Khardung La! It is one of the highest (not the highest) motorable mountain passes in the world and is located at an altitude of 18,380 feet. I have always harboured the desire of taking a motorcycle or a car to Khardung La. Well, I did summit Khardung La and ticked off one of the to-do things from my bucket list but considering the hostile terrain and dizzying heights, my ride was rather unique. It was a bright yellow coloured TVS Scooty Zest! Yes! A Scooty Zest!
Also Read: TVS Himalayan Highs Season 3 Concludes
I was fortunate enough to be a part of TVS Himalayan Highs Season 3 and got the opportunity to ride from Leh to Khardung La with twelve other TVS riders and a bunch of journalists. The distance from Leh to Khardung La is barely 40 odd kilometres or so but the ride itself is nothing short of breath-taking. Starting our ride on our designated Scooty Zests, the first 20 kilometres from Leh towards Khardung La is all of smooth, lovely tarmac where you can actually think of wringing open the throttle and having some fun.
It is the last 15 odd kilometres to the pass which is the stuff nightmares are made of. Mud, slush and rocks made our ride rather bumpy and bouncy. The tiny Scooty soldiered on despite the harsh terrain without a groan or complain. There was a perceptible loss in power, owing to the thin air at those heights, and adding to the strain on the Scooty was my ample bulk. But, never did the tiny scooter seem to run out of breath.
The moment I took the helmet off, I was welcomed with gusts of cold wind and, umm breathlessness. I am not exactly the epitome of fitness and to be fair to me, the atmosphere is pretty rarefied at that height. Needless to say, the first thing that we (I) did was to click a selfie with the yellow board that says "Border Roads Organisation Welcomes You At Khardung La Top". Soon, we were joined by the entire TVS Himalayan Highs convoy and suddenly, all of K-Top came alive. It was a thing of joy to see young women and men, braving all sorts of odds for 11 long days, starting their journey from Mandi, Himachal Pradesh and finishing the same at Khardung La. Tight hugs were shared along with a loud chorus of cheers and hurrahs, wherein I too joined in.
The celebrations of the culmination of the TVS Himalayan Highs Season 3 were quickly followed by a round of piping hot coffee and biscuits (there are a couple of small cafes up at Khardung La, yes) and we were ready for the ride back to Leh!
The ride down proved to be a tad tougher than the ride up and that is because one cannot use engine braking to control the speed of descent as the Scooty Zest is an automatic scooter. The only way to slow down the scooter was to apply brakes. And since the Scooty had drum brakes, after a while, overuse of the brakes began to cause heating issues, and the bite began to fade. It wasn't nail-biting, but we just had to be slightly careful and take it easy.
Once we reached the point where tarmac began, it was all smooth going. Upon reaching the hotel, smiles and high-fives were passed all around and it was evident that the 12 participants of the TVS Himalayan Highs had just completed the ride of their lives and made some amazing memories for the rest of their lives. The smiles on their faces said it all. Tears of joy flowed unabashedly and many a friendship was forged. And as for me, I was more than happy and content to be a tiny part of the rather cool TVS Himalayan Highs Season 3, where we proved that all it takes to conquer Khardung La is a big heart. The choice of the ride itself doesn't quite matter.