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Old 12th February 2022, 19:05   #1
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Default Nilgiris Expedition | Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication

Leonardo da Vinci did not have a formal education. He was solely self-taught. It was to that profound awareness of life's totality and essence that led him to realize and proclaim that "simplicity is the ultimate sophistication". Likewise, On Veteran's Day in November 1940, Willys-Overland handed a simple prototype "Quad" to the US Army. Incredibly, this straightforward design was completed in under 75 days and the rest is history. Soldier’s hearts were scorched by its spirit and moulded in the crucible of battle. They formed strong emotional bonds with this machine. They may go by new names now, but they have the same DNA at their core.

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication
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Any kid who grew up with a jeep is certain to have a thousand tales to tell. One of them is this.
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Last edited by Fateh Salim : 12th May 2022 at 14:39.
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Old 12th February 2022, 19:34   #2
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Default Nilgiris Expedition | Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication

One morning, there was a lot going on. Unlike my undergraduate days, when waking up on time was just like squeezing water from a stone, there were a plethora of things to wake me up that day. The aroma of biryani, the droom-droom DI engine warming up outside my bedroom window, my brother rummaging through the closet in search of his favourite outdoor jacket, and my cat purring beside me as usual.

We assisted mom with packing the biryani, and once the boxes were put in a crate, we tied it and slid it between the roll cage and the seat. We went over our checklist one last time and then set off on our short excursion.

We departed for the expedition after handing over online class duties to Carbon the cat. Yes, we keep an eye on him to make sure he isn't living on the dole.
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Our crew for the day comprised of five machines: Three CJ-3Bees, a Thar, and a darling little Gypsy. We planned to meet up with the rest of the gang at Doddabetta. It is the tallest peak in the Nilgiri Mountains, standing at 8,652 feet. The mountaintop is also reachable by road (9kms from Ooty town), making it a popular but over-exploited tourist attraction.

Ooty - Doddabetta
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Rhododendron: Blossoms of the Nilgiris
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For a long time, this particular peak has been my genuine companion. In grade eight, all I had was a heavy Hercules rodeo cycle. I'm proud to say that at just thirteen years of age, I had a hankering to ride up this majestic mountain.

Before I get into further details about the trip, let me say this. As archaic as these jeeps might look, most of them here have a modern twist, adding to the intrigue. The beginning of the trail was fairly mellow. We expected the early start to be time-consuming, difficult and rough, but lo and behold, there was a blanket of freshly laid tar.

Fresh Tar-Thar combo.
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Isn't it true that both these machines are adored by the Indian army? It's a rare pleasure to see them together in the same frame.
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Swaying trees, rumbling leaves, soothing breeze.
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The path became a little hilly as it transitioned from tea gardens to tree plantations, necessitating a 4h gear choice to drive comfortably.
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It had rained cats and dogs the previous night, leaving some sections mushy and dampening the grass.
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When you get in the driving seat and see nothing but the sky in first person is when you realize how steep the gradient is.
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With the growth in visitor intake and the amount of people settling in the mountains here, I'm afraid that Ooty's natural beauty is in jeopardy. A few hills, for example, were occupied even on the outskirts of the town. But, let's be upbeat, it’s probably just a nazar ka teeka for the pictures below.

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Looking down into the valley reminds me of how insignificant we are in this universe; we are only a speck of dust. Aren’t we?
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As I lay on the grass, the scars and scrapes on the MM550 narrated a few past military adventures and recollections.
Yeah, right! Nothing of that sort happened. I was just holding the flashlight for Dad as he deselected the jammed 4WD shifter from below the vehicle.
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Although the gaur threat had previously been restricted to the hills, things have begun to escalate as they have started to stray into town limits. The gaurs I see in town and in the estates are in better form than the ones I see in the forests, which is likely owing to the fact that they gorge themselves on the harvest every night and then retreat to the jungles to rest during the day.

Bighorn tyres? Nice
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You will be disappointed if you secretly want your Thar to struggle through the trail. The Thar is like Sharma Ji ka beta(The real definition of "perfection" as per Indian parents). The CRDe engine and tyre combo made the entire trail seem effortless. The Thar reflected on how technology had advanced. You might argue that it's the same MM540 with a more powerful engine and improved suspension. But, boy, what a difference that makes!

The jeeps then drove around aimlessly for a while. Everyone climbed into somebody else's vehicle to see how it differed from theirs. Following that, everyone's thoughts turned to new upgrades and component replacement ideas. One needed new tyres, while another wanted a new steering box, then a winch, then a snorkel, and the list kept going on. That's when we were pleasantly interrupted by the latecomer, the green CJ.


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As I write my travelogue, I'm starting to think it's more about the jeeps than the journey itself, but isn't that expected/accepted in a forum like this? I'll be doing myself injustice if I don't mention a handful of the jeeps. Hence a small detour.

I have a soft spot in my heart for the green jeep. If you ask me, this jeep wasn't even rolled off the production line. My father used to put together whatever component he could get from various scrap markets in Mysore, Mettupalayam and Bangalore and like a jigsaw puzzle he turned it into a complete jeep. He did all the tinkering, painting, and detailing himself. It was a two-year endeavour, which seemed like an eternity to me as a small child. If you're wondering whether my father works as a mechanic, the answer is no; he's a mechanic at heart and a farmer by profession. We build jeeps, come rain or shine!

That's me in the jeep (2008)
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My father's favourite child, no no.. not the one sitting inside. I'm talking about the jeep. Photo taken days after the Palar Challenge (2006).
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Palar Challenge (2014)
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A day in my dad's life. (2014)
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Many people have asked me why we don't drive the 4WD Scorpio on such occasions and instead just use it as a workhorse. Well, it's a good off-roader, especially on trails like these, but it lacks the fun element that older jeeps provide. It's enormous in comparison to these short-chassis jeeps. Also, the Yokohama AT tyres battle in mushy grass areas, which I believe is due to the weight of the entire vehicle.

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The jeeps shine in one particular department – “Engine Swaps”. You get to do so much with them, eventually forming a really deep relationship with the machine. Everything is finally something to ponder and grin about. The days when you go looking for a certain engine that someone recommended, the days when you run behind the mechanics to speed up the engine swap process, and the days when you whine about why you got the engine swapped at the very first place and what a disaster it has turned out to be. In our instance, the Mercedes OM616 , which was the cause of my father's greying hair; otherwise, he is still a teenager.

Last edited by Fateh Salim : 11th May 2022 at 14:44.
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Old 16th February 2022, 12:13   #3
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Default Nilgiris Expedition | Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication

New kid in town. Yes, This is a 2019 model custom ordered gypsy .
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Nothing to see here. Just a little cuteness on the king's part.
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We paused for lunch with a serene view of the villages. As a result of the winter conditions, the biryani had become cold. It was, however, more than enough to satisfy our hungry bellies.

There's an old saying that goes: Four wheels move the body, two wheels move the soul. That's exactly what we were doing; Moving souls and Ripping soles.
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It was gradually becoming colder, signaling that we needed to return. On the way back, we chose a different path. Nature had reclaimed this ancient route, and there were no traces of an earlier trail. Because the Thar had the best-protected cabin and a considerably wider track, they chose to lead, making it easier for the others to follow.

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We parked the jeeps there for a cup of tea and mint sandwiches before splitting off as we approached the estate's end.
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The perfect recipe for a delightful adventure according to me is very simple. A block of engine, a couple dozen gears, two table spoon axels, a pinch of rubber, and most importantly, the NUT; Yes, the nut holding the steering wheel.

Last edited by Fateh Salim : 10th May 2022 at 15:55.
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Old 3rd April 2022, 16:12   #4
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Default Re: Nilgiris Expedition | Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication

It wasn't about big egos or huge tyres; everyone was there to enjoy themselves. For me, it was the pinnacle of jeep culture. The image of these rusty jeeps acting like month-old kittens, scurrying around aimlessly and taunting one another, will stay with me forever.

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Last edited by Fateh Salim : 19th April 2022 at 11:58.
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Old 12th May 2022, 18:36   #5
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Default Re: Nilgiris Expedition | Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication

Thread moved out from the Assembly Line. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 13th May 2022, 09:41   #6
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Default Re: Nilgiris Expedition | Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication

Your write up is full of emotions & heartwarming. Enjoyed reading.

Question: Was this trail on private property? or can anyone go up this trail?
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Old 13th May 2022, 10:18   #7
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Default Re: Nilgiris Expedition | Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication

What a wonderful read !

Kindles so many childhood memories of time spent in Kerala riding these jeeps. I've been harboring a deep desire to own one, one day and show my son what fun it is in these machines. Thanks for inspiring and keeping the dream alive !
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Old 13th May 2022, 16:21   #8
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Default Re: Nilgiris Expedition | Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication

Threads like this always bring a smile to my face. Really happy to hear that your father's passion has ignited a fire in you. Talk about being a role model. Your Dad seems to be living the life. That one pic where he is on a ladder on top of the Jeep tending his farm - Dont know why, but it gave me goosebumps. Talk about a person in one with nature and his machine, both created and nurtured by him.
Keep living it up and sharing your adventures with pics.
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Old 13th May 2022, 19:13   #9
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Default Re: Nilgiris Expedition | Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication

Amazing read , straight from the heart. The jeep bug caught me off guard when we scaled the highest peak of Chikmagalur on an old rusty 4x4 Mahindra Jeep. It was just gunning the steep inclines like nobody's business. Nothing like a old 4x4 and such beautiful trials. Just one question can anyone visit those trails or its a private estate?
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Old 13th May 2022, 19:40   #10
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Default Re: Nilgiris Expedition | Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication

Jeeps, Ambassadors are definitely an emotion by itself, combine it with your old man its heart warming and truly emotional. Needless to talk about the terrains and endless blue and green views. Overall a very good read, good luck for many more adventures.
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Old 15th May 2022, 00:40   #11
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Default Re: Nilgiris Expedition | Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sandman689 View Post
Question: Was this trail on private property? or can anyone go up this trail?
Quote:
Originally Posted by sam_machine View Post
Just one question can anyone visit those trails or its a private estate?
Dear Sandman689 and Sam_machine,

Thank you for your kind words.
Yes, this is a private property; many Bhpians will recollect this track from the Mahindra Great Escape, which took place in Ooty about a decade ago. A very Jeep friendly track I must say.


Quote:
Originally Posted by capnemo View Post
What a wonderful read !

Kindles so many childhood memories of time spent in Kerala riding these jeeps.
Many thanks, and welcome to the forum, Capnemo. I'm sure you'll enjoy yourself here.

Quote:
I've been harboring a deep desire to own one, one day and show my son what fun it is in these machines. Thanks for inspiring and keeping the dream alive !
Not very sure about your future daughter-in-law, but your son will be grateful to you later in life.
I assume you are already glued to the forum's wealth of informative Jeep-related threads and discussions, if not, please check them out.

Here's a picture of my father showing me around the Jeep.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Neil Roy View Post
That one pic where he is on a ladder on top of the Jeep tending his farm - Dont know why, but it gave me goosebumps. Talk about a person in one with nature and his machine, both created and nurtured by him.
Dad was elated when I read your response to him over the phone last night. Thank you for your kind words; they definitely made his day, and mine too.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TN20CQ5187 View Post
Needless to talk about the terrains and endless blue and green views.
That's the beauty of Ooty: it's awash in colour, to the point where photos appear artificially saturated. The Jeeps, on the other hand, were all in shades of brown. Our next project will be a Jeep Kaiser and will painted with Ooty's backdrop kept in mind. It could be red, orange, or yellow. Time alone will tell.
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Old 18th May 2022, 18:21   #12
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Default Re: Nilgiris Expedition | Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication

Dear Salim,
The post took me back to my days at Wellington. It was way back in 1992. Must be before you were born. The natural beauty of the blue mountains is still scintillating and enticing. I remember me going in my 1972 Premier Padmini to Doda Peta for a picnic.

thanks for sharing the experience and taking me down memory lane.
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