By Dr Salil Choksi choksi.salil@gmail.com | 2012

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Paradise, with rugged Karakorams in the background— at Turtuk. It is a remote village inhabited by ethnic Muslims on the ''Line of Control'' between India and Pakistan. Once a part of Baltistan, it shared strong economic and cultural ties with Tibet. Turtuk and 3 other Balti villages (out of 14 in Baltistan) were captured by India in the 1971 Indo Pak war.

Serpentine Curves descending in the Shyok (river of death) valley at Turtuk. It is a highly restricted area and tourists are allowed access with permits since the summer of 2011.

Picturesque Shyok valley near Buddhist Hunder village. Tall majestic Poplar trees, amidst the Willow trees n a Buddhist chorten in the foreground. Chortens are memorials built to honour Bodhi-satvas (who are Buddha-in-waiting, not wanting to evolve into Buddhahood, till all humanity has been freed from sufferring.

Suspension Bridge.... protected by struts and Buddhist prayer flags. The Balti people are culturally and racially different from Ladakh – are believed to be of Greek descent, retaining fair skin with blonde and curvy hair. Some anthropologists believe they are descendents of King Alexandar’s army.

Road to Turtuk. Baltistan possesses approp fifty peaks with heights of more than 20,000 feet (6,100 m) above sea level. Mighty K2 - the second highest peak in the world at 8,611 meters in height – is situated here in the Karakorams.

Mountain bikers struggling at the rocky end of the road. Turtuk''s glaciers - like the Baltoro Glacier are the longest in the world outside the Polar Regions, reaching a length of 90kms.

To get to Turtuk, we landed at Leh, and after crossing Khardung La, we went across the Nubra Valley to reach Hunder. Turtuk has a festival of local culture starting March 21 every year, at Navroze when horse racing and a ferocious version of polo is played on a narrow ground.

No..this is not a road, but a glacier with the terminal morraine.

Balti children.

Animal Stone carvings (only one wizened villager retains this ancient art).

A Balti house (with Tibetan architectural influence), surrounded by stately Poplars , set in a barley field.

Natural refrigerators in stone - food stays fresh year round in these stone chambers.

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