Ep 8 Hanle to Umling La, World’s highest motorable road | Hanle Observatory, Ladakh Tourism
Usually, when a filmmaker wants to depict a scene like this.... ...an expanse of barren land with mountains around it... ...they head to a location like this one. On this route, for the past 15 KM, we have not overtaken a single vehicle... ...nor has any vehicle crossed us from the opposite direction. Neither a scooter, nor a motorcyle, or a bicycle.
Just us alone! It is recorded in the Guinness Book of World Records that.... ...the highest altitude road is Umling.... Need to catch my breath! Namaskar Friends! Welcome to Visa2explore! This is your host, Harish Bali. Today, we are in Hanle. Those who've watched the previous episode,... ...would know we started from Pangong yesterday. And we reached Hanle last night. We wanted to start our day at 7.30 AM.
Optimistic planning! It is 8.30 AM now and we will take at least 45 minutes more to leave here. For a double occupancy room here, we paid tariff of Rs 5000,... ...with breakfast and dinner included. This homestay has 10 rooms in all.
I requested the lady who owns this homestay to serve us traditional breakfast. She agreed to cook us a traditional breakfast in 30 minutes' time. That is again one reason why we are late today. Meanwhile, you can check the surroundings of this homestay. The mountains around us aren't very tall.
Still, you will get a basic idea about the surroundings of this place. On way to Hanle, we were advised to book accommodation in advance. But we couldn't book rooms in advance. Thus, we face the challenge that the rooms aren't available for another night. Room was available yesterday, but not for tonight.
Let us go in for breakfast. Come! This is a local, traditional dish. I have served a smaller portion. Mainly because it is a new dish for me. Do you know how is it made? Barley flour is boiled in water.
Once it has boiled for 10-15 minutes, the flour is strained. And a little butter is added to it. This mixture is then sautéed for a while. And it is then served with a dollop of butter on top.
I've been told that it can be eaten in combination with curd or butter tea. So, I chose curd because I'd also be eating Aloo Paratha (potato stuffed flatbread). That's why I chose curd with it.
With that, they have given me a powder that is made locally. This powder is made of chilies and cumin seeds, etc. So, I will add some powder right away. This curd is thick. Let me taste this first.
Let me first taste it alone. After that, I will eat it with curd. The obvious taste is as if you are eating boiled flour. So I think it would be better to eat it with curd. This dish might not appeal to you or someone in the first instance, like me. One would need to eat it more than once in order to develop a taste for it.
Second thing is, Ladakh grows barley in abundance. I saw the same thing in Spiti as well. Therefore, people in these regions consume more items made with barley. Then there is this powder, which is interesting in taste. It adds a spicy flavour to the curd. It is heavy (on the stomach).
I am having a smaller portion. If it were a bigger portion, it would have been enough for me for breakfast. So, good that I took a smaller portion. Therefore, I can have aloo paratha too along with it. Take a look at their kitchen, where we are sitting and having this breakfast.
What is called? 'Bukhari' or something like that. I saw this thing in Himachal Pradesh as well, where they used wood as fuel. Here, Kerosene is used and the resulting smoke goes out through the pipe. After I finish packing my luggage, I will have butter tea.
And then we will leave here. Thank You! We get to drink this butter tea whenever we travel in the mountains. This is made with local tea leaves, butter, milk and water. That is how it is made. At some places, they even add Sattu (powdered grains) to butter tea.
The first thing you taste, right with the first sip is butter. Since this is a new tea leaf for us, I cannot really say anything about its taste. Its main benefit is that it keeps you warm in winters. So, it is good! Now, I will join you again after about 1.5 hours. That is the time it will take us to find another guest house for us.
And then we will visit the observatory. If we come across something interesting on our way.... ...we will record it for our other channel. Because it would be handy to record it on an iPhone.
It takes no time to record. We climbed a mountain near Hanle village to reach this observatory. Before going in, I am showing you an aerial view of the Hanle village. Isn't it amazing! In the past 10-12 days of our Ladakh tour, if I've seen a vast expanse of greenery...
..like this one, it is in Hanle. This area is total green and huge in size. I asked someone this morning about the reason behind all this greenery. He said it is because of abundance of water here. There is a lot of underground water, which keeps coming up to the surface. That helps grow all this green grass. When we were staying in the Hanle village, which is that cluster of houses there...
We were at an approximate height of 13,000-14,000 feet. Now, this observatory is, at least, 800-1000 feet above that village. So, it would be safe to assume that this observatory is at a height of 15,000 feet. Nice, isn't it! Before heading to the observatory, let us look at this beautiful sky! The sky blue colour is so beautiful. Do you see the Dome-shaped structure in front of you? A short while ago, we climbed to the top of it from inside. Inside, on the top, we watched a huge telescope.
It is huge in size. There is no guide here to show you the parts of telescope & its functionality. But there is a PowerPoint presentation available there. You can go through the 40-50 slides and understand. First thing, this observatory is run by the Indian Institute of Astrophysics. Its main function is to observe stars, the moon, and other heavenly bodies.
All the data recorded here is fed to the Institute located in Bengaluru. No data related work is done here. While looking at the telescope up there, I asked the staff some casual questions.
They informed that this is the world's second-highest observatory. Usually, while deciding sites for an observatory, ample care is taken that... ...there should be no light pollution. There should be no dust particles in the air. It should be at a height so that the sky is clearly visible.
There are some places on earth where the sky is always covered in clouds. Observatories are not built at these places. Here, the sky remains clear at an average of 270 days in a year. This is the reason why this observatory has been built here.
The data collected here is sent through satellite to Bengaluru. There is one thing that I wanted to ask someone but could not. One slide of the presentation mentioned the download & upload of 1 MBps each. So, I was thinking 1 MBps is very slow speed of data download or upload. Since I couldn't ask anyone, the question remains unanswered.
And I've already told you about the huge size of this telescope. The shutters around this dome-shaped structure are opened at night. That opens up the telescope and the ring-like structure moves around.
And telescope can be turned upto 270 degrees to change its observation angle. We also saw some photographs of heavenly bodies. We got a good understanding about galaxies and stars.
Each photograph had bullet points with it. We learned about the stars inside the Milky Way galaxy. So, interesting! I really wish they had guided tour because that helps in better understanding.
Because it isn't every day that you get to visit an observatory. With a guided tour, it becomes easier to understand these concepts. This place has two telescopes. I've shared all that I could understand here. The time is 12.30 PM.
We should leave for Umling La Pass now. Let's go then. On the way, we will see the scenic views and share those with you as well. Please come! We have travelled 15 KM from Hanle. We will be following an offbeat path to reach Umling La. There is a proper road as well for Umling La but it is longer.
So, we followed this offbeat path in order to save some time. On our way, we came across a stream flowing across the road at some places. Now, we've reached a place, which is unlike anything we've seen recently. So we stopped our car here. And look at the view that we are enjoying right now.
Start from the ground. This land is barren. There are tufts of grass visible in the background.
I think I can also see a stream flowing in the distance. It is far but still visible to the eyes. And I can't help but point this out repeatedly that...
...the most pleasing part of this scenery is the shadow of clouds on mountains. So, this is a scene worth watching. What is better than that is the moving shadows of moving clouds! This sky colour reminds me of the Pangong Lake that we visited yesterday. I had mentioned it in the previous episode that the colour of Pangong Lake...
...made for a lifetime view! Similar to that is the experience of watching the sky-blue colour here today. Though I won't say I didn't see this colour in the past 3-4 days but... ..this view is one of the best! Usually, when a filmmaker wants to depict a scene like this....
...an expanse of barren land with mountains around it... ...they choose a location like this one. And let me tell you one more interesting thing. On this route, for the past 15 KM, we have not overtaken a single vehicle... ...nor has any vehicle crossed us from the opposite direction. Neither a scooter, nor a motorcyle, or a bicycle.
We are all alone here. So, you must understand if someone is self-driving on this road alone... ...heading to Umling La, it is a next to impossible task. Because there is neither internet nor mobile network here. BSNL network is also not present all the time. That is our car parked there. I am enjoying very much! Let us click some photographs here.
Then, we will share the aerial view of this place with you and move on. We have travelled 36 KM from Hanle. And do you see this offbeat path? We've travelled on this path to reach this point.
Now we'll be travelling on this proper road. If we would have gone right instead of left... ....we'd arrive at an army camp after a few kilometers beyond which the road ends. Now talking of the viewpoint of this place... ...it is an awesome place. If you pay special attention to the hills around... ...they look beautiful as does this dome-shaped meadow. I wasn't wearing a jacket till half an hour ago. But when we got down from the car here, the air felt very cold.
So, now I am wearing sweater as well as this jacket. If you go in that direction, you must look at this board, on which Hanle is written. This is such a small board that could easily be missed.
But it indicates that this is the way to Hanle. And for someone coming in from the other direction... ....the same board has Umling La written on this side. Left! I'm telling you these small things so that you keep them in mind while travelling. Otherwise, nobody is there to guide you. As mentioned already, on this path, you'll get BSNL network for 70-80% of the way.
So, for travelling locally in Hanle, you must keep a BSNL sim card with you. It would be easier. Rest, other networks like Jio and Airtel are also planning to launch services soon. Let us roam around for a few hundred meters. And then, directionally we will proceed towards Umling La.
But our plan has changed a bit because I am feeling hungry. There is an eatery located right where we start climbing for Umling La. We will have lunch there and then move on. Let's go! We have reached the lunch point. Yes Bhaiya! Hello! Juley! Yes! Tell me one thing! Do you have anything readily available to eat right now? Yes Sir! We have Rajma-rice, Bread-omelet, tea, and coffee! Wow! Rajma-rice is ready? Yes Sir! It means you knew we were coming! Yes Sir! (Laughter) Do you receive many tourists here? Yes Sir! Alright! Very nice! So, we are five persons. Okay, please get us Rajma-rice for five! Dorje Bhai, please ask everyone if Rajma-rice is okay? They will eat it Sir! Everyone's okay with it? Very good! Bhai Sahab, you have a wonderful kitchen set up here! There are tables inside as well.
Is it for when it is too cold to sit outside? Yes! Is it for winters? Right, it must be really cold in winter. Like right now, we are already wearing jackets because it is cold. Come, let us go out! See what we've done! We picked up a table-chair set and placed it near the stream. Anyways, the camp is right next to the stream, so we didn't need to do much. It is on rare occasions that you get to be in a place where you are the only ones. I mean you are the only tourist.
The stream flowing near us is so clear that we can see right up to its bottom. It is no mean feat! Nice! Rajma are well-cooked! The taste is good! Lovely! One is the taste of food! Then there are the surroundings! Here, the surroundings are playing their role! We can also see the moon in the sky though it is still afternoon! See there! Today's journey has been wonderful so far! Rajma-rice is my favorite meal! Since we'd to stop here for 30-45 minutes, we thought it good that the team eats. Thereafter, we will leave for the Umling La pass. From the place where we had lunch, we travelled another 17 KM. And we have reached a point where... let me show you a demo first. I am standing here and the wind is blowing from behind me.
If I just let myself loose... ...the wind will take me forward. A strong wind is blowing here. It is written here Chisumle! 17 KM! This is where we had our lunch. See this as well, Demchok! It is 35 KM from here.
It is the last village of Ladakh and India, after which Tibet begins. Do you remember I told you that the Indus river originates near Mansarovar in Tibet? It enters India at Demchok. There is no one here. Neither man nor animal! The weather was sunny a short while ago.
But now, there are clouds in front of me. So, in this way, the sun and clouds continue to play hide and seek! Amazing! Let's walk for a bit. See, I am walking very slowly. Like this. One there is elevation and second, we are at a height. I am feeling short of breath! You need to walk very slowly here.
Wow! What a view! Dorje Bhai dropped us back there coz we wanted to walk & car was parked ahead. So, this is a news for me as well. It says here "You are now higher than the Everest Base Camp!" So exciting! It feels nice, right! If you are standing near a board like this, who wouldn't want to get a selfie clicked! It becomes a cherished memory! Umling La, where we are headed right now, is 9 KM away. It was 25 KM away when we started after having lunch. Oho ho! Let us stay here for 5-10 more minutes. Then we'll proceed further.
Finally, we've reached the Umling La Pass. As soon as we got down from the car, see what I've got on me, snow flakes! It has just started snowing! Hardly a minute ago. So beautiful! Here! You can see them on this! The snowfall has begun. Oh man! What a feeling! Wow! I am feeling cold even after wearing a full sweater and a full jacket! Come, let me show you what all is written here. World's Highest Oxygen Café! We are shooting this video at a height of 19,024 feet.
We are sharing this experience with you, here is the café and it is locked now. Wow! You know what is the most interesting thing here? There is nobody here except us. We are the only ones here. See what is written here. 'Himank!' B.R.O. welcomes you to the 'Highest Motorable Pass, Umling La!
'La' means a pass! 19,024 feet! Marvellous! What a feeling! There is shortage of oxygen in this place. But if you stand here calmly, without any exertion as such, there should be no issue. If we start walking faster or stay here for long, we could be short on oxygen. Right in front of us, on this side.... ...the visibility is less because of a thick blanket of clouds. Here, looks like the clouds have come down to the earth! I am not wearing gloves. Slowly, my hands are going numb & I don't think I would be able to pick up anything.
My hands are red! I have gloves in my car but if I wore those, I won't be able to enjoy this feeling. This place was opened to tourists in 2021, so not many tourists are aware of it. It is now accessible through a proper road. As people become slowly aware of this place, they are planning visits.
Snow continues to fall! I am enjoying it. This is a hut by the roadside. Let's visit here. Alright! So this place has a year-by-year record of this Pass. It mentions the changing appearance of the Pass through the years 2017 to 2021. It was inaugurated in 2021 and it has the national flag on its top. It is recorded in the Guinness Book of World Records that....
...the highest altitude road is Umling La Pass at 5798 M. However comfortable you might be feeling at such high altitude passes... ...you must not spend more than 15-20 minutes here. We will stay here for 3-4 minutes more. We'll click some photographs to save this memory.
Then, we are leaving this place! It is a great picture! For tea, we've returned to the place where we had lunch this afternoon. We'll leave here once we've finished our tea. About the distance, the route that we took to go from Hanle to Umling La Pass...
...with this place enroute.... ...total distance is 75 KM. Out of this distance, Umling La Pass is 25 KM from this eatery. If you come here through a different route or go back through a different route... ...total distance from Umling La Pass to Hanle via Puditla is 100 KM. That route is 25 KM longer. We didn't have a problem going back by the longer route, because the road is good.
But the eatery owner told us that the road is not favorable in case it is raining there. So, he advised us to go back the same route that we came here. So, we'll follow that route. This was the information I wanted to share with you.
Okay, great! We will leave here now. We will stop on our way if there is something interesting, otherwise... ..directly to Hanle. We are on our way to Hanle on this offbeat path. This is the road surface right now & in 10 KM, it will gradually become more offbeat.
Do you know why I find this scene so good? Because it is sunny on this side. But no sunlight is reaching to this part here. We can see the snow here! The scene here is totally different. These clouds are thick and black and thundering too! So, overall, this is a pleasant scene to look at.
I won't be wrong if I say that in my Ladakh travel so far.... ...this is among the top 5 best views we've seen so far. If not top 3, that is! This is really too good! And a lot also depends upon the timing at which you are viewing a scene. Awesome! Let's go now.
The time is 8.30 PM and we've reached our homestay in Hanle. I told you in the morning that we didn't have accommodation for tonight. So, we had to book room at this homestay called 'Milky Way.' The first thing that I did when we reached here is put my laptop on charging.
Its battery was down since morning. Rs. 2800 is the double occupancy tariff here, which includes breakfast and dinner. We will settle down first. We have been travelling since morning.
Around 9.30 PM, we will go out for some sightseeing. And we will also check out the night sky! The chance to explore the night sky here is unlike anything we encountered so far. Everyone told us Hanle is the place to go if we wanted to see stars in the sky. It is 11 PM right now. We are atop the homestay! We came here at 10 PM. For the first half an hour, we were sitting here, on the side.
We had our fill watching the stars, the Milky Way galaxy in the night sky. I don't have words to explain how good it feels to watch all this. I was watching the Milky Way continuously without tiring at all.
That was the scene & later we clicked a lot of photographs for about 30 minutes. We clicked some good photographs! The stars are beginning to appear in the night sky. There are some lights on around us. Those would be switched off in another 10-15 minutes, following which....
...this whole area would become dark. Do tell us in detail your views about this episode. Now it is time to say bye! Thanks for your time!