Nature's Wonders - Places

Himalayan Safari Tales #5 – Uley Ethnic Resort, Uleytokpo

Kargil is normally the night halt for most travelers from Srinagar to Leh. We, however, had other plans. Our plan was to travel past Kargil and camp at Uleytokpo, which is just short of 70 kms from Leh. The vehicles that were to pick us up from Kargil didn’t turn up. Telephone lines were down in Kargil for the past 3 days and we had no way to get in touch with the vehicles. So, in the middle of Kargil town, we remained cut-off. However, in less than an hour, Asif managed to get a 12-seater tempo traveler who agreed to drop us till Uleytokpo. To our luck, this vehicle was returning to Leh after dropping a group at Kargil.

Even though Drass is considered as the gateway to Ladakh, perhaps Kargil town fits that description more than anything else. Across the Suru river, on the other side of Kargil town, the landscape changes dramatically. From green valley, it changes into arid mountain desert. As the sun slowly goes down the hill, distant dry mountain peaks with snowcaps reveal varying hues of golden colour. Roads continue to be bad. The tiring journey and bad headache pushed us into a slumber, and we missed Mulbek monastery and the Maitreya Budhha.

Sometime in the night, as cold creeped into our bones, we stopped at Fotu-la. At 13,478 ft, Fotu-La is the highest point on the Srinagar–Leh Road. The road then descends to Lamayuru. An accident down this road created a block and we had to take another route.

Finally, it was at 2.30 am that we reached the Uley Ethnic Resort.

Tidy and tiny cottages set amid a small apricot grove in an arid mountain desert. That sums up this resort. A nice restaurant and courteous staff adds to its charm. The resort is open only for 4-5 months in a year and remains cut off mostly during the rest of the year. The staff is mostly from the plains: UP, Uttarkhand, and Bihar. Adding a south Indian flavor is the Kerala Massage Center managed by trained masseurs from Kerala who comes during the season.

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