SURUoor! The title may sound a bit cheeky but the experience to the valley was nothing less than intoxicating.
At 6 a.m. we woke, had quick breakfast and by 7 we were in our car and headed towards Suru Valley (Ladakh, ex-Sonamarg). Yaaaayy!
Way too excited, I was this crazy passenger with her head on a swivel soaking up the scenery ahead, changes in the landscape and terrain, seeing people who don’t see me, a voyeur in a car. I was instructed to sit back and enjoy the ride and this trip was already amazing.
With the ubiquitous scent of mustard and eucalyptus wafting through the open car windows, we were cruising through this refreshing morning with air soothing the nerves, I was captivated.
“There it is!” I pointed and scrambled for my camera to get the shot that disappeared as fast as it had appeared. “Gosh! I lost the shot.” I huffed, letting the camera and my hands drop to my lap, only to raise them again around the next curve when the view returned from a slightly different angle. I soon understood that these shots and that phrase would recur over and over.
I wondered if I could live here, suddenly tight hairpin curves start popping up and I quickly changed my mind. The roads started to curve. At this point in the drive, the road is close, tight on either edge. The terrain is close. The land is steep and falls sharply on the sides of the road uphill into rocky cliffs (or to the fall into the Sindh River, deep down under). The walls of the mountains are too close. The views were constrained now. Zoji la Pass it is (11,649 ft. above sea level). The haven for off-roaders and a heart-sinker for me.
My two eyes riveted to the winding narrow pass of road. I check myself from suddenly pointing and exclaiming, “look at that!” so as not to distract him (my husband). We drove and drove. So many cars, those huge trucks and bikes, all moving on that narrow single-lane road with no shoulder, no barriers. The blind curves just emerged. I caught my breath more than once as he concentrated on the drive. Slow and steady, slow and steady!
As we emerged from around the curves and those scary cliffs, I sighted for the first time, this huge welcome sign of the Drass military camp and Kargil War Memorial and then sprung up a long valley. It was mid noon, the mountains around shone like molten gold with sparse greenery and numerous herds of those mischievous lambs, prancing around them were these small kids with twinkling eyes and apple red cheeks. Such happy faces, the sense of freedom, as if they owned the place. More dreamlike hamlets pass by, and then the vistas started becoming magical as the valley started turning wide with Suru River relentlessly flowing besides us. The pastures started turning greener and trees became thicker and that continuous mist running throughout, I was mesmerized.
Our first halt since morning was Kargil. (Oh yes, forgot to mention, we were scheduled to camp at Parkachik village.) So without wasting much time we fetched our lunch, asked for directions and drove ahead. By the way, for the month of September, the place was quite nippy and often heavy winds almost blew us away, but as I was blindfolded with love, everything felt just perfect.
Suru River kept flirting with us, meandering from one side to the other as we raced together to our destination. “Stop, stop…right here, errmm for nice pictures, pleeease!” This place was high above those grand mountains. We got off and what we witnessed from up there was so out of this world, pristine, so very heavenly *sigh* The golden mountains rolled down into those thick emerald plateaus, with azure Suru flowing carelessly overlooked by those tiny colourful houses, orchards and fields. So quiet, so untouched *love struck* *AGAIN*
After getting my senses back, we continued with our drive. More gorgeous hamlets, many more smiling faces helped us to our destination for the day.
Parkachik village it is. Surrounded by towering mountains, this place was way too picturesque and refreshing.
With the help of a few locals around we finally zeroed in onto this field for our overnight camp, right on the banks of our impish (and now) a very noisy Suru. All settled and “camped”, tired and sleepy as we were about to retire, the starkly glittering sky started romancing. Gosh! Where in this busy polluted world do we get to see these twinkling lovers high up above? And we stayed up till late till the time the chill in the air pushed us inside of our tent and those warm sleepers.
Rise and shine! My “human-love” laid the breakfast table (with our packed meals), right outside our tent. As the sun rose higher and the skies got clearer, we saw what we came down looking for, all the way to this tiny village, the glorious peaks of Nun-Kun. Standing majestically right above this lush green village, boasting their snow tiaras, the sister peaks were just stunning.
I was almost lost in this wonderland of extreme serenity and solitude. Let me be here, let this be mine forever. Perhaps this is where I always wanted to be.
Looking at me, he kept smiling…