I had a lavish plan of using a vehicle’s commercial sales opportunity as my launch pad for a ticket to Mumbai. You know being far from family is usually taxing on anyone and I ain’t an exception to it. However, the editor seemed quite enthusiastic about a new junket that popped up on his email. It was an invitation from Isuzu and something that spanned a duration of eight days. With a heavy heart, I took up the latter. Did it justify the editor’s enthusiasm and did it compensate for the fact that I could have met family instead? Read on.
This entire trip was planned by Isuzu India. The company has a calendar packed with events. Some are short while the others (like the one I was a part of) are long. You simply need to be a Isuzu private vehicle owner and logon to the company’s website. On this particular trip, Isuzu had allowed one participant (an aspiring V-Cross buyer) to be a part as well. Moreover, if someone you know has a Isuzu vehicle and is coming for this trip, you too can tag along at the same rates. The fees are a flat Rs 30,000 on twin sharing basis. The fee includes accomodation, three meals, entry as well as permit fees and a dedicated team of instructors. Service support too is at your beck and call throughout this journey. While the lone service guy did carry a fair amount of materials with him, it was observed that most of the participants carried spare parts as well as the tools. One particular group from Bangalore, the RedLiners, had nearly every required spare part for their car. Needless to say, 90 per cent of their Isuzu D-Max V-Cross vehicles were tuned to produce more power and the team knew the cars all too well.
Coming back to the topic at hand, if you are inquisitive as to how Isuzu charges you just this nominal amount for a trip of 6-7 days, then you aren’t alone. Isuzu officials told us that the company pitches in the rest of the money. This is part of their promotional campaign. The cost though doesn’t cover flight tickets, extra meals or vehicle transportation.
The Isuzu team had pretty much chalked out a foolproof plan for the travellers. This includes sightseeing places as well as famous destinations like the Seven Sisters waterfall, Bumla Pass, Sela Pass, Living Roots Bridges and more. We covered Arunachal, Assam and Meghalaya along with entering Bhutan to fill fuel and being within a stone’s throw from the China border. A few monastries and other tourist locations are added to the mix. The support crew, Mountain Goats Expeditions, is well versed with these regions and is prepared for emergency situations too. The team knows exactly which places to visit and generally has a tight hold on how much time to spend at one location. They also have an understanding of which places you get food and till what time. It is always handy to have someone watching your back and Mountain Goats with its excellent bunch of young and talented folks ensures just that.
Honestly, everyone on the trip came in for fun and adventure. While we had spades of fun and adventure in equal mix, everyone also learnt how their 4×4 vehicle works. When the going goes rough, 4×4 works like a charm and ensures that the worst of terrains is conquered. A few of us also had fun sliding around and doing drifts in a controlled environment. The quest for better pictures for social media also led the more adventurous amongst us to go on really bad roads. Needless to say, the D-Max lifestyle vehicle took everything in its stride and didn’t even break a sweat. All this was done under the expert guidance of MGE. What’s more, I learnt that with the 4×4 low engaged, the vehicle doesn’t need accelerator inputs and will not stall unless there is a wall ahead. This is something that I will check in the future while testing off-road vehicles. A significant take-away! I also learnt that switching off traction control helps gain momentum. While this isn’t recommended, given the watchful eyes of MGE, it was immense fun too. A proper convoy system with a lead and sweep car, with three car lengths between all the participants was maintained.
I will not say it was the most delicious Indian fare you can have. However, given the conditions and terrain, it is delectable. More often than not, you will get chicken at almost all the places. For other not-so printworthy meat, you might have to search a bit or pre-order. Many places will likely ask you about the spice preference. In the north-east, food is generally very spicy. However, given the influx of visitors in the recent past, the local preparations have been toned down to suit a wider palette.
If you’re worried about finding a vegetarian thali, worry not. Every single place out there has got vegetables as well as different curries to suit an individual. Most of the places shut shop by 7.30pm, so its imperative that you reserve a table beforehand or reach the spot on time.
If you’re headed to the north-east in winter, then be prepared to carry lots of warm clothes. The temperature there is easily close to 6-7-degree. In some places like Meghalaya, the mercury will drop close to freezing point too. Daylight is an issue as well because the sunlight streams in by around 5.30am and it is dark by 3.30pm. So, while the landscape might lure you, stopping at every waterfall or even mountain pass for photographs isn’t recommended. Varying landscapes are part and parcel. In a convoy this large, the lead car will always issue warnings on the road conditions or obstructions. However, conditions change so fast that by the time, the sweep car passes, the cow on the roadside is already on the middle. The locals are friendly and the language barrier isn’t as much as it was before. Hindi and English languages are spoken as well as understood by the native people. There are wild animals like yaks, mules around and it is recommended, to preserve the flora and fauna, that one drives cautiously.
Cellphone connectivity is patchy though it was noticed that Airtel as well as BSNL connections work particularly well in the hilly regions. If you have a postpaid connection, then on the Bhutan and Chinese fringes, you will have international roaming automatically activated. Do keep an eye on the data connection as it will make you pay through the nose.
Worth every penny, I say. In fact, I didn’t want to leave and was sad that the trip ended so soon. A good camaraderie with the jovial folks around ensured that the treacherous conditions were met with smiling faces and ready-to-help nature. If driving was too mainstream, then sitting shotgun was also an option. 3-4 travellers in the convoy, who hadn’t touched the steering wheel even once during the trip, enjoyed as much as those driving. Plus the radio banter kept things cheerful and alive.
Will I do it again? Yes, without batting an eyelid. In fact, right after this trip, I went on a drive cum stay in Uttarakhand. How did that one go? Well, keep your eyes peeled for the next travelogue.
Images by Lijo Mathai and team Isuzu
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