Mahin­dra AD­VEN­TURE great es­cape

A city drenched by in­ces­sant rain did not hold much ap­peal for some week­end fun. While we could not in­flu­ence the weather, we de­cided to jump into a ca­pa­ble SUV and go off-road­ing to make the most of it

Car India - - CONTENTS - Story: Joshua Vargh­ese Pho­tog­ra­phy: Mahin­dra Ad­ven­ture

Get­ting down and dirty where the road ends

Early on a Satur­day morn­ing, with swollen black clouds cov­er­ing the sun, some Mahin­dra SUV own­ers were en route to Lon­avala, near Pune, for the 150th edi­tion of Mahin­dra Ad­ven­ture Great Es­cape. Of the 60 SUVs that were reg­is­tered for the event, we were of­fered a Mahin­dra Thar CRDe to get dirty with, and we gladly ac­cepted.

A two-hour-long drive brought me to Club Mahin­dra, Tungi, from where the Great Es­cape was sched­uled to be flagged off. Par­tic­i­pants had ar­rived well ahead of time, clad in func­tional cloth­ing and brim­ming with en­thu­si­asm. After regis­tra­tion and a quick break­fast, we at­tended the driv­ers’ brief­ing. Ex­perts from Mahin­dra Ad­ven­ture ran us through the nu­ances of off-road­ing and how to make the most of our SUVs’ four-wheel-drive sys­tem. Cer­tain point­ers such as when to en­gage 4WD High and 4WD Low proved ex­tremely ben­e­fi­cial to us later in the event. We were also given a brief idea of the chal­lenges we were go­ing to face.

Fol­low­ing flag-off, the con­voy drove out in a sin­gle file t owards the trail, bat­tling low vis­i­bil­ity and in­ces­sant rain. Shortly, we reached our des­ti­na­tion, marked clearly by dis­in­te­grat­ing tar­mac and the be­gin­ning of muddy trails. As de­cided ear­lier, the cars shod with road tyres were dis­patched first, fol­lowed by the ve­hi­cles equipped with off-road tyres. For­tu­nately, our Thar was shod with Maxxis Bighorn MT-764 tyres, so we were in the lat­ter group.

What had been a dusty trail just a few days ear­lier had turned into a muddy af­fair thanks to heavy rain. By the time it was my turn, the trail had been churned well by the ve­hi­cles be­fore me. After en­gag­ing 4WD Low and shift­ing into sec­ond gear, I let out the clutch and the Thar moved for­ward, pow­ered by a 2.5-litre en­gine belt­ing out a po­tent 247 Nm of torque be­tween 1,800 and 2,000 rpm. The first few hun­dred me­tres of the trail were of

mod­er­ate dif­fi­culty and helped me get fa­mil­iar with m y ride.

Soon, how­ever, the trail started throw­ing chal­lenges at us. At one stage, I found my­self fac­ing a trench filled with mud. As the Thar en­tered fender-deep mud, my in­stincts were scream­ing in­struc­tions to nail the throt­tle pedal to the floor; a move that would have done me more bad than good. Dur­ing the brief­ing, we were in­structed to keep a steady pres­sure on the throt­tle rather than floor­ing it, be­cause over-revving a ve­hi­cle whose peak torque man­i­fests be­low 2,000 rpm was point­less. Sure enough, the Thar crept for­ward, con­fi­dently thwart­ing na­ture’s at­tempt to trap it in a boggy pit.

At times our path would sud­denly change from vast plains to tight trails that ran through dense un­der­growth. One such path abruptly ended with a steep drop that was rid­dled with boul­ders. The proac­tive mar­shals came to our res­cue once again. They guided the driv­ers along the best path down­hill by us­ing hand sig­nals. There were a few heart-in-your-mouth mo­ments where some SUVs bal­anced pre­car­i­ously with more than one wheel in the air, but none of them faced dread­ful re­sults.

Off-road­ing is not al­ways about crawl­ing along at snail’s pace; some­times you have to aim your car in the right di­rec­tion and gun it. I forded a stream and ar­rived at an ob­sta­cle like that. After back­ing up the Thar to solid ground, I slot­ted it into sec­ond and floored the throt­tle. The SUV did not lose mo­men­tum even though the mud kept get­ting thicker as I drove in. An­other ma­jor ob­sta­cle was a pool at the bot­tom of a steep slope. Mar­shals ad­vised us to de­scend in first gear and shift int o sec­ond be­fore pow­er­ing through the wa­ter body and up the in­cline on the other side. One Thar reached mid­way and stalled. It had to be winched out by one of the mar­shal ve­hi­cles. When it was my turn, I guided the car down the slope and stalled it just as it hit the wa­ter be­cause I mist­imed the gear shift. For­tu­nately, I had stalled the car in the shal­low end of the pool. After quickly restart­ing the car, I shifted it into re­verse and backed up the slope. My sec­ond at­tempt was bet­ter and the Thar man­aged to wade through the pool with­out much has­sle.

After all th­ese chal­lenges, the rest of the trail seemed tame in com­par­i­son. Al­most seven hours of off-road­ing later, I felt happy at the sight of a long black line of as­phalt lead­ing back to civ­i­liza­tion. It was time to drive back to the venue and call it a day.

In ad­di­tion to putting to­gether an event like this, Mahin­dra Ad­ven­ture have done a com­mend­able job in en­sur­ing that our drive did not dam­age the re­gional flora any more than re­quired. The vig­i­lant mar­shals made sure that even the most in­ex­pe­ri­enced driv­ers in the group were safe and that they en­joyed the drive. Ex­pe­ri­enced off-road­ers from the Mahin­dra Ad­ven­ture camp charted a route that was a good mix of chal­leng­ing ter­rain and breath­tak­ing views. The ic­ing on the cake is that Mahin­dra Ad­ven­ture also train en­thu­si­asts to take on off-road ter­rain at their Of­froad Academy. There, en­thu­si­asts can learn the tricks of off-road­ing over two lev­els; Get­ting Dirty and Trail Sur­vivor. This was the sec­ond event of the cur­rent sea­son. So, if you want to par­tic­i­pate in the forth­com­ing ones, do check out the Mahin­dra Ad­ven­ture web­site.

Left) ( Mahin­dra Ad­ven­ture of­fi­cials flag off the event

( A par­tic­u­larly well-main­tained Mahin­dra Classic get­ting dirty Right) Left) A bud­ding off-road en­thu­si­ast in his not-so-stock Thar

( Off-road ready and ca­pa­ble of light­ing up the night. Lit­er­ally! Right)

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