So, you’re in Ladakh and taking in the awe-inspiring sights and breathtaking views.
A cold desert is quite an unusual site and there is much to see and discover here. But within the long tracts of dry land, there are small pockets – like oasis – patches of green in long stretches of rugged brown – where you can stop and stare at nature’s beauty.
Are you standing underneath the tree from whose wood the cricket bat gets made? Or driving past one from which your soap is made?
Stop! And Find out!
As you drive around Ladkah and gaze out into the mountains, look around you. The trees you are passing by have plenty to share as well. Besides, travelling around Ladakh involves driving long hours. Why not turn to these green sentinels to keep your child engaged and involved in what you see as you drive?
If you didn’t know already, cricket bats are made from the wood of the Willow.
The willow can be identified with its peculiar branching pattern. The branches look like the quills of the porcupine, growing in all directions in a straight erect manner.
Kashmir is an important source of willow wood for the manufacture of cricket bats.
One of the most common trees in the landscape, Poplar known in Kashmiri as Safeda due to its white coloured trunk, is a tall tree. It’s wood is soft and prone to insect attacks. Hence it is used only for the purpose of making matchboxes and wooden crates.
Again, a common tree as one drives around Ladakh, the apricot can be distinguished by its red coloured stalks. You can even pluck the fruits and taste them. if you go in May, you will find they haven’t ripened yet. Should you find yourself there in August-September, you can taste the fresh fruits.
But if you are there in May, like I was, do not despair. You can compensate with some fine dried apricots that you will find here in abundance.
We stumbled upon this little shop in Turtuk village that lies on the Pakistan border. This chacha sold us some lovely dried apricots. He also told us about the Balti people of the region and taught us a bit of the Balti language.
Kashmir is the land of Apples and one finds plenty of apple trees in Ladakh. If you are there around the month of August, you should be lucky to eat fresh juicy apples straight of the trees!
A Medium-sized tree, you can identify it even when its not fruiting by the serrated margins of its leaves and its little white flowers. Apples of several varieties grow in Ladakh such as the Royal, Golden and so on.
Clever crafting techniques have sometimes led to both varieties being grown on the same tree!
Walnut, the curious fruit that bears a frightening resemblance to the anatomy of the human brain is known to have several health benefits.
This tree too can be found all over Ladakh. Again, the best season is summer (Aug-Sept)
The Cherry needs no introduction and is often a fruit children love to eat. The Cherry Tree can be found in abundance in Ladakh and if you’re lucky, you might be able to give your child a taste of the fresh fruit straight off the tree.
7. Sea-buck Thorn
You may have heard of Sea-buck-thorn used in oils, soaps and shampoos. It is said to be a great moisturizer and good for inflammation, depression and to boost the immune system.
As you drive around Ladakh, you fill find plenty of dry scruby bushes – quite often used as hedges around farms and plots of land. If you examine them closely, you will notice they have thorns. This is the Sea-buck thorn, that has become a popular ingredient in beauty products and cosmetics.
Ladakh is a cold desert. An unusual phenomenon we have seldom imagined or thought about.
As one drives across the land, one can notice how barren and stark it is. Yet, clusters of trees can be seen along the river course, particularly around villages. The clump of trees is a good indicator to find the presence of villages and signs of life. A visual confirmation for your child who has been taught in History class at school, why the earliest civilizations all sprung up on river-valleys! (for more on how you can bring history alive for your child as you travel, click here)
And what’s more…once you familiarize yourself and your children with the Trees around, the next time you find them getting bored on a long drive, perhaps you can play a round of Spot the Tree!
Looking for more on Ladakh?
- Check out my article in the Hindu – Children on the Rooftop : Ladakh with the Little Ones
- Touch the River of India
- Chortens and Stupas Everywhere : What’s the story of the Buddha?
- Trekking in Ladakh with Children
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