45: Was the age that I thought I will go to Leh via road.
25: Was my age when my best friend agreed to accompany me for a journey which my mother suggested to do right away.
With a lot of bloggers advising us against it because of acclimatisation issues and my boss, adamant on not giving so many leaves, I still couldn’t forgo the recent obsession. Hence, was formulated the trip, to Leh.
We travelled from Delhi via Manali to Keylong where we were told that the 21 Gata Loops before Sarchu will be a task to surmount. Though that was something our New i20 took care of. What actually amazed us was the view while climbing the loops. The higher we went the crazier it became. We could see whitish-grey landscape which we had left behind, the deserted barren grey mountains that surrounded us and the crystal clear blue sky cover us. I remember feeling confused which way to look because the scene would change with every turn we took and it would surprise me every time.
We finally reached Sarchu to be welcomed by a straight stretch of road which is a fairly pleasant relief after the loops and the mountain curves. The topography of this place was very different than what we had seen on our journey; the grey deserted mountains give way to a more brownish and fertile looking range, the ground sheds the white to turn slightly green again, the sky shows signs of life with big fluffy clouds hurrying away to someplace, the road is perfectly smooth and straight, so much so that we left the car on first gear and ran along with it (certainly not advised). With the sun shining nice and bright we spent good 2 hours lazing on the ground amidst mildly cold winds before proceeding towards our camp.
Once at the camp which was neat and spacious the first thing we did was click, click and click a little more, such was the beauty of this place. Beyond a point we stopped clicking because the camera could never capture what our eyes could see, I will understand if you want to question the camera make and model but believe me it is irrelevant. We were aware of the dangers this altitude posed, so once the scenery around had sunk in we decided to eat drink (water only) and then sleep, rest was quintessential at this altitude.
After a troubled sleep, thinking all along that I was wasting precious time, I got up. I climbed up a small hillock nearby and heard the song of the rivulet flowing nearby. I wonder for how long I sat there because I was lost staring in the eyes of eternity. My entire life before this looked small as compared to what I was seeing around me.
It was love at first sight and it was tough to break the gaze.
I remember it was the sudden chill in the air which forced me back to the comfort of the tent. Some warm clothes and tea gave me much needed warmth. But the temperature kept dropping by the minute and the winds became stronger and colder. I could feel the chill tremble my bones even after all the clothes I was wearing. Some enthu cutlets of the camp even had to be rushed to the nearby Military Hospital for acclimatization issues.
Army is the only lifeline one has at that place.
By nightfall when the sick people were back after a free of cost oxygen treatment by the Indian Army, we could no longer step out of the tent for long due to the wind. The two of us were parked right next to the kitchen for warmth during dinner. Even washroom visits were a task and that too at a place where we were advised to have lot of water to stay fit. But it was the full moon that illuminated the entire place in an entirely different fashion that would pull us out of our tents and the chilling winds would send us scurrying back in.
The moonlit Sarchu is undoubtedly the best sight I remember from the entire trip.
The night was an ordeal with the winds hitting hard on our tents and a lot of people around us falling sick. But by God’s grace and Army’s help, the night passed without any harm.
Next day morning as the sun sprinkled its warm light on Sarchu, we were both set to pursue our journey further to Leh. But it was the moonlit night at Sarchu that amazed, delighted, humbled me and left me overwhelmed by its vastness and grace.
Till I see you again…
Author: Geetika Kasturi
Geetika works as a publication manager with a think tank for a living, travels to the hills for surviving and writes to maintain sanity between the two.