The song of the birds chirping combined with the smell of damp grass due to the early morning dew, alongside the faint idle of an engine and the vapours rising from the exhaust tips makes for a scene that is extremely aurally satisfying. To this add the sound of a flowing stream and the hair on my arms stands on end. Getting up by a stream, giving the car a wash and heading to the next destination, living on the road is something that I really enjoy. There are hundreds of new experiences to be had everyday and many new people to meet.
But this is something I usually do. I go down a road that someone has recommended or that I have heard of before and then create my own memories. What I have been wanting to do for a while now is start on a known track and explore a road without having heard anything about it. Since the mountains are extremely dear to me and Himachal Pradesh seems to be calling me back every now and then I thought it's best to stick to a state who's natural beauty i really enjoy. I knew that for this trip I would need a car that could take on any road; tarmac, dirt, gravel or no road at all. It had to be an SUV, preferably one with four-wheel drive. Since I had enjoyed my last stint in the mountains with the BMW 530d M Sport, I thought it would be a good idea to take BMW's flagship SUV, the newly refreshed X5 as my exploration companion.
The X5 is a robust, mean looking machine the comes with a 3.0L inline six-cylinder turbo diesel mated to a eight speed dual clutch transmission. It is equipped with BMW's "X-drive" technology. A special All-wheel drive system that can brake individual wheels, mimicking an active axle during articulation. The X-drive system keeps the X5 planted at all times.
We started from Delhi, headed north on the known highway, through Karnal and Ambala till Chandigarh. For the most part this road is just a great well paved straight stretch with decent traffic and multiple opportunities to go pedal to the metal and experience the direct acceleration of the car. the X5 has some really good low end torque but to be honest don't expect too much from the beast higher up the rev meter. Want to really get this car moving? hold it for a longer time in the lower gears and then she will get herself moving. The fourteen kilometer stretch from Chandigargh to Parwanoo, commonly known as the Himalayan Expressway is one of the best roads to enjoy any car on. It has well banked corners and arrow straights, all making for an awesome driving experience. Once we crossed this stretch of road was when the X5 came to life.
The stretch till Kasauli is one that I have done many times. Continuing from Kasauli on the same road, on reaches Shimla, that's not where I was headed. At Kasauli it was about time a took a night's rest. The next morning I took a detour to the right, the road that leads to Rajgarh. That seemed to be the biggest name on the map along that b-road. It was a smaller track with barely any traffic. Some patches were beautifully metalled and some were a disaster with potholes and craters that shook every bone in our body, but nonetheless we chugged along ahead. The road was flanked by shrubs and bushes along either side until we reached Rajgarh. From Rajgarh the valley opened up it's vastness and showed us some magnificent views. Close to Rajgarh is Bhuira, the place where the famous Himachali jam is manufactured, but the factory was shut once we got there. That being a bummer made us carry on through lunch to a place called Noradhar.
From Noradhar one can get a glimpse of the famous Churdhar peak. A pilgrimage taken by the many faithful to Lord Shiva. As we drove alongside the cliff, a river was flowing in the valley below. a pretty scene but there was something off, the river seemed to be flowing in the opposite direction as we were moving. That is not an uncommon sight, but what seemed uncommon was that we were descending the mountain and the river seemed to be flowing up-stream. A local told us that this was called "Ulti Nadi" and thats how it flows. Himachal is full of surprises.
Sunset that day took place as we crossed a small bridge into the village of Nerwa. This apple rich village is located on the banks of a beautiful river. We had some amazing local cuisine, Siddkus and Gucchi ka Madra. Siddkus are dough balls stuffed with either paneer or dal and then steamed. They are usually eaten with ghee. Madra is a traditional pahari dish made with cooked curd and hand picked wild morel mushrooms. It had to be one of the most scrumptious meals I have had till date. A night under the stars really summed up the day. We rested and gave the car the much needed rest too.
As we continued our journey around Nerwa, we came across a beautifully wooded forest, pines all around. we stopped there for some photos and then continued ahead towards Chopal. Nerwa and Chopal had an altitude difference of at least 2400ft. As we climbed higher, it got cooler and the forest got denser till we finally reached the apex ridge from where we got a clear view of the tallest peak in the Shimla District- Churdhar. It sticks out like something that doesn't fit in, yet it fits in perfectly.
During the whole journey, I will have to admit that I was extremely well cushioned from all the elements inside the BMW X5. I didn't have to fiddle around with different buttons or put the car into various modes when we did end up taking it off the road to go explore off-shoot roads. The hill descent control worked phenomenally well. it maintained a speed of 8km/h as we came down a steep slope and as the incline reduced it automatically turned off. The Xdrive information system on the display is a blessing. It shows the tilt angle of the car as well at the direction in with the car is traveling. All this combined with a Harmon/Kardon Logic 7 surround sound system made the X5 a very comfortable companion for a long adventurous journey. There was more than enough room in the trunk. We could fit in my camera equipment, our bags, a tent and our picnic gear as well.
To be blatant with you, the car took car of us more than we took care of it. I mean, we didn't get it all scratched up etc, but we did put it through some rough road and not even once did it give us any kind of trouble or make us second guess ourselves on whether we had picked the right car for this journey. The X5 is a perfect adventure and exploration companions. It even has the capability to off-road with seven people sitting in it and a completely full trunk.
Source : MotorOctane