Up and Close Bharat – 2021 – Part 3
Mountain driving -
According to me ‘One needs to be a very skillful driver to drive in Himalayas’ is a bad overstatement and myth. There are thousands and thousands of guys doing that every day. All you have to do, is to pay proper attention to driving and the road, and understand the limits of your car – which you will learn while driving anyway. I observed there are 3 points that affect the driving– 1] Width of the road, 2] Traffic and 3] Surface quality.
The real problem came with narrow roads [ Mainly in interiors of Uttrakhand ]. At some points, the road was wide enough just one vehicle to pass. And then, if there is truck coming towards you and the road is 15 -20 Degrees steep [ or steeper] and then there is a turning… It’s the worse situation to handle. Anticipating it, I would stop at the possible wider area of the road to give way to on-coming car or truck and let the other vehicle approach me. A cheesy and shameless thing I did initially, was when I would see an on-coming car, I would take my care to the mountain side and wait for the other car to approach. They would be forced to pass from the valley side then. As my confidence increased, I didn’t do it.
Reversing the car -
I found out that in case of reversing the direction of the car on a mountain road, it was better to reverse the car’s rear end towards the valley side. Reasons being 1] I could see clearly the edge with the camera, and 2] the car weight is in front, making it more firm on ground. Of course I could have done it other way round and found some perfect explanations for that too!
Thanks to the great navigation of google maps and my interpretation of the directions, I had to do this many times.
Car changes its behaviour and response in mountains drastically. The same S Cross Zeta 1.3 feels underpowered in high mountains. [And I was alone in the car.] High altitude car and driving certainly needs special attention. With observation, I became reluctant to stop the car to speed zero. Because many times I had to take off the car by raising the RPM to 3000 + and slowly releasing the clutch – due to steep gradient of the road. I asked at the Nexa service station in Leh if this was normal, they said “Completely normal and that controlling car on gears instead of breaks is utmost important”. I also noticed cleaning air filter and AC filter regularly makes a big difference in the performance of the car.
For me l having a glance at the deep valley created some fright, so I would not look at it but focus on road.
One thing I did was to look out for, is the stones falling from the mountains. There is not much I could do really, but when I saw fallen stones on the road, I would be more careful. Once or twice a big boulder jumped ahead of my car. Had I been some 20 -30 feet ahead, it would have hit my car sideways. Or worse, it could have landed on top of my head! But again, this happened only twice in the entire journey of 4 months of Himalayas. Well, I couldn’t stop traveling with this fear in mind, could I ?!
Water, Mud and Black Ice –
Driving on the water, mud and ice or black ice is increasingly difficult. Under the water you can never know how deep is the pothole, on mud the car slips and tyres don’t take good grip, Ice and black ice is the worst; You don’t have any control on the car. Breaking is extremely dangerous as the car will mostly slip and skid with any possible velocity even if you are and 0.01 kmph. In these cases, I simply stopped and watched what others were doing and then followed. In any case normally too I control the car mainly on gears.
I shall end this write up with saying this –
While in Ladakh I read outside an Army Camp – What is adventure for you, is daily routine for us. Honestly if anyone thinks that I went on an adventure, I would say No. What army does is adventurous, Siachin is beyond adventure. There are only 4-5 countries in the entire world who can manage high altitude maneuvers. India is one of those. And for driving – thousands of drivers do that every day and night – and earn money too. I was very clear about my motive for this. – I wanted to see my Bharat Up and Close.
- Milind Date