killar

….Until I noticed that the speedometer wasn’t working and there was some jerk every time Anna raised the accelerator.. But somehow I convinced Anna that it must be due to some loose bolt and he managed to convince me that speedometer is the last thing that we needed. Bunty’ a local builder who had helped us get the plate all the way from Kullu.. was guiding us till Udaipur which was 60kms ahead. Being the only well experienced driver, Anna decided to drive on the off-road track till Udaipur.

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I was ordered to sleep.. but sleeping in a Nano.. that too on off-roads.. was next to impossible.. So I took my camera and Gopro and began to capture the amazing wide scenery of Pangi Valley.. We were told by Bunty to avoid any turns and continue straight on Tandi road.

rock cut roads

After covering 35kms we reached Mindhal.. a small settlement of 15-20 houses.. Even they were surprised to see a Nano on that road.. and assured us that we were not going to reach Keylong on the same day. By this time we had learned to ignore everyone who used to say that we won’t make it or the car wont make it till Leh…
We halted for few minutes, took some snaps.. some chips.. and Real Juice that too.. Pomegranate flavor *Yuck* and moved ahead..

@mindhal
It was getting dark and we were told about few streams that could be dangerous to the car. So we hurried up but the avg speed just increased from 18km/hr to 20kms/hr. Somehow we crossed those deadly rock cut roads and entered Lahual region by 8pm.

entering lahaul
I was lying on the back seat and was wondering, “what if this journey never ended..??” and the sudden smile which came straight from the heart can’t be described in words. Lying on the back seat.. with your favourite track playing.. legs half out of the window.. watching mountains n valleys turn by turn.. with your loved ones.. heading to your dream destination.. and memories of past few days spent at a Village whose name you never heard of.. those Punctual faces.. some that I talked with.. some I wished to talk with… funny moments at the govt. hospital… view from the Hotel.. watching Enfieldmaniacs making their way.. Ahh.!! Life had never been so happening before.. 😀
And as I was lost in those happy memories.. Ganesh Anna woke me up and said.. “Machan, we’ve got a stream to cross ra..”

enjoying solace
As I opened the door, I could hear the same familiar noise of the running water of the stream… and the chilling water brought me back to my senses. Though the streams were wider than Saach’s, they were easier to cross as if the pebbles were paved..
The slowly increasing speed showed the frustration of Anna.. Until we saw the river.. Chenab was showing it’s wrath and that made us go slow from there onward.. I had seen Chandra River in Spiti but Chenab’s Flow was worse.!!

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As we had a lot of distance to cover, we kept on moving.. After crossing 3 streams and covering a stretch of another 45kms, we reached Udaipur. But we didn’t halt as it was the Tar road which was our main target and not the town. Finally we came across a dhaba and Anna stopped the car. It took us 6hrs to cover 85kms..We met a very nice guy at the dhaba who was happy to see kids who were addicted to travel rather than anything else. It always makes me feel good when someone admires what you do.. rather than making you realise that you are riding in a Nano.! 

@Udaipur

Moving ahead.. we crossed few more police check posts and villages..and at last we came on the Manali-Leh Highway at Tandi.
Before starting this trip, Anna and me had decided that we are not going to refer anything on the net regarding the route from Jaipur to Leh. That was so foolish of me.. but Anna being the eldest had got information from which we came to know that there was a petrol pump in Jispa which was 19kms ahead of Keylong.. The place where we stopped to exchange the drivers.. I came across this..

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It was 1:30am, Niraj took the wheel and continued the journey.. I could see Lightening behind the mountain ranges.. that made me worried.. also I saw some trees and electric wire poles fallen along the road.. Sharma Ji always looked sleepy whenever he used to concentrate on driving. He never noticed anything going on along the roads.. And that use to make me scream out loud..

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Well… after getting down to Jispa, I felt asleep but Sharma Ji woke me up and said that there was no petrol pump till Jispa. So we took those printouts and checked for the nearest pump. It showed Tandi which was 26kms behind, the same point where we joined the highway. Sharma’s pissed off face made me realise that again we were in deep trouble.. because we were already driving on Reserved petrol.. (usual thing) and that the car could go only 21kms.
Without thinking much, we took a detour and started back journey to Tandi.. It had started raining by that time.. Sharmaji used to drive in full swing and then used to take the car on Neutral to save petrol.. I felt asleep as I didn’t sleep during the entire journey.
A loud screeeching sound made me wake up and as I looked in the rear mirror I saw a live electric cable stucked with the wheel..
“Gaadi rok Bh******” I yelled at Niraj… Sharma applied urgent brakes.. and I opened the door, but then I saw the pole from where the wire came and it was sparkling out blue sparks. My eyes were wide open.. Without any thought… I told Niraj to take the car back slowly..
And the moment the wire got off the wheel.. it was pulled by the falling pole and it went off the road like a snake with sparks coming out of it..
Damn.!! What was that..!!?? I Looked at Niraj with a BIG ? mark.. Then I realized what was I about to do.. Free a Live wire with bare hands..??
I imagined myself like those people who touch the Railway’s current wire and get turned down into ashes.. That moment still brings goosebumps as I describe it. Then came the funny part, I turned back to Anna and he was looking at me and niraj with a blank face as he had no idea what could have happened a minute ago. That didn’t stopped me scolding Niraj.. but we had to continue as we were running out of fuel.
Two kilometers after that horrible incident.. Sharma ji had almost taken us into Heaven… YES.!! He had missed a sharp curve and the tiny little car was hanging on a cliff with only two tyres on road and front tyres was almost hanging…
As I looked back.. Anna had already jumped off the car and I couldn’t stop laughing… I still remember Sharma half crying and half laughing..
Until the car moved a bit and made us realize that it can fall any moment and that we should be saving our lives rather than laughing like idiots..
So I came out of the car.. called anna and pushed her back and somehow got her back on road.. Phew.! The roadtrip was getting worse with every hour.. As I got in, I could see sharma ji getting sentimental.. and saying “Saale, marte waqt bhi mera sath nahi chda..”(Din’t leave me even while dying) And I forgot all my anger.. Phew.! Shit happens.. that’s all I could say..
Anna took back the wheel and drove the car till petrol pump.. last 3kms stretch on neutral mode.. amazing he is.. during that time Niraj was trying to explain that he wasn’t sleepy..
We reached The pump at 4:30am.. and had one more problem.. that was the pump opens at 6:30am. So we stood in the que and slept off in the car itself. As we woke up, we saw 50more vehicles in the que and those who had returned from Leh told us that they took 12hours and some took 10hours..
We refilled the extra fuel gallons and estimated that we would require 14hours to reach Leh. Unfortunately, we had spent all our time i.e. 3days in Khillar so we were running a day behind. Anna drove till Deepak Tal and had missed a check post that got me worried as I didn’t want any more trouble. But the dhaba guy told us to get it done at Sarchu. To my surprise, I saw a group of foreigners littering around the super beautiful Deepak Taal.

Deepak Tal
As we crossed ZingZing la, all we could see were barren brown shades of mountains, army camps and cantt. and army trucks.. “Trishul”
On the way, there was a bridge being repaired so every bike, car, truck and Cycles.. were stopped.

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It was no new thing so see Majority of People from Maharashtra. Those who were more adventurous, took the alternative route of the stream. People were praising each other and their rides.. and as we joined the cue, everyone was like.. “Fuck dude.! That’s one hell of a ride..” In reality, all they meant to say was that.. “saala nano kaise aa gayi.!?” 😛

Adventure trip
Journey resumed and it was noon when we crossed the famous Barala Cha pass and I realized that the car wasn’t moving anymore.

anna

As I opened my eyes, I saw both my takudoos sleeping.. which was quite obvious thing after previous nights incidents.. So.. it was my time to take the wheel and complete the journey. Sarchu to Pang is a stretch of 190kms with 2 passes in between..

That's me

As I was the only one who was awake.. I decided to wear my gloves which I had specially got for this drive and play Martin’s UMF’16 set while driving. I used to calculate time with the track. So I drove for 3 hours on the challenging Gata Loops and crossed Nakeela Pass(15,547ft), which I found as the 2nd most difficult pass after Saach(14,000ft).

@nakeela

Also, I managed to escape from 2 close to death incidents which my friends are still unaware of.. 😛
We halted for brunch from where Anna’s health started worsening.. Now I had many things to do at the same time.. to keep Anna and Sharmaji motivated.. to capture the amazing scenery around.. change the tracks every time and most important of all.. to drive carefully..!
Later, sharma ji took the wheel as he wanted to drive on atleast 1 Pass.. so he completed lalchung la(16,616ft) and made it till Morey Plains.

lalchungla

Niraj was driving in full swing on the buttery roads of Morey Plains.. The terrain changes so drastically as you climb you from Pang. Morey Plains offers a view of what you call as the exact definition of Ladakh.

Morey plains

By the time we reached Debring.. the sun had began to set and we had to stop for a refill. During the whole journey, Petrol was leaking off the gallons so the whole car was smelling petrol. We had a relief as we emptied a can into the car. I continued to drive.. but my happiness was short lived as I saw a thin line drawn on the mountain ahead.. it was a pass.. a big one.. The car was already tired after a day’s non stop journey.. It never crossed 60kmph.. Also it never ran in 2nd gear.. so.. every time it used to get slow Sharmaji used to laugh at me.. Being the only source of entertainment, I continued the driving.. As we reached the top, we were overwhelmed with joy to see that our Takudoo had made it to the second highest pass i.e. Tanglang La(17582ft). Also, we were glad that this was the last pass of the journey and the road was in very good condition.

Tanglang La
It began to snow as we crossed the pass. Things changed, and my driving skills too.. I finally understood how to save fuel by driving in Neutral gear.. 😛 As we got back on the curves, Sharmaji’s fear came back.. but he couldn’t stop smiling.. I knew that it was due to High altitude sickness.. so I ignored him and continued to drive. But, after some point of time.. I felt like a hand was coming close to me and adjusting the rear mirror.. I felt it many times and then it clicked me that I was getting hallucinated too and that we should lower down as soon as possible.
It got dark and as we reached Rhumtse, we realised that sharmaji didn’t make any calls to his beloved Bapuji. The only place where one can find a network is Upshi which was 52kms ahead. So Without thinking much we continued the journey. Anna was sleeping since afternoon due to headache.
For some reasons, my driving skills were exceptionally well.. and I could make that out on Sharmaji’s face.. with every curve he used to tell me to slow down and I used to speed up.. The more I drove the car, the more I fell in love with it. And finally we made it to Upshi by 9pm.

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Entering JnK was a headache.. We were forced to pay Excise duty for which Sharmaji questioned the authority and got into a quarrel but unfortunately we had to pay. After the most important call of the day, I somehow got in touch with our teammate Chirag, who was supposed to join us for the expedition. He assured us that all the arrangements had been made and that we need not hurry. After listening to Chirag’s word, I was relieved. Next important thing was Food.!! After rejecting 2 dishes, Anna finally had half chapati.
So after so much of adventure in a day we finally reached Leh. Anuj and Giri Sir greeted us but we were too tired to tell them about the entire journey. The next thing that came in my mind was the expedition.. Stok Kangri.. for which all this efforts were taken…

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To read about the whole expedition, please read “Journey from Land of Rama to Land of Lama(Part-3)

“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.

stok kangri
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.

attari border

 

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.

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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.

enroute saach
enroute saach

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…

nano
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.

tired Niraj

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.

@Saach pass
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.

in 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.

at khillar
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.

View from hotel

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.

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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.

at the garage

@khillar
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.!

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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.

Thanks to all

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…

Jaipur-leh(Part-2)…