Expedition Leader & Single Driver: Nidhi Tiwari
Participant: Neha V Sadananda
Porsche Cayenne, Diesel
To conduct a formative research study on connect between mobility & empowerment in hill districts of Kargil, Leh, Lahual&Spiti
District Administration, Leh
District Administration, Kargil
Awareness on Cervical Cancer in conjunction with Ladakh Heart Foundation
Driving has been a passion. It is absolutely therapeutic for me to be behind the wheel. It has been my desire to empower and encourage women to occupy the extreme overlanding (XOL) space. So my friend and I created a community called Women Beyond Boundaries (WBB) – which is a platform for women drivers to build skills and push their limits. This was our second exciting expedition and I was thrilled to explore the scenic Himalayan region in one of my favourite cars ‘Porsche’
Driving out the Cayenne from Porsche Center Gurgaon, it felt like "this is it!" The Cayenne and me and the long road ahead. Was I nervous? I will be lying if I say no. But just a few minutes into the drive and it felt like there was no mind space to accommodate any such emotion. Multiple nasty jams, it took about three hours to leave Delhi. Once on the highway towards Karnal, is when I gained my senses back. The Cayenne and I began our little conversations..a little appreciation here and there....a nudge, a fly, before we realized, the car and self were in sync. A quick stop for lunch, one couldn't wait to get back to the comfort of the AC in the Cayenne. No wonder the 500km distance virtually took just 6 hours! Effortless and beautiful! We check into a hotel in Pathankot and were all set for our drive to Srinagar.
The drive from Pathankot to Srinagar was simply brilliant as the AiiJat Express is really smooth and fantastic to drive. We started the day with some light drizzles, cloudy skies and low traffic. The early mornings were ideal by the Dal Lake that reflected the carved wooden balconies of the houseboats and the misty peaks of the PirPanjalmountains.
Next up was the Drass valley which was quite welcoming by its crystal clear streams and peace in abundance. A board declaring Drass to be the second coldest inhabited place on earth (Siberia being the first) greeted us.
We then had a stopover at Govt. Girls College, Kargil where we delivered an introductory talk on the importance of mobility for women and the biases/cultural barriers they sometimes have to overcome. I felt happy meeting the girls, they openly shared with us as to how they were not allowed to move around or learn driving. Talking about solutions, one smart girl suggested, ‘instead of gossiping during dinners we ought to discuss such topics and try to convince our parents’. On the way we were overtaken by several vehicles with everyone giving us a close look. When we stopped for a break, we were surrounded by many drivers. Initially, seeing two women they smirked and tried to size us. Our knowledge of automobiles broke the ice. Hearing our experiences and objective they appreciated our endeavor and driving skills. Personally, I feel driving is gender neutral and it is skill sets which count.
Zanskar is majestically rugged and one of the ideal XOL land. Getting up close to the mountains of Nun Kun, the penzi la top that is one of the prettiest passes with multiple small ponds Streams and rivers on the road, rocks, stones add to the majesty of the place. The people in Zanskar lead a remote life, with just 4 months of connectivity. We met some women who expressed how reaching a hospital itself was so tough especially in the winter. They rely only on government choppers to get airlifted to Kargil.
The drive to Khardungla was possible only because of our hero..the Cayenne. The car literally flew over the Khardungla, the highest motorable road in the world and was unstoppable. From curious bystanders to the policemen, to fellow taxi drivers, to the hundreds of tourists, everybody gave the Cayenne a second look; not just because it's so good looking, but because we were flying past while others struggled with theextreme overlanding (XOL) and ascent.
The last week of the drive was spent travelling between Kelong to Bathal and we spent the night outdoors in a dhaba. We reached Kaza the following day and covered a stretch of 60km on a high altitude at Kaza-Kibbar (highest village in the area). The following day was quite adventurous; we had some great experiences of overlanders camaraderie as we got the opportunity to help out a group of bikers and a Scorpio with our air compressor. We also managed to tow out an Innova that was stuck in the water crossing, thanks to our Cayenne. Spent last night at a small village near Chushul and drove a marathon stretch all day to reach Kelong by Friday night.
What a firm footed journey it had been..the Cayenne is by far the most firm footed vehicle I have driven and believe me, I felt as if the vehicle spoke to me, the reassurance was evident. Slow, firm and an engine that matched the gait..by the end of the expedition, the Cayenne and I had bonded in ways unimaginable. They say drivers and vehicles speak to each other. If that was true, yes...we spoke and the moment is going to be etched in my mind for years to come. Truly amazing & brilliant!