Day 33 - Darcha to Sarchu

La - such a musical name for a Himalayan pass. Jay encounters them as he rides up from Darcha to Sarchu to enjoy a long afternoon in the high Himalayas

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Riding through a long valley where the landscape got drier.

 

I had a good night's sleep in the dhaba bed and with no toilet facilities, I did my morning rituals down by the river with an amazing view of snow peaks all around. What a way to start the day! I had my last chance to connect online with my BSNL prepaid SIM card and from here on, there would be no connection till Leh as prepaid SIM cards don't work in Jammu & Kashmir due to security reasons. 

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The route slowly climbed from the 3,350 m (10,990 ft) that Darcha was at up through even more snow banks to Baralacha La at 4,950 m (16,235 ft) ('La' means pass in the Ladakhi language). It was so beautiful to be winding on a tarmac road for kilometers with snow piled up on either side. From the top I could see that it was a huge snowfield with a path cut through it for the road to emerge. All these roads are maintained by the Border Roads Organization, a support unit of the Indian Army, and they are doing a fantastic job of keeping these roads maintained through such harsh terrain.
 

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A frozen lake north of Baralach La. Winter beauty in summer.


On the other side of Baralacha La, I rode past a frozen lake and just had to stop to soak in the amazing beauty and the pure stillness of the sound. Coming down from the pass, I met up with a British couple who had rented an Enfield from Manali for a two-week trip through Ladakh and into Kashmir. We had been passing each other all day and eventually started traveling together for the rest of way to Leh.

The endless snow banks slowly faded as we rode away from Baralacha La and then all of a sudden, the scenery changed and things got drier. I realized we had crossed from the wet side of the Himalayas into its rain shadow. The Himalayas are a gigantic barrier to the rain clouds that pass over India and as they hit the mountains, they dump their load either as rain or snow and then on the other side, there is hardly any precipitation, leading to the dry nature of the land.
 

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A desert-scape with snow. The Himalayas are stunning.


We all got to Sarchu by early afternoon and instead of pushing ahead to the next dhaba junction over two more passes, we decided to call it a day and enjoy the afternoon in the high Himalayas. Sarchu is the last post in Himachal Pradesh and sits at a breathtaking altitude of 4,330 m (14,202 ft). It's placed on a ridge with a beautiful view of mountains all around and we just soaked in the sights and relished the day's ride.

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