In Rumbak, a Himalayan Idyll

Rumbak, nestled in the lap of the Stok range, has only nine houses, warm Ladakhi hospitality and remarkable views of the upper Himalayas.

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With the backdrop of the towering Himalayas, Rumbak village in frosty Ladakh offers picturesque views and heart-warming connections. Photo by: Avidha Raha

A D V E R T I S E M E N T

It all started with my obsession with trekking inside the Hemis High Altitude National Park. While there were a number of villages offering homestays inside this remote paradise in Ladakh, of them, I found Rumbak the most interesting, possibly because this little hamlet serves as a popular halt for trekkers going to Markha valley, Ganda La pass or Stok La pass. Also known for its snow leopard trail, Rumbak serves as a strategic location to spot the wild cats during winters, along with their primary prey—blue sheep and Himalayan ibex.

I started the trek from Zingchen. While there used to be a motorable road to Rumbak earlier, recent avalanches and floods have washed away pretty much all of it. However, slow travel has its own advantages and the visuals on the steep trek to 13,100 feet were unparalleled, the landscape turning from grey and green to brown and red. The trail ends up along a gorge through which flows a stream originating at the glacier, and gigantic mountains hem the route on both sides. The first sighting of the Stok range comes upon travellers along this path, without warning, around what seems like just another bend in the road. I stopped for a break, both to catch my breath and take in the magnificent view.

 

In Rumbak, A Himalayan Idyll

A turn between Zincheng and Rumbak reveals the rugged Stok range, a spot famed among trekkers. Photo by Avidha Raha

 

Late in the afternoon, I finally reached a junction on the left of which lay Rumbak village, while Markha valley was on the right. A few steep steps later, I finally arrived at the tiny village with only nine houses, nestled in the lap of the Stok range.

 

In Rumbak, A Himalayan Idyll

Village women have been trained to combat dry terrains in pursuit of harvesting vegetables such as peas and potatoes. Photo by: Avidha Raha

 

Despite the terrain being predominantly dry, the locals have been fairly successful with agriculture, growing vegetables such as peas, potatoes and turnips, among others. A large part of the credit for this lies with the Union Territory’s horticulture department, which has trained the village’s women. Indeed it is the women, children and elderly whom visitors to this Himalayan idyll would find greeting them, as most of the men live and work in places such as Leh, Kargil and Srinagar. The families in the village are Buddhist and speak Ladakhi.

 

In Rumbak, A Himalayan Idyll

Tunnelling into the warm homestays after a taste of the biting Ladakhi air is all things comfort. Photo by: Avidha Raha

 

Most travellers to Rumbak are trekkers and the local economy has adapted well to serve their needs. Each of the nine homes in the village is equipped to host travellers and all have the same facilities on offer for a rather reasonable sum. The homestays are assigned by the well-organised community system, ensuring equal distribution of income.

 

In Rumbak, A Himalayan Idyll

Warm hospitality of the villagers blanket against the freezing temperatures. Photo by: Avidha Raha

 

I was hosted by an elderly woman named Tsering Dolkar and her daughter Phunchok Dolma who allotted me a room at the top of their balcony. Although the amenities are basic, you won’t really notice given the incredible view out the enormous glass windows. Apart from the warm hospitality, what I was most grateful for was the home cooked Ladakhi meals. I hogged on homemade khambir (local bread), butter and tsochik, but my favourite dish was Chhutagi. The wheat dough was hand-rolled, giving it the appearance of pasta; my host suggested it was a “Tibetan influenced Ladakhi pasta with mutton”. And while there isn’t cellular network up there, on the roof of the world, the village Panchayat had recently set up Wi-Fi, making life infinitely easier.

 

In Rumbak, A Himalayan Idyll

A piping bowl of Chhutagi, otherwise known as the Ladakhi pasta  is the way to a happy heart. Photo by: Avidha Raha

 

My days at Rumbak were spent walking in the shadow of the Stok range, playing with local farm animals, catching glimpses of local fauna such as Himalayan magpies (although all attempts to spot snow leopards were unsuccessful), and helping my hosts harvest peas. I look forward to returning to that little slice of paradise, perhaps in another season.

 

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A D V E R T I S E M E N T

A D V E R T I S E M E N T

A D V E R T I S E M E N T

A D V E R T I S E M E N T
  • Avidha Raha is a traveller, writer and photographer interested in political history and sustainable ecologies. She likes to call herself a free bird fitting no boxes and has worked for several editorials and publications.

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