LADAKH: The Last Outpost!

Ladakh isn’t exactly ‘the land that time forgot’ as it is made out to be in much of the writing devoted to it; at least not any more



It is customary, and perhaps even fashionable these days, to describe Ladakh as the last outpost of the Indian Republic. Flowery descriptions abound of this ‘land of high passes’ in numerous books and reports written by visitors smitten by its rugged beauty and charm. Situated on the western extension of the Tibetan Plateau, enclosed by the mighty Himalayas in the south west and the lofty Karakoram Range in the north, perched at a height of 16000 feet above sea level, there is a mystical quality about Ladakh that lends itself generously to the creative urges of travel writers and research scholars alike. ‘Moon Land’, ‘The Last Shangri-la’ and ‘Forbidden Himalayan Kingdom’ are some other phrases that one is likely to come across when reading up on this region.
While it is true that Ladakh was an isolated region cut off from India and the rest of the world for much of its existence before it was opened up to mass tourism in the mid 1970s, and that the people of this land developed a cultural heritage and way of life that is unique in the world, Ladakh isn’t exactly ‘the land that time forgot’ as it is made out to be in much of the writing devoted to it; at least not any more. Every year thousands of tourists visit Ladakh, and there must hardly be a corner of this ‘mysterious land’ that has not been thoroughly explored and documented by avid adventurers. Most Ladakhi families today spend their evenings watching the latest serials on television. Multinational brands like Coca Cola can be seen proudly on display in local stores.
Is Ladakh therefore not the remote sanctuary that it is portrayed as in most travel brochures and research reports written about it? For the great majority of areas in this region, it probably isn’t. There are, however, exceptions…

Turtuk/Nubra: An Isolated Promontory Of Ladakh
Despite the tourism boom that Ladakh has experienced since the 1970s, there are still some areas in this region where few people apart from local residents venture. The Nubra Valley is such an area.
Verbose introductions apart, Nubra truly is India’s last outpost in the northwest. It is bordered by Pakistan on the left and China on the right. Within it lies the Siachen Glacier, where the Indian and Pakistani forces have been jostling for control for decades. In fact, to put matters in perspective it would probably help to mention that much of Nubra (the Turtuk region in particular) came under Indian control only after the 1971 war. Before that, it used to be a part of Pakistan.
Like the rest of Ladakh, Nubra too presents the onlooker with breathtaking beauty. The Siachen and Shyok rivers snake their way through this region before finally merging with the Indus. The world’s highest motorable road (situated on the Khardungla Pass) is also located in this region. A sizable population of double humped camels and vast stretches of dramatic sand dune scenery give an almost otherworldly feel to Nubra, while the profusion of natural hot springs add to its unique charm. The two main religions practised in this region – Buddhism and Islam (the Balti culture) – come together to give it a heritage that is distinctly its own.
Though much of Ladakh has progressed significantly over the past few years and is, therefore, no longer the harsh and difficult land that it is often reported to be anymore, Turtuk/Nubra fits such descriptions to the last detail. This is indeed a region where life continues at the same pace that it did hundreds of years ago. Existence is a difficult and treacherous business here.

Author is a social worker from Turtuk, Nubra. Feedback at

Lastupdate on : Wed, 24 Oct 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Wed, 24 Oct 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Thu, 25 Oct 2012 00:00:00 IST

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