Who would expect an oasis at 3.000 meters? Turtuk village, like the few other villages in the Shyok valley, sits on a plateau about 200 meters uphill from the small road that runs along the Shyok River. Completely out of sight from the road, only the fields down at the riverbank give away human activity.
A steep ten-minute climb brings you to a place of incredible beauty, a display of immense fertility. Plots – neatly fenced in by small stonewalls – glow in different shades of green or golden with wheat sheaf swaying heavy on the stems. We identified potatoes, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, tomatoes, but lots of other vegetables we did not know. The branches of the apricot- and apple trees hang low from the weight of the many fruits. Even grapes grow at this height.
In-between this pastoral setting sit stone houses with bright flowers all around them. You immediately feel “this must remain a secret” and you know it won’t, because since 2010 tourists can travel beyond Hundar until Turtuk. From here only the Shyok River continues, all the way into Baltistan, in present day mostly in Pakistan. Turtuk always seemed to have been an outpost, until 1971 it was part of Pakistan. The residents of this paradise are Balti, like in Kargil.
There is not one place where you cannot hear the gurgling or gushing of water. The cool mountain spring water that rushes down the mountain slope is guided into small channels that intercept the village itself and the agricultural area.