Hanle – A Cold Desert in Changthang | Ladakh – 2012

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The Journey so far…

Day 4 (Second Half) | Tso Moriri – Sumdo – Mahe – Nyoma – Loma – Hanle

It was a great fun filled an hour or so, near the banks of Tso Moriri lake before we actually started towards Hanle, our night stop for the day at about 11.15 AM. Again the land was so barren and remote, made us feel right into the lap of mother nature and the Himalayas. Beauty, ever so serene, ever so bold, ever so barren and ever so harsh… Only few days in today’s modern age of life, you see or witness such things!! I was in a state of trance with the nature, floating in the dreams ogling at the beauty outside the car windows… We saw so many wild horses, running around, grazing… giving it a final touch of heaven :)…  Once we crossed, Kiagar Tso finally after about 30 odd KMs the road appeared back and it was some sign of relief. Finally, some civilization as we saw a local of Sumdo Village standing in between road, asking for lift upto the village. We had space in the car so a “Juley” and got him with us and dropped him at Sumdo, a Juley again and with smiles, we moved on… Around 12.45 PM we reached Mahe bridge, which brought us back to main road. There is a small Dhabha at Mahe where we had black tea, Maggie and Thupka. After about half an hour we left for Hanle…

Mystical… Calmness of Changthang…
Mystical... Calmness of Changthang...
All set to leave Tso Moriri…
All set to leave Tso Moriri...
A Wild Horse of Changthang…
A Wild Horse of Changthang
Magical… Roads of Changthang…
Magical... Roads of Changthang...
Mystical… Calmness of Changthang…
Mystical... Calmness of Changthang...
Pristine… The Cold Desert – Changthang…
Pristine... The Cold Desert - Changthang...
Pristine… The Cold Desert – Changthang…
Pristine... The Cold Desert - Changthang...
Magical… Roads of Changthang…
Magical... Roads of Changthang...
Curving its way to Tso Moriri from Kiagar Tso…
Curving its way to Tso Moriri from Kiagar Tso
Beautiful… The Frozen Kiagar Tso…
Beautiful... The Frozen Kiagar Tso

Hanle is about 150 KMs from Mahe and the road runs through Nyoma and then Loma, where you need to pass the bridge on right that takes you to Hanle further 50 KMs ahead of Loma. Hats off to BRO, that they have created such smooth roads in the cold desert at such high altitude and harsh conditions. As you move towards Hanle, the size of the mountains starts to decrease and you start witnessing a series of small mountains clustered together giving a feeling of a different world altogether. The journey to Nyoma – Loma and up to Hanle is extremely nice with beautiful vistas all around you and in fact it is one of those journeys which I can go ever and ever again… I had never been to such a beautiful place ever. Roads were freshly laid but with caution, do not cruise as there are inverted bumps left on the roads so that the water passes by, so be careful with the drive :)…

We passed through Nyoma, which is nothing a small village primarily the army settlement and recently was in news for Jawans and Seniors clash, we clicked few pictures and moved on. Another 30 minutes and we were at Loma, where the is a checkpost and one have to submit the permits there before moving ahead either towards Tsaga – Chusul – Pangong Tso route or want to go to Hanle. In both cases, permits need to be submitted at Loma checkpost. Again, army is extremely strict here and you cannot take the picture of any bridge including the Loma bridge. In fact, norms are such strict that there is no off-roading allowed in side whole of Changthang and is primarily on of the violations most people make, which lets DC office stop issuing the permits. Any ways back to story, we submitted the permits and didn’t dare to get out of the car due to some scary dogs watching at us 🙂 … We submitted the permits and moved into the interiors of the cold desert towards Hanle.

Pristine… The Cold Desert – Changthang…
Pristine... The Cold Desert - Changthang
Leading all the way to Hanle from Nyoma…
Leading all the way to Hanle from Nyoma
Pristine… The Cold Desert – Changthang…
Pristine... The Cold Desert - Changthang

As we moved in, the vistas were becoming more and more beautiful, some of the mountains looked like pyramids of Egypt… The natural light play over the peaks was as majestic as the freshly laid roads. Finally, what I was looking for “Kiangs – The Tibetan Wild Asses”, who are pretty shy by nature and mostly feed upon the rarest of vegetation found in this harsh terrain. Kiangs are mostly found in Changthang region of Ladakh and Moore Plains at Manali – Leh Highway. They are extremely shy and runs away on blink of your eyes but nice to watch and shoot them. As soon as we saw, the Nikkor 70-300 came out of the bag and clicked few distant shots of them, all thanks to the Nikkor 70-300 to get those shots. We didn’t found a single person en-route so far and were traveling all alone. Around 15.15 PM we finally reached Hanle by passing the road that leads you to Photi La, soon to be the Highest Motorable Road in India. Photi La is about 18,130 odd feet by GPS and would ideally become of the highest one leaving behind Khardung La whose actual GPS height is about 17580 feet only. Semo La in Tibet (5565 m or 18,253 feet) is presently the Highest Motorable road of the World.

A Pyramid in Changthang ???
A Pyramid in Changthang ???
A Small Pond near Loma – Changthang…
A Small Pond near Loma - Changthang
Pristine… The Cold Desert – Changthang…
Pristine... The Cold Desert - Changthang
Pristine… The Cold Desert – Changthang…
Pristine... The Cold Desert - Changthang
Hat’s Off… BRO – Creates, Connects and Cares…
Hat's Off... BRO - Creates, Connects and Cares...
Kiangs… The Tibetan Wild Asses…
Kiangs... The Tibetan Wild Asses...
Shyness of Kiangs… The Tibetan Wild Asses…
Shyness of Kiangs... The Tibetan Wild Asses...
A Kiang… Perfectly Posing…
A Kiang... Perfectly Posing...
Magical… Roads of Changthang…
Magical... Roads of Changthang...

Hanle has a lovely Hanle Monastery offering some great aerial views of whole village that is a home of about 1000 people. The views from the top of monastery are just breath-taking. Even after hearing some scary stories of ghosts and all we decided to pay visit to this lovely monastery. It was too cold out and the approach road to monastery top was with full of loose gravel and rough. We were anyhow very much excited, took so many pictures of the mind-blowing backdrop (the way we cam from) and the front Aerial views of the Hanle village. The monk of the monastery came rushing on the pulsar, to let us see the inside of the monastery. We offered prayers, took so many pictures from the terrace and went towards monastery.

The Light Play on the way to Hanle…
The Light Play on the way to Hanle
A High Jump from Hanle Monastery ???
A High Jump from Hanle Monastery
Bonding Together… The Prayer Flags at Hanle Monastery…
Bonding Together... The Prayer Flags at Hanle Monastery
Hanle Village… An Aerial View…
Hanle Village... An Aerial View...
Hanle Village… The Backdrop View…
Hanle Village... The Backdrop View...
Beautiful Colors of Hanle Monastery…
Beautiful Colors of Hanle Monastery

Hanle also houses an Indian Astronomical Observatory which is the world’s highest observatory in the world at a staggering height of 4500 Mtrs. The Hanle Observatory is operated by Indian Institute of Astrophysics, Bengaluru and has currently the currently the second highest optical telescope in the world, about 2.01 meters (6.5 feet) diameter. As we reached the top, wind was blowing with such force that we kept feeling of being blown away 😀 … Some how, gasping for breath we managed to reach the top from parking lot and went in to see the telescope. Reading starts at around 5.30 PM every evening and if you like can see how the telescope opens and starts reading the sky and witness its monster size. We were unlucky as the sky was not clear that day and control was taken by Bengaluru office. But, they offered to see us the vide recording in which we were not that much interested. We had the bookings for the Observatory guest house but was for next day and they did not took our request to manage it a day prior 🙁 … So, after some more pictures, outside and around, we went down to Khaldo Village at the foothill and started search for accommodation.

Hanle Observatory @ 4500 Mtrs… Highest in the World…
Hanle Observatory at 4500 Mtrs... Highest in the World...
Hanle Observatory @ 4500 Mtrs… Highest in the World…
Hanle Observatory at 4500 Mtrs... Highest in the World...
Hanle Village… Another Aerial View…
Hanle Village... Another Aerial View...
A Lovely Y-Fork at Hanle…
A Lovely Y-Fork at Hanle
Accommodation at Hanle

There is Hanle observatory guest house which is the only decent accommodation available at Hanle. For bookings, you have to write to the Director, Indian Institute of Astrophysics at Bengaluru. If he agrees for the booking and approve your request then you can stay there but no alterations in the date would be entertained and hence, you will have to reach the same day when it has been booked.

Other options of stay at Hanle are homestays:

The homestay is at village Khaldo very very close to observatory. One homestay is near the start of the village and has a landline phone. Ask locals about homestay which has phone. The rooms are decent but the prices are hay-way as the owner is greedy types. There is one more homestay at the end of this village just before pasture land starts which is run by a lady named Padmadeskit (ask for this name). We stayed at this only and found it OK to stay. Do not expect too much out of a homestay. This one is more loyal to tourists as other one charge too much if he sees more tourists.

Rigzin was all that helpful in search the accommodation for us at Padmadeskit. We placed our baggage in the room and had cup of tea with biscuits. She also runs a shop in side the house as general store. As the evening set in, the coldness started to increase and we decided to have a long walk up to the grazing pasture lands at the back side of the guest house. So, many horses were grazing out there and it purely looked magical. After some pictures we were back to our room. It was getting colder and colder, so came up the layer of one more woollens. The toilet was outside the house and was ladakhi style dry pit, so we decided to use it as the last light of the day was left. After some rest it was time for the dinner and thankfully electricity came up which allowed us to eat in light and get our mobile/camera batteries charged up. The room where dinner was served had a bukhari running that kept the room very much warm and let us have the tasty dinner cooked by the lady. But, sitting in the bukhari room got us warm and once we came out, it was so cold that sudden change in temperatures got us shivering. Without wasting a second, we immediately went into the double quilts and after a while shivering settled to let us peacefully sleep for the rest of night with dazzling dreams of the day 🙂 !!

Grazing at Hanle… Horses of Changthang…
Grazing at Hanle... Horses of Changthang...

The Journey ahead…

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38 Comments

  1. Pingback: Adventures of Shyok Village Route | Ladakh - 2012 - DeViL on WheeLs...

  2. Pingback: Remoteness of Changthang | Ladakh 2012 - DeViL on WheeLs...

  3. Hi Dheeraj, I am little confuse regarding trip to Hanle because of permit issue. But yesterday I had a chat with Rigzin, he told me it is possible to go Hanle by following route- Chumathang-Mahe-Loma-Hanle-Loma-Mahe-Tsomoriri. I desperately need your suggestion.

    • Hi Himadri,

      O yes, that is what I am saying as well that you can visit the route in this direction but you need permits to by pass/reach Tso Moriri, Nyoma, Loma and Hanle. If you have these permits with you, then you can surely visit this region. Rigzin might be thinking that you will have the permits made yourself and might not be aware that DC office is not issuing the permits now. Request him, if he can help you guys get the permits from the DC office.

      Regards
      Dheeraj

  4. Also waiting for next journey post; hope it will be published b4 my departure to leh on Tuesday 🙂

    • Sorry, for the delay Swapnil!! But, for sure you will be able to read the next part on Monday morning. My son wasn’t well in the last week or so, so could not get time to write the article 🙁 … But, now m planning to write 2 article over a weekend so that if I miss one week, the article at least is there not breaking the rhythm of the story.

      Regards
      Dheeraj Sharma

  5. Hello dheeraj sir 🙂 one more quest again

    I will b reaching leh on coming Tuesday ;

    I checked a posts with photographs on bcmt touring for July month where river colour of zanskar was quite dirty & non photogenic as compared to yours with beautiful blue color. Being interested in photography just want to know which is the best month to get such nice colors of zanskar? & will it b wrong decision to visit in July? I already did my all bookings 🙁

    Regards,

    Swapnil k

    • Hi Swapnil,

      As the monsoon kicks-in and snow melts the water with mud starts to mix with the pristine colors of rivers in Ladakh making them look dirty and muddy. You cannot control it in this season unfortunately and same will be the colors of Indus at many places and also the Shyok river. So, if you are too keen on Photography then perhaps you have not chosen the right month. Ideally, for most magical colors of Trans Himalayan terrain including Ladakh, late September is the best time to visit the place. You might know with overcast conditions what happens to light used for photography and many a times colors eventually die, though many a times overcast conditions makes you take some dramatic shots but most photographers love colors, AFAIK 🙂 …

      Regards
      Dheeraj Sharma

  6. Hi Dheeraj, is it possible to go Hanle via Chumathang-Mahe-Loma. Then what is the procedure to gate permit.

    • Hello Himadri,

      Yes, it is possible but like I said I do not think permits are still being issued. The procedure to get the permits is same, you will just need to mention then Loma, Nyoma and Hanle along with other places you need to travel.

      Regards
      Dheeraj

  7. hi dheeraj,
    have you talk to rigzin about our discount, if not then can you please talk to him about it, we are reaching leh on 17 or 18 july, I iave talk to him he is arrenging another cab for us(9 people) and
    we are starting our itinerary from 10th july amarnath cave so may I cant be able to remind to you, I will refer you name but please do call him

    • Sure, Ajinkya. I did try his number overweekend but could not get connected, thinks he is on some trip. Will try for another few days and weekend.
      Have a great journey and wonderful trip…

      Jai Bhole Nath!!

      Regards,
      Dheeraj Sharma

  8. kunal sanghavi on

    Hello Dheeraj bhai,

    i will be travelling to pangong and from there plan to take chusul,loma nyoma,chamthang route for tsomoriri and will stay tsomoriri for a night before leaving for manali can you please suggest where can i add hanle into it???

    Thanks kunal.

    • Hi Kunal,

      It is done like: Pangong Tso – Man – Merak – Chusul – Tsaga – Loma – Hanle and then Hanle – Loma – Nyoma – Mahe – Sumdo – Tso Moriri. Unfortunately, the permits to Man – Merak – Chusul or remote Changthang routes including Marsimik La and Wari La are still not being given by DC office in Leh, so keep your fingers crossed and hope for the best if they start issuing the permits by the time you visit. Otherwise, you have to take the traditional routes only.

      Regards
      Dheeraj Sharma

      • kunal sanghavi on

        Thank you dheeraj bhai,

        Can i complete pangong to hanle and hanle to tsomoriri in one day???or that will be tooo difficult?A Big thanks for all your replies!!!

        • Hi Kunal,

          Nopes, Kunal. You cannot!! Pangong Tso to Tso Moriri direct is quite tough and arduous and another 100 KMs would be almost impossible to let you enjoy anything left for the day.

          Regards
          Dheeraj Sharma

  9. Adeventurenorth on

    Hi dheeraj! lucky chap got permit for chushul & tsaga, i tried for it this year, requested each & every person in DC office but at the end it was a futile effort. How come you people so easily get permits for these areas.

    • Hello AdventureNorth,

      O yes, we were lucky enough to get the permits for this circuit without much hassle. Actually, the issue is these permits are issued when the situation at LAC is very much normal and the tourist influx is less, so that the large number of people visiting this region do not make any nuisance. This year, they went too strict because I read somewhere that some idiot bikers have created such nuisances across the LAC near Chusul, due to this very reason there is more strictness and permits are not being issued for Wari La and Marsimik La as well along with Loma – Chusul – Merak route.

      I hope this helps. Let me know incase you have any queries.

      Regards,
      Dheeraj Sharma

  10. A wonderful set of photographs.

    It gives us a kind of getting to know the place feeling. Beautiful captures.

    Thanks for sharing.

    • Thanks alot Pattu, it is pleasure to share such wonderful places to all the fellow travelers and try best to provide enough details so that they could undertake the trip themselves and travel with a difference too 🙂 … Glad you liked the pictures as well, the place itself is such wonderful!!

      Regards
      Dheeraj Sharma

    • Nopes, Himadri!! Still the news is same, no permits getting issued for this sector. Last bet will be to go over to DC office and request the ADC in person to get those permits even after the clerk says not possible. Just tell the clerk that you will request for the permissions in person and who knows, you might be lucky enough to get the required permits 🙂

      Regards
      Dheeraj Sharma

  11. narender gautam on

    Dheeraj,can you add phone no of Hanle homstay you stayed in.It would be of much help.BTW,impressive writeup and nice visuals.

    • Hi Narender,

      Thanks alot. I do not think buddy that cellphone worked in Hanle and if at all, that lady didn't have any contact. So, it is difficult to pre-book and you have to try your luck.For the other person homestay I have this: 08991922047(DSPT) — Landline number which may not work when power isn't there. And, 09622997003 – Cell Number of Mr. Katak (owner) but this might work only when he is in Leh.

      Regards
      Dheeraj

  12. Samaresh Biswal on

    dheeraj bhai aap to wikipedia ho on leh . nice trip log & as usual superb pic . how u got the bookings for guest house .is it open for public ?

    • Hi Samaresh,

      Ha ha ha, lolz… Nhn bhai, just doing what I love most – Learning and Loving more about Ladakh … Thanks for liking it, please send me an email and I will share the details with you. You need to humbly request the Director of Indian Institute of Astrophysics for the same. Things become much easy in non-season time and if you have some contact in IIA or ISRO, you might get the bookings anytime of the year you want 🙂

      Regards,
      Dheeraj

  13. H V Kumar on

    Looks like you stayed in the same homestay as I did! They also have a sat phone booth, isn't it?

    • Hello HVK Sir,

      Nopes, sir I didn't stayed there because the guy had gone greedy and was asking money at his will. Wanted us to pay Rs 1500 for three person and there are no facilities at all, as you might know. We got similar one right at the last house of village, run by lady Padamadeskit which is just before the pasture lands. It is last house in the village with a general store in it. She is constructing a nice two room set with attached bathroom, western style but was out of funds to finish it this season being no help from GOVT. We gave a her a good amount in the tip for the same and hope it gets finished by next season or she gets the help sanctioned from the GOVT. She charged Rs 600 for room and Rs 50 each for food for two times 🙂

      Regards
      Dheeraj

  14. swapnil k on

    Most awaited hanle journey 🙂

    Fantastic photography and good writing work.

    Keep it up. Waiting for more to come 🙂

    Regards

    Swapnil k

    • Hi Swapnil,

      Thanks alot buddy, glad you loved the story and pictures. Stay tuned for next wee's article which also have some nice pictures of Hanle and the route upto where the Pangong Tso starts on this route 🙂

      Regards
      Dheeraj

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