For a person who owns a Duster, the craving to explore the unexplored never really dies. By introducing the Gang of Dusters, Renault paved the way for these adventure-seekers to venture into various landscapes alongside people who also share the same passion. Has it worked? Better than anyone expected! Since its inception, the Gang of Dusters (GODs, as the members call themselves) has surpassed over one lakh members!It is now one of the largest four-wheeler adventure driving communities in India and has conducted over 48 drives across the country since its inception.
This time around, we join the GODs on an expedition to the mighty Himalayas in the valley of Spiti. The 5th Iconic Passion Drive was powered by Ceat tyres. It had 25 Dusters with 41 participants and the organising crew on board, heading out to ‘the middle land’ between Tibet and India. This was the first time that the Gang of Dusters also involved the stylish Renault Captur. A few participants drove a long way in their Capturs to be a part of this drive.
The Gang of Dusters included over 20 customer cars with 41 participants in total.
Before getting to the driving part, it was time to load up the luggage, and each Duster’s massive 475-litre boot held everything with ease. The cars were flagged-off from Chandigarh and the convoy began the first leg of its journey towards Narkanda – a small town nestled in the hills and surrounded by lush greenery; it is covered in snow during the winters and is the go-to place for skiing.
After spending the night in Narkanda, the next day’s drive to Sangla saw a drastic change in backdrop – from lush, tall maple and pine trees to barren mountains. Driving on narrow hilly roads while confronting oncoming traffic was not an easy task, but the GODs stuck together; and upon reaching Sangla, they were treated with a camp stay next to the Baspa river, and a lovely bonfire night.
The convoy makes its way across the mountains, sticking together and working as a team.
About 20km from the campsite was a small town named Chitkul. For those who don’t know, Chitkul is the last inhabited village on the India-China border – and this is where India’s roads end. The GODs enjoyed a sumptuous lunch of local delicacies in the Baspa valley while seated right next to the river. The members also spent a lot of time getting to know each other more while enjoying a beautiful view of nature. Back in their campsite after lunch, some members opted for an evening walk around the small village of Batseri, which was right next to the site.
On day four, the GODs were ready for the 183km drive to Spiti Valley. Apart from a lack of vegetation, something else was missed while on the road; the tarmac itself. However, roads or no roads – it made no difference to the Dusters. The amazing suspension setup of the Duster ensured that the passengers had a magic carpet ride over these bad roads.
High ground clearance helped the Duster sail over countless riverbeds with ease.
As the convoy inched closer to Kaza, it was greeted by well-paved empty roads running next to the Spiti River, a blue sky, high mountains and a cool breeze; all of which formed the perfect recipe for a pleasurable driving experience. The GODs had the next day to explore Spiti Valley, which has a number of locations that hold records for being the highest places in the world connected by motorable roads. The GODs got their cars refuelled at the world’s highest petrol pump in Kaza. This was one of the few fuel-stops taken by the convoy, as the 1.5L engine is extremely frugal and sipped diesel efficiently. In the morning, the gang visited the Key Monastery. Here, they interacted with local kids and monks – a somewhat peaceful experience for most of the participants.
The last leg of the drive was from Kaza to Manali (about 200km away) and proved to be one of the toughest parts of the entire drive. To put things into perspective: the first 120km from Kaza had about 10 percent tarmac and 15 percent broken tarmac; the remaining 75 percent had, well, no tarmac, whatsoever! Numerous uphill hairpin bends on loose gravel presented no problem for the Duster. The 110hp engine made sure that the cars got across without any drama. The road consisted of many glaciers along the way, which meant that there were a lot of water crossings to make things even tougher. The Duster had to be manoeuvred skilfully in the water over the rocks and the 205mm ground clearance ensured that the car didn’t scrape its bottom anywhere. The second-half of the journey had mostly well-paved roads along with twists and turns, which made driving the Duster even more fun. The Iconic Passion Drive put the Duster through its paces and it had to prove its mettle on every single day. From highways to ghats, from rocks to water crossings – the Duster handled anything and everything that was thrown at it.
The gang enjoyed a sumptuous riverside lunch in the beautiful Baspa valley.
The GODs reached the destination late at night on day six and parted ways the morning after. The drive got these strangers together and everyone left home with a bag full of memories – many would keep coming back for more adventure in the future.
UMESH MACHAIAH, MADIKERI
Me and my wife, Sunita have travelled over 2,500km to be a part of the drive. The other participants are wonderful people to be with and driving in a convoy has been fun. The journey doesn’t end here, and we are continuing to Leh and Ladakh after this drive. The overall experience has been amazing and we are surely looking forward to similar drives in the future.
SPARSH SAINI, PANCHKULA
I serve in the Naval forces of India and was back after six months at sea when my mom told me that I had to tag along with her on this drive. I’m extremely glad that I obliged as this was a perfect idea for a small vacation. The Duster just kept impressing me with the way it tackled the terrain and I am glad we had it as our constant companion.
The Gang of Dusters drive to Spiti Valley
Day 0 Chandigarh
Document verification, vehicle branding and check-up.
Day 1 Chandigarh to Narkanda - 173km
A pleasant highway drive and some nice twisty roads.
Day 2 Narkanda to Sangla - 169km
Enter the small town of Sangla to camp next to a river.
Day 3 Sangla
A day to rest and visit a few villages near camp.
Day 4 Sangla to Kaza- 183km
Finally reach Spiti Valley, driving alongside the river through the mountains.
Day 5 Kaza
A day of rest and exploration of the Spiti Valley.
Day 6 Kaza to Manali - 254km
Toughest leg of the journey with rocky patches and a lot of water crossings.
Day 7 Manali
Bidding goodbye and promising to see each other again in the next edition of the Gang of Dusters drive.