Driving to Ladakh in any kind of a vehicle (especially when the roads still have snow / black ice on them) can be a tricky affair for the most experienced of drivers. But when someone decides to venture out in a Nano (the ‘baby’ car from the Tata Automobiles stable with a reputation for catching fire without the slightest of provocations) and comes back in the same car to tell the story, it is another thing altogether. Sanjay Madan and Pankaj Chanana did just that: they left their Landcruisers home and ventured out in a Nano. The following is a story of their journey, as narrated by them. (we have done minimal editing to it). (Sanjay will be coming to the Kunzum Travel Cafe in August to narrate his story in person. If you want to join the interactive talk, let us know and we will inform you when it is scheduled). Read on…
It didn’t take too long to take the decision and finally add this little car to our fleet that includes the Land Cruiser. TATA NANO – much talked about as ‘the common man’s car meant to be driven on city roads’ made its way to the rooftop of the world and proved itself to be the “TOUGH TODDLER” that it is being called.
On 29 May, we began our journey to Leh – Ladakh from Delhi and reached Nalagarh Fort, about 285 kms north of the city. Fuel average on the 1st day was 20.4 kms/lts with the A/C running.
30 May – Drove to Manali (290 kms from Nalagarh). It was late evening by the time we reached. Since we were going uphill, the average was 16 kms/lts on A/C.
31 May – Started at 0530 hrs and made our way to Rohtang Pass at the height of 3980 mts. While this little car was scaling heights, heads continued to turn …everyone had that amazed, questioning look – is this the TATA Nano?
Made a stop at the Tandi Petrol Station (2573 mts) and got an affirmation from them that it was the first one to climb this height. In fact, they hadn’t even seen the car before that day… Fuel average at this point was 15.5 kms/lts.
Reached Hotel Ibex, Jispa late afternoon and heard that the roads further were closed. The next 6 days were nothing but a painful wait for the route to open.
6 June – Met an Army Colonel Mr. K.S Kajal, enroute to Ladakh who assured us that if the route opened then we would be able to make our way further along with their convoy.
Finally, late noon, we made our way towards Barlacha La Pass at height of 4892 mts. It was a tough patch with 6-10fts of snow walls on both sides and we crossed this 20 kms patch with snow-clad hills with the help of the army personnel.
Around late evening, we reached Sarchu (4253 mts height) and stayed in the Army transit camps – thanks to Colonel Kajal.
7 June – We packed our bags in the morning and drove on. Just after Gata Loops, we had a near death experience where the car skidded on black ice and went out of control for a microsecond. The tyres had to be deflated to get the traction on road.
After that we crossed Lachalang La Pass (5065 mts) and Tanglang La Pass (5360 mts), and finally reached Leh that evening. However, our journey wasn’t over yet – the aim was to drive this Lil’ Car to Khardungla Top, which at 18380 ft is the highest motorable road in the world. Fuel average here was 14.8 km/lt.
8 June Took the permit from Leh DC Office and headed towards Khardungla Top. Soon, the ‘tough toddler’ scaled new heights and proudly made its mark on the highest pass in the world! It was quite an achievement.
9 June – Crossed Fotu La Pass at 4108 mts, reached Kargil at 0400 hrs, and sank into the bed immediately. Began the journey to Srinagar at 0800 hrs. The highlight of this route was Zojila Pass at 3529 mts, famous for it’s difficult passage; even the regular commuters face difficulties here. As if this wasn’t enough, it started to rain, making the journey more challenging. Fuel average was 15 kms/lts here. Finally reached Srinagar by 1800 hrs.
The next day itself, we started the journey back home; drove straight for 26 hrs covering a distance of 900 kms from Srinagar to Delhi (another performance test for the car) and reached Delhi by the evening. The average here was 24 kms/lt.
Like they say – Where this is a will, there is a way! Cheers!
Sanjay Madan / Pankaj Chanana
Ph- 09717080066, 09868094254