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Old 29th September 2016, 17:04   #1
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Default 2016 Mahindra Great Escape, Vagamon: My Experiences

After Valparai and Ooty, Vagamon is one place I don't get bored of! I was just back fresh from a drive to Vagamon last month (Italian Invasion: Vagamon) and when the plan was on for the Mahindra Great Escape at the same place I was more than excited.

This time though the location was the same, rest were completely different. It was not with friends, but with cousins (crazy off-road folks) and no comfy FIAT's, but in good old 4x4 Jeeps!

This was just my second off-road event. The previous was also the Vagamon Great Escape in 2013.

Right from the event booking to the accommodation etc were planned and confirmed by them and I was just a spectator in the WA group. Two Invader's were finalized and I was supposed to tag along in one of them. We did consider borrowing my BIL's Bolero Camper, but since there was a plan to sell it off, we decided against taking it for the event and had settled to hitching a ride in the Invader.

Days passed and I was wary of the back seat ride for the 7 odd hours in the Invader. I for one is someone who can get badly sick if travelling as a passenger for more than couple of hours. Behind the wheel I'm perfectly fine for driving days together, but as a passenger and that too in side facing seats, that did give me few sleepless nights!

Following day in the same WA group I was asking why don't we take the CJ3B? At first people thought I was joking and didn't pay heed, but when Siddharth nodded, things changed! When this plan was shared across to others at home, we got all sorts of questions at us:

Q: Why the CJ? Will it run that far?
A: Why not?

Q: The maximum long distant drive it has run over the last 2 decades is about ~100kms to Ooty! Will it do the 500odd kms round trip?
A: If it can do Ooty & Valparai, why not Vagamon?

Q: It has no doors, no wipers, what if it rains?
A: We will manage. Would carry our rain gear.

Q: Can it keep pace with the Invaders? Have to cover 400 odd kms in the highway?
A: Invader folks said "we will drive slow".

Q: Why not take the mech along?
A: We didn't say a word but stuck to the plan and finally the CJ made it to the event.

After so many doubts raised, I too started to doubt the CJ and pinged Sid who said it's mechanically sound and that the only niggles were the absence of wiper and a cranky horn. That was comforting to hear and so the plan was freezed and CJ was all set for it's longest journey since its retirement from the Indian Army.

The Champ:

2016 Mahindra Great Escape, Vagamon: My Experiences-img_20160929_085723.jpg

Last edited by h14 : 19th October 2016 at 14:31.
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Old 17th October 2016, 14:08   #2
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Flashback to 2013

Some random shots from the 2013 episode. That time I was in the Camper with my cousin's Bolero for company. This time he got his Invader and I was in the CJ3B.


Continuous rains from Coimbatore to Vagamon

2016 Mahindra Great Escape, Vagamon: My Experiences-1476693304091.jpg

The Camper

2016 Mahindra Great Escape, Vagamon: My Experiences-1476693337797.jpg

The Bolero

2016 Mahindra Great Escape, Vagamon: My Experiences-1476693349417.jpg

That was the visibility at about 10:30 in the morning

2016 Mahindra Great Escape, Vagamon: My Experiences-1476693365307.jpg

The gathering point

2016 Mahindra Great Escape, Vagamon: My Experiences-1476693382877.jpg

The stuck Thar

2016 Mahindra Great Escape, Vagamon: My Experiences-1476693405007.jpg

We did 'get lost' frequently

2016 Mahindra Great Escape, Vagamon: My Experiences-1476693434257.jpg

The Lineup

2016 Mahindra Great Escape, Vagamon: My Experiences-1476693463057.jpg


Back to Present:

I had just attended 2 events of Mahindra including the 2016 edition. There were quite few things that left us disappointed in the 2013 edition. One was the venue, where it was initially mentioned as Kottayam and then few days prior was conveyed as Vagamon and then once the event commenced, we lost track and the groups got split mid-way and lost a lot of time in getting back and joining the gang were small irritants.

But this year, Mahindra got everything spot on! There were a lot of folks from Mahindra and from TVS (the Mahindra dealer in that region) who were actively coordinating. They had the required marking and flags at all diversions which ensured that no one got off the track and the way they handled delays due to the terrain and breakdowns were fabulous. Kuddos to Mahindra Adventure team for their tireless efforts to make the event a wonderful experience.

2013 vs 2016
  • Rains were a disappointment. 2013 edition was in Nov, 2016 in Sep. So 2013 was colder wetter and hence more fun.
  • Lesser rains in 2016 meant no much river crossings. The water levels in 2016 were sadly very low.
  • 2016 saw wonderful organizing by Mahindra team ensured the participants had a great time.
  • The terrain for the 2016 trail/fun drive was far more challenging than the 2013 one. Paisa vasool for the participants.

Last edited by h14 : 19th October 2016 at 14:29.
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Old 17th October 2016, 14:53   #3
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The onward drive:

The plan was to start around 7 in the morning and try and reach Vagamon for late afternoon lunch. It sounded very optimistic to me from my past drives. But I didn't want to spoil the mood and we had freezed the plans.

Come Friday and there were some untoward incidents in the Coimbatore city. There were talks of bandh's / 144 for Saturday. Hence we planned to advance our start time further and exit Coimbatore city before 6am.

After a sleepless night (worried and excited), we all started off by 5:45am. Took a longer route (Ondipudhur-L&T bypass) to reach the Palakkad road.

Sid was behind the wheel and I was the navigator. We were cruising at about 65-70 kmph.

We enter KL at Walayar and there were angry clouds welcoming us! We were already worried on getting drenched, but the rains gods showed some mercy on us and there was not a single drop of rain. The clouds dispersed as we crossed Palakkad and the Sun was starting to belt down.

It was non-stop drive so far and planned for breakfast stop after Thrissur. The plan was to cross the bad stretch of Vaddakencherry-Thrissur before peak traffic. We had packed some sandwiches to keep our tummies from complaining and finally stopped for Breakfast some 10kms before Angamally.

This probably was my quickest Coimbatore-Angamally drive. We realized that driving slow had actually resulted us in reaching the destination faster. Cruising at 65-70 in the Palakkad-Angamally highway seems to be rewarding especially since this highway has a lot of traffic signals. The early start helped too, but then the drive to same place in August was very challenging in the cars!

Post an elaborate breakfast, we set-off in no time. I was behind the wheel of the CJ for the first time. The last I drove it was in 2013 when it was being powered by the Isuzu motor. Incidentally I have penned down that short trip in here A quick visit parambikulam with the jeeps (A quick visit to Parambikulam with the Jeeps)

I was driving it for the first time with the Di Turbo heart and took it with low expectations. From the navigator seat, all I heard was a nice relaxed motor cruising in the high 60's. Though it never gave the feel of being stressed, I thought maybe that was the limit! But I was wrong. The moment I hit the throttle, it took off in no time. The power delivery was linear and it was very eager to pull. I had a wild grin on my face and the way it pulled on 4th gear was reminding me of my Palio Multiet! The engine felt like a rocket and combined with the short chassis it was something else. Man, it was long since I had such a grin driving a diesel and that too an old school Di motor! What eventually I thought was going to be a routine drive turned out to be an absolute joy.

The brakes were sharp. That gave me more confidence. We crossed Angamali town and diverted off towards Thodupuzha. The roads were now dual carriageways but in good condition. Traffic was there, but not as much as the previous trip. I was gaining in confidence and was leading convoy. Now the Invaders had some catching up to do. All this while everyone thought the CJ as the slow coach and it was in sheer shock that they had some catching up to do. The turbo was kicking in seamless and the turbo whistle was fantastic.

Penning this down after almost one month now and I'm re-living those few hours behind the wheel. Yes, the ergonomics were screwed. The bucket seats were oddly set, the pedals were too high and the off-set steering wasn't in the best of positions either. But barring all this, once in the groove, I was so comfortable and just didn't want to stop driving. Well I ended up with severe pain in my left knee and ankle due to the pedal positioning, but it was that kind of a day were you would forgive and forget all this.

A quick stop for passenger swap. Though the Invader has very decent ride quality in the rear, it is tough travelling for long duration's in side facing seats.

2016 Mahindra Great Escape, Vagamon: My Experiences-p_20160924_110752_1_p.jpg

The CJ did turn a lot of heads like this

2016 Mahindra Great Escape, Vagamon: My Experiences-p_20160924_084313_1_p.jpg

Had a horrid time with some 20-30 vehicles carrying Toddy. They were insanely fast in an attempt to delivery the Toddy fresh.

2016 Mahindra Great Escape, Vagamon: My Experiences-p_20160924_084401_1_p.jpg

We hit the ghats finally. We took the route via Teekoy and I can safely say that this route best be avoided. It felt longer and was very boring to drive. Roads were decent but trust me, a very boring drive. The Muttom-Moolamattam-Vagamon is easily the best! Folks planning to Vagamon, do checkout this route. As planned, we did manage to reach Vagamon for lunch and settled in at Winter Vale in Vagamon.

Some pics from in and around Winter Vale:

2016 Mahindra Great Escape, Vagamon: My Experiences-4.jpg

2016 Mahindra Great Escape, Vagamon: My Experiences-5.jpg

2016 Mahindra Great Escape, Vagamon: My Experiences-6.jpg

Last edited by h14 : 19th October 2016 at 14:29.
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Old 18th October 2016, 00:07   #4
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The Great Escape!

Woke up relentlessly on the cold Sunday morning. Ironically, the starting point of the event was in the same property of our stay which meant we could wake up late and stroll to the registration counter.

By the time we woke up and laid our hands to some piping hot tea, we could see the participants lined up.


The Jeeps lined up (view from our cottage)
2016 Mahindra Great Escape, Vagamon: My Experiences-4.jpg

Whilst the others were getting ready, I got the mobile cams to do some clicking

2016 Mahindra Great Escape, Vagamon: My Experiences-1.jpg

2016 Mahindra Great Escape, Vagamon: My Experiences-2.jpg

2016 Mahindra Great Escape, Vagamon: My Experiences-3.jpg

Enter the arena!

2016 Mahindra Great Escape, Vagamon: My Experiences-5.jpg

2016 Mahindra Great Escape, Vagamon: My Experiences-6.jpg

The view from registration counter

2016 Mahindra Great Escape, Vagamon: My Experiences-7.jpg

2016 Mahindra Great Escape, Vagamon: My Experiences-8.jpg

A rather bland CJ got some decals

2016 Mahindra Great Escape, Vagamon: My Experiences-9.jpg

2016 Mahindra Great Escape, Vagamon: My Experiences-10.jpg

The drive was flagged-off and we gather at the first assembly point

2016 Mahindra Great Escape, Vagamon: My Experiences-11.jpg

2016 Mahindra Great Escape, Vagamon: My Experiences-11_1.jpg

The 'actual' drive began and this was the route for the competition category in 2013

2016 Mahindra Great Escape, Vagamon: My Experiences-12.jpg

2016 Mahindra Great Escape, Vagamon: My Experiences-13.jpg

The terrain was good and the Jeeps started flexing their muscles!

2016 Mahindra Great Escape, Vagamon: My Experiences-14.jpg

2016 Mahindra Great Escape, Vagamon: My Experiences-15.jpg

2016 Mahindra Great Escape, Vagamon: My Experiences-16.jpg

The vehicles moved slowly and we peeked in to have a look at this

2016 Mahindra Great Escape, Vagamon: My Experiences-17.jpg

The Invader's,Thar's and 540's were crawling happily

2016 Mahindra Great Escape, Vagamon: My Experiences-18.jpg

The CJ had its task cut out! Being narrower than the others, it was challenging for the CJ

2016 Mahindra Great Escape, Vagamon: My Experiences-19.jpg

2016 Mahindra Great Escape, Vagamon: My Experiences-20.jpg

2016 Mahindra Great Escape, Vagamon: My Experiences-21.jpg

2016 Mahindra Great Escape, Vagamon: My Experiences-22.jpg

2016 Mahindra Great Escape, Vagamon: My Experiences-23.jpg

It was at this point, the CJ's clutch gave up

2016 Mahindra Great Escape, Vagamon: My Experiences-25.jpg


The pedal was fully in and a quick check revealed the clutch tube had cracked and leaking fluid. We were now blocking half the population. So wasted no time and hooked on the tow rope from the Invader and continued the drive to someplace where we could park.

2016 Mahindra Great Escape, Vagamon: My Experiences-24.jpg

The rescue team tried a temp fix with tape, but it wouldn't hold up and hence we continue to tow it further till the tea factory.

2016 Mahindra Great Escape, Vagamon: My Experiences-26.jpg

One of the few river crossings. As mentioned water levels were low. This was clicked from the bridge.

2016 Mahindra Great Escape, Vagamon: My Experiences-27.jpg

The Jeeps get a breather

2016 Mahindra Great Escape, Vagamon: My Experiences-28.jpg


We parked the CJ at the tea factory and continue the drive as passengers in the Invader. This was sort of the 2nd leg of the drive. By now it started raining steadily and the terrain was getting slippery and quite few jeeps got stuck in slush and winching scenarios were in place. Though it was delaying the event past lunch time, we had no complaints as it was exciting.

The event concluded around 4pm and we get back to the starting point for lunch. The service team was organizing resources to attend our CJ and they were keeping us informed. Then we were asked to get back to the tea factory and wait there as the service team would reach anytime.

It was around 7pm, the issue was fixed.

2016 Mahindra Great Escape, Vagamon: My Experiences-29.jpg

The TVS team who fixed the issue had a very busy day with breakdowns in the competition category. There were some toppled Jeeps, people breaking their axles, wheel jams and what not? We hear this from the two guys who came to fix our Jeep.

Importantly they had the part in hand and fixed it in a jiffy and we dropped them off close to the next breakdown point which they had to attend and retired to our rooms.

Due to this unfortunate breakdown, the CJ missed half of the drive and we too had to extend our stay in Vagamon. The original plan was to start back the same evening and halt at Cochin, but it was too late and hence we decided to start early next morning.

There were many towing scenarios and rescue actions this time. Unfortunately not many pics as it started raining and we were also towing the CJ. But do have loads of videos which I shall share later.

Last edited by h14 : 19th October 2016 at 14:15.
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Old 19th October 2016, 13:00   #5
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The Drive Back Home

Next morning we start off around 8. Plan was to get down to Muttom or Thoduphuza for breakfast. Decided to take the Pulikanam-Elappally-Moolamattam route, but took a wrong turn and ended up taking Pulikanam-Kanjar-Muttom route.


Up and ready for the drive back home
2016 Mahindra Great Escape, Vagamon: My Experiences-1476861699780.jpg

In the Pulikanam-Kanjar stretch
2016 Mahindra Great Escape, Vagamon: My Experiences-1476861714483.jpg

Some breath-taking views
2016 Mahindra Great Escape, Vagamon: My Experiences-1476862030492.jpg

What a location to build a house!
2016 Mahindra Great Escape, Vagamon: My Experiences-1476862046443.jpg


Realized that this was a wrong route after some 10 kms, but since there were directions in place for Muttom, continued in the same. The roads ranged from good to mediocre in some places, but the drive was far better than the Teekoy route. The Pulikanam-Elappally is easily the best, nothing like that.

Reached Thoduphuza for breakfast and from there on I never gave the wheel back to anyone. The CJ on the highway was super fun. It could cruise at 80 very comfortably. I did miss an overdrive/5th gear which would have made it even more comfortable on the 4-lane highways.

Next stop was at CCD post Angamally and from then on, a late lunch stop at McD Palakkad and reached Coimbatore around 4pm with ease. The hot sun combined with the ghastly afternoon winds soaked us in dust but every moment behind the wheel of the CJ was super fun and the number of heads it turned throughout the journey was icing on the cake.


At CCD, whilst we grab some caffeine, CJ was spending time with the Porsche
2016 Mahindra Great Escape, Vagamon: My Experiences-1476862068171.jpg

The ever famous "JEEP" Grille!
2016 Mahindra Great Escape, Vagamon: My Experiences-1476862090707.jpg

The replica 'Willy' mirrors
2016 Mahindra Great Escape, Vagamon: My Experiences-1476862109750.jpg


Thinking on tweaking the ergonomics in the CJ and then it will be ready for another stint in the highway!

Getting There:

I have tried the below 3 routes and have prioritized from best to least preferred:

Angamali - Thodupuzha - Muttom - Moolamattam - Elappally - Pulikkanam - Vagamon (The best according to my experience)
Angamali - Thodupuzha - Muttom - Kanjar - Pulikkanam - Vagamon
Angamali - Thodupuzha - Muttom - Erratupetta - Teekoy - Vagamon

The average FE was around 13kmpl for . Very respectable figures. In the onward journey the number was close to 14 in the Invader.

The route map of the trip (Excluding the event)

2016 Mahindra Great Escape, Vagamon: My Experiences-vagroute.jpg

Once again, huge shout to Mahindra Adventure team and yes, I'll definitely be there for the 2017 Vagamon event with the CJ

Last edited by h14 : 19th October 2016 at 14:28.
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Old 19th October 2016, 14:43   #6
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Thread moved out from the Assembly Line (The "Assembly Line" Forum section). Thanks for sharing!
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Old 20th October 2016, 11:27   #8
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Default Re: 2016 Mahindra Great Escape, Vagamon: My Experiences

Thanks for sharing the report, loved reading it. Yet to go through the videos though The adventure of doing these trips on an older jeep is something to be experienced, one will never get the same thrill with all the new Thar's and Gypsies. And Mahindra events are always well organized and though the terrain and weather sometimes plays spoil sport, other logistics are always taken care off. I have always enjoyed driving in these events.

Seems like you had a good time this time around, and looking forward to many more of such coverage from your end.

cheers
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Old 20th October 2016, 21:13   #9
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Default Re: 2016 Mahindra Great Escape, Vagamon: My Experiences

Wonderful h14. And that was some guts to take the CJ3B via road to vagamon. From Coimbatore via Palakkad-Ernakaulam is the best route to Vagamon?

And rated 5 stars!!
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Old 21st October 2016, 18:48   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jaggu View Post
The adventure of doing these trips on an older jeep is something to be experienced, one will never get the same thrill with all the new Thar's and Gypsies.
Absolutely! The same is clearly evident in the videos that I had shared.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jaggu View Post
And Mahindra events are always well organized and though the terrain and weather sometimes plays spoil sport, other logistics are always taken care off.
Agree. Considering the limited resources in a place like this they got the everything right

Quote:
Originally Posted by mallumowgli View Post
Wonderful h14. And that was some guts to take the CJ3B via road to vagamon.
Hehe. Thanks. Taking old vehicles on long drives isn't new to me. I'm always prepared to face the worst outcome, but the oldies have never let me down.

Quote:
Originally Posted by mallumowgli View Post
From Coimbatore via Palakkad-Ernakaulam is the best route to Vagamon?
Not really Ernakulam. We divert off at Angamali to Perumbavur. Another option is Coimbatore-Dindigul-Kumily-Thekkadi which is longer but the drive is very good.
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Old 21st October 2016, 18:57   #11
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Wonderful report h14, rated 5 stars. Kudos to you for sticking to the plan of taking the CJ even after being questioned about the decision. The Invaders are looking nice and tastefully modified.
I have one question regarding the Invader, Bolero Pickup and the Bolero. All of them seem to have a similar bumper and winch combination. The bumper looks like stock one but I am sure that one cannot hold a winch. How was it modified to hold the winch and from where was it modified? I want to do a similar setup in my Bolero 4WD without going for an aftermarket heavy bumper.
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Old 22nd October 2016, 16:49   #12
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Wonderful report h14, rated 5 stars. Kudos to you for sticking to the plan of taking the CJ even after being questioned about the decision. The Invaders are looking nice and tastefully modified.
Thanks BlackPearl

Quote:
Originally Posted by BlackPearl View Post
I have one question regarding the Invader, Bolero Pickup and the Bolero. All of them seem to have a similar bumper and winch combination. The bumper looks like stock one but I am sure that one cannot hold a winch. How was it modified to hold the winch and from where was it modified? I want to do a similar setup in my Bolero 4WD without going for an aftermarket heavy bumper.
Not many spot this and you have spotted it very well in all the 4 vehicles The bumpers are indeed the stock ones and below is the process:

Cut the bumper top half between chassis, fabricate and bold on a winch plate to the chassis and mount the winch on it. I was told that it still won't be cheap and you would have to shell out anywhere between 10 to 15k. Obviously the plate has to be heavy steel that needs bending along with the tinkering and painting for the bumper & plate and hence this cost.

Last edited by h14 : 22nd October 2016 at 16:51.
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