Stories From The Camp: The Wari-la Pass Experience
Our guests absolutely love the Wari-la pass picnic. Lavish set-up , mouth-watering gourmet cuisine and never-ending mesmerising views of the valley…what’s not to love? Our resident blogger, Rupert Winchester, tells you all about it here.
Sometimes, here at the Chamba Camp, Thiksey, it can be difficult to tell where the genius of The Ultimate Travelling Camp starts, and the sublime influence of the landscape takes over. Or vice-versa. As summer begins for real, and the camp begins to fill with dazzling flowers, as the snow melts off the distant mountaintops and the rivers swell with melting water, you’re often possessed with a sense of magic that this landscape imparts.
But then you go on a day’s excursion, carefully thought out and planned by the staff at TUTC, and you realise that the people who have thought about it have brought so much more to the experience. Such a day was yesterday, when we went for what’s known as a ‘live lunch’ at the Wari-La pass.
The Wari La (La means ‘pass’ in Tibetan) is one of the ancient trade routes over the Ladakh range. At its highest point, it hits 5,280 metres (17,322). Even higher peaks stand sentinel on either side, including the magnificent Tangyer, at 5,920 metres, or 19,500 feet.
On a map, the road leading from the Indus Valley up to Wari-La looks like it was drawn by a seismograph machine in a film about earthquakes, it moves so violently from side to side. On the ground, the scale of the zig-zags the road takes is such that it becomes hardly noticeable. Firstly you drive through little villages, and fields planted with yellow mustard and barley. Then past temples perched high on the hillsides, past bizarre rock formations, weathered boulders and cows grazing on the thin pasture.
Then you get into the vast, huge bowl that the Wari-La sits at the top of. It is astonishingly beautiful, with soft sage green hillsides interspersed with brown and ochre, in almost psychedelic combinations. The scale of the place is breathtaking, almost too big to take in, devoid of anything that looks man-made, so you have nothing for your eyes to refer to. It just goes on and on.
You pull ever upwards, along the seismograph-needle road, the valley falling away beneath you, a bright green with the poplars and willows. The clouds envelop the mountaintops, like a soft white shawl, dripping into the cols and across the arêtes, shifting in the breeze.
And then, on a plateau, you stop, and there is a pergola, and some familiar staff faces from back at the camp. You get out and marvel at the huge silence, broken only by the distant gurgle of a stream tumbling down the mountain, and someone hands you a glass of wine.
After soaking up the views, you sit down to lunch: Greek salad, pasta and tiramisu, with a spot more wine. Then coffee, and more gazing. Afterwards, if you feel up to it, you can take a mountain bike back down to the valley, rather depending on how well you’ve lunched.
And this is, I think, the magic that TUTC produces: they take a stunning location, and make it even better, with top-notch service, wonderful food and thoughtful touches (they take up fire extinguishers, portable toilets and wastepaper baskets – they don’t forget anything.) The magic is Ladakh; TUTC is the icing on the cake.
Interested in a luxury experience beyond par in the Land of Lamas?
Take a look at the experiences we offer