The Journey so far…
It was the coldest night of the trip so far at Pangong Tso and I did not have a comfortable sleep both because of lack of space with three people sleeping on a small bed and anxiety surmounting with respect to what will happen on next day while traversing the route from Pangong Tso to Chusul to Hanle
Day 6 | Pangong Tso – Chusul – Tsaga – Loma – Hanle
Anyhow, after a bit of uncomfortable night I was awake at 4 AM and so was everyone around, with noises which can be heard of people talking to each other. We had plan to leave at 5 AM so as to cover the routes in the hopes that police posts will allow the tourists in early morning hours to cross over. There were loads of questions running in mind with mix feelings of what will happen if we are turned back from Chusul, what happens to Hanle then, which route will we take to return, the Erath – Harong Wetlands one OR will we be allowed on Mirpal Tso lake route to Mahe OR it will mean killing the day, etc.. Holding on to these anxious nerves somehow I left it on time to answer the anxiety within.
Everyone was up and ready in time, the dawn light was about to break, cold breeze was blowing gently and it was some sight to watch in the sky. Pangong Tso was just looking like another water body with no colours in it, though huge anyhow. The guys at Himalayan Wooden Cottages had our breakfast packed, prepared tea for us which was kind of a blessing in early morning cold conditions up there at Pangong Tso. We thanked them for their hospitality and offering good deal to us and above all preparing breakfast in such early cold morning conditions in Ladakh. With high hopes we left from Pangong Tso to Chusul – Hanle route. We had to leave behind Gagan because he was driving an Ertiga which might get stuck in between over the rough roads of Pangong Tso to Chusul route. Also, we left Bejamin too because as a foreigner he is not allowed beyond Merak village. We had tied up to meet again at Tso Moriri so that we can continue ahead together on Manali – Leh Highway 🙂
Chusul is about 45 odd KMs from Spangmik, Pangong Tso and in between there are few small villages as Man, Merak, Kakset Merak is where the first check-post lies and the first hurdle point for us. The sun had started to come out behind the mountains lying there across the other shore of Pangong Tso and rays were about to break out from there. It was some peaceful sight to witness. We crossed Man Village which was in complete silence and then we came to Merak village. The whole stretch of about 21 KMs from Spangmik to Man to Merak took about 1 Hr as there is literally no road but a dirt track running parallel to the shores of Pangong Tso and yeah the feeling of driving there is something cannot be written in words 🙂 🙂 …
Once we reached Merak, we submitted the permits at the check-post and thanking god, moved ahead with all protocols been followed. As the sun had come out, the colours in Pangong Tso had begun to appear as turquoise blue and we wanted to live the moment. After few KMs passing by Kakset village, the last village before Chusul, the Pangong Tso lakes turns into Tibet. We wanted to be there for sometime to see the colours in Pangong Tso as we did not see much last day too. So, we had a stoppage of about half an hour at the place where this heavenly lake leaves India and enters Tibet. We continued ahead and reached an unnamed pass which locals call Chusul Pass (7th pass of our trip) and there wasn’t much of an ascend too to reach it. The vistas around you becomes magical as you approach Chusul with wide marsh lands in foreground and small barren mountains in the backdrop. Soon, we reached Chusul and with all prayers followed the same protocol at check-post and got allowed to pass through in early hours of the day. One of the cars in which Lokesh and Shekhar was present, got confused in the route of exit from Chusul but after long long time they caught up with us ahead towards Tsaga. We were worried till the time they did not meet us at Tsaga.
After crossing Chusul, the landscapes is almost similar with you passing by Rohit Post, Rezang La War Memorial However, taking pictures or off-roading the track is strictly prohibited in this section of Ladakh being too close to LAC. In fact, photography is prohibited in whole inner line AFAIK as per official rules but this is too close to the LAC, so one must respect it to good extent (refrain from posting close up shots of hills on Internet in case you take them). A lot of anxiety had been settled after crossing Chusul but still Tsaga Post was also pending and we could be sent back from there too 😯 In between, we came across another unnamed lake which more or less looked like a glacial melt. It was far and we did not want to off road and end up in some mess, so we moved on towards Tsaga. The road conditions throughout are BAD, no roads, lots of pot holes and sand on the road at some sections. Small cars is big no over here.
Finally, ascended the hill to reach 8th mountains pass of our trip, Tsaga La at an altitude of 4635 Mtrs Clicked a shot from inside the car and quickly moved on. Descended into the Tsaga Village which is the major highlight of this route. It looks like a village guarded from outside world with mountains surrounded from all corners and a road leading towards Loma – Nyoma – Mahe on a flat ground from there. Completely magical or in dreams. We reached Tsaga check-post, submitted all our documents at the post and had some good moments with Jawans out there who were really happy and amused to see us there. One of them was from Faridabad and Jiwesh enjoyed some chats with him. After thanking them, crossing the post, we all congratulated each other in joy as plan was ON now 😀 😀 and asked Rigzin to stop the convoy near a water stream so that we can enjoy our breakfast for the day 😀 😀
We spent good 1 Hr at the breakfast point, took loads of pictures up there for the group, of vistas around and then as the tarred roads have appeared started towards Hanle through Loma Post. Again beyond Loma post towards Hanle, photography is prohibited and the Jawans check your cameras too but we had hidden them deep into the bags and respected the rule for not taking pictures of sensitive areas after entering the region towards Hanle. We cooked up a funny story why we wanted to visit Hanle and that’s an interesting one, though will narrate sometime later 😀 😀 … The roads till Hanle are well tarred and you see lots of Kiangs on the route to Hanle. We stopped took some pictures of them and continued the beautiful drive towards this amazing place on earth, Hanle. You can read my Travel Guide of Hanle at the link: Hanle Village | The Hidden Gems of Ladakh
From the Travel Guide itself:
Hanle in Changthang region of Ladakh is one of the most beautiful, enchanting, calm and soul loosing places in India. 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. 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.
The beauty in Hanle especially looking at the stars at night, is just jaw dropping and one has to visit it, to believe it !! 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. We visited the Hanle Monastery first and spent good amount of time there. The monks there were so humble, soft spoken and prepared tea for us with biscuits. Some of the members did not come but they missed the hospitality offered to us by the good men there. After we had spent too much time up there, Rigzin came in search for us because others were feeling a bit restless 😀 😀 … As soon as we came down, there was a hunt for fuel/diesel and somehow Rigzin was able to manage it again in the village Khaldo, Hanle. We decided to first check in to Padma Homestay / Guest House but since it has limited rooms, so we had to divide our group where Tapan ji and his friend went to other home stay and we went to Padma Homestay run my Sonam and his family.
Padma Homestay in Hanle has been converted into a kind of decent guest house since my last visit and when I visited there this time, there were 4-5 rooms there with one room having attached bath and others sharing a common bath. A big room for dining. So, all in all it was quite a deal. You can read my review in the DoW Community link: Padma (Sonam’s) Guest House/Homestay, Hanle | Review
While delaying ourselves at Monastery, we lost one 4 bedded room to a family (the reader I met a day before at Pangong Tso) 🙁 🙁 … This would have meant that all of us could have been accommodated at one place only. But no worries we put 5 beds in one room, some had put mattresses on the floor itself, some slept in dining room. So, in all, we got ourselves forcefully accommodated in the limited rooms present there 😀 😀 After resting for couple of hours, we went out for the main highlight of this DoW Mega Meet in Ladakh, that is, to execute DoW Causes up there in Hanle. Believe me there is no better feeling to see smiles on the faces of little children up there in such remote places of Himalayas and we just witnessed same. Each one of us who participated almost had tears of joy seeing those smiles around us on the faces of little kids and you can check the detailed story at the link: DoW Cause | GYAAN 500 in action at Hanle, Ladakh
While we executed the DoW Cause | GYAAN 500 in primary school at Hanle, Shekhar contributed the medicines for DoW Cause | CURE 500 in a medical camp being run over there in local dispensary of the village. Again similar feelings to share. Everyone thanked each other for being part of such noble cause up there in remote Himalayas and we went back for our evening ride to Hanle Observatory We went inside up the observatory where they showed us the telescope and some videos/pictures taken from there. Some things were Greek to me, so I went outside. I had good long chat with Sonam (owner of the Padma Homestay) along with Rigzin about the place, how I want DoW Causes to spread in such remote areas and he was impressed too. He offered his kind support in any kind of support for this noble cause from his end, I thanked him and we went back to our abode for the night downhill.
The night again was cold at Hanle, tried some night photography of start trails but I am no good at it 😉 … Had a long chat with the DoW Reader staying over there with us, the vision of DoW Community and how I feel it could change the way we Travel to Himalayas. Then, we had decent dinner in the dinning room with everyone around, whole DoW group was enjoying the stay at Hanle, admiring the magical beauty of the place and then finally called the day off a bit early in hopes of exploring two unknown water bodies (lakes) next day…
Have you ever visited Hanle or done the route of Pangong Tso to Chusul – Loma? If yes, do share with me, how did you like the journey and what was the best part of it.
The Journey ahead…