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Volkswagen Experiences handed us the keys to unlock the heart of Ladakh, with the feisty red marvel, the Volkswagen Taigun, leading the charge after an engaging and successful drive with their customers, flagged off from Chandigarh. This community-driven adventure was driven through the breathtaking Himalayas to Ladakh. Participants piloted a fleet of 25 trusty steeds consisting of the Tiguan, Virtus, and Taigun, soaking in a Volkswagen’s comfort,
thrill, and premium feel.

First stop: the lush greenery and cool climate of Manali. Here, participants experienced local cuisines and bonded over outdoor excursions, prepping for the
high-altitude challenges ahead. The convoy then drove to Jispa, a picturesque hamlet that offered a taste of rustic mountain life. Next, it was off to Leh, with stops to marvel at ancient monasteries, whistle through scenic valleys, and tackle high-altitude mountain passes. The route took drivers through some of the most stunning and diverse landscapes, from verdant valleys to arid mountain deserts, including a highlight drive through the Palchan Apple orchards.

Touchdown in Leh, and our first task was to catch up with our colleague, Kurt, who had just returned from a snowy escapade to Siachen. Bubbling with excitement, Kurt regaled us with tales from the first-ever media drive to Siachen. The trusty steed for this epic odyssey? The Volkswagen Taigun, with its 1.0-litre TSI engine paired with a manual gearbox.

In a historic first, the Volkswagen Taigun embarked on an epic high-altitude adventure to Siachen, the highest battlefield in the world. Starting in Leh, Ladakh’s capital, the convoy revelled in thin air, crisp sunshine, and ultra-HD vistas. Driven by our colleagues from the media, the convoy of Volkswagens
breezed through ancient monasteries, ribbon-like roads, and majestic mountain passes, handling the Himalayan terrain like pros. Khardung La? Conquered! Nubra Valley? Check! And then, the pièce de résistance: Siachen Base Camp, where the Volkswagens stood proud amidst the stoic resilience of soldiers, mirroring their bravery and determination. The Volkswagens didn’t just drive; they thrived, proving that German engineering can indeed move mountains – or at least, drive over them with style.

Kurt’s stories of navigating icy roads and treacherous mountain passes set the tone for our journey. The Taigun, with its sporty lines and bold grille, stood ready, its design blending modern aesthetics with rugged functionality. It was clear that this vehicle was built to conquer Ladakh’s challenging terrain. Our mission for this journey? Discover the undiscovered, relish the unexpected, and savour stories that resonate with the spirit of adventure.

We started from Leh with no destination in mind, but a whole lot of curiosity and a tank full of excitement. As we settled down for lunch at a local eatery, I pondered our next move while watching Kartik, our ace photographer and my co-pilot, dive into a bowl of Thukpa, a comforting noodle soup rich with local flavours. Kartik was engrossed in researching Ladakhi cuisine. He suggested Alchi, a quaint village known for its cultural heritage and culinary delights. With its promise of unique flavours and captivating sights, Alchi seemed like the perfect start to our adventure. We quickly mapped out our route, eager to see what lay ahead.

Our journey from Leh to Alchi began on the well-paved stretches of NH1, the Srinagar-Leh highway. The Taigun, shimmering in its Wild Cherry Red glory, glided smoothly along, handling the winding mountain roads with ease. The drive was a visual treat, with towering peaks, verdant valleys, and the serene river Indus accompanying us. The Taigun’s sunroof offered an unobstructed view of the majestic mountains, and its precise steering made navigating the winding roads a breeze. The drive was punctuated with frequent stops to capture the breathtaking scenery, each turn revealing a new aspect of Ladakh’s stunning landscape.

We made a pit stop at a scenic curve overlooking the Indus, its azure waters snaking through the valley below. The view was nothing short of breathtaking, a reminder of the raw beauty of Ladakh’s landscapes. As we soaked in the view, the Taigun stood as a symbol of modern German engineering meeting the timeless beauty of nature The Taigun’s powerful 1.0-litre TSI engine and comfortable ride made the journey enjoyable, allowing us to focus on the beauty around us rather than the challenges of the road. It was moments like these that made us appreciate the seamless blend of adventure and comfort that the Taigun offered.

In Alchi, amidst the hum of tourists visiting the ancient monastery, we found the Alchi Kitchen, a beacon of traditional Ladakhi cuisine Chef Nilza Wangmo’s brainchild since 2016, this women-run restaurant is a culinary gem. Though we
missed meeting the culinary queen herself, we indulged in Khambir — a hearty wheat bread baked over the fire, paired with the unique flavour of Butter Tea. The rustic, cosy interiors of the restaurant, with their wooden beams and traditional decor, perfectly complemented the hearty meal. The Taigun’s ample cargo space had no trouble accommodating the local delicacies we picked up as souvenirs. The flavours of the meal, rich and comforting, were a perfect reflection of the warmth and hospitality of Ladakhi culture.

After our culinary adventure, we aimed for Leh, with a detour to the Hall of Fame. This museum stands as a solemn tribute to the brave souls who fought valiantly in various wars, including the pivotal Kargil War of 1999. Walking through the exhibits, we were moved by the stories of bravery and sacrifice.
The Taigun, with its reliable performance and solid build, seemed a fitting companion on this leg of our journey, symbolising the strength and resilience of the people we were honouring.

As we left the Hall of Fame, the sun was beginning to set, casting a golden glow over the mountains. The Taigun’s headlights automatically adjusted to the dimming light, ensuring our path was well-lit. We drove back to Leh, reflecting on the stories of valour we had encountered. The journey back was quiet, each of us lost in our thoughts, the music from the Taigun’s sound system providing a gentle backdrop to our reflections. It was a humbling experience, reminding us of the bravery and sacrifice that underpinned the tranquillity of the landscape we were exploring.

Our next chapter unfolded in Gya, a village steeped in history and nestled along the Leh-Manali highway. Believed to be over a thousand years old, Gya is where legends and landscapes blend seamlessly. The drive to Gya was challenging, with steep climbs and narrow passes, but the Taigun’s agile handling made it a breeze. Its robust suspension system absorbed the bumps and ruts of the less-traveled roads with ease, tackling the gravel-laden paths while ensuring a comfortable cruise for us even in harsh conditions. The journey to Gya felt like stepping back in time, with each mile bringing us closer to the heart of Ladakh’s ancient history.

We met Urgain Phuntsog, the ‘Mitti ka Aadmi,’ a man of many hats — an organic farmer, animal husbandry expert, builder, and museum curator. His ancestral home turned museum showcased Ladakh’s rich history, from ancient tools to traditional attire. Exploring the underground home where generations, before his grandfather lived, was like stepping back in time. The museum’s collection, meticulously curated by Urgain, included artefacts that provided a glimpse into the daily lives and struggles of Ladakh’s early inhabitants. Urgain’s commitment to sustainability was inspiring, harvesting everything from apples to barley in his organic paradise.

At his homestay, we were served Khambir and Mint tea, a refreshing drink that perfectly captured the flavours of Ladakh. Sitting on the terrace, surrounded by the majestic mountains, we marvelled at the resilience and ingenuity of Ladakh’s people. His stories of ancient Ladakhi life, told over cups of steaming tea, were as rich and warm as the beverage itself. The Taigun’s plush seats and spacious interiors provide a comfortable respite from the long journey, making it easy to relax and enjoy the hospitality. The sun set behind the mountains, casting a serene glow over the village, and we felt a deep sense of peace and connection to this timeless place. The stories of Gya, preserved by Urgain and his family, were a testament to the enduring spirit of Ladakh’s people and their deep bond with the land.

As we pressed on towards Manali the next day, the Taigun tackled the treacherous roads with aplomb. From navigating landslide-ridden paths cleared swiftly by the Border Road Organisation to braving snow-laden Tanglang La, our journey was a test of mettle. The Taigun’s 188 mm of ground clearance and rugged build came into play as we crossed streams of melting snow and rocky terrain. The safety features like the ECS, ABS, TCS, and EBD ensured a smooth and safe journey. The landscape changed dramatically as we climbed higher, with the lush green valleys giving way to stark, snow-covered peaks.

A sudden snowstorm before Baralacha La pass turned the road into a river of melting snow, but our Taigun’s sturdy build and nimble handling saw us through. The 1.0-litre TSI engine showed no signs of fatigue, powering us onward as we climbed to new heights on our journey of discovery. With visibility dropping dramatically, we relied heavily on the Taigun’s headlights to guide us through the blinding snow.

We arrived in Manali, weary yet triumphant, warmed by hot tea and pakodas at a local dhaba. The Taigun’s advanced climate control system kept the cabin cosy, even as the temperatures outside plummeted. The journey through the snowstorm was a true test of both our resolve and the Taigun’s capabilities.

Crossing Tanglang La was one of the most challenging yet rewarding parts of our journey. The road often closed due to snow, was a testament to the incredible work done by the Border Road Organisation (BRO). These unsung heroes work tirelessly under extreme conditions to maintain and clear the roads, ensuring that travellers like us can safely navigate these treacherous passes. Their dedication and resilience are truly commendable As we navigated the twists and turns of Tanglang La, we couldn’t help but feel a deep sense of gratitude for the BRO. The Taigun’s all-weather capabilities and robust construction paid off as we navigated these challenging roads, making our journey possible.

Rolling into Delhi, the journey’s end was bittersweet We had uncovered stories of valour, resilience, and the indomitable spirit of Ladakh’s people The Volkswagen Taigun, our steadfast companion, had been the perfect partner — brave, resilient, and unwavering. Its advanced safety features, comfortable interiors, and impressive fuel efficiency made our journey smooth and memorable. The Taigun’s performance throughout the journey was nothing short of spectacular, handling everything from smooth highways to rugged mountain passes with ease.

As we parked the Taigun for the last time, one thought lingered: ‘You’re in a Volkswagen.’ And that, dear readers, made all the difference.. Volkswagen Experiences had indeed moved mountains and beyond, etching memories that would last a lifetime. The Taigun had not just been a vehicle, but a trusted companion that shared in every moment of our adventure. Until the next adventure, keep driving, keep exploring, and remember — you’re in a Volkswagen. The spirit of adventure, the thrill of discovery, and the comfort of knowing you’re in a vehicle that can handle it all — this is what Volkswagen Experiences is all about.