Friday, July 28, 2017

Ladhak & Kashmir 2010 - Day 9 - Parkachik Glacier And On...

‘Shukriya Janab’ were the words of the Muslim caretaker as my father tipped him before we left the place after breakfast to continue our journey on what was going to be a never ending road.

Now, as I read this travel book, I believe this place where we had spent the night was Parkachik, 11800 feet above sea level, the last Suru Valley village, the last Muslim settlement ...interesting!, if the place was Parkachik indeed!

But the two distinct snow covered mountains that this place offered were, no doubt the Nun-Kun peaks. The one that looked smoother and evenly smeared with snow was the Nun, the highest peak in Indian Jammu and Kashmir, 23408 feet high. Kun, the sister, to the right of Nun, separated by Nun, by what should be a vast icy plateau, 4 km wide, was 23218 feet high, with no definite shape, contours, or consistency as far as ‘ice coverage’ was concerned.

Some distance after we started driving that morning, we saw the Parkachik glacier, the snout of which dipped into the Suru river. We wouldn’t have noticed it, had I not been looking for it and asking the driver about it.

Glaciers are so phenomenal, so wondrous and they would look great too, if not for the ash coloured mud covering them almost all over that camouflage them with their surroundings. As I zoomed in and captured the hundreds of sharp icy little projections rising out of the glacier where the soil-covering wasn’t, little did I know that I was going to be at an arm’s distance from incredibly aquamarine two and three feet high conical needles that the glacier at Mount Everest base camp was made of.

At a turn, I had the car stop. Before us was a river, that was a beautiful danger unleashed. As if the flood gates, somewhere upstream, had not just opened, but had been blown away. As the river, all froth and foam, sprang up to us in sprays, ‘My heart is in my mouth’, said my dad. Or do I imagine him saying it? I walked to the edge of the road, fear having left my body long ago and wonder come over me completely, as it always does when I am in the mountains, only to leave me in greater fear as well as wonder, when I am back in the safety of my home, at the recklessness I could possibly become capable of. I took some pictures and walked back.

As we drove further the valley widened and there were some plains on both sides of the road sloping up until they touched the base of the wall of mountains.

We saw horses grazing. White and brown. I think they were mules. Trucks drove towards us. Little pools of water reflected the mountains.bunches of yellow flowers broke the monotony of the plains. A sparkling river on the right A little stream from the left. A mountain to our left in two colours – dull jade and cookie beige, made interesting only by their contrast. Marmots, quite a few of them – peeking from between the little rocks strewn over the plains on both sides of the road – shy, agile and quick to wiggle into the rocks when we slowed down to take pictures. Thus it went on.

And then, 2-3 buildings, a bleak sign of human life and activity amidst this jungle of nothingness. And as we drove some more, a dozen buildings dwarfed into little matchboxes by the mountains around. A row of neat tents away from the road, someplace on the plains. A hill covered in moss green velvet cover...