“But why Nano.?”
Because it’s challenging.. I replied.
Tanvi’s dad had already marked us “3 idiots” after listening to our decision.
This wasn’t the first time someone had asked us such exclamating questions.
It all started with a thought of doing the Stok Kangri Trek which is considered as one of the toughest trek in Himalayas.
To Reach Leh by road, one has to take the Manali-leh highway or Srinagar-leh highway both of these routes are considered as dangerous routes in the world.
But God wanted us to add some more adventure to our journey, so we took a detour and took another route which goes via Saach Pass and connects Chamba Valley with Pangi Valley. This stretch of 167kms is total offroad and driving a Nano was like watching an ant climb a hillock.
After witnessing the patroitic grandeur of the Retreat ceremony at Attari, we left the border at 7pm and drove till Pathankot without any major halts. After continuously driving for 6hours,anna had began to feel sleepy.. but being a confident driver he managed to cover another 30kms stretch after which he gave up.
all this time, the owner of the car Mr. Sharma was asleep and remained in the same position until I took the wheel 😛 I still remember that big question mark on his face while asking me “Tumhe driving aati hai.?”
So now it was my turn to continue the journey and reach till keylong which was our next halt as planned. Watching me drive sharma ji was impressed and scared at the same time… because I almost felt like I was driving in some NeedForSpeed racing game.
The super curvy roads with Jackals hopping in between and the gradually increasing depth of valley with every turn made me happier and sharmaji scarier…
After riding for another 5hrs, I managed to reach Bairagad, the last place where you’ll get a petrol pump before the off road of Saach paas begins.
Early morning view from the petrol pump was amazing. That also made us realized that we were at a good elevation.. of almost 6oooft.
Anna had already made provisions for extra fuel, so we had an equal amount of fuel with the car’s capacity.The roads after the pump kept on climbing and climbing and every village that we came across after that had lesser number of house than the previous ones. Also, sharmaji observed that even the people were getting lazier as all doors were shut and it felt like some haunted village. But sharma ji couldn’t make out that someone close to him was also getting lazy and dizzy… yeah, that was me.!! 😛
After driving on those short curves for whole night long, I had started slightly losing control on the wheel. And then it happened…
My hands got loose and the car went towards the cliff side. Luckily, anna noticed it and within no time he pulled the steering on the left and lifted the handbrake.!
After that incident, it took us 10minutes to get back to normal.. because everyone had imagined themselves in the valley inside a small wrecked car.
That left No chance of me driving again for the day.. that was for sure.!
So anna took the wheel back in hand and continued the journey…
After around 16kms of drive we saw a glimpse of how the rest of our journey is going to be… through streams… I mean.. pushing the cutie pie Nano through the streams..
We had no other choice so without complaining me and sharma ji started pushing her through uphill offroads.. through stones and pebbles.
The 1st tough climb had damaged her parts and we could make out from the smell which was of the clutch plate… Anna and me knew that it was the plate which was getting worn out, but it wasn’t sufficient to convince the owner. so we took a break and refilled our bottles and stomach.
After a km ahead again the offroad continued… and then we realized that we were at 7800ft and climbing.. Getting at this height was no doubt an achievement, but it started making us exhausted and that made our halts bigger and bigger.. Everytime sharma ji n me used to push that little toy car up, anna used to take it 200-300mtrs ahead on a flat road.. Those 300mtrs we felt like… 2 zombies walking in that lushed green forest pathway.. slowly gathering all breathe and taking a step..slipping our feet from stones at times and yet going till the car and getting in because it was quite cold and we were hungry. so we decided to halt and have some energy.
The amount of greenery and the beauty of the Chamba Valley cannot be described in words.. Those coniferous tall trees,some fallen some risen till the skies… the sharp cuts in the mountains.. water streams making their way through them.. the depth of the valley with a steep slope and still we could see some routes climbing up… the sound of the water gushing through huge boulders was so constant.. and yet the chirpping of the birds was so loud and clear as if someone had the control on these voices.. it was 8:38am, I remember, I could see the sun on the other mountain range and here, it was dark due to the forest cover…
“Abey chal jaate hai..” sharma ji said.. and that made me get back to the reality that we had 114kms of offroading left and that too in an extra-ordinary vehicle.
The ” Push-Run-Rest-Repeat” mode continued till we reached checkpost which was at an alti of 10500ft. Hats-off to those guys who stand there throughout the year irrespective of the worse climatic conditions.
Himachalis have always been kind.. and that always make me feel at home.
to my surprise they also clicked our pictures as record. We met a group of Enfield riders who were returning half way as it was too difficult to cross the road ahead.. that made us nervous at first.. but as decided, “chahe kuch bhi ho.. Nano ‘Leh’ jeyenge” and we started the Engine.. the so called auto-rickshaw sound began and it grabbed the attention of all the police n locals who were at the post..
Luckily, the road was good.. with even surface.. lesser potholes.. low gradient climb.. but a continous one.. “Takudoo” as anna called the nano which meant “dear” in his language.. managed to reach atop Saach and that brought a smile to our faces.
But this smile was short lived as we realised that we had an equal amount of road left for descend. Descend began.. the top of Saach’s road had Ice walls as tall as around 10ft. Getting down turned out to be more risky as steering used to rotate on it’s own due to rocks. Somehow Sharmaji managed to make it halfway down at the dhaba where everyone was found busy as the local forest minister was supposed to visit anytime. Without taking much rest and food we continued our journey to Keylong.
Road after the dhaba was more curvy and tiring… after an hour anna gave up and I had to bounce back in the Driver’s seat. Being the culprit of this trip, I had no other choice but to get the trio out of this “suddenly turned into a nightmare” Road trip. This time I kept the music loud so that I won’t fall asleep and continued to drive.. After ending up the valley, we crossed a river and made our way to the nearest village Khillar. Before we could take a deep breathe and relax, our car got stuck into mud and got stuck.. Anna tested all his skills to get the car but ended up in vain. And then tragedy stroked and the car broke.
After half an hour, I managed to ask a Taxi person to tow the car and park it at the local garage. Luckily, I had carried a rope and carabiners to tow so half of the towing job was done.
It was the 1st time, people of Khillar had seen a Nano coming from Saach and making it to Khillar. Two mechanics refused to look into the car and check for the fault. But then there was this guy Sanju, who had migrated from Manali and so he had a fair idea about the car. After diagnosing he told us that the clutch plate had completely worn out and that it had to be ordered all the way back from Chamba. We made up our mind that it was going to be a long stay here.
Accordingly, we kept our luggage in the garage and went to explore the tiny village of Khillar. Next Day, I woke up and realized that we had actually spent a night in the garage.
The view that we saw after opening the shutter of the garage was something one will ever dream of seeing through their windows. Two huge mountains,with roads which looked like small lines drawn on them and a furious flowing river deep down the valley. Looking at the river reminded me that we came up all the way up from there. Getting out of the garage, I came across the hotel which we were searching earlier for Dinner. Anna and Sharma had skipped food because they were very disappointed so they were hogging breakfast as if it was the last one.
The Hotel stood at a perfect location because it was just above the garage which turned out to be our home for one more day. Sadly, no clutch plate was available in Chamba town.. By that time, almost half of the village had began to knew us.
So, one of them found out a way to get the plate from Kullu which was far away from the small village that was in the Pangi Valley. That night, the mechanic had went somewhere far to fix a truck and had left the whole garage on some 3 unknown kids whom he didn’t knew at all.
It was 2nd evening and all we could do is watch the sun set behind the Mountains sitting on the tractor which was lying beside our broken Nano.
3rd Day started with a short run down the lane and while running down, we saw Sanju coming back in a truck and that made us head back to the garage. The moment I reached back, I saw a box which was kept outside of garage. With every cover that i unfolded, i couldn’t stop smiling.. the plate had arrived.!
Now, came the 2nd half of the major Task.. fixing the plate and putting up everything back in it’s place. Sanjay had taken a day and half to dismantle the car and that had given a fair idea that he is going to take atleast a day to fix it. So I decided to help him in every possible way to get it done fast.. Meanwhile, Anna and SharmaJi preferred taking a bath on 4th day after 2days of convincing to the cunning manager of Raj Hotel.
Lifting an engine all by yourself is not an easy job. But getting out from here is all i had in mind. So my little brain made a pulley with everything i had and lifted the engine and allowed Sanju to fix it. By this time, it was noon and Sanju had began to lose patience.. after every 30minutes, he used to smoke a Bidi, change the spanner and would get under the car and continue his fixing job.
Finally, the car got ready by 4pm. After a test drive by Anna it was ready to roll. We all had nothing in our stomach so had to eat first before starting our journey to Keylong which was still 110kms ahead.
Almost everyone who knew that we were leaving greeted and wished us a happy and safe journey and gave us the maps and directions to Keylong..
Everything went will in the first 3kms until…..
To be continued…