This is an early day today and food packed we would be on the way to the most enviable expedition ever undertaken! F1 car enroute the highest motorable road in the world, build and maintained by the Border Roads Organisation. If you were worried about the muddy roads and potholes across the city imagine after a shower of snow the roads becoming slush and treacherous in literal terms. So we drive the car making a clear road ahead for Neel Jani, there are people looking out for pits and stones and luckily we don’t find any on the road, it was going to be a clean drive.
The team had got used to having pit stops at will and some places where we could really get respite from the grueling session we were on.
Let me start at the start of the hillock, we had to cross three stretches crossing mountains every time. The road would be winding around a range and then we would be on the next one to cross.
The total distance was 34 kms from the town. The distance can be divided into two, one a 20 km road till the South Pullu where there is an army check post and then to the Khardung-La. The first part is easily motorable in the sense that there are roads infact nice roads you would want to drive faster but it’s a hill so you got to take control. It will be a smooth drive though.
From South Pullu to our wanton destination is the most treacherous road, the army truck wear chains over their tyres for more grip to avoid sliding over the slush of muddy roads caused after a snow fall.
That’s where our challenges lie, apart from that the car would need to be stopped whenever we have a problem with the terrain posing ground clearance and suspension issues.
We also had to be careful about the fact that we don’t cause hardship to fellow travelers along the road. Every curve lent itself a platform to view the vastness of the country with its multi colored hues spread over and the autumn just setting in it was a perfect landscape for the canvas.
Once the car was ready to run the crew also had to shoot alongside, and that was really fun for Neel.
I remember he was just following a truck with camera, and he had to really slow himself to the speed of the camera.
Once he got out of the car after the drive, he said, ‘Was very tough to follow the truck, I had no view except the truck in front and it is becoming fun’
Another time when he came to a stop he had some problems with the clutch. He said ‘It was taking a couple of seconds to respond. We need to just fix that!’
Half way through our drive we were greeted by the officials of Border Roads Organisation. They have been of immense help! Getting us clearance and sending us an escort van to help us with.
As much as pit stops happening on the roads and valleys and plains, the lunch was also happening the same way ofcourse it’s sometime chilly and windy out in the open!
Every drive on the road was getting us clearly up some over 100s of feet up the ground. Sometimes it would be more than 500 feet up in a single go. A long and winding drive for Neel up and I really doubt if anyone would get to do such drive anytime in the future!
We did have a long day with multiple pit stops and driving up the terrain literally scaling up a feet or two with every turn or a corner or going an elevation up hill! Sometimes it felt like a fast track and with no arm cores and tyre barriers.
And by the way we have crossed almost 20 kilometers and the most challenging 14 kms are yet to be made!
In the sidelines, something I watched from here is the fact that lot of people in our armed forces have made these their home so that we live in peace time all year through.