JEEPERS KEEPERS We ex­pe­ri­ence the Jeep Life as we head to the Greater Rann of Kutch in a con­voy of Jeeps with a bunch of nutty own­ers

Head­ing to the Greater Rann of Kutch for a peek into the Jeep Life


PANIC. THAT’S WHAT WAS RUN­NING through my mind as I dashed out of Ahmedabad air­port, hav­ing landed an hour later than sched­uled. I snatched the keys to my char­iot, a diesel Jeep Com­pass. The con­voy hadn't waited for me and I had ground to cover. I put on some sweet AC/DC tunes and hit the road, hard. But I might have jumped too far here, let me give you some con­text.

I was rac­ing to at­tend the Jeep Trails, an event for Jeep cus­tomers to ex­pe­ri­ence what the Jeep life is all about — off-road­ing, vis­it­ing spec­tac­u­lar places and stray­ing off the beaten path. At the same time, it brings like-minded peo­ple to­gether who share a pas­sion for ad­ven­ture, and put them head­first into one. Oh, and did I men­tion off-road­ing? This edi­tion, the White Sands, was be­ing held in the Greater Rann of Kutch, but the drive started in Ahmedabad, some 400km away.

So, there I was, sat in the Com­pass, com­fort­ably cruis­ing at triple-digit speeds on the high­way, ea­ger to catch the con­voy of own­ers. Thanks to Gu­jarat's great roads and the Com­pass' pol­ished road man­ners, I caught up with them well be­fore reach­ing the Tent City at the Rann Ut­sav, on the edge of the White Rann. Stick­ing with Jeep’s legacy, there were some ac­tiv­i­ties set up for us, chief among which was an off-road course to show what a Jeep can re­ally do. I jumped in a Trail­hawk and had a Wran­gler ahead of me, tack­ling the ob­sta­cles with the poise of a cat. The awe of watch­ing it quickly changed to a sense of fear, as my co-driver re­minded me that the course wasn’t set up for the Trail­hawk. Gulp. But it was al­most shock­ing to see what this new Com­pass could do. The first two ob­sta­cles in­volved ar­tic­u­la­tion which it man­aged to tackle with­out break­ing a sweat – I put the car in low ra­tio and it went up like a moun­tain goat. Pfft, easy. The last ob­sta­cle, how­ever, was a 46-de­gree slant and I was re­ally sure I was go­ing to tip over! But even that wasn’t enough to put it to bed, although see­ing the ground inches from my face al­most put me there!

The next morn­ing we lined up the cars and headed out to­wards the White Rann. I was in the supremely capable Wran­gler with a long snake of about 20 Jeeps fill­ing my mir­rors with al­most ev­ery colour the com­pany of­fers. It must have been quite a sight in these re­mote parts! Our ren­dezvous was the In­dia Bridge, the last point any civil­ian with­out the req­ui­site per­mis­sions can go to. Why? Be­cause beyond that lies Army ter­ri­tory and the bor­der with our friendly neigh­bour. We had the per­mis­sions and went straight through. As we pro­ceeded, the roads be­came worse and a road­block up ahead meant we had to go off the track. Not that it was a prob­lem, we were in Jeeps! The path to go off the road was a steep de­cline with two deep ruts and a tall mound in the cen­tre. I knew our Wran­gler would have no prob­lems at all, but I feared the Com­passes might have is­sues with their ground clear­ance. I was proven wrong though, and we climbed back up a steep, slip­pery in­cline as well, with all the cars still in for­ma­tion. We reached the Army camp and headed to­ward the bor­der. Although it’s just a fence, it is very hum­bling to ac­tu­ally see the end of one coun­try and the start of an­other. It was an ex­pe­ri­ence of a life­time, but at the end of the day I am a petrol­head and the urge to take the Wran­gler on the open salt flats was grow­ing. My wishes were soon granted: we drove to a re­mote spot for a pic­ture and as soon as the shut­ter clicked, I hopped into the driver’s seat and let the car loose — trac­tion con­trol went off, two-wheel drive came on and the tail came out. It was a hoot!

At night, we all got to­gether for din­ner and I got talk­ing to a few Jeepers. It was amaz­ing to hear that peo­ple had come from all ends of the coun­try, one had driven up from Ban­ga­lore and on the way here, had cov­ered the en­tire coast of Gu­jarat too. Over the evening I re­alised that these peo­ple share much more in com­mon than the seven-slat grilles on their 4x4s. They share a pas­sion for exploring, for ad­ven­tures, and try­ing new things. The Jeep Trails is some­thing ev­ery Jeep owner must ex­pe­ri­ence, it brings a sense of com­mu­nity with a brand that has a rich his­tory of mak­ing SUVs that can go any­where and do any­thing. But more than that, it makes you feel like a part of some­thing much big­ger than your­self. Of the legacy of the Jeep. ⌧

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