Ladakh! The name conjures up
visions of snow-capped lofty mountains and equally steep gorges, a royal blue
sky spotted with wispy clouds, and icy winds blowing through a barren and brown
landscape. Ladakh is probably one of those few places where nature’s beauty is
represented in its starkest form. Naturally, a trip to Ladakh tops the
wish-list of innumerable adventure-lovers. But the barely-there roads – strewn
with rocks of various sizes and forms and often covered with treacherous sheets
of thin ice – usually tends to deter wannabe travellers.
Given the nature of this
inhospitable terrain, most prudent travellers would baulk at the very idea of
riding a scooter across treacherous terrains. But Pushpinder Singh Batra, 29, a
resident of Kharar, a small town in Punjab, had different ideas. Egged on by
his charming wife, Karishma, they decided to circumnavigate Ladakh on their
trusted Mahindra Gusto. Just back home after completing the arduous journey in
12 days, Pushpinder shares two interesting anecdotes from this trip.
Starting from Kharar on a
sunny September morning, it took us almost 10 hours to reach Manali. The next
morning, when I approached the government office that issues travel permits to
Ladakh, a funny incident happened. The official, in charge of issuing the
permit, almost fell off his chair when I told him about my chosen mode of
transport. “Are you serious? How can you possibly think of taking on those high
roads with a scooty?” To that, I solemnly answered, “Sir, my Mahindra Gusto is
not a scooty. It’s a full-bodied scooter with a 109.6 cc, 4-stroke engine.” By
the incredulous look on his face, I could clearly make out that he was not
convinced. He issued the permit with the warning that the Mahindra Gusto would
not even cross Rohtang Pass.
The fact that it did and went
much, much beyond had to do with Mahindra Gusto’s sound engineering. To tell
you the truth, initially, even I had serious doubts on how much punishment the
scooter could endure. So, I posted an
enquiry on Mahindra’s Facebook page, asking whether the Mahindra Gusto would be
able to undertake such a tough journey and, if yes, whether any modifications
were required. To my surprise, I got the feedback from Mahindra Two Wheelers
that the Gusto with a torque of 9 Nm @ 5500 rpm would comfortably rise to the
challenge posed by the Himalayan terrain. In specific terms, specs such as a
superior suspension design (telescopic with air spring in the front) ; Large Tubeless tyres, and a very high ground
clearance of 165 mm gave me that much-needed comfort while planning the trip.
Mahindra Two Wheelers Team helped us prep the Gusto for the journey. They were
We carried extra fuel that was
duly fitted on my friend Gursewak’s bike who was accompanying us.
The second anecdote relates to
our scooter developing a flat tyre on Day 4. With a night’s rest at Sarchu, a
favourite halt between Manali and Leh, we had set out towards Rumtse, a small
village beyond the Taglang La Pass, which is among the highest motorable roads
in the world. We were curious to visit the Rumtse monastery. However, on the
slopes towards Rumtse, the Gusto’s front tyre gave in. Until then, we were
maintaining an average speed of about 30 kmph but given the mishap and the
condition of the roads, we were forced to reduce the scooter’s speed by 10
kmph. What’s remarkable is that apart from this slight manoeuvring, we did not
face any other problem. As we made our way safely down the slope, both Karishma
and I thanked Wahe Guru. And, I must say this incident reinforced our faith in
our beloved Mahindra Gusto.
The journey across Ladakh was
tough but the scenic beauty more than compensated for other perils such as
freezing temperatures, treacherous roads, and low oxygen levels.
Along our beautiful journey,
the Mahindra Gusto also got some admirers among the local people due to its
Remote Flip Key and Find Me Lamps that turn on with buttons on the key and that
surely was a first for many of the local inhabitants.
Meanwhile, I did not forget
the government official at Manali. After we returned safely, I mailed him a few
pictures of our adventure and attached a small note, thanking him for his
(misplaced) concern. He called as I finished writing this travelogue.
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