Road trip: A Yeti in the Himalayas

Road trip: A Yeti in the Himalayas
Road trip: A Yeti in the Himalayas

 

People in Bhutan – and indeed elsewhere – believe in the yeti, so what better place to take Skoda’s solid-selling SUV?

Our jumping off point is the Indian border, and we’re soon on twisting mountain roads, with the only traffic being some animals and big Tata trucks. We’re on our way to a wildlife sanctuary where the yetis are meant to live.

The plan is for Bhutan’s vehicles to go electric, although they’re doing remarkably well already. There’s a target for 60% of the land to be forest, and they’re at 70%. It’s the only country in the world to be carbon negative. However, away from the capital Thimphu there just isn’t the infrastructure yet for EVs, so we’re in a Yeti Outdoor 4×4 with SE L trim.

This vehicle was built at the Indian plant but feels identical to a British one, complete with leather seating. There aren’t that many other cars on the road; in fact there are only about 50,000 in the whole country. Back in 1971 there were 47.

After a trip on the ‘death road’ we can see why some people might walk. We’re not able to do more than 20mph because of the huge potholes in the dirt road, the presence of big trucks taking up most of the track, and the huge, terrifying drop-off just beyond our wheels.

On the Death Row
On the Death Row

We don’t have much time to look at it, and we don’t want to fall into it, but the scenery is stunning. And the next day it gets better yet. We’re so high up that it’s hard to talk let alone walk in the thin air, but we make the 3530m summit of the newish mountain road. It’s a rough road, but at least it’s a road.

We pass lots of Buddhist shrines and prayer flags, and something keeps our convoy on the road. We make it to the reserve, but the locals aren’t really keen to talk about the yeti or whether they’ve seen one. It’s not like they have a lot of tourists hanging on their every word – the annual tourist head-count is around 30.

Soon, it’s time for us to turn round and retrace our steps back to the Indian border. This makes us sad for several reasons, including saying goodbye to the incredible beauty and hospitality you see everywhere in Bhutan. We’re also sorry because there are an alleged 40,000 corners ahead of us before we leave the country.

Bhutan - Skoda

And we’re sorry because we know what is coming. We use the 4×4 virtually all the time, and the hill descent control and they’re both invaluable. We never get above third gear the whole trip, which is 423 miles all in.

What has proven a seriously good investment is the £210 needed for the Rough Road package. In Kent that might sound like an extravagance – although have you seen the roads in Tunbridge Wells? – but up here it’s a life saver, possibly literally. It includes underbody cladding, and without it we can’t believe we’d have managed as it absorbed the numerous impacts of sharp rocks, little ravines and worse.

But the Skoda Yeti does manage, and about as comfortably as you can imagine. We’re seriously impressed, as this is way outside any possible use in Western Europe, apart from a trip down Guildford High Street before Christmas.

We’re actually sad to see it go, almost as sad as we are to say goodbye to Bhutan. We may not have seen a yeti, but the Yeti did us proud.

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