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
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)