fine morning in June 1998, a youngster decides to go for a ride.
Khardung-La comes to his mind, and he decides to set off. All
he has to ride on is a three year old Kinetic Honda 100cc scooter
with 7.7 horses and vario drive. The guy must have got up on
the wrong side of the bed that day, since Khardung-La happens
to be the highest motorable road in the world and is at an altitude
of 18,380 feet. His sanity was frequently questioned by whoever
came to know of this plan.
The rider had seen this road before though - he had trekked
with a friend there, but it was the first time with any kind
of motorized transport.
him were three 18 bhp 350cc Royal Enfield Bullets, one 9 bhp
100 cc Hero Honda Splendor and a 11 bhp 100 cc Kawasaki Bajaj
RTZ. More like a pigeon among the cats, the rider and his Kinetic
Honda were flagged off from Sundervan in Ahmedabad.
For those who don't know, Rajasthan in June is like a giant
frying pan - heat waves searing upwards from the roads make
everything around shimmer. They passed through Rajasthan and
reached Delhi in two days. From there on, they took the four-lane
expressway to Chandigarh and the Kinetic Honda was screaming
along to keep apace with the faster Bullets. The scooter managed
to reach Swarghat without falling apart and attacked the ghats
to Manali with gusto. The handling was questionable, but the
rider managed to stay in control at all times and reached Manali
safe and sound.
They got their steeds serviced at Manali and took some rest
for the hard journey ahead. They moved on towards Rohtang Pass,
but were unable to reach there because of snow. Since accomodation
was only available at Manali, they had to turn back and stay
there until the snow cleared. Every day for the next three days,
they rode up to Rohtang to see if the snow was cleared. In a
way it was good for the Kinetic Honda since the mechanic tuned
and adjusted it for the hilly terrains that lay ahead.
the road to Rohtang was cleared, they rode on to Khoksar where
they stayed for the night. The next day they started off towards
Leh. They hardly rode some distance before they faced roads
full of snow and heavy tourist traffic coming from the opposite
direction. The scooter, with its variator transmission, could
hardly make it along the steep inclines in such stop-go conditions;
so the rider had to get off and push the bike to gather momentum
and then jump on.
The worst was yet to come - numerous streams carrying freezing
cold water from the snow above lay in the way. One of those
streams was hell-bent on making life miserable for the riders.
But all of them huffed and puffed along and managed to reach
Jispa. Bad luck hit the group again in the form of a snowed
out Baralach-La pass. All they could do is stay put at Jispa
till the road was cleared. Days passed by and chances of the
snow getting cleared were remote. Being mostly mountaineering
students, they decided that rather than sitting around and getting
their toes and thumbs frozen, they'd be better off trekking
around. They trekked a bit around Jispa, Darcha and Zing Zing
Bar and also up to Baralach-La pass. Nights were spent star-gazing
from different hills in the mighty Himalayas.
For the Mechanic's birthday, they celebrated with Rum 'n Whiskey
and a night stay on a mountain-top.
His stock of cigarettes getting exhausted rapidly, the mechanic
makes a deal with a local shepherd - in exchange for some beedis,
he grazes the shepherd's sheep in the Himalayas.
After spending twelve days at Jispa, the team was completely
frustrated and decided to set off for Baralach-La, ignoring
the army's suggestion to wait for three more days. Fingers crossed,
they labour through the snow in temperatures of -10° C and
after 8 hours of effort they manage to reach the top. The rider
proudly posed for photographs with a fully snow covered Baralach-La
pass signboard in the background. It was getting dark and not
wanting to waste time, they pushed off for Sarchu, where they
stayed the night.
The next day the group was supposed to ride through three passes
- a tough day, and the Kinetic Honda was showing signs of breathlessness
but the determined rider was in no mood to give up. They made
brisk progress up to the famous Gata loops - a series of 21
hairpin bends - and the Kinetic Honda was happily climbing up
the Himalayan terrain slowly but steadily. They reached Pang
and the mechanic decides to take off the air filter of the scooter
for the climb up to Tanglang-La pass, the second highest pass
in the world at 17,582 feet. At this altitude, the air becomes
very thin, and its difficult for engines to run properly without
changes to the air-fuel mixture - the mechanic ensured that
the engine was running at the correct mixture by adjusting it
all along the way.
Skipping lunch in the excitement of the journey ahead, the rider
takes on the More plains with the Kinetic Honda on full throttle.
Before tackling Tanglang-La, they take a short cigarette break
and start off again. After 57 minutes through slush and un-even
terrain, the Kinetic Honda kisses the top first, with the rest
of the pack following an hour behind. They set off for Leh,
where they spend the night.
The next day everyone was in good spirits with the accomplishments
of the previous day behind them. 257 kms and three passes was
not easy, but they had done it. And the last pass - the mighty
Khardung-La lay before them. They hit the road with prayers
in their mind and the anticipation of success. The rider on
his Kinetic Honda clambered on slow and steady, all the while
wondering if they would make it or not. Apprehensions of others
regarding the scooter being able to make it came to his mind,
but he remembered the blessings of people on the way and kept
on riding. He also remembered his uncle's teaching - "A
machine responds favourably when treated as a human being"
and muttered some words of encouragement to the Kinetic Honda
and rode on. Not till they reached Nubra did the rider's mind
come back to normal, and after a few more kilometers, they reached
their destination, with army soldiers gazing in disbelief at
the Kinetic Honda.
team celebrated the rider and his Kinetic Honda's accomplishment
with great hurrahs, and everyone was happy that they had made
it to the top.
The celebrating mechanic and rider on his Kinetic Honda GJ 1
- AC 3080 was none other than yours truly -
Unoffical record of taking first Kinetic Honda to Khardung-La
Pass at 18380 feet.