Conde Nast Traveller India

CLOUD ATLAS

FROM THE TOP OF THE PASS, we looked down on summer pastures shimmering with haze. Cloud shadows drifted like wandering states across the valley. Far off in the west, the grasslands tipped into empty reaches of the sky. To the south stood the ramparts of the Trans-Alai mountains, a spur of the Pamirs, armoured with snow.

A rickety truck pulled up. Ropes held precarious cargo in place, the nomads’ baggage: tents, carpets, yurt poles, felt rolls, trunks, cast-iron stoves and two boys with baby lambs.

When the doors of the cab opened, people tumbled out like a conjuring trick, first five, then 10, then 15, an extended family of four generations, from babies to an ancient granny. They gathered on the edge of the road to gaze down, like us, into the valley of Chong Kyzyl-Suu, 2,000ft below the pass, unrolled like a map of the promised land.

Two young women from the truck, sisters perhaps, stood arm in arm next to Granny, half their size. “Perhaps this summer you will be married,” Granny said, hopefully. The girls laughed. “The boys are too shy, Granny.”

Back in the car, we spiralled down from the height

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