After crossing the Rohtang pass and coming down to Keylong (3,349m approx), we started climbing the heights towards Barlacha (4,892m approx). This part of the journey is lonelier, and in a way lovelier. A few moments of peace amidst the gigantic overbearing mountains makes one comfortable in a strange way. Higher you go towards Barlacha, lesser is the vegetation. All you see is dead barren rocks, rising to monstrous heights, indifferent to being called mountains. Indifferent to curious eyes and indifferent to the noisy river gushing its way down, they stand there with only one purpose, putting one in awe of them. We came across a couple of peaceful lakes as well in the smaller more gentle corners of the mountains.
First signs of lack of oxygen began to show at Barlacha. It’s a feeling quite comparable to being high on wine, if only one could ignore the breathlessness. You move slow, you talk slow, and you don’t realize it until you try to move and try to talk. We crossed Barlacha and inched towards Sarchu (4,253m approx) which seemed to be getting more comfortable as we lost a little altitude.
The feeling of being disconnected from the world seeps in right when you cross the last cell phone tower around Keylong. When you race against time to make frantic calls and send hectic messages so that they reach before you cross the last known cellular footprint, you know that you are moving away from something and towards a beautiful nothing.
By the time you are at Sarchu, the beautiful nothings have taken real shape. There isn’t even much vegetation, let alone the absence of shops, people, or cell phone networks. There are camps at Sarchu, with 8-10 tents each, which are managed by a few brave locals during summers. Apart from this, there is an army base camp nearby, which provides medical support and a weekly telephone service.
It was almost when we reached Sarchu and we had warm Maggie for dinner. The low on oxygen air and low air pressure had begun to take effect. The chill factor was manageable unless the wind hit you directly. Life wasn’t really difficult, but it was slow. In words, movements and thoughts.
While we lay inside the tent, saved from direct winds, the loneliness of the place magnified by the warmth of having your loved one in your arms, gave a surreal meaning to the word beauty.
It felt nice and it felt complete.