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Old 11th December 2007, 11:33   #1
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Talking Report - Offroad Training Day at Kelambakkam Quarry

Important: All images in this post are shot by tifosikrishna, using his Canon 400D and his high quality lens collection.

My day started at 4:30AM in Bangalore when my alarm went off. About 3 hours later I walked out of Chennai airport to be greeted by Arka and Madan. We took off right away in Madan's Palio to meet the rest of the gang at Tidal Park. Arka's MM540 was being driven by his mechanic Latif. As we reached there, I was warmly greeted by Headers, Tifosikrishna (official photographer), Nitrous, Pugram, Esteem_lover, etc., and few others I met for the first time. At this point a Toyota LC Prado driven by Srinath joined our gang.

Then we continued further to a garage that housed a very pretty Jeep Classic. It belonged to Patrick, a friend of Arka, he was generous enough to lend his Jeep although he was not part of the trip. We parked pugram's Logan in the garage and pulled out the Jeep. With that we had 3 off-roadsters among us. We were all set to start.

Patrick’s Jeep Classic




The story takes a big twist here. Arka tells me that I will be driving the MM540 all the way to the off-roading at Kelambakkam Quarry, which is roughly 45Kms away. I have never driven an Indian Jeep in my life, so I am not so sure. I thought I'll have my first step at the off-roading site, nobody talked about on-road city driving in an ancient Jeep.

This all started with a conversation I had with Arka a month ago where I wanted to learn the techniques of real off-road driving. I have a very expensive off-roader, and I have no intention of flying like a bat into off-roading situations I can't understand. It might prove very expensive later. After couple of small ventures, I knew normal driving common sense is not sufficient. Therefore he suggested me to attend the next off-roading training to take place in Chennai. When he announced the 4x4 training event in Chennai, it didn't take me long to book my ticket.

I was still looking at the Jeep, and Arka tells me he wants me to be comfortable driving the Jeep by the time we reach the site. Before driving it off-road, it is necessary to be familiar with all the controls, the 45Kms ride would give that familiarity. So I reluctantly take the driver's seat, and turn the ignition on. I engaged the first gear and immediately bang my left thumb into the dash board. I had cut my nails recently, so no broken nails. That was a rude awakening. This was the most basic vehicle I have ever driven. It had no AC, no hand brake, no power steering, no seat belts, no rearview mirror, and a vague and misaligned steering (half turn to keep it straight in higher speeds). In short it made Gurkha look like a luxury SUV. But it has 4WD (high & low) with LSD, electric winch, some 260+mm GC, a naval GPS unit and MRF sandgripper tyres, making it one of the most awesome off-roaders.

Notice the steering position in the straight road.


I took about 10 minutes to get used to the vague steering wheel and will it to go in the direction I want. The brake was even vaguer; so I decided to rely on deceleration and engine braking over using braking. Then I met my nemesis, the third gear slot. Everytime I tried to slot it like a sedan 3 rd gear, mostly I missed and got a crunching sound in return. Arka who was next to me often slotted it for me. Rest of the gears was no trouble. After some time I relaxed and started chugging along at 40kmph towards our destination.

That is me driving the MM540.




At around 9AM we stopped for breakfast, and each of us picked a bottle of mineral water. Upon hindsight we should have picked up 3 bottles each. Meanwhile I was desperately hunting for a cap to cover my scarcely populated head, and Madan was able to lend me one from his car. With that I was all set. Then we continued our journey, somewhere close to the quarry, a Jeep with killer looks driven by Dr.Jones joined the party completing the group. His wife was along with him, the only woman in our group. At this point we had Arka's MM540, Patrick's Jeep Classic, Srinath's LC, Dr.Jones's Prowler, followed by non-combatant rides like Sumo (Nitrous), SX4 (Neoranjit), Palio (Madan & Bottle) and Esteem (E_L).

Dr.Jones Prowler


We eventually got off the main roads and travelled through villages and reached our base camp where all the non-combatant cars were parked. We had a small briefing by Arka where he instructed the newbie drivers in DOs and DONTs off-roading. The air pressure was reduced in all the off-roaders for better grip on the rocks. All Jeeps switched over to 4L mode after this point. This expedition was mostly rock terrain driving. This hill range happens to be an old abandoned granite quarry. The final destination was the heart of the quarry driving through the barely there trail full of boulder size rocks.

Arka briefing the drivers




Arka releasing air from the tyres.


Just couple of hundred meters from the base camp, our first obstacle course was waiting. Once we all pulled up there, Arka took the MM540 and showed how it should be done. It looked crazy for a newbie like me, I walked the trail (recce) to understand it and still felt dazed. I have to drop the Jeep in and out of foot deep ditches. But I was next and I started it off with Arka on the passenger seat. It was a great feeling, dropping the tyres and not feel much from it.

Meanwhile Arka was continuously firing off techniques to use in every situation I faced in the 5 minutes of the circuit. As I came out there was applause from the crowd although it was not a perfect drive. Soon one by one started going over the circuit. All the shutterbugs including me started clicking off snaps in frenzy. Meanwhile Arka tells us that this is the tamest circuit of all, so save your memory cards for the rest. But that doesn't stop us. Shooting off-roading is no easy job, what looks fantastic and scary in real looks flat and easy on the photos. So we kept shooting to get something useful.

This is me with Arka on the side.


Dr.Jones and his wife


Headers


Arka doing solo.


Meanwhile, many of the Team-BHPians who had joined up merely as spectators started feeling the itch in their hands. One by one almost all the spectators/photographers ended up behind the wheels and finished the circuit. It was a heady feeling. But the confidence displayed by we newbies was also an endorsement of how safe this sport could be if done under proper supervision and support. Soon Arka put an end to the first circuit saying we need lot more ground to cover. So I again got back into driver seat and negotiated the circuit to move further to the next circuit.
The route was again full of big rocks and crevices. But the lessons from the first circuit helped me immensely to tackle the trail with relative ease. Just a couple of hours before I would have conceded defeat at such a trail. Funny how proper application of technique, some first-hand experience and expert supervision can make mountains into mole hills.

That's me again.


We finally reached the second obstacle only to be treated to a fantastic landscape.





This ends part one of the travelogue.

Last edited by Samurai : 12th December 2007 at 18:51.
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Old 11th December 2007, 11:55   #2
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Samurai, not fair. Where's the rest ?

Just reading the report and looking at the photos is making me want to drive a 4x4 into the next session. No wonder the bug bit the 'spectators'.
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Old 11th December 2007, 11:57   #3
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brilliant report/pics/drive, you guys really had a blast
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Old 11th December 2007, 11:59   #4
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wow..Chennai is beautiful..lots of greenery around!!

And BTW, the SX4 belongs to Neoranjit, a tean-bhpian, who was kind to let me sample his vehicle..

OT: I got the opportunity to TD the SX4 courtesy Neoranjit, and the Palio 1.6 Stile courtesy Bottle,
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Old 11th December 2007, 12:15   #5
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Nice Report Samurai. , but as usual we want more.

Dr.Jones has a nice WW-II low bonnet jeep. I am amazed at its Off-Road capability (50+ year later, it is still sturdy enough to take the bashing ). Was it running the original Petrol Engine? Has the snorkel been retro-fitted from a Canter?
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Old 11th December 2007, 12:25   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by S@~+#0$# View Post
Nice Report Samurai. , but as usual we want more.

Dr.Jones has a nice WW-II low bonnet jeep. I am amazed at its Off-Road capability (50+ year later, it is still sturdy enough to take the bashing ). Was it running the original Petrol Engine? Has the snorkel been retro-fitted from a Canter?

If my memory serves me correct- he's put in a bolero engine (ex670c to verify). The original petrol engine is not there.
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Old 11th December 2007, 12:32   #7
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Nice report samurai. Fantastic pics tifosikrishna.
Please shed some more pics.
"That's me again. " This pic is really good, showing the suspension at work...
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Old 11th December 2007, 12:35   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by condor View Post
Samurai, not fair. Where's the rest ?
Geez, I have a day job. Rest will come tonight.

Quote:
Originally Posted by headers View Post
I got the opportunity to TD the SX4 courtesy Neoranjit, and the Palio 1.6 Stile courtesy Bottle,
Oops, sorry guys. I didn't try to put in all names, I knew I'll miss some names anyway.
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Old 11th December 2007, 14:41   #9
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Looks like lot of fune

You didnt Take your GV
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Old 11th December 2007, 14:52   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Technocrat View Post
You didnt Take your GV
I am the kind that looks before jumping. First I need to put metal skid plates on GV, change tyres and learn basics techniques of off-roading. My trip to Chennai took care of the last item. Now I need to practice those moves around here.

I don't believe in Have SUV, Can Off-road philosophy. Buying a gun doesn't make me a marksman. Need to learn proper technique and practice it before I take GV on any challenging terrain.
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Old 11th December 2007, 15:22   #11
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The pics are awesome.

please somebody do something like in Hyderabad
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Old 11th December 2007, 15:43   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Samurai View Post
I don't believe in Have SUV, Can Off-road philosophy. Buying a gun doesn't make me a marksman. Need to learn proper technique and practice it before I take GV on any challenging terrain.
LOL I agree here. Asked it purely out of curiosity :-)
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Old 11th December 2007, 16:18   #13
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@Tifosikrishna, Thanks for sharing the wonderful pictures.
@Samurai, didn't you shoot any?

BTW, this looks pretty much like the "ROAD" i take everyday. You must have guessed it by now.....Yes, i'm from Bangalore!!!
Why go to Kelambakkam when i can do it right here..?

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Old 11th December 2007, 16:31   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Torqy View Post
@Samurai, didn't you shoot any?
Yeah, but Krishna did a much better job. My primary goal was off-road driving, so I didn't worry much about photos.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Torqy View Post
BTW, this looks pretty much like the "ROAD" i take everyday. You must have guessed it by now.....Yes, i'm from Bangalore!!!
Why go to Kelambakkam when i can do it right here..?
C'mon, there is one foot height difference between the front and rear tyre, what road in Bangalore you have that? BTW, my local roads here make Bangalore roads look like a runway.
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Old 11th December 2007, 16:39   #15
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Nice pics Samurai San, Never thought Chennai outskirts to be so green though...
Hope you had a nice training to take your GV next time...

Abhi
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