by Shyam R Chenjeri
I am the proud owner of a Santro and I've been driving for more than a decade. I'm also a complete travel freak, and take my car on long drives. I have already covered over 100,000 kilometres, most of them on National Highways. In fact, my friends and relatives tease me that my car is my first home, and have nicknamed me Santro Shyam!
Let me tell you about my expedition from Bangalore to Leh in August 2011, when we covered about 9,000 km – just me and my car!
One of my dreams was to drive along the world's highest motorable road, and it took me a couple of years to realize this dream. Initially my parents, friends and relatives were skeptical about letting me do the entire trip alone. I reassured them with the safety measures I had undertaken — no night driving, I was carrying a medical and first aid kit, and had the addresses of Hyundai Service centers along the route. Comforted, they agreed, and supported me wholeheartedly – I had planned my itinerary to perfection!
On the July 21, 2011, I embarked on my mission to conquer the world's highest motorable road. To reach Leh (the capital of Ladakh), I covered Belgaum, Kolhapur, Pune, Mumbai, Surat, Ahmedabad, Udaipur, Ajmer, Jaipur, Gurgaon, Delhi, Panipat, Jalandhar, Ludhiana, Amritsar, and Jammu and Kashmir, which I did in a matter of time. It was wonderful to see nature at its best. One of the most memorable moments of my journey was visiting the India-Pakistan border near Amritsar.
I came across all the mountains (Tololing, Tiger Hills, etc.) that were captured by Pakistan during the Kargil war. I visited the War Memorial and paid my respects to the soldiers who laid down their lives for us. Truly, hats off to the soldiers of the Indian Army who sacrifice their today for our tomorrows!
On 1st August 2011, I reached the city of Leh. Travelling through Jammu and Kashmir, a stunning paradise on earth, and cutting across the treacherous Zoji La Pass, I was welcomed by beautiful snow clad mountains. It was at that moment I realized how close I was to achieving my dream!
To travel in Ladakh, one has to take prior permission from the Deputy Commissioner, based in Leh. With adequate photocopies of the permission certificate (to be shown at several check posts), I inched closer to Khardung La. It took me a couple of hours to cover the 39 km from Leh, as I had to stop many a time to photograph the incredible beauty of nature. Braving extreme weather conditions (it was dreadfully chill!) I finally reached the world's highest motorable road!
During the expedition, I was very lucky to visit some of the most unbelievable places on earth, situated right here in our own country. Some of them are:
• World's highest motorable road — Khardung La
• World's 2nd highest motorable road — Tanglang La
• World's highest army transit camp — Pang
• World's highest dosa point — Trishul dosa point
• World's highest cafeteria — Rinchen cafeteria at Khardung La
• World's highest cable car — Gulmarg (Jammu and Kashmir)
• World's 2nd coldest inhabited place — Drass
• World's only Brahma temple at Pushkar
It was really the experience of a lifetime to travel to these places all alone in my car. Everyone I met during my journey asked me how a Santro could make it through the world's toughest terrain. I achieved it through confidence; the car really lived up to my expectations, and I can't wait to take her on many more expeditions!
The most important thing I learnt from this expedition is that if you dream it, you can do it!