Volkswagen Polo 1.5Tdi post update review

The car was recalled for a software upgrade after the global emission scandal. Got an email from VW confirming the need to upgrade followed by a call from service center to schedule a pickup. Quite positive since it’s a global recall, the pick up was scheduled and car was updated.

While the initial feel was pleasant and the vehicle feels quite peppy for city drive. The image clears when you take it for a longer spin and try pulling it close to 3 figures.

Following are my observations, on Emission Software Update.

  • Driveability has improved especially in first gear – before update the torque was very low in 1st gear in such a way that I could not move the vehicle forward in bumper to bumper traffic and hence the need to engage second gear immediately, to and fro. This changed after the software update and now i can pull the vehicle in first gear
  • Fuel Economy has increased marginally – around 1-2 kms/L both in city and on highways; during my recent visit to hills it delivered a whooping 22kmpl
  • I missed the sudden surge (that I have enjoyed so far with a grin on my face) when Turbo kicks in at around 1900-2000 rpm but the pull is definitely not bad. Turbo kick in this update is tuned to deliver linear power when compared to the sudden surge earlier. You can still maintain good speeds but overtaking has to be planned as you don’t get the boost around 2k rpm to complete a fast overtake
  • Increase in engine noise especially when you cross 60kmph

Only the power delivery during turbo kick in is comparatively linear when compared to the sudden surge before the update.


Nubra to Pangong Lake via Agham-Shyok

Pangong Lake and Nubra are two gems on Ladakh’s crown while what used to make it tough was crossing KhardungLa top for Nubra and to come back on same route to Leh town and then go back to Pangong Lake via ChangLa Pass.

To promote tourism and improve the lives of locals, govt has made two routes connecting Nubra with Pangong Tso. Wari-la route is shorter; it makes you cross WariLa Pass (stays frozen most year) and then ascend ChangLa while other one passes thru Agham – Shyok villages connecting to Durbuk. It has been 5 years since this route has been made, but it has remained mostly closed due to major landslides which occur every now and then. Some of the sections between Agham and Shyok villages are extremely difficult, very much landslide prone and will most likely get your heart in the mouth at one or the other curve.

Route is definately one of the most scenic ones in this circuit however be prepared for troubles ranging from Loose rocks, big rocks, rocks under water, stones sharp enough to damage your vehicle’s tires, you name it and this road has it. There are sections when you drive on the river bed (makes it impossible to cross in June- July when the flow is at peak)

What makes it tough is that rarest of people takes this route and if at all one gets stuck then leaving behind vehicle and moving with essentials will be the only option. Its advisable to move in convoy and avoid this route in summers.

The total distance on this road between Khalsar to Pangong Tso is approximately 140 kms and total travel time is about 6-8 hours. For a while, the road will run right next to the Shyok river and then there will be a tremendous gain in altitude.

Best time to cross:

  • Avoid June to August months as the water flow increases because of melting ice
  • Can be attempted either Early May or mid Sep onwards
  • Road remains open until late October and closes almost at the same time as Srinagar Leh highway

Suggestion for best commute:

  • Its a sedan/ hatch killer and should be avoided at all cost
  • 4×2 vehicle with expert skills driver
  • 4×4 vehicle with moderate skills

Roads towards Shyok


Shyok accompanies most of the way 


4 days/ 2000kms with the KTM Dukes


Enfielders turning to KTM Duke is not new but then all I thought was the need for the extra speed which is resulting in changing loyalties.

We planned to scale Sach Pass over the long weekend but the news of landslides and cloud burst forced us to change plans; limiting ourselves to Himachal.

Our Rides: KTM Duke 200 and KTM Duke 390 both with stock tyres

Day 1 we covered Delhi – Shimla – Narkanda – Thanedaar – Kumarsen; totalling to 585 kms of ride in rain; potholes and occasional sleet. This day was challenging enough (we rode in fog; crossed several small water crossings with a major landslide at 11 at night) but then we were holding our appreciations back since highways and roads are KTM’s territory anyways.IMG_20160814_073907

Day 2 we changed plans from Chitkul to Mandi via Jalori Pass thinking it will be comparatively easy. We were also quite unsure of the stock tyres since it was raining continuously for 2 days and there was heavy truck traffic because of Apple Season. Having faced heavy tourist traffic the previous day we decided to get to insides in a bid to avoid delhi/Punjab tourists.

Since it was rush season in Kinnaur, most roads were damaged with sleet to accompany. This is when our doubts on stock tyres came in but got addressed quite impressively. Dukes were Fishtailing quite often because of slush but then recovers without even putting the foot down to places where the route only had loose stones and we refrain from applying brakes and prefer using feet to slow down.img_20160814_150337_02

We came across a landslide around 3 kms before Jalori Jot and we had to lift our rides with the help of these local kids. Video Log

Day 3 we decided to take it easy today and relaxed in Kasol valley with a short ride till Tosh followed by a trek in village.

Day 4 was the time to head home. Not much in mind except that the Bilaspur stretch was pain last time so decided to start early and be close to Delhi by sundown. We did 602kms from Kasol to home in 12:5 hrs with fuel and lunch break.

The bikes didn’t really cease to amaze us; from riding downhill at three-digit speed and delivering a whooping 38kmpl uphill. People complain of dukes slipping and being reason for lot of accidents however I feel Dukes are quite mature rides and expects equal maturity from the rider.

What we loved?

  • Yes the rides are aggressive which makes overtaking on highways fun
  • The brakes are quite responsive
  • We had radiators filled with slush but the bikes didn’t complain and kept meeting our demands
  • The side stand sensor gave up because of mud on it but was easy to fix

Can be improved?

  • Even though we were lubricating the chains every morning they got loose quite often
  • Lack of ABS in Duke 200


Monsoon Ride – Day 1: Delhi to Kumarsen

You become best of friends with people you ride with and there’s no comparison to the bonding when you cover some of the toughest terrains with limited preparations.  It was over 3 yrs that we all rode together and the long (Independence Day) weekend came as an option to live those terrains again.

Ladakh 2013:

It was tough to get everyone together; even tougher was to convince our family to let us go amidst all the news of landslides and cloud bursts. Initial plan was to cover Sach Pass via Chamba – Udaipur – Rohtang Pass – Manali – Delhi however there were news of Cloud burst in Chamba Dist. just 2 days before the trip which made us keeping Chitkul as a backup plan.

Day 1: 14th Aug – Met group at Bahadurgarh bypass and rode for almost 200kms only to realize that we are still undecided on the destination and then starts discussions as to where to head to. Chitkul seems feasible in 5 days and we decided to go till Narkanda the first day. Having said that we started encountering tourist traffic post Pinjore itself and had to slow down in another 10 kms cos of heavy downpour.

Clicked before touching the National Highway 1:


4 pm and we were still in Solan. Spoke with a friend in Narkanda who was supposed to help us with accommodation and the only place we could stay tonight is a PWD guest house in Thanedaar which is 16 kms ahead of Narkanda. With not much options in hand we agreed to stay at Thanedaar and started ride towards it. The roads started detonating with heavy truck traffic and continuous rain. Things became worse with visibility limiting to barely few meters from Fagu and since we were already drenched we decided to call it a day here but then being a long weekend there was heavy tourist rush and we couldn’t get much of stay options and decided to pull till Narkanda. It was 9pm already by the time we reached Narkanda and with no stay options here as well we decided to have our dinner here and proceed to Thanedaar for the night stay.

Thanedaar is a small town, 16kms further on the slip road from Narkanda and road goes amidst dark jungles with slippery patches every few meters. Barely 10 kms in 1 hour and we were stopped by an officer stating there’s a landslide and that it will take another an hour to clear it. Tired and drenched we decided to wait for the landslide to clear off.

Half hour later the inspection team confirms it to be a major one and that they would need atleast a day or two to clear this off. Luckily the officer was still there and offered to help us with a stay in the next village which is another 20 kms from Narkanda. Managed to settle for the day around 12:30 am with odo reading of 578kms for the first day.


Our rides looked like this the next morning:


Delhi – Sach Pass – Delhi over long weekend

You know you are addicted to travelling when the first thing you do with a calendar is to look for long weekends to escape to hills. This year Independence Day is falling on a Monday and what better to celebrate freedom then travelling to Hills.

Since we are pretty short of time, we planned to do a quick ride to Killar crossing Chamba- Sach Pass and come back via Rohtang Pass- Manali- Tosh.

We are aiming to finish the circuit in 4 days with an extra day in hand for it will be peak monsoon and most region will be under moderate to heavy rainfall with chances of Landslides in various zones.

Here’s the reference itinerary we are planning:

1 Delhi Chamba 596 Kms Karnal – Ludhiyana – Phagwara – Pathankot
2 Chamba Killar 159 Kms SuranGani- Shaol – Guddan – Alwas – Sach Pass
3 Killar Keylong 130 Kms Purthi – Bhujund – Udaipur
4 Keylong Kasol 190 Kms Sissu – Rohtang Pass – Manali
5 Kasol Delhi 535 Kms Sunder Nagar – Bilaspur – Kiratpur Sahib – RoopNagar – Ambala

Will be posting more updates on it as we come closer to the travel dates.

Chakrata Uttarakhand

Chakrata is a small cantonment area in Dehradun district of Uttarakhand State. 6-8 hrs of moderate drive from Delhi and you’ll find yourself surrounded by deodar trees and panoramic views of Himalayan mountain ranges. A perfect place to just relax in your room and watch the sun rise and set behind the mountains.

Route Taken: Delhi – Karnal (Left before Savoy) – Ladwa – Yamunanagar – Paonta Sahib – Chakrata

Alternate Route: Delhi – Gaziabad – Meerut – Roorkie – Dehradun – Paonta Sahib – Chakrata

The route was mostly scenic however don’t expect swanky restaurants or washrooms enroute and its better to utilize the services of the dhabas on the National Highway 1 instead. Chakrata is quite prone to cloudburst and landslides so it’s wise to keep few extra days in hand.

With regards to commuting we were 4 pax in a city specific sedan and we did not face any issues except few broken patches towards the Tiger Fall (it’s still worth the visit).

Left Delhi early on Saturday morning we reached Paonta Sahib by 1100hrs and Chakrata by 1400 hrs. Followed by a nice walk in the small market area before coming 10kms down to settle at Hotel Burans. Burans is a newly built property with all basic modern amenities. We initially planned to stay at the Snow View Resort for all the reviews we read over the net however we were not too happy with the rooms; more so the 2-minute conversation with the owner was a turn off and we decided to head down to Hotel Burans.


View from our Window


Drive towards Tiger Fall


Drive from Vizag City to Araku Valley

Journeys are lived while destinations are reached. Sounds true for my visit to Aarku Valley last month. Well there wasn’t anything that’s not pleasing but I guess the journey has lived up beyond comparison also being a rider at heart it was difficult for me to stick to my driving seat and kept cursing myself for not plying on these state highways on two wheels. I was using offline maps so didn’t really had to reach out to locals and further I was accompanied by local residents so language barrier was negligible.

The roads are well done and nowhere I came across even a single pothole which is quite a big thing when travelling on State Highways. Some 120 kms from Visakhapatnam airport the road goes from a dozen small towns offering limited local delicacies along with Raw Bananas and Coconut water. Roads from Saaripalli changes to a single lane however you’ll barely be bugged with traffic. Well tarred roads run through the eastern ghats with cold breeze every time you roll down the windows. Highway takes you to 3600ft before you reach down the valley at about 2900ft.


  • Drive with windows rolled down and see yourself living close to the nature.
  • Locals are quite time bound and only serve breakfast till 9:30am and lunch 12:30 onwards.

Arrow Straight Roads


Its all green with Banana and Coconut trees giving company


Decent Lunch Options available at state run restuarant


Stay for the Night


Rooms are quite decent with all basic amenities


View from our Room


View from our Room

Himalayan for Himalayas

Every news is a big news when it comes from the house of Royal Enfield and bigger when it’s about a new entry from them. Yes the most awaited ride is finally revealed yesterday in an event in South Delhi.

The new Himalayan gets power from newly designed 410cc single cylinder oil cooled engine and churns out 24.5bhp at 6500rpm. Company has been aiming high with the new entrant and have invested quite a lot on the first of its kind off-roader from Indian terrains. Expecting price to be anywhere between 1.8L-2.10L while that not even a question for the cult following the brand has.

Here’s listing some pros and cons from its first appearance:


  • Carburetor instead of fuel injection
  • Telescopic front suspension with 41mm forks
  • Improved riding posture with 21inches front and 17inch rear tyres


  • 15 ltr petrol tank will keep you on a lookout for gas stations
  • 24.5bhp is quite a disappointment and was hoping it to be anywhere in late 30’s
  •  No abs even as an option



Traveling from Java Island to Denpasar/ Bali

Java is one of the upcoming tourist destinations in Indonesia after Bali. Reasons of course being ease of travel (Airport in Surabaya and a well-connected road network) and Mount Bromo/Ijen to trek for that phenomenal sunrise

Easiest way to reach Bali from Surabaya is flight however if you are in an explorer mood and have extra days in hand then road transfer is for you. We of course opted for the later.

Opting to reach out via Air:

Lot of domestic airlines fly in and out of Surabaya on daily basis. The domestic travel is not much expensive and you may strike a deal with Citilink or Lion Air for something as low as $30/ pax.

By Road followed by Ferry:

We planned to take it light and hired a cab to Ketapang ferry station and a private bus from Gillimanuk to Kuta where we booked our stay at. The transport options are plenty at the airport however this side of Indonesia does not see too many tourists so language can be a big trouble. We were lucky to be helped by a coffee shop employee. The travel from Surabaya airport to Ketapang Ferry station is around 8-9 hrs depending on traffic and while most taxis won’t deny you but will ask for a hefty amount. We were on a tight budget so took time negotiating and are quite sure to have striked best deals of the available resources. Prepaid taxis at the Surabaya station looked a safer option however not the pocket friendly one. We were offered 12 lakh rupeya for a private cab from the airport to Ketapang Harbor however private taxis offered us 10 lakh. If you are looking for a shared cab then it will be around 2 lakh/ pax while you can’t guarantee the crowd and since we needed a comfortable ride we started exploring private taxi options. The roads offer great views and the last 30kms stretch is done with sea shore accompanying you. Not too many eating joints but you will find lot of Alfa Super mart enroute for water and snacks.

The deal was done at 800000 rupeya.

Once at Ketapang Harbor you get options of taking a ferry to Gilimanuk or can even take a direct bus to Bali. Ferry would mean you can save upto 1.5-2 hrs and will offer you spectacular view. The ferry is used by locals for daily commuting and you will see courier vans to bikes and tempos loaded in the ferry. Duration: 20-25 mins.IMG_20150806_154822 IMG_20150806_154850 IMG_20150806_160506

Once in Gilimanuk you again get option of renting a private cab or take a superfast bus. Superfast buses ain’t too many and you might be left to wait for an hour to two depending on the time and traffic. Also the bus will take you to Denpasar while our stay was at Kuta which would mean we have to take another taxi back to our hotel in Kuta. Private taxi guy quoted us 8 Lakh rupeya for a trip to our hotel. While we were keen on it we decided to wait for more options however since it was late evening and dark we tried negotiating with the same driver who later decided to go back to his home and will drop us on the way for 5lakh rupeya. Journey took 2-6 hrs totally depending on the traffic.

Indonesia sees lot of traffic and jams are quite common however the good part here being the traffic sense. People follow traffic rules and you will barely hear people honking.

Currency Details:

1$ = 64.40 Indian Rupee (INR)

100$ = 13,50,000 Indonesian Rupeya (IDR)

My two cents to Malindo Air

Well I know I can’t put everything on an Airline since I was warned by people about their functioning and still we decided to go ahead with all the good hopes and buffer time between our flights.

We boarded OD206 from DEL to KUL on 4th August eve and while everything was fine (had to ask for water thrice and got it after waiting for close to an hour still I feel it’s majorly the staff and not the airline at fault) the things went bad once we landed at KUL airport for our connecting OD306 to Bali.

OD306 with scheduled departure of 9:20 reaching DPS 12:20 will give us ample time to have our Visa on arrival, collect luggage and then board our next 1620 connect to Surabaya. Some of the reviews for Malindo Air gave me an idea that airline tend to get late and its advisable to have buffer time in hand and I thought 4 hrs is a good enough gap.

We reached KUL at 6:00hrs and the boards showed our next flight timings as 11:20hrs; well not bad we are still safe and with lil running around we can still catch our connect from DPS. As we wait for it to stuck 11:20 we realized we don’t have many options to do at the airport since food counters only accepts RM and we are carrying USD. To save on to the hassle of carrying currency we picked few 100$ currency thinking it’s widely acceptable and now there’s no point converting them to RM and then to IDR (Indonesian Rupeya) once we reach Indonesia. So waiting in the bone chilling terminal is the only thing we could do.

11:00 and the lady at the counter collects our boarding passes meanwhile the TV screens also starts to show that the boarding has started which went on till 12:00 only to be advised by one of the staff that the crew and captain are not available right now. Well wow how can one fix that? I’ve a connecting flight and preparing myself to run at the next airport and now the captain is missing. More passengers join in and we get to hear that flight is delayed meanwhile the TV screens still show boarding started and that the flight leaving at 11:20. All this goes on till 12:30 when the lady quietly informs few passengers about the flight being cancelled and that this is the only information available to her. On demanding for a manager she goes blank and the manager is nowhere in sight till about 1330 hrs; we now know that the connect is missed and there’s not much I can do much except that I need to reach Surabaya by the end of the day so I can board the cab which will come to the airport by 17:30 to pick us for our Bromo tour. Meanwhile the oldies and kids are crying out of cold and hunger but since its Malindo they didn’t take much time in declining blanket or food coupon requests. So far the reason for delay/ cancellation has changed from late staff to an earthquake in Indonesia. How on earth they expect us to believe an earthquake when there’s nothing on google even after 5 hrs of it taking place. Meanwhile the Airasia flights are leaving for Denpasar.

Lady at the counter comes with assurance that Lion Air (Parent company for Malindo) flies to Jakarta from where they will arrange another flight to Surabaya which means we will be in Surabaya by 20:30 instead of our 17:30 plan. Seems Sorted?

Yeah we were relaxed but furious since there’s no boarding pass provided for the promised flights and the flight is about to leave in next 15 mins. So the lady at the counter asks us to reach Jakarta and meanwhile the team here will arrange for tickets at the counter. All we need to do is give our names at Lion Air counter at the Jakarta Airport. Wow this seems sorted but how will they know of it and what proof we are carrying for this commitment? Well we were promised an email confirming the same but don’t know when. We didn’t have much choice since Jakarta to Surabaya looked easier (more flights) than doing it from KUL.

We stayed in the craft (yeah this too got delayed by an hr) but assured that we won’t miss other connect since its same airline and many passengers will be boarding the connecting flight. Yeah all things falling in place and we confirmed our cabbie to be at the Surabaya airport post 2000 hrs till we reach.

We reached Jakarta by late eve and were the first passengers to rush to Visa and luggage so we don’t miss out on our connect from Lion Air. Rushed to Lion Air’s counter on terminal 1 literally breathless only to find there’s no news to them on our arrival or arranging tickets. Rather all flights are now sold out and the next flight’s in morning for which we would have to pay thrice the amount of what a regular ticket would have costed. So Malindo has done it again leaving us at a new airport with absolutely no information and an expense to reach out to a safe place for spending night and then reach to a destination we should have reached out by now.

We picked Indonesia as destination for it offering us a mix of Mountains and Beaches but here we are left with nothing except paying for someone else’s fault. Mount Bromo was something we planned for months and now we are left with no option but to skip it in order to manage and catch up with rest of the itinerary. Not to forget the operator who relied on our word and booked the whole tour for us and poor cab driver who’s at the airport waiting to pick us, the hotel room we were to check in and the Jeep safari guy who’s kept on hold for us. Wonder if airline or the managers even gave it a thought. Not just Mount Bromo & Ijen tours but Malindo has made the whole experience sour for us. We spent months deciding on the places to eat to the shots we will capture while on tour and now losing everything just because someone at Malindo didn’t do his job well. Warm clothes, trekking shoes and tripod are of no use since we won’t see the sunrise we dreamt of.

Since we were on a budgeted tour we now had no option but to spend the night at the terminal and spend whatever buffer money we have got to book our tickets to Surabaya. Sadly the trip’s gone sour and everything looked waste but we are hopeful to go back someday to live those moments and this time I won’t let Malindo spoil it.