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2016 Winter Snow Drive: Narkanda and beyond with the XUV5OO

  • Feb 17, 2016
  • 3631 Views
XUV5OO snow drive

Freedom. It’s a word that’s often misused. In our industry, bikes are generally associated with this very word while cars are referred to as cages. But that’s not always the case. Winters is a season most of us love: misty mornings, bonfires and yes, snowfall – this is where, in most cases, cars or rather SUVs with 4x4 or AWD come to the rescue and can safely take you to places that are wrapped in a white blanket.

Thanks to the recently concluded Auto Expo, the Indian automotive industry is piping hot right now and this meant by the time we wrapped up work last Friday and left the confinements of our office in Gurgaon, it was 5pm. We didn’t have a concrete plan in mind but the aim was to drive towards Ambala and take NH-22 that would take us to Shimla and beyond.

6pm and we were slowly making our way past the Karnal bypass. Traffic seemed heavy and we assumed most of the cars were headed into the cold valleys of Himachal Pradesh. Thankfully, NH-1 has become a lot better in the last few years and by 7:45pm, we drove into the parking of the famous Zilmil Dhaba just after Karnal. 45 minutes later, our bellies were full and we were back on the road. The plan now was to take a halt at Fagu, a small town perched at over 8000 feet above mean sea level and about 20km ahead of Shimla. A quick call to HPTDC’s (Himachal Pradesh Tourism Department Corporation) property and we had reserved a 4-bed ‘family’ room to ourselves. The trouble – the manager was pretty confident we wouldn’t make it there before 3am. Right then!

Our drive from Karnal onwards was non-stop. At Ambala we left NH-1 and continued to NH-22. A few km short of Chandigarh is Zirakpur and this is where we took a right under the flyover to join the Himalayan Expressway, our (short) version of the scenic Pune-Mumbai expressway!

By 9:45pm, we had entered Himachal Pradesh and paid the 30 buck entry fees. It was an uphill journey from here on. Road work was on for the upcoming four-lane project but traffic was thin. Progress was good, elevation rose and temperature came down drastically.

[caption id="attachment_19413" align="alignnone" width="4608"]Black ice on road, snow on the hills. Shot enroute Fagu at night Black ice on road, snow on the hills. Shot enroute Fagu at night[/caption]

The drive was eventless and by mid-night we drove into the sleepy town of Shimla. 40 minutes later and we drove into the parking by 1am, two hours ahead of our estimated arrival time as per the manager.

The night was cold. It must have been well below freezing point outside and the overcast sky meant possibility of snowfall the next day was very high.

[caption id="attachment_19425" align="alignnone" width="5344"]XUV parked in the hotel's parking - shot the next morning XUV parked in the hotel's parking - shot the next morning[/caption]

At 8am the next day, thanks to massive windows in the room, we woke up to the most beautiful view ever. It was Mother Nature at her best – soft flakes were slowly turning everything white.

[caption id="attachment_19423" align="alignnone" width="5344"]Another shot of the XUV : this was just the beginning! Another shot of the XUV : this was just the beginning![/caption]

We saw the green tress turn white in a matter of a few minutes and the winding stretch of NH-22 too had the same makeover. But this also meant that non 4x4 vehicles would soon find it difficult to negotiate inclines which would lead to pile ups towards Narkanda. Infact, within an hour, the road outside the hotel saw two buses getting stuck due to the elevation and this meant we had to eat our breakfast fast, check-out immediately and head towards Narkanda to avoid such incidents.

[caption id="attachment_19414" align="alignnone" width="3456"]HPTDC's Fagu property serves yummy breakfast HPTDC's Fagu property serves yummy breakfast[/caption]

Driving in snow calls for patience, lots of it. We weren’t using snow chains but did reduce tyre pressure to about 20 psi which helps to increase grip levels to an extent. The key is to be gentle in everything you do – steering inputs and the way you brake and accelerate need extreme caution.

[caption id="attachment_19416" align="alignnone" width="4608"]Non 4x4 vehicles were struggling a lot Non 4x4 vehicles were struggling a lot[/caption]

The XUV W8 top end version comes with all-wheel drive or AWD and the system automatically transfers to power to all the four wheels depending on grip levels.

[caption id="attachment_19429" align="alignnone" width="5344"]Shot just after Fagu. Shot just after Fagu.[/caption]

We slowly made us way past stuck cars and commercial vehicles and soon were the only ones on the road. Snowfall’s intensity had gone up and everything around was white. Pure white. Narkanda is about 40km from Fagu and it took us an hour and a half to get there and once we did, locals greeted us with smiles on their faces.

[caption id="attachment_19430" align="alignnone" width="5344"]Narkanda town - notice the snow around - this changed within a few minutes Narkanda town - notice the snow around - this changed within a few minutes[/caption]

We took some supplies in the form of water bottles and snacks from a shop and continued ahead. We left NH-22 and instead went straight on the narrow Narkanda-Sungri road that is famous for being snowed out. There must have been over a foot of snow on the road but the XUV seemed very confident and took us into the little white fairy world 15 minutes ahead of Narkanda.

[caption id="attachment_19432" align="alignnone" width="5344"]Road to our fairy land Road to our fairy land[/caption]

We parked by the side of the road and spent the next two hours doing nothing but admiring the beauty around.

[caption id="attachment_19433" align="alignnone" width="5344"]Doesn't get better than this! Doesn't get better than this![/caption]

The XUV was soon wrapped in snow and we didn’t come across any other car in those two hours. This was epic madness.

[caption id="attachment_19434" align="alignnone" width="5344"]The tyres have seen over 54000km and yet performed well without chains The tyres have seen over 54000km and yet performed well without chains[/caption]

By 3pm we decided to head back to Shimla but not before stopping for lunch at a road side dhaba that dished out the most awesome lip smacking Maggi we had in years. Or was it our hunger levels?

[caption id="attachment_19420" align="alignnone" width="3456"]The Maggi at the little dhaba by the side of the snowed out road The Maggi at the little dhaba by the side of the snowed out road[/caption]

Our night this time was Shimla. Sometimes it’s easier to drive in fresh snow than on hard ice and this was a bother for us as well as the locals. The tyres hardly get any grip on hardened snow (which melts and freezes into ice) but thankfully we drove into the hotel’s parking in Shimla without much drama.

The day had been well spent and we got what we wanted. Driving in snow is a great experience and challenge in itself. Infact, for the next few weeks, until about mid-March, you will have snow on the road around the areas we went to. It can be done in a 4x2 vehicle too but you need to very careful with driving inputs. Don’t forget to reduce the tyre pressure though.

And incase you have any questions, do write to us and we will be more than happy to respond. Here are some more images of the drive!

[gallery columns="4" size="medium" link="file" ids="19431,19428,19426,19424,19421,19418,19419,19437"]

Want more? Here's our 2013 snow drive in the Mercedes-Benz ML
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