OVERDRIVE and Audi present the Independence quattro drive
Ladakh is a land of mystery, speckled with some of the most gorgeous landscapes on the Indian subcontinent. It's a tempestuous mistress and OVERDRIVE has a long standing affair with her. Every year for the last 15 since this magazine was kick-started, we have driven to this mystical land that offers adventure seekers the ultimate thrill.
This being OVERDRIVE's 15th anniversary we've decided to share our experiences with you in the way we know best: get out on the road trip of a lifetime!
This however, isn't just your average adventure we are going to write this script for you and you can expect to bear witness to more than the usual. The Independence quattro drive will see you journey for 10 days in Audi's celebrated range of SUVs to hoist the national flag at one of the highest motorable roads in the world - Marsimik La - on the 15th of August 2013! So we've thrown in luxury and a patriotic streak into an adventure that your kids will probably narrate to their kids over a camp fire - we hope - in Ladakh.
This adventure isn't for the faint of heart, but while we will make it as easy for you as possible, we will also teach you just how to survive in one of the most demanding regions of India. You will also get to experience what a luxury 4x4 SUV brings to the table and soak in the magnificence of the Himalayas.
We will have the Audi Q7, Q5 and the Q3 as our workhorses on this drive. Five of these luxurious, capable and stunning SUVs will take us through some extreme terrain. By the time we conclude, we guarantee you will be begging for more. You will probably become as hopelessly addicted as we are and make the trip back again on your own!
Our adventure will begin from the "Fort of Chandi" or the city more popular for being India's first planned city post-Independence - Chandigarh. It's also the city to have given us some of the finest names in motorsport. Get pulled over by a traffic cop for speeding and he is guaranteed to ask if you think you are Hari Singh, five-time national rally champion and a resident here. This beautiful and orderly city is the gateway for all those seeking to write their stories in Ladakh.
From this meeting point we will set off for Manali. The 350 kilometre drive into the Kullu valley takes you past deep gorges with the river Beas rushing downhill alongside the highway. Lush vegetation, smooth tarmac and the crisp air of the mountains will greet you as you drive into Manali. Our foray into the Himalayas begins from this lovely hill station.
Over the next week we will challenge high altitude passes, extreme cold and winds that have shaped these mighty mountains. Around every corner a new and startling vista will unfold, so don't forget to carry your cameras, memory cards and batteries! We will drive over formidable mountain passes that have names like Baralacha La, Tanglang La, each sounding more formidable than the next. We will drive on the windswept plains of More and camp on the banks of the Tso Kar and Pangong Tso, some of the highest salt water lakes in the world. We will drive past the unbelievable Penzi La which is the gateway into the Zanskar valley and stop for a breather above the Drang Drung glacier.
The highlight of this trip will be our drive up to Marsimik La, situated at an altitude of 18640 feet above sea level. If this pass were on the commercial air traffic route you'd probably be looking down on planes flying past. Don't expect to see blacktop here, the road is entirely dirt and is used by locals riding ponies and the armed forces. So a 4x4 is compulsory. As are strong lungs, iron will and plenty of mental juice!
On this trip our expedition leader is none other than Trigun 'Mama' Vir Singh Pathania. A passionate ornithologist and a naturalist at the Bandhavgarh sanctuary, Trigun probably knows this region better than he knows himself. His love for Ladakh, DIY and tools of all sorts could easily get him the lead on a survivalist TV show! What few know is that Trigun is also a Himalayan rally veteran having won the team event, in nothing less than a truck. This has nonetheless led him on several occasions either as a traveler or a guide and even as a marshal on the famous Raid De Himalaya into the deepest recesses of Ladakh. In fact just for kicks we are also going to drive through a competitive section of the Raid De Himalaya to give you a feel of what some of the bravest souls on our sub-continent experience in the heat of Motorsport.
For the finale we will get to rest our aching souls in the finest of boat houses in the middle of India's prettiest lakes, the Dal in Srinagar. It will be a night to remember as we recount our journey and share our experiences.
Do keep in mind this drive is also a headlining story for OVERDRIVE's 15th anniversary and you will be an integral part of it. Be prepared to see yourself on all the mediums we are present in print, television and web! So bring your A-game!
We've said a lot but it's never a substitute to being there yourself. There is however one thing we must add Ladakh may be a lot of fun but it isn't a picnic. We urge everyone to treat this trip with the utmost respect.
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