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I am certainly no skiing expert, and I can confidently say that my colleagues on this particular drive were not, either. The excitement of heading to a ski resort in Auli was quickly tempered by the realisation that gliding down the slopes was not going to be child’s play. Forget that — the starting point was to be reached via ski lifts, and there is definitely some embarrassing footage of me panicking and covering my eyes, in order to not look down from that height. Those heading back from a round of skiing did poke some fun at me, but it was all in good spirits.

Locked and loaded… for some more falls!

Nevertheless, with all of us being novices, we had to be given quite a detailed session on the dos and don’ts of skiing. Then came the big moment; putting on the skis and ski boots. The instructor told us to put pressure on our knees, which is a rather difficult trick to master, honestly. I ended up in a crouching position, losing my balance and falling over. The climb back to the rendezvous point was quite a legful, and served as a cruel reminder to work on my fitness. Round two went similarly, with the added fact that the slope suddenly became too fast for my liking. Once again, I ended up crouching, and went sideways before ultimately losing my balance. My palms — having been rubbed through the snow for the entire crash – were craving for a bonfire. By now, I was huffing and puffing, so I decided to spend the rest of my time sitting by a fire at a nearby shop, watching the others try to learn — and then fall. Still, at least I can tick another thing off my bucket list.

How did I end up in Auli, trying (and failing) to ski? The answer lies in the fact that MG had put together a sort of impromptu drive, and had extended an invitation to Motoring, which was gladly accepted — with me sharing driver duties with other colleagues. I never expected to be out on a media drive barely hours after receiving an invitation; in fact, just hours before that, I had dropped Pablo to the Delhi airport in an Astor. This meant that I could drop it off at the dealership, which was also where the drive’s flag-off would take place. This also meant I had to pack my bags very quickly.

Diesel power meant lesser fuel stops. Yay!

The next morning, after a light breakfast, exchanges of pleasantries, and a briefing session, we were ready for the actual trip. I’ll be honest here; I hadn’t driven a diesel car in quite a while, so I was quite keen to get behind the wheel of the diesel Hector, with a 6-speed manual. By 9:00 am, we were all set to leave for Auli, and one by one, the convoy of Hectors began leaving the MG dealership in Noida. The drive was split into three days; the first day, we were to halt at Srinagar (no, not that Srinagar), the next day we would carry on to Auli for the snow experience, and the final day would be for our return. The initial part of the drive was mostly on highways, and we cruised along, stopping for a quick break along the way, when the Hector alerted us of low pressure in the rear left tyre. That apart, on the highway, it remained stable, dealing with undulations nicely and keeping things smooth in the cabin.

Upon entering Rishikesh, the highway gave way to hilly twisties, and we indulged ourselves a bit. I happen to be from Dehradun, and maybe it’s something about living away from home, but whenever I travel to the hills, there’s a strange feeling that grows inside of me, which I don’t think I can explain until I’ve consumed a certain drink. Anyway, as we made progress along the hilly sections, we had a flat tyre at the most appropriate place; in front of a tyre repair shop. The resulting chai-and-puncture break also included a hot plate of Maggi. When in Uttarakhand…

Why would someone want to rush through such beautiful scenery?

By 6:45 am the next day, we were all ready to take on the next phase, and everyone was excited to see some snow in Auli. The mountains presented us with a mix of good and bad roads, and we also encountered a traffic jam that lasted about 30 minutes, thanks to a road closure. This was a good opportunity to pause for a bit and step outside and take in the stunning views of the river below us, running parallel to our route for the day. This moment of peace had to be interrupted by blaring horns from the many impatient people who were also stuck. It was ironic; why would someone want to rush through such beautiful scenery?

Despite the sunny weather, we were glad the snow hadn’t melted

By the time we moved, I was sitting in the passenger seat, staring out the window and appreciating the views. Then, something suddenly struck me. Given the sunny weather, what if the snow had melted? However, a few kilometres later, those doubts disappeared, when we got a peek at the snow-capped mountains above us. Excited, we parked the car on the roadside for another photo-op. The last time I saw snow, I had just written my final board exams, and the sight of it lifted my spirits.

And there it was finally — snow!

The road became narrower and narrower as we approached Auli, and we finally crossed a signboard that welcomed us into the hill town. We saw small amounts of snow by the roadside, and before we realised it, we were driving through wet roads while being surrounded by snow as far as the eye went. Soon, we were at the ski resort, where the embarrassments I described earlier in this piece took place. They didn’t end there, either. When it was time to head back to the hotel, the cable cars had stopped running, which meant I had to walk through snow all the way down to the parking lot. My evening became more interesting, and I don’t think anyone else slipped and fell as much as I did during the walk down.

It got quite dark by the time we made it back from the ski point

After what seemed like an eternity, we all finally made it back to the parking lot and then drove back to our hotel, where I changed into dry clothes and jumped into a heated blanket for some much-needed rest. The next morning, we commenced our drive back to Gurugram. After some commemorative group photos, I took a moment to look back at the scenery, the majestic, snow-capped mountains forming the perfect backdrop. Even though I ended up mostly falling and swearing rather than skiing, it was an experience I’ll remember for the rest of my life.

This drive showed me diesels are still relevant today

This drive also showed me that diesels are still relevant today. The Hector’s mill gives you a lot of torque to play around with, its power delivery is linear, and having a 6-speed manual greatly enhances the driving experience, especially in the hills. The car I was driving did have some issues in the middle of the return trip, but the replacement vehicle showed me how driveable it is, and also how comfortable its cabin keeps you, especially in the middle row. What’s a road trip without a bit of an adventure, right?

Photos shot by JSW MG Motor India