We’ve heard scary things about Sarchu. It’s far from the highest point in the country; in fact, it’s in a valley, but the temperatures supposedly drop well below freezing, and the wind is said to be relentless. There’s also a rumour that hundreds of giant marmots come out to roam the valley at night, but that’s a little less daunting.
It’s not a long drive, so we take the opportunity to get in a solid breakfast at the hotel in Jispa. The terrain is likely to get really hairy, however, so we make sure the Audis’ tyres are inflated to the proper recommended pressure.
It’s a good thing we did, too, as right off the bat, we’re treated to some really rough stuff. The two extra full-size spare tyres are looming large in the Q7’s boot, but thanks to that extra dose of Slime at the start (see our blog from Day 6), we haven’t too much to worry about.
Things aren’t all bad though, and for every stretch of mangled quasi-road, there is at least one short ribbon of pristine tarmac – the roads here often change from good to bad (and back) as quickly as the Q5’s S-Tronic gearbox changes ratios. Then there’s the scenery, which again is sometimes brown nothingness all the way to the horizon, and sometimes throws up vistas that would put the Swiss Alps to shame. Take, for instance, the road leading up to Bara-lacha La, which is banked on both sides by shelves of ice that sometimes get up to six feet tall (this is summer, in winter it’s 16 feet). And in the lap of four snow-covered mountains sits a lake that is bluer than the sky above it. It’s absolutely mesmerising.
Soon, we’re nearing Sarchu, and the terrain has flattened out into a vast plain with mountains on either side. It’s noticeably colder, there’s a ferocious breeze blowing, and as we pull into our campsite, we’re reluctant to leave the climate controlled warmth of the cars. A steaming cup of lemon tea soothes our nerves as we watch the sun go down over the mountains in preparation for the frigid night ahead.
And just for the record, we saw all of six marmots playing in the grass.