Turtuk, a quaint little village in the Nubra valley region of Union Territory Ladakh. Its famous for its not so happy past, as Turtuk was part of Pakistan until 1971 and thereafter it came in India. Overnight, people were separated from their families. They slept as Pakistani citizens and woke up as Indians.
Turtuk village has three parts : Chutang, Youl and Farol.
When you enter Turtuk from the highway you come across Chutang which is the newest and low-lying area of Turtuk. Just 100 years back, the river Shyok used to flow on the route where Chutang is today but as its course changed and shifted by few hundred metres, the old riverbed was converted into an inhabited place. The Primary Health Center(I hope you don’t need it but in case of emergency you must know it) and J&K bank ATM(near the Govt. Hr. Sec. School campus) are located in Chutang. Other than that there are some very good eating joints like Turtuk Valley Restaurant, Holiday Camp and Apricot cafe. Also some staying options in Chutang are Holiday camps, Ashoor Guest House.
Youl and Farol
You keep going straight and you will cross a cemented bridge on a stream of water. Right after the bridge you have to turn left, this road goes towards the wooden bridge which is first tourist attraction you see in Turtuk village.
1. Wooden Bridge
This bridge was constructed in 1990s for the convenience of the villagers crossing over from Youl to Farol as earlier one had to go to Chutang and walk all the way to the cement bridge and walk up to Youl/Farol which was a detour of almost 1km up hill walk. Who knew that this Wooden Bridge would become the icon of Turtuk Village. A lot of tourists take pictures on the bridge as it gives a picturesque background of the mountains and the river stream.
The side from where you can climb on the bridge is called Youl. Whereas on the other side of the bridge, is Farol. I would suggest that you start with Farol. Once you cross the bridge you will find stairs that take you to the entry of Farol part. You will find one of the famous cafes of Turtuk here, Friend’s Cafe. You can stop here for a quick coffee or a meal and then head into the village. You have to keep walking straight on the cemented path to reach Balti Museum, which is around 1 km from the wooden bridge.
2. Balti Museum
I would absolutely suggest that you take a guided tour of this place. Its an old Balti House conserved by a local family. You will find vessels made of stones, brass and wood, a dedicated one for every delicacy (means only that delicacy is prepared and stored in that vessel always). You can see old traditional attire of men and women made of animal skin, shoes and iron crampons, traditional jewellery made of silver, old hunting weapons etc. Above all, what you see is a thoughtfully designed kitchen which has the main cooking area, an access to the store room, an enclosed area for a toddler to play so that the mother could cook while keeping an eye on the kid and also a sitting space where the family can have meals together. There is a room in the basement that was used to store grains and vegetables. Due to the sunlight not reaching this room, it was comparatively cooler and the stuff stored in it, lasted longer without getting spoilt. A visit to Balti museum definitely takes you back in time and lets you experience the old Balti life.
(There is a ticket of Rs. 50 for the tour of the museum that can be bought at the reception. You can also buy an additional ticket to see the natural freezer)
3. Natural Freezer
A short walk from Balti Museum takes you to a spot that will absolutely leave you in surprise. To put it in the words of locals, “Turtuk is blessed with this naturally occurring phenomenon”. Natural freezer are caves in the middle of the village that maintain an average temperature of less than 4 degrees even in summers when the temperature outside is close to 30 degrees. Whereas in the winters when temperature outside is -30 degrees the temperature in these caves is still 4 degrees. There is butter stored in metal boxes that dates back to tens of years and is still not spoilt. These natural freezers are still used by the locals to store their perishable food items.
Little ahead of the Balti Museum you will find a trail to the monastery. This monastery was built by the Indian Army using metal jerry-cans and was later modernised by the locals Buddhists. The Monastery gives a beautiful view of entire Turtuk village as well as the Indo-Pak border. Its always open so anyone who visits the place is free to enter inside and meditate as the surroundings are very quiet with a soft sound of the Shyok river flowing in the background.
This spot requires a short 45 mins hike through a narrow path that crosses two mountains and opens up in a valley which has a hidden waterfall. It a difficult and dangerous hike and hence proper hiking shoes and carrying walking stick is recommended. You must start this hike early in the morning to avoid scorching sun. There is an old Masjid halfway, which is also an ideal spot to take a break and enjoy the panoramic views of the village.
The Palace is located in the Youl part of the Turtuk village. The King and his family currently lives in the palace and also allow visitors, where-in the King himself gives the tour of the Palace and throws light on the history of the village and his family.
(There is a ticket of Rs. 50 if you wish to check out the Palace yourself and Rs. 100 if you wish to take a guided tour by the King himself.)
You can also explore a nearby village Tyakshi and the last village on the border, called Thang.
The Seeking Soul