Ladakh is a land of mystery, speckled with some of the most gorgeous landscapes on the Indian subcontinent. It's a tempestuous mistress and OVERDRIVE has a long standing affair with her. Every year for the last 16 years, since this magazine was kick-started, we have driven to this mystical land that offers adventure seekers the ultimate thrill.
What began last year is now an annual feature and in 2014, team OVERDRIVe intends to go back into Ladakh with the goal to raise the bar by several notches.
So this isn't just your average adventure – you are going to write this script for us so expect to bear witness to more than the usual. The Independence quattro drive will see you journey for around 10 days in Audi's celebrated range of SUVs to hoist the national flag on the roof of the world, on the 15th of August 2014! So we've thrown in luxury and a patriotic streak into an adventure that your kids will probably narrate to their kids over a camp fire, we hope someday in Ladakh!
This adventure isn't for the faint of heart, but while we will make it as easy for you as possible, we will also teach you just how to survive in one of the most demanding regions of India. You will also get to experience what a luxury 4x4 SUV brings to the table while you soak in the magnificence of the Himalayas.
We will have the Audi Q7, Q5 and the Q3 as our workhorses on this drive. Five of these luxurious, capable and stunning SUVs will take us through some extreme terrain. By the time we conclude, we guarantee you will be begging for more. You would probably become as hopelessly addicted as we are and make the trip back again on your own!
Our adventure will begin from the ‘Fort of Chandi’ or the city more popular for being India's first planned city post Independence - Chandigarh. It's also the city to have given us some of the finest names in motorsport. Get pulled over by a traffic cop for speeding and he is guaranteed to ask if you think you are Hari Singh, five time national rally champion and a resident here. This beautiful and orderly city is the gateway for all those seeking to write their stories in remote Ladakh.
From this meeting point we will set off for Manali. The 350 kilometre drive into the Kullu valley takes you past deep gorges with the river Beas rushing downhill alongside the highway. Lush vegetation, smooth tarmac and the crisp air of the mountains will greet you as you drive into Manali. Our foray into the Himalayas begins from this lovely hill station.
Over the next week we will challenge high altitude passes, extreme cold and winds that have shaped these mighty mountains. Around every corner a new and startling vista will unfold, so don't forget to carry your cameras, memory cards and batteries! We will drive over formidable mountain passes that have names like Baralacha La, Tanglang La, each sounding more formidable than the next. We will drive on the windswept plains of More and camp on the banks of the Tso Kar and Pangong Tso, some of the highest salt water lakes in the world. Also don’t expect to be comforted by warm cozy hotels everywhere, we promise to freeze your bones at a campsite on the banks of one of the most beautiful lakes in Ladakh, the Tso Kar.
Did we mention this trip was the opportunity of a lifetime!
From Leh we intend heading into the gorgeous Nubra valley, home to the Hundar sand dunes and the Bactrian camel, both of which are anomalies to this harsh and cold environment! This also means we will cross over what was once the highest motorable road in the world - ‘Khardung La’. This formidable mountain pass is situated at a height of 17582 feet (nearly 5,359 metre) above sea level. Almost always covered in snow, the weather at this mountain pass can be treacherous and can change from a sizzling sunburn to bone chilling cold in seconds.
For the finale we will get to rest our aching, weather-beaten bodies in the finest of boat houses on the Dal lake in Srinagar. It will be a night to remember as we recount our journey and share our experiences as we feast on local Kashmiri cuisine.
Do keep in mind this drive is also a headlining story for OVERDRIVE's 15th anniversary and you will be an integral part of it. Be prepared to see yourself on all the mediums we are present in print, television and web! So bring your A-game!
We've said a lot but it can never replace the experience of being there yourself. There is however one thing we must add - Ladakh may be a lot of fun but it isn't a picnic. We urge everyone to treat this trip with the utmost respect.
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While we intend to remain true to the details of the trip mentioned above, some things may change depending on weather and geographical conditions.
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