Sarchu and Jispa are the overnight halts on the famous highway between Manali and Leh, which opened to foreigners only in 1989. This is the second highest motor road in the world, reaching a dizzying altitude of 5,328 metres at Taglang La. Its surfaces vary wildly, from bumpy asphalt to dirt tracks sliced by glacial streams, running through a starkly beautiful lunar wilderness, inhabited only by nomadic shepherds, tar-covered road coolies, and the gloomy soldiers that man the isolated military checkpoints. Depending on the road condition, the 485-kilometre journey can take anything from twenty to thirty hours. Be prepared for landslides and vehicular breakdowns travelling on the Leh/Manali highway; they are part of the adventure.