Leave early, blast past Rohtang into the deep
Now you can see the swirls and knife edges of different strata, blazing colors of an alien planet, hear the sound of the wind whistling past dry rock instead of just ruffling leaves; and everything is bathed in pure, clean sunlight, unfiltered by dirt, cloud, moisture, or even that much air. The colors are deeper, more intense; everything's more silent, and the world seems a lot bigger.
They say Ladakh is the only place in the world where you can get frostbite and sunburn at the same time, standing half-in, half-out of shade. Believe it.
By afternoon, we cross Darcha and enter
This is your supermarket, restaurant, hotel, everything-you-ever-wanted stop. If they don’t have it, you don’t need it. I’m wolfing down a meat-chawal at the Geeta dhaba and can feel the chill coming on; the rajais piled up in a corner of the dimly lit tent start looking more essential than earlier thought. And it’s just late afternoon!
The rock looks alive. Veined, glowing, varied, dynamic; like a photograph of violent action, frozen in mid-step. It may not move, but you can see how it would, if you could stare in geological time. The
Ever wondered – is this why mountain religions counsel the search for inner peace, rather than working for a heavenly reward? Out here, the heavens are not even half their usual size; a poor second to the earth, which is all around and towering up, fantastical and awe-inspiring.
16,500 feet. It’s an eerie place – in the fading daylight, even the wind has dropped, and the ubiquitous prayer flags just wave gently instead of fluttering. All around are thousands and thousands of little stone
It’s a disquieting sight, because these are all so obviously made. But you look around, and the landscape is empty. It brings home to you how lonely the place is; people come here, in twos, threes, or small groups, build a cairn, and leave. For so many to exist, they must have been doing this for thousands of years.
Some of these same rock piles would have been around for longer than I’ve been alive. Unmoving and silent, in an unmoving, silent world. While literally everything in my life happened. And they’ll probably be here long after I'm dead, too…
Sarchu Oasis Camps… is a tent township, a collection of campsites. Luxury tents, with beds, attached toilets, dining hall, all the comforts of home.
The minimum temperature, even in peak summer can drop below zero; that’s why so little vegetation can survive. Wind chill can freeze your nuts off, and in winter, it’s white death.
It’s late, and the last of the day’s sun glows on the peaks on one side; the valley’s a quiet, shady calmness with a brilliant blue sky fading to indigo, gold-white bas of cloud, and a visibly narrowing band of yellow-brown on the surrounding peaks. These pictures can't even come close to conveying the color of the sky; it's come faded, washed out. The real thing is deep, deep blue, crystalline, close enough to touch yet bigger than anything you've ever seen before...
Also realize I've been constipated for 3 days; ask Rc for advice, but what he gives instead is a foul, thick, semi-solid revolting concentrated isabgol concoction. Somehow manage to drink it don and keep it down. Let's see what the morning brings.
"Will we remember this when we go back?" he asked. "Or will this fade away in a few days in the daily grind, when we're back in office?"
It was as much a question to himself as to me, and I don't have an answer... but I kept thinking about it.
When you fall in love - with a person, a place, an experience - you take away the memories, but you leave behind a little piece of your soul. Maybe in the daily grind, we may forget this feeling - but we will continue to have that little ache, that tiny little emptiness deep within us that will remind us that once, long ago, far away, there was a place, a time, that we loved so much we left a part of ourselves back there. We will remember that there was a feeling we had, even if we don't remember exactly what it was. And I believe - that is enough.
Enough to bring you back. Enough to keep you going, searching for that soul-changing experience. That - that is the true spirit of adventure, the reason we travel, we explore.