The riverbed was very wide, composed of fluid lines of grey sand and a meandering trail of turquoise water. It was idyllic and peaceful. Later, when the snow would melt, the riverbed would fill and raging torrents, carrying sediments and minerals, would dominate. Then the river would froth and the colour of water would change to grey.
Where there is water there is life. Melting snow was being channelled to irrigate picture-perfect terraced fields. Sprouts of crops were starting to cover the soil with the freshest of green. The sound of water flowing in streams was gentle and soothing. This is the season when barren trees blossom. The trees were covered with blankets of flowers, all offset against dark sinuous branches and those harsh, barren mountains. The petals were white, pink and cream, translucent with delicate, sensuous veins and textures. The pollen was a yellow ochre, fluorescent even in the dullest of light.
Grandness and serendipity here are felt at all scales. On the way to Saling from Khaplu, between the bed of the Thalle and Shyok rivers, two trees punctuated a jeep track. I will never forget the pull towards them. They seemed to define a portal. One tree was orange, the other yellow. Both were almost without leaves and of the same species. In early spring, I think, they transition from brown through these colours to green, then sprout leaves and wear the same summer cloaks. They intrigue me still and leave me with a desire to learn more.
Poplar trees are a prominent feature of these landscapes. They are used for defining fields, demarcating land and providing fuel. Their leaves had not sprouted, and their upright brush-like branches were a light beige. In many places, they were offset against darker trees and rocks. Viewed from a distance, lines of poplar layered the landscape into horizontal bands. When the breeze moved their branches, it made the mountainsides shimmer. The imagery was dynamic and mesmerising.
The contrast in scale from mountains to pollen, the juxtaposition of desert, barren, shattered, life-taking mountains against life-giving water, lush fields and fruit-bearing trees is beyond description. It has to be seen and then felt. There was gentleness in this symphony of glory, and an immeasurable sense of joy. I have attempted to photograph what I felt, but images alone do not express the beauty that exists in these wonderful valleys of Baltistan.
All photographs are by the author(Tariq Alexander Qaiser)