Three dream vehicles, one dream destination. For us, it was a dream come true.
As we fall into dreamland, reality becomes distorted. We enter a world where logic and rationality are defied at every instant. As we slip into an unconscious state while we sleep, somehow our minds awaken to an absurd dimension and we often find ourselves in an uncontrollable state of consciousness. Dreaming is definitely a weird phenomenon, and while we may experience immense pleasure or incredible pain from it, the truth is that we still don’t know why or how dreaming occurs.
Reality is not much different either, frankly. While we’re awake, and even if we feel like we’re in control of our current state, we still don’t have a clear understanding of why we’re really here – and what our true purpose is. Science hasn’t helped us, religion contradicts everything, and philosophy is just ‘mumbo-jumbo’ that will confuse you even more. So, while we know that dreaming cannot be reality, we still don’t know what reality is. But, there is another interesting phenomenon – that of which we can have complete control while we’re awake, it’s called daydreaming.
If you look up the definition of daydreaming, it’s described as “a series of pleasant thoughts that distract one’s attention from the present.” Daydreaming allows us to let our imagination run wild, it allows us to believe or hope, and, sometimes, just maybe, those dreams might come true. A lot of us daydream about different things, but I’m a simple man. I don’t dream about success, money, achievement or acclaim. All I dream about is food, women and adventure – in that order!
Working for autoX has made a lot of my dreams come true. I get to travel all over the world, and drive or ride the most exciting automobiles on the planet. This was the sort of stuff I would dream about when I worked many different desk jobs straight out of college, and now it looks like I’m living my – if not everybody’s – dream. But, being an auto journalist is still hard work, and we always work under pressure and around the clock to make sure we provide our readers and fans with the best and most exciting content.
One of the joys of travelling to Spiti (apart from the absolutely fresh air) is the food. The Tibetan cuisine available across the valley provides some great delicacies.
This month, we’re celebrating our 11-year anniversary, and, as always, we get the latest cars and bikes that were launched in the past year to spend three days with at the Buddh International Circuit. But, because it’s a cause for celebration, we like to put in some extra special content for our readers.
It’s interesting to note how the landscape of the automobile industry has changed in India over a relatively short period of time. Our plan was not just to embark on another epic journey, but to do so on some of the most special machines available on the planet. So, we managed to get our hands on the brand new Triumph Tiger Explorer, the resurrected Honda CRF1000L Africa Twin, and the all-new Land Rover Discovery. That’s pretty much the ‘dream team’ of adventure vehicles.
We thought long and hard for a destination, and the unanimous choice was Spiti. I’ve tried to travel to Lahaul and Spiti on three different occasions, but each time I was unable to complete my journey because the terrain and climate is extremely hostile. Lahaul and Spiti is a desolate area and it’s a challenge for anybody to venture into. But, we knew that we would have no trouble at all with the Tiger Explorer, Africa Twin and the Discovery at
When Triumph first revealed the Tiger Explorer to the world in 2013, I instantly fell in love with it – mainly because I love big adventure bikes and I love tigers. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it, and when I was finally invited by Triumph to ride the Tiger 800 in Spain, I was blown away. This, however, was my first long road trip on a big ADV motorcycle – and also my first time on the much bigger Tiger Explorer, which comes with the three-cylinder 1,215cc engine.
The Africa Twin needs no introduction. It was only recently launched in India with the automatic dual clutch transmission, and I was yet to ride this Japanese terrain conqueror. It gets a smaller engine than the Triumph, but its off-roading capabilities are legendary. In all honesty, this was the motorcycle that I had been waiting to take on an epic road trip ever since I got word of its resurrection. So, yes, this really was a dream come true for me.
To explore Spiti on four wheels, the choice was simple – we wanted the brand new fifth-generation Land Rover Discovery. Nothing else is as suited to exploration and adventure as the Discovery. Packed with the latest technology, and built on an aluminium platform shared with the Range Rover and Range Rover Sport, the new Disco is probably the only SUV that could give these two big ADV motorcycles a run for their money. It’s extremely comfortable, has plenty of storage space, and is the four-wheel king of hard-core off-roading.
We chalked out a route and planned the entire trip in detail because we only had five days to reach Lahaul and Spiti and get back to Delhi to wrap up our anniversary issue. Shivank and I left a day earlier on the bikes. We ventured out of Delhi early in the morning, and made our way towards Narkanda. Both the Africa Twin and the Tiger Explorer were very comfortable on the highway. The Tiger’s triple engine was super smooth and the Africa Twin’s DCT really impressed us. It took us less than four hours to get to the Himalayan Expressway, and from there we started the climb up to Narkanda. Shivank had never ridden a big ADV bike before, but both the bikes are so well balanced that it was effortless for him to ride them in the hills. We decided to head to Narkanda through Chail, which is a beautiful tight, twisty forest road. We were having a blast on the bikes, leaning into and accelerating out of corners and hairpins. We reached Narkanda well before sunset and settled in for the night.
That same evening, Abhishek was running around Delhi picking up supplies. After loading up the Discovery late in the evening, he picked up Arup, Ravi and Rahul, and by 0300hrs the next morning the rest of our team was finally on their way to catch up with us at Narkanda. They drove through the night while Shivank and I enjoyed some much-needed shut-eye. When we awoke the next morning, we found out that the team wouldn’t make our planned rendezvous time of 0900hrs – so we decided to move forward on the bikes towards Kalpa, because we wanted to avoid riding at night.
Fortunately for us, the roads from Rampur all the way to Reckong Peo have been improved tremendously and we encountered nothing but tarmac. I was shocked, because just last year this road was nowhere near completion. I guess the Chinese threat has made our government get serious about building proper roads in these areas. Once again though, the Tiger and the Africa Twin performed superbly. The Tiger’s electronic suspension and the Africa Twin’s easily adjustable rear monoshock really helped in making sure we were comfortable all throughout our ride. The Triumph is certainly an intimidating motorcycle, but it’s such a beauty to ride on tarmac. The Africa Twin is certainly more rider friendly, and it also handles like a dream. We reached Kalpa well ahead of schedule, and while we waited for the rest of the team to arrive, we soaked in the magnificent views.
The Discovery arrived well after dark, and it took the guys about 17 hours of non-stop driving from Delhi to reach Kalpa. We were excited to be together, although admittedly Shivank and I were happier to finally get our luggage. There was nothing but praise for the Discovery, and how comfortable the cabin is. The Disco has two screens in the headrests of the front seats for the rear passengers – and each can be connected separately to your device of choice via Bluetooth or through a USB or HDMI port depending on whether you want to stream music or video. Each rear seat passenger also gets his own set of wireless headphones, so you can each be on different wavelengths in the cabin of the Discovery. And if you want to subject the entire car to your music of choice, you have that option as well. Plus, there’s acres of space in the Discovery, and absolutely everything is electronically adjustable – including the rear seats, which recline. Plus, all the seats are heated and cooled, so it’s no surprise that my colleagues were looking as fresh as daisies after almost a full day on the road.
The next day Arup and Ravi suited up to ride the bikes, while Shivank and I moved into the Discovery. Our plan was to head straight for Kaza, but we started late because there was no petrol available in Reckong Peo – and so we had to back track to Tapri. By noon, we filled up our tanks and continued onto Tabo – because, again, we didn’t want to ride or drive at night. However, we were once again greeted by well-built roads, and for no more than about 15-kilometres of our journey did we encounter bad roads. The scenery up to Nako was breath-taking – literally. As we stopped to shoot, Rahul and I had to control our movements because of the lack of oxygen.
The road from Nako all the way to Tabo was the greatest stretch of road on the entire trip. Brand new roads, smooth tarmac, with plenty of turns and hairpin bends, along with the most amazing mountain and valley scenery – it was beautiful.
By now, we had each gotten the hang of these big bikes and this quite sizable SUV and we were blazing down the mountains into the valley and then along the river all the way to Tabo. The bikes were leaning into bends like sports bikes, while the Discovery was cornering like a machine half its size – each of these machines feel a lot smaller and far more chuckable on the move than you would imagine. A sign of great engineering in each case.
We found a lovely little homestay, drank some local lemon tea, and got an early night’s sleep again. The roads hadn’t been challenging in the least thus far. In fact, the next day we only had about 50-kilometres to Kaza, so we left Tabo around 0800hrs and reached in under 90 minutes
I had finally made it to Kaza. Another destination had been checked off my bucket list and another one of my many dreams had come true. In these machines, the journey wasn’t a challenge at all – but it was still amazing. The weather was on our side the entire trip. The sun was shining bright every day, without a single cloud in the sky.
When we reached Kaza, we checked into a beautiful hotel outside town, had some breakfast, and then decided to head up to Komik – Asia’s highest village with a road. I was in a bit of discomfort because of a minor case of altitude sickness, but felt much better as soon as I got behind the wheel of the Discovery. As we made our way up to Komik, and left the tarmac behind, the Discovery showed its true colours. Even though it’s completely luxurious inside the cabin, under the skin it packs a whole lot of muscle. The steering is light, the suspension is surprisingly supple, which means that it simply doesn’t crash over any surface, and, with the different driving modes on offer, you can easily tackle any terrain that comes your way. The car was fully loaded – four adult passengers, all our camera equipment, the luggage of six people, supplies, tools, and extra fuel – and yet it conquered any terrain without breaking a sweat.
The scenery was of course breath-taking, both literally and figuratively. It was very hard for us to get our photography done because at 15,027 feet, moving around becomes quite hard. The air was so thin that everyone began to feel light headed.
It was a beautiful journey down from Komik, and the entire Lahual and Spiti Valley really left a lasting impression on us. I would even say that I prefer this part of the Himalayas over Ladakh. The only reason it hasn’t picked up in terms of commercial tourism yet is because there’s no airport here, and I really hope they never build one!
From Kaza we headed back via the Rohtang Pass to Manali. We left Kaza early morning and made our way to Rohtang. Up until Losar the roads were decent, but soon after they became what we had been expecting before we started our journey. The surface no longer resembled a road, as we made the climb to Kunzum pass – which was one of the narrowest and scariest roads we encountered. We rode along the bedrock of a riverbed, and the path became extremely challenging.
The Africa Twin can ride over anything effortlessly. Its smaller engine makes it very manageable, and the bike is purpose-built to take on extreme terrain. I was on the Tiger, and because I’m taller and bigger (than most) I could manage it better. With the bike in off-road mode, it was fun and hugely capable – and I had a blast riding it. Both the bikes, with their soft suspension setting, and traction control and ABS off, took on whatever came our way – it was truly effortless on these bikes. It does help if you’re tall though. The Discovery too, with its air suspension raising the car to give it a ground clearance of 283mm, was able to drive over anything – rocks and boulders included. It’s a luxury SUV that takes adventure touring to another level.
This was the most enjoyable part of the trip for all of us, as we were able to put these dream machines properly to the test. The ADV bikes are trailblazers, while the Discovery has a more reserved character but can still endure any hard-core adventure trip. And while you would imagine that the bikes allow you to immerse yourself in the experience completely, the Discovery – with its massive glass area – also allows you to truly become a part of the landscape, especially since it can pretty much travel to the top of any solitary mountain.
After covering 180 kilometres at a slow pace, we were finally at the top of the Rohtang pass. From here on, it was smooth sailing down to Manali. We celebrated the completion of our journey that evening and the next day made the long journey back to Delhi. It was certainly the trip of a lifetime, and to do it with these beautiful vehicles made it even more special. We’re certainly a privileged lot to have completed such a wonderful adventure, and we can be thankful in the knowledge that sometimes dreams do come true. As John Lennon once said, “You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.” So keep daydreaming, because someday those dreams will force you to take the steps towards making them a reality.