Mojo to Leh

Mahin­dra or­gan­ised ‘Mojo – The Moun­tain Trail 2017’ be­tween 8 and 21 July. With this sec­ond edi­tion of the moun­tain trail, Mahin­dra con­tin­ued their mis­sion to tackle some of the most chal­leng­ing and ad­ven­tur­ous ter­rain in the coun­try: Leh. This ride gave

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The 300-cc mahin­dra proves its met­tle up top

STORY: GIRISH SHET Pho­tog­ra­Phy: MAHIN­DRA 2WHEELERS

MOJO – THE Moun­tain Trail 2017’ was flagged off from Chandi­garh. The jour­ney started with 24 other rid­ers from all over the coun­try for a 14-day ride cov­er­ing over 2,460 kilo­me­tres. Three peo­ple from Mahin­dra had joined us for the ride: Anish Thakkar, Sarath Shenoy, and Hemant Singh. We also had a doc­tor with us for any emer­gen­cies.

We em­barked on our jour­ney on 8 July from Guneet Wheels Pvt Ltd, a Mahin­dra two-wheeler show­room in Chandi­garh. As a to­ken of good luck and strength, the show­room owner pre­sented each of us with sets of Pun­jabi pathkas, and a chain with a

kanga, kara and kir­pan from the Gur­d­wara. The chief guest, Lieu­tenant Gen­eral Iqbal Singh Singha, flagged the ride off at 11.30 am and we were off to our des­ti­na­tion, Pathankot, 245 km away. The only down­side to the oth­er­wise pic­turesque ride from Chandi­garh to Pathankot was the weather. De­hy­dra­tion due to the ex­treme heat was com­mon to all which in­evitably led to a cou­ple of stops en route for lime juice. After about eight hours on the road we fi­nally reached Pathankot and paid a visit to the Mahin­dra two-wheeler show­room there where evening high tea awaited us. Although Pathankot is known for mil­i­tary-grade goods such as bags, shoes and win­ter cloth­ing, we set­tled for a sump­tu­ous din­ner at the Unite Ho­tel and called it a day.

As we started from Pathankot the next day for Pat­ni­top it was time for us to gain alti­tude. It was a nearly 182-km­long ride com­pris­ing both wind­ing roads and straight high­ways. The weather was no dif­fer­ent and we were as de­pen­dent on those juice shops as we were on day one. The high­light of the route was the nine-km-long ChenaniNashri tun­nel which was a unique ex­pe­ri­ence. We had to cross Jammu to reach Pat­ni­top. As we crossed the tun­nel and ex­ited Jammu, a traf­fic jam in­volv­ing a num­ber of trucks made us look for an al­ter­na­tive route, thus giv­ing us rid­ers our first taste of off-road­ing on this jour­ney. We reached our cosy and com­fort­able rooms at the Ma­haraja Ho­tel at Pat­ni­top at 5.30 pm. There was fog ev­ery­where and warm cloth­ing now made its first ap­pear­ance.

Our next des­ti­na­tion was Son­marg. We started at 9.00 am. The dis­tance we had to cover was about 261 km and, to make things a lit­tle more chal­leng­ing, we en­coun­tered rain. We crossed the 2.85-km-long Jawa­har Tun­nel, which has been op­er­a­tional since 22 De­cem­ber 1956. A few kilo­me­tres from the Tun­nel we stopped at a place called Ti­tanic View Point for lunch. The weather sud­denly changed and it was warm again. After lunch we en­tered Sri­na­gar, the sum­mer cap­i­tal of Jammu and Kash­mir, to visit the fa­mous Dal Lake. The Lake, the sec­ond largest in the state, is in­te­gral to tourism and re­cre­ation in Kash­mir, and is called the ‘Jewel in the Crown of Kash­mir’ or ‘Sri­na­gar’s Jewel’. It was a balmy af­ter­noon. We spent about 30 min­utes around the Lake. The weather changed once again and be­came cold as we came closer to Son­marg. This route was a mix of high­ways, city roads and no roads. We reached Son­marg by 8.00 pm.

The next morn­ing all of us were ea­ger to ride from Son­marg to Kargil. It was a dis­tance of 130 km but we had planned a num­ber of stops en route for sight­see­ing. Our first en­counter with snow was at Zo­jila Pass where a lot of snow-re­lated ac­tiv­i­ties like sled­ding and snow­mo­bil­ing were on of­fer. Most of us made the best of them and tried our hand at sled­ding. Our next stop was for lunch at Drass, the sec­ond cold­est in­hab­ited place in the world, and then went on to pay a visit to the Kargil War Me­mo­rial. Lis­ten­ing to the lo­cal sto­ries about the val­our, de­ter­mi­na­tion and pa­tri­o­tism of our sol­diers gave us not just the goose­bumps but also the will to carry on.

The Kargil-Leh high­way ride was more of a climb to ac­cli­ma­tise our­selves for the big passes to come. There were two passes that we had to cross that day: Fat­ula Top at 13,479 feet and Namikla Pass at 12,198 ft. Some of the rid­ers showed symp­toms of AMS (acute moun­tain sick­ness) when they stopped at these passes due to the low oxy­gen lev­els there. This condition typ­i­cally oc­curs at about 8,000 feet or 2,400 me­tres above sea level. Dizzi­ness, nau­sea, headache, and short­ness of breath are among its symp­toms.

The most awaited des­ti­na­tion on this route was the mag­netic hill, a phe­nom­e­non that de­fies grav­ity. There is a patch where one can park one’s ve­hi­cle in a box marked with paint on the road to ex­pe­ri­ence the won­der. The land­scape and sur­round­ing slopes cre­ate an op­ti­cal il­lu­sion mak­ing the down­hill road seem up­hill. Ob­jects and cars on the hill may ap­pear to roll up­hill in de­fi­ance of grav­ity when they are in fact rolling down­hill.

Five days and 1,000 kilo­me­tres later we reached Leh and a day’s wellde­served rest. We knew we needed it badly as we had a lot of off-road­ing to do over the next few days.

Our next des­ti­na­tion was Su­mur, Nubra Val­ley. The ride from Leh to Su­mur, which in­cluded cross­ing a beau­ti­ful val­ley, was treach­er­ous. The big­gest chal­lenge was the Khardungla Top (K Top) which is the world’s

high­est mo­torable road at 18,380 ft. This was where a few peo­ple faced prob­lems. The alti­tude re­ally took its toll on the rid­ers, one of us be­ing hit hard by AMS. Since we had a doc­tor with us, he im­me­di­ately came to the res­cue of the sick. We vis­ited the Diskit Monastery, also known as ‘Deskit Gompa’ or ‘Diskit Gompa’, the old­est and largest Bud­dhist monastery in the Nubra Val­ley of Ladakh. It be­longs to the Gel­ugpa sect of Ti­betan Bud­dhism. The monastery has a statue of Cho Rin­poche (Crowned Bud­dha) in the prayer hall, a huge drum and sev­eral im­ages of fierce guardian deities. An el­e­vated cupola on the monastery de­picts a fresco of the Tashil­hunpo

The Mahin­dra Mojo team did a won­der­ful job of en­sur­ing that all the rid­ers were safe. The route was planned care­fully so that all the rid­ers could pre­pare them­selves well

Monastery of Ti­bet. After the monastery we vis­ited a camel sa­fari in Hun­der Sand Dunes. About 12,000 ft above sea level, 150 km north of Leh, lies Nubra, one of the high­est cold deserts in the world. See­ing the dou­ble humped Bac­trian camel in Hun­der and Diskit travel over the Ladakhi sand dunes was a feast for the eyes.

From Su­mur we came back to Leh and stayed there over the night. On our itin­er­ary the next day was Pan­gong Tso, which is not an easy trip to make be­cause we were re­quired to pass through streams of melt­ing snow which made the road slip­pery and tricky. If this wasn’t enough, we also had to pass the Chang La, the sec­ond high­est mo­torable road in the world. Pan­gong Tso is an en­dorheic lake in the Hi­malayas si­t­u­ated at a height of about 4,350 me­tres. It is 134 km long and ex­tends from In­dia to China. This lake has been made fa­mous by Bol­ly­wood as well; you may re­call the last few scenes from 3 Idiots. We stayed for the night at the Ladakh sum­mer camp in­side lux­u­ri­ous and spa­cious tents. How­ever, a few of us con­tin­ued to be dogged by loss of sleep due to low oxy­gen lev­els. The tents fac­ing Pan­gong lake helped us put this dis­com­fort be­hind us and gave us a mem­o­rable ex­pe­ri­ence with its stun­ning and panoramic view.

The ex­pe­ri­ence was breath­tak­ing and the Mahin­dra Mojo bike han­dled the vary­ing ter­rain very well. Its sus­pen­sion took all the beat­ing of the off road and the Mo­grip tyres were a per­fect match for the bike to en­sure the rid­ers had the best ex­pe­ri­ence.

The Mahin­dra Mojo team did a won­der­ful job of en­sur­ing that all the rid­ers were safe. The route was planned care­fully so that all the rid­ers could phys­i­cally and men­tally pre­pare them­selves be­fore ac­tu­ally tak­ing on the high­est mo­torable roads in the world. As some­one rightly said, ‘It’s all about the jour­ney, not the des­ti­na­tion’.

A grand flag-off by Lieu­tenant Gen­eral Iqbal Singh Singha (Re­tired) in Chandi­garh

The ma­tri­archs of the Mojo Tribe: Sneha Kulka­rni

(left) and Ale­fia Ka­pa­dia

The Mojo Tribe at the Diskit Monastery in Ladakh

The Mahin­dra Mojo con­voy get­ting ready for the jour­ney at Guneet Wheels, Panchkula

The men be­hind the scenes: Mahin­dra Mojo ser­vice team with the Mo­bile Ser­vice Van

The Mojo Tribe pay trib­ute at the Kargil War Me­mo­rial

Sur­rounded by the beauty of Pan­gong Tso

The tricky Mag­netic Hill that cre­ates an op­ti­cal il­lu­sion

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