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  No Man's Land
  Along the Himalayas
  Gisborne Rally
  Rann of Kutch
  Scaling Heights

One 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.

Accompanying 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.

After 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.

The 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 -

Amol Shukla
Unoffical record of taking first Kinetic Honda to Khardung-La Pass at 18380 feet.

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