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Kutch to Kivithoo Expedition

Photos courtesy - Autocar May `03
Isn’t it strange that all the 4 corners of India, have names starting with K? So, it was decided that five people would drive from Kutch to Kivithoo. OK. So there existed the western most point, Kutch, and everyone knew about it. But, where on earth did Kivithoo come from? Did an eastern most point like that really exist? Especially since it wasn’t on any map they consulted? Anyway, the five adventurers packed their bags, took with them a TV crew and started at Koteshwar (Kutch) in two cars, the Ambassador and the Indica. And, a lot of adventure awaited them…

The Ambassador, termed the Raaja Gaadi, especially since it has such liberal seating room, was especially chosen for its reliability and comfort. The Indica of course, is the newest indigenous car on Indian roads, and is very successful. How did they fare over the 5471 km. journey? Read on to see what the 18 days turned out to be for both the cars.

The starting point was a temple by the sea- Koteshwar. Quiet and peaceful, despite its closeness to the Pakistan border, it was an ideal point for the beginning. February 1, 2003, the mist cleared near the border to offer a beautiful and picturesque view of the coastline and the cars were flagged off with 4 members plus the TV crew. Apart form this, a satellite was tracking the journey from space. 

Kutch turned out to be a pleasure for driving, since the roads were newly laid out after the earthquake that devastated the area 2 years previously. They drove through Bhuj to Dasada, taking country roads. The scenic salt pans, cattle and a view of wild asses made up for the smallish roads. The next day was truly daring, since a local took them trough a short cut. He decided that the only train that passes through the tracks had gone by a few hours ago, and insisted that they go across the tracks rather than by the level crossing. The Ambassador crossed it quite happily, while the Indica stalled. The escape after that was quite narrow, since the members were all there to tell us about it!! The train coming, the panic and the last minute cranking up of the car, everything happened in a flash, but the Indica made it!! The adventure in Rann of Kutch was by no means over. The treacherous bogs sucked in both cars, and it was only after a fair amount of pushing, yanking, burning clutches and losing shoes in the muddy swamp that the journey was resumed!

Leg 2 of the journey was a cruise on NH8, with Delhi as the destination. Leg 3 was another of those difficult times, because the traffic on NH24 was terribly disorganized. Having reached Lucknow in one piece, the cars were given a rest the following morning. The evening drive to Varanasi was quick and straight. Leg 4 continued with a drive on one of the oldest roads in India – The Grand Trunk Road. The “River Of Life” as Kipling calls it, is today so heavy with traffic and potholes. The horses and caravans fare better than well equipped cars like the team’s! Finally, the navigation and driving through potholed filled roads got to the Indica! It broke down. The engine revved by itself, and died. The ambassador came to the rescue in the godforsaken little town. The very reliable, King-to-the-rescue, towed the Indica to the nearest transport office. It turned out that while the truck could transport the Indica, its entire luggage had to be loaded into the Ambassador. 

The Ambassador did extremely well. It was over loaded and sitting low on suspension and still had 600 km of potholed road to travel. It still managed to make it all the way to Kolkata, where while the Indica was being set right, the HM people took it to their workshop to do a complete service. It came back new and shining, and then it was time to set off through Guwahati to Kaziranga. At the forest sanctuary there, the Ambassador attracted a lot of attention from an adult rhino. While it made eyes at the car, the forest guide quickly advised the driver to back off before it charged. The rhino eventually backed off too! The next day, the team drove through Assam, and once on NH 37, the driving was a pleasure. The drive ended at a point where the only way forward was through the Brahmaputra. A huge makeshift ferry with 2 powerful diesel engines struggled their way through the current of the magnificent river, depositing the cars, people and luggage on the other side! 

The next lap was through dried up river beds, makeshift bridges and non existent roads with a night halt at an army camp. After a formal dinner with the brigadiers and colonels, the cars were poised to travel the last leg of their journey. The last leg was from Tezu to the not-yet-found- Kivithoo! 247 km of twisty hill roads to an unknown destination was quite adventurous, and slowly became a reality, as milestones appeared with “Kibithu” on them. With Kivithoo but 30 kms. away, the journey had to be broken, because the bridge connecting the army camp that the team reached , and Kivithoo, was to be pulled down. However, it was resumed the next morning, and the last 45 minutes of driving was through curvy, twisty roads, with a sheer 1000 ft. drop down to the river on the road’s edge. 

And so it was to be, the truly adventurous journey, as the cars pulled up on to the helipad- the eastern most point in India at 97º. The point has India to the west, China to the North, and Burma to the West. Absolutely scenic moments were spent there, with snow capped peaks surrounding the expedition heroes. Finally, the cars with the team started back on the westward journey, as the sun set behind the hills. 

And one must say that the Ambassador did remarkably well. Three cheers to the Amby!!!

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