The Himalayan mountain range looms large and intimidating to all who set their eyes upon its face. Attracting a wide array of travellers, tourists and visitors, the Himalayas offer a reprieve and a whiff of exhilaration to those who seek ‘high’ thrills. In an extraordinary attempt, linking the excitement of travel and exploration with socially responsible awareness, to draw the attention of the masses towards the growing menace of female foeticide in north India, the Fox Adventure Club has recently completed an exceptional tour spanning the longest distance in the high Himalayas, atop the most unique and daring mode of transport – a tractor!
Team Fox comprises a motley crew of differently skilled persons, with but one trait binding them together – their love for adventure. The three members who were a part of this remarkable feat are Amit Chaudhary, Jaibir Singh Virk and Himanshu Khagta.
Chaudhary, with a doctorate in Naturopathy and an MA in English, is working as a teacher in a government school in Kurukshetra. He is an avid adventurer who loves to explore remote places on his motorbike, and often even by foot. Virk, who holds a Limca record (2008) for completing a similar route in 2008, charting 3,200 km in 19 days traversing Umbala through Ladakh, is an advocate from Tohana as well as a ‘progressive farmer’. Virk also happens to be the president of the adventure club, where the group members are ever ready for “crazy stuff”. Khagta, from Shimla, is a freelance photographer working for many national and international projects. He describes himself as a ‘traveller who happens to take photographs’.
His companionship in the group also helps in documenting all the experiences in vivid images. In an unfortunate happenstance in the course of the journey, between the treacherously tricky areas of Dras and Kargil, Khagta suffered a shoulder dislocation and was unable to shoot to his heart’s content.
Truly an initiative that is one of its kind, this unique journey in the Himalayas sought to inform and alert people and spread the message to save the girl child. Team Fox has often been a part of such events in the past, creating awareness among common people and alluding to various social causes such as environmental issues, HIV prevention, inflation and corruption, among others. The state of Jammu and Kashmir has abysmal statistics as per the sex ratio and the child sex ratio.
The group had carried printed pamphlets to distribute to the local populace; it was, in Khagta’s words, “difficult to find people wanting to talk”. The need to address issues of concern is underplayed in our country; hence small-scale citizen-led ventures such as this should be encouraged. Innovative, exciting and ‘hip’ projects such as this foray in the Himalayas are especially welcome to the young and youthful, thereby creating a long-standing impact.
The entire affair orchestrated with close and careful planning on the part of Team Fox and was sponsored by IndoFarms Tractors Ltd. The record-setting journey originally began with a plan to cover 4,000km over a period of 15 days, commencing at Baddi village on 23rd May, 2012. However, due to snow, the Kunzum Pass was rendered inaccessible and the itinerary was changed mid-way so as to accommodate an alternate route via Rohtang-la and Manali.
This also quickened the pace of the travellers, and they were back home a day before the stipulated time. After starting from the manufacturing plant and unit of Indo Farm Tractors at Baddi, the ride traversed through Srinagar via Jammu. Subsequently, on crossing Kargil, the tractor entered the Zanskar valley, the remotest part of our country that remains cut-off from rest of the world for more than eight months, due to snow and the tough terrain.
The vehicle and its passengers then steered their course towards Leh, Ladakh, motoring some of the highest motorable roads and passes of world, like Chang la (17,600 ft), Khardung la (18,380 ft) and Tanglang la (17,634 ft). Many and more passes were scaled in this venture, two of the aforementioned being the highest passes not only in our lands but also in the world! The challenging terrain and expanse of some of the most extreme conditions in the regions of Kashmir alley and Ladakh, Team Fox braved one of the world’s deadliest network of roads, and finally made their way back to Baddi in order to end their expedition.
Adrenaline-charged, and empowering, this journey was truly one to remember. The Fox Adventure Club is now in the process of planning more exciting new ventures.
Written by: Ruchika Tara Mathur
Photographs by: Himanshu Khagta.