestled at the base of this massive mountain which looks more pronounced as we climb up the gently winding road to Humbotingla.
The setting of the drive is dramatic with this almost black rock feature rising up along like a Grand Canyon wall…rugged & wild. The pass itself looks desolate with these snow covered peaks stretching out in all directions. On the other side, not far down is this village. Still reeling under the wind chill factor which hit us full on when we hopped out of the warm confines of the vehicle, freezing our grins semi-permanently on our faces like everything around, in the warm vehicle once again I can only wonder at the hows & whys of the people living in that village.
The road then descends through this steep narrow ravine, hurtling along a mountain stream & criss-crossing it & a village or two, clinging onto the steep sides & suddenly, the road swerves to a side! Thank god! There is the Indus, far far below, in a gorge nearly vertical in places.So deep, so silent yet relentless as it moves on, out of India. There in this seemingly end of the earth rugged place, nestled into a craggy outcrop, is this tiny oasis. This little’ Asterix-Obelix’ meet ‘Lord of the Ring’ elf’s village of the Brokpas. The village of Darchik.
It looks like its been pulled out of an Albert Uderzo comic. Its a hamlet of handsome people. Their origins a mystery. One can’t help but marvel at the human spirit. Why, of of all the places in this whole wide world, would anyone come & carve out (literally it seems) a life in this isolated narrow deep gorge?But these people came & now have this fairy tale place complete with green fields, apricot trees, pretty houses, crystal clear little water falls & streams rushing to meet the mighty river down below.
On the drive back towards Khalatse we crossed the other village of the Brokpas, Hanu. Got a fleeting glimpse of the most startling pair of green eyes full of mischief on this tiny tot running to these village elders sitting along the road. The drive back to Leh along the Indus out of Batalik was, thankfully, less vertigo-inducing than our route in & we saw a massive rock in the river which, according to the driver, has Buddha’s ear carved into it. Our driver being a local of this valley had turned his nose up at the dried apricots available in Kargil. He insisted that the Batalik ones were the melt – in -the -mouth kind, which they were. We also picked up some ‘shilajit’ which is found in the upper regions of the valley. I couldn’t get myself to have it finally, having heard so much of its …ahem, uses. I had visions of myself running around with either topped up testosterone levels or/and hot flushes!! Some aspects of the human ‘spirit’ are valued only in the mountains I guess!