Sarchu – the place that took me forever


This is one of the blogs which I had longed to write with the whole of my heart and soul but still struggled to find the right words or perhaps that is why. Words constantly failed me while I tried to describe what I felt and still feel for this place. I am just hoping that this write up lives up to the worth of what an explorer might be looking for.

Though the entire Himalayan range is nothing less than a wonderland but a few places capture your heart forever and Sarchu is one of those places for me. Nothing could describe Sarchu perfectly than the phrase “a place absolutely out of nowhere”.

It was never on my list to explore. I hadn’t even heard of it a year ago. They say that the best things happen to you accidentally and we accidentally stumbled upon Sarchu. I have been exploring the Himalayas with my husband through road trips for years now. We have covered the entire crown of India, seeing majestic views, intimidating mountain ranges, few of the highest motorable passes in the world and what not but nothing comes close to what this fantastic place is, in my mind.

I am more of a beach person who would want to spend her holiday laying on a relaxing chair, overlooking the ocean. And it’s an irony that so far, no beach, no staring at the ocean for hours could make me feel what I felt in Sarchu that has/captured my heart forever.

Sarchu; amidst ice-laden mountains, turquoise sky, with a hint of greenery in the valley, and a flowing river is located at the border between Himachal Pradesh & Ladakh in India. It’s situated at an altitude of 14,070 ft above sea level on Leh-Manali Highway. Tourists take refuge here for an overnight stay during their journey back and forth Leh- Manali which is covered comfortably in two days taking terrain in consideration and this is exactly what we did. Little did I know that I would be taken forever by its tranquility.

So, how do you reach Sarchu? What is the best season to visit this tranquil place?

For now, Sarchu is reachable via Leh- Manali highway when the road is operational which is maintained by Border Road Organization (BRO). The place is not accessible through train or a nearby airport and I wish that the commute stays the same forever so that its serenity remains unmarred. One can reach Sarchu starting from any end of Leh-Manali highway due to its perfect distance from both the cities.

Sarchu is open for travel only for a couple of months, roughly starting the end of May when the highway is cleared off heavy snow until the end of October when snowfall starts again to cover the entire highway making it unsuitable for any vehicle movement. Tourists either travel through their own vehicles or hired ones and this is best recommended. We had ourselves hired self-driven SUV which was suitable for the Himalayan rocky terrain from Delhi, capital of India using one of the commercial services. As stated earlier, we discovered Sarchu on our way from Leh to Manali.

And, what does it have to offer for accommodation?

We hadn’t decided where we would stay next when we left Leh. It was a totally spontaneous trip. And there before sunset, arrives, Sarchu rightly situated with all its glory. You would want to just stop and absorb its beauty which can be overwhelming when it strikes the right chord inside. We decided to make it our next stop for the entire night, the moment we saw it from the distance. We immediately stopped at a roadside camping venue and hired one for a night within 15 minutes of our arrival without giving it a second thought.

Our experience of night stay was no less than an adventure, taking refuge among mighty mountains with absolutely no civilization for miles, with no other tourists to accompany. We were perhaps the first travelers to accommodate that season. This was my first experience of staying in a camp without usual luxurious comforts that you find in boutique and business hotels and I just adored it for what it was. We were fortunate to reach before sunset and saw mesmerizing dusk, how the sun goes behind the mountain range leaving behind a beautiful twilight in the sky. Morning wasn’t less mesmerizing either which took our breath away.

Camping staff took care of basic necessities within the tents and the food provided was cooked by them which was a simple preparation that goes well with people of all palettes. We had evening tea upon reaching followed by dinner and breakfast in the morning which was included in the overall package.

The camps are very well equipped to protect against the cold with enough space for bedding and an attached area for toilet utility. These tents are very reasonably priced for the comfortable stay they offer.

How safe and secure is Sarchu?

I don’t think that my claim of Sarchu being absolutely safe would be too much of a boasting since I am in love with it. This place is both figuratively and factually safe due to the presence of Indian Army camp right beside commercial camping on the other bank of Tsarap Chu river. Camps are either laid out by locals or companies through local staff who are helpful and do not want tourism to be tainted due to any mishappening hence are very careful in handling tourists hence one can rest assured.

Journey ahead:

I long to go there again, lose myself in a trance-like state that it invokes. In fact, we planned to be there this year in June when we embarked upon the second round of Ladakh exploration, but we couldn’t get on Leh – Manali highway which was still covered with heavy layers of snow. They say man proposes, God disposes, and this is what happened to our well thought of one-year planning to reach Sarchu and re-live the trance.

I know in my heart that I would be there again before this lifetime ends; to see that dusk, to lose myself in that enigmatic trance.

Sarchu – a place absolutely out of nowhere; the place that took me forever much before I arrived; the place that set me free.

Sarchu; you have my heart forever.

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