Cycling on a road less taken we went from Tsaga to Hanle, the village with the world’s highest space observatory. This was part of our 90 Day Cycle ride in the Himalayas covering Spiti, Zanskar, Batalik, Ladakh, Nubra, Shyok, Pangong, Hanle, Tso Moriri, Garhwal and Kumaon!
Day 58: Tsaga to Hanle
The homestay in Tsaga was my first tryst with a Ladakhi toilet.
A Ladakhi toilet is a hole in the floor with a pit at the bottom. The toilet floor is filled with sand and a shovel. Once you are done you shovel some sand over, this ensures the place doesn’t stink. It is the cleanest dry toilet I have seen till date.
The homestay also had the best chapattis in my entire two month trip. It was so good that I knocked down more than 15 of them and packed some more for lunch!
At the exit of the village was an ITBP checkpost and after that it was a gradual downhill all the way to Loma, where there was another checkpost. Along the way it was a sandy, dusty, windy ride. Kiangs the only interesting thing present! The army bunkers on the sidelines keeping watch of the road and us.
At the Loma checkpost an army guy took Akshay’s bike for a spin and he rode it like he stole it! He hammered it up and down the small climb there.
After Loma the road climbs gradually to Hanle, which wasn’t so bad. Except the sun disappeared, hail and rain appeared and the wind started gusting like crazy.
Since there are no foreigners on this route, hardly anyone waved out from the cars and bikes. Indian tourists have no sense of adventure apparently. They look at cyclists as ‘those poor buggers who can’t afford a cab’!
The terrain between Loma and Hanle reminded me of Mongolia. Lots of grasslands with small hills on either side. The hills appear small because we were already at 15000 ft plus. When there wasn’t grass, it was filled with sand and looked like a desert.
As I struggled through the strong headwinds I turned to see a smiling Akshay sitting atop a bulldozer with his bike nestled in the shovel. The last 10 km he enjoyed the ride much more than me!
There was a section where we simultaneously got a headwind and the storm clouds following us. Not much fun really!
There was a third police checkpost at Hanle where the cop warned us not to step beyond the area where we are allowed. The consequences of which would be terrible.
A few months prior, some motorcyclists had gone beyond Hanle to Umling La and shared photographs and GPS coordinates from there. This was a big problem for the security establishment, since it is close to the border. As a result the military shut down access even to Hanle temporarily. The foolishness of a few motorcyclists turned out to be rather expensive for other travellers!
We were lucky to get accommodation in the BRO DETT thanks to a friend of Akshay. We needed the help since we were running short on funds. The officer and other personnel went out of their way to make us feel comfortable.
The Indo-China border was soft till a couple of years ago. The locals used to cross and trade regularly. Now that isn’t possible. The border has been sealed down. People still find a way through, but with much more difficulty.
Hanle is home to one of the highest space observatories in the world. Which isn’t of much interest to someone like me. What is of interest is a working phone connection, which is only thanks to the presence of the star gazers. After a few days being completely disconnected, it was good to inform everyone at home that I was alive and well.
The lack of steep climbs and passes is deceptive. Hanle is far higher than I thought and much colder. The piercing wind makes little holes through your soul as you shiver and run indoors. Temperature in the winters can go down to – 40 degree centigrade with as little as a foot of snow. The rest is wind chill.
After a long long time we got mutton to eat. We looked forward to the delicacy like little children.
The curry was so spicy that if we threw it on China it would do the job of napalm! Yet, we greedily hogged the sheep caring little about the aftereffects the next morning!
Route Profile: Tsaga to Hanle
There is nothing between Tsaga and Hanle, barring one checkpost at Loma. No food or accommodation is available anywhere along the way.
The road descends gradually till Loma and then climbs even more gradually to Hanle. The only thing to be feared is the headwind, which picks up crazily post 2 PM.
Hanle has a few homestays where they charge you for stay and food. There are no separate dhabas.
Expenses: Tsaga to Hanle
Food and Stay for Two Rs 1000
READ THE BLOG AS WE RODE FROM HANLE TO SUMDO AS WE HEADED FOR TSO MORIRI