|27th September 2008, 01:18||#1|
The 45th Mahindra Great Escape: Coorg 4x4 Challenge
I have always heard about Mahindra Great Escape, the event that takes a bunch of Mahindra Jeep/SUVs to deep wilderness for a day long fun and excitement. It was also one of the reasons for me to buy a Mahindra Jeep. After I bought the Jeep, I started having too much fun driving it around my place, and the MGE was forgotten for some time.
When I heard Mahindra Great Escape will be held in Coorg on September 20th 2008, it naturally piqued my interest. Coorg is roughly 4-5 hours drive from my place, and I am also a former resident of Coorg. I am familiar with the culture, language and people, in other words I feel at home when I visit Coorg. Since I knew the people involved in the recce (reconnaissance of route), I was getting routine updates, finally it was the third route that was finalized for the event.
Offroading in Coorg
At first I was planning to participate in the Coorg MGE. As usual I had multiple goals, off-roading and photography. But in a huge event like this, it is hard to do both. Meanwhile, Sudhir Kashyap who was the chief of staff for the event suggested that I come without my Jeep. In fact, I ended up as one of the marshals for the event, although with very little duties. At the end it turned to be a good idea, since I was not tethered to the Jeep, I could keep moving when everybody was stuck at various points. I kept taking rides back-n-forth on different service Jeeps and even participant Jeeps, mainly focusing on photography and meeting Jeepers from various places. While I didnít do any driving, I kept moving around and I got see lot of action at various points while most participants were stuck waiting in their Jeeps. So I got close up view of various rescue & recovery techniques and how various vehicles tackle a given obstacle.
At first I was planning to visit Coorg alone for a day, so I had booked for one night at a Madikeri home stay. But on the day of the travel (19th), my wife decided to join up along with our 8 year old. He had exams Monday onwards, so she made him carry his books so that he could study while on vacation. They were not planning to come to the event, they donít take much fancy towards leaches.
Since the law & order situation in Mangalore was dicey, I decided to drive through Karkala-Moodubidri-Bantawala-B.C.Road (avoiding Mangalore) and then through the usual Mani-Puttur-Sulliya and Madikeri. The road between Mani to Madikeri is really bad except around Sulliya, but not as horrible as NH-17. Thanks to all wheel independent suspension of Grand Vitara, we practically glided through the pothole ridden road with little bother. As I reached Madikeri, I was stunned to discover that this route was shorter by 30Kms. After settling down at the home stay, we drove out to have dinner with local Team-BHPian PrinceZehad. After Dinner we visited Club Mahindra, met Sudhir and got some briefing about the event. After visiting Club Mahindra, my wife decided she wants to spend her next day there since they had so many activities, so we made booking for the next day.
Next day morning we checked out of the Home Stay and reached club Mahindra at 7:30AM. Since the briefing for marshals was scheduled for 7:30AM, I was in a rush to get my family checked in. I quickly stopped the Grand Vitara and rushed towards the reception counter. At the entrance, one lady with traditional attire and a tray was standing in my way. I politely tried to side step her and she moved to block my way. After a moment of confusion, I realised she was trying to welcome me with the traditional teekha. After getting stamped on the forehead, I quickly introduced my wife to the reception and left her to take care of the rest.
The Club Mahindra customer parking was full, so I had to drive out and park the GV on the roadside and then quickly come back in to join the briefing. On the way I ran into other marshals who were part of the recce, I knew most of them from the previous OTR. There were three driving marshals (Sibi, Aditya & Vinay Thomas) who were topnotch off-road drivers, and the rest were non-driving marshals, and I was in the second group, obviously. Soon we got our cap and T-shirts and yes, everybody had to wear them. The breakfast area was the rendezvous point, where one had to show the participant coupon to enter. None of us marshals had that, but we just said the magic word (our role) and we could enter.
After breakfast and some conferring with Sudhir, about five of us marshals left ahead of everybody else in a Mahindra owned Legend driven by Aditya. Our first task was to lead the ambulance to a strategic location. After that we came back and entered the trail. Soon we reached a point which would offer the first series of 4x4 challenges. This part could be done by even in 2WD if the driver was skilled enough. But in most OTRs there are lots first timers, so it still could be a challenge. Due to recent rains, the terrain was quite slippery.
At this point Vinay and I decided to continue on foot, it was difficult notice much from the rear seat of a Legend. The official Mahindra service team was called the red team, and a member of this team was already waiting there. The hill you see between the red team member and Vinay Thomas (Jeep Thrills Moderator from Bangalore) was originally included in the trail. But the recent rains made it so slippery, even marshals found it impossible to cross on the previous day, so it was removed from the route.
The hill that was removed from the route.
Yet, Aditya makes an attempt to check out the hill today, but soon backs off through the bushes.
Meanwhile the vehicles started chugging up the trail headed by the lead vehicle, it was a Bolero Invader driven by Sibi Paul who is a local and a Jeep Thrills moderator for Coorg. As some of you may recall, he was the only one who crossed the water stream in recent Jeep Thrills Coorg OTR event. He tried climbing the big hill a few times, and even in reverse, but the hill was too slippery. The reserve gear by having much higher ratio gives the most torque, but this morning it was not enough.
Even a Scorpio Gateway comes to check out the hill, but doesnít proceed after that.
So, letís get back to the participants who have started make a beeline.
The trouble starts right away with a Scorpio. Both Vinay and I notice that the front wheels arenít turning. We tell the driver to switch to 4WD. Since all the windows were up, at first they couldnít hear us. After that the driver confirms that he is on 4WD. But somehow the electronic 4WD is not engaging.
After some struggle, the Scorpio gets out that rut and continues. We wonder how it will handle the tougher challenges to come.
Here is an interesting looking Bolero without the pesky front bumper.
Meanwhile I take a shot from the top of the slippery hill, I had difficulty climbing on foot.
As I climbed down from the hill on the other side, the Sibiís lead vehicle slowed down to pick me up, but I decided to walk and asked them to go ahead. Photography is best done on foot, not on the back of a Jeep.
So I started walking the trail. Sometimes I had to run to keep ahead of the vehicle behind me until I find a nook to squeeze myself and let it pass.
Soon I ran into a jungle traffic jam with Jeeps parked one behind the other. But passing them was not joke since the trail was as wide the Jeeps. I had to literally walk through bushes to get ahead. But it had some rewards.
Consider this outlandish Jeep. I couldnít guess the model, can you?
Alright, it is a MM550 modified to have a complete aluminum body, built by some vintage car restorer in Indore. BTW, the tall gentleman in the driver seat turned out to be ace rallyist Hari Singh, which I found out later that day.
The strange Bolero waiting in line, notice how much the wheels are protruding outside the body.
Here was the source of the traffic jam.
After some waiting, I decided to pass the Scorpio to see the recovery process up close. Did I mention I was wearing gum boots?
On the other side two winches were already connected.
I was quite dazzled when I saw this winching setup. There were 3 Jeeps doing the pulling.
Sudhir Kashyap (left most in red) supervising the recovery.
Now they add one more Jeep, making it four Jeep to pull out one Scorpio.
The magnified part shows both Sudhir Kashyap and Hari Singh watching the recovery operation.
Sudhir is in the Legend personally leading the winching effort.
Meanwhile the media is all over this place shooting video and taking photographs of the recovery effort. At least half of them asked me which newspaper or magazine I represent. It probably had something to do with the fact that I was carrying the meanest looking still camera in their midst.
As the winching was taking very long, I decide to move on exploring the road further.
To be continued...
|27th September 2008, 01:29||#2|
Join Date: Jun 2008
Thanked: 7 Times
Great Write up and pics as usual @ Samurai..
Damn i was looking forward to this event, wonder how i could miss it, but iam sure that with your report and pics on the event, my heart would not bleed that much..
Mahindra Events are usually huge on the participation scale, but dont see many machines in this event, how may participants were there? Maybe i should wait for you to complete your writeup for the complete picture on the event..
|27th September 2008, 09:02||#4|
Senior - BHPian
Join Date: Sep 2006
Thanked: 836 Times
So the man now reaches croog and gets his gum boots covered in muck . Sharath made for an excellent read and thanks for the pics. That Bolero sure looks mean to me eyes. Got any wallpaper type pics of that Bolero ?
OT : BTW whats with the color of that scorpio being recovered ?
|27th September 2008, 09:04||#5|
Join Date: Sep 2008
Thanked: 19 Times
That was a very fantastic experience for us (infact it was the first one for all of our team). Initially we thought we are not going to make it. But the team who encrage us and make it happen. There was one terrain where we were towed by the marshalls (in samurai's photo's you can find a orange scorpio being towed) and all other terrains were completed successfully without anybody's help. By the way we are the team driving the balck Bolero without the bumpers.
check out some more photo's.
|27th September 2008, 09:06||#6|
Distinguished - BHPian
Join Date: Jul 2007
Thanked: 5,198 Times
Hmmm - interesting. Thanks Sharath for the wonderful writeup. Seems to need better power to weight ratio. Let's see.
|27th September 2008, 11:05||#7|
Senior - BHPian
Join Date: Jun 2007
Thanked: 287 Times
You are quietly getting many 9-5 guys like me to rethink about their life and how to enjoy it. Keep them coming. Love your analytical and cool brain approach to an apparently brawny activity.
|27th September 2008, 13:28||#8|
Join Date: Feb 2004
Thanked: 252,921 Times
Awesome report & pictures to match. Just what we have now come to expect of you now, Sharath. You are lucky to have experienced the Great Escape from the other side...being part of the team must have given you a difference perspective. The route seems to have a reasonable level of difficulty for a GE (read : far better than the recent MH one).
|27th September 2008, 13:59||#9|
This was the first time I have seen Scorpios offroading. Since I have done offroading with Grand Vitara, I had some idea about the handicaps of SUVs designed more for on-road use. Again, driver skill is very essential, I saw different Scorpios driven by drivers of varying skills and it showed. The drivers who kept up the momentum rammed through most challenges without a hitch. Meanwhile, the drivers who took it slowly got stuck many times. Driving the Scorpio or Grand Vitara like a Jeep can get you stuck. Besides these highway vehicles usually have highway tyres.
As I walked on I could see the long line from far. Next 4 shots are taken from the same place. Look closely, you can locate the same vehicles in first shot.
Finally the orange Scorpio got pulled up and some of the service Jeeps (mostly Armadas and Legends) decided to get ahead to the next winching point.
In many places the trail is so narrow, you have to run to escape the vehicle behind you. Now a red team member is running.
And it was time for me to run ahead and find a nook to escape these vehicles.
After this there was a long lull. The trail ahead looked like this. Donít be fooled by the simplicity. This turned out to be the end of run for one Scorpio.
Every budding off-roader after the first OTR event comes to realise one thing. You can never judge a terrain from the photograph, and it is the simple looking tracks that give maximum heartburn.
This is how the trail behind me looked like, with a backdrop of a green hill. Then I see the orange Scorpio bouncing towards me. See it?
I have to say this driver knew his business, he didnít let the vehicle bog down and kept up the momentum.
It was time to run again, there was no place to hide for at least 100 meters. The Scorpio could easily get stuck here by slowing down or stopping at this point, and the driver seemed to know it, so I could expect no mercy... ;-)
Running on slushy mud trail in unaccustomed gum boots, carrying a long telephoto lens mounted dSLR in hand (and camera bag on shoulder), while being chased by Scorpio is a unique experience. You guys should try it once. I mean it is better than running with Canon D1s or chased by elephants.
The terrain opens up here and I could find shelter on the side. See how different it is now.
As the Scorpio passed by me, a young lady waved at me from the rear seat as I was catching my breath. Incidentally, I met her again later while having dinner with my family. So she joined us on the table for a while. From her I got to understand a very different angle to this event.
Until this day, I was under the impression that participants in Great Escape were owner driven vehicles and drivers were offroading enthusiasts who were either experienced off roaders or first timers. But the young lady was under the impression that this was a wilderness rally and was not even familiar with the term offroading. She was just attending the event as a representative from BOSCH. Anyway, more about this later.
Now I hear the next vehicle, and I decide to shoot from the high perch using the long lens at full zoom.
Here comes the next Scorpio, the same one that had trouble at the beginning.
He is coming around very slowly and then he stops. Ughh! Not a good idea.
He is not able to go forward, after revving a few times, he starts reversing and soon gets out of sight in the corner.
Now I am expecting him to come around roaring and fly through that part. I am glad I donít have to run again. But, nothing happens. Then I started walking down the trail, but I am keeping my distance, I donít want to be surprised at this part of the trail. I hear the sound of revving engine, but nothing is approaching.
While I was waiting there, I notice this dragon fly and click him at 400mm EFL.
Eventually I didnít even hear the engine. Now I got too curious and go around the corner. I find the Scorpio stuck in a very innocent looking ditch and the driver has left. There is middle aged lady on the passenger seat. I ask her what happened and she canít hear me. She says something and I canít hear her. Finally she opens the door and tells me that the vehicle canít go forward or backward. Later, it turned out that the rear axle had broken clean. They had to move the Scorpio out of the way into the bushes to make way for others. This was the only vehicle that was disabled and left there overnight.
Here is an interesting observation I made about most Scorpio and even Bolero driver/passengers. Most of them kept their windows rolled up and never got out even when they were waiting or being winched out. As the BOSCH lady later told me, they didnít want to deal with leaches and other jungle things. So they mostly stayed inside the vehicles in full A/C and viewed the event from behind the glass window.
I have driven through Agumbe ghats in my CJ340 (no doors) and then in Grand Vitara (with window up) in similar weather. The difference is more than day and night. It is like standing in front of Niagara versus watching it on big screen TV. The rolled up glass window completely isolates the passengers from the surroundings. You may want to do this the city roads, but isolating yourself from the elements in an adventure trip is defeating the whole purpose of the trip.
The elements are not the only thing that is isolated from them. I feel there is a bigger loss here. As I kept passing stopped vehicles on foot, I often spoke to the riders giving them news from the frontline and also checked-out/appreciated their vehicles. The vehicles without doors were the most approachable since there was no physical barrier. I could just stop next to them and start a conversation. Just appreciating their vehicle is a good ice-breaker for talking to them. The riders with really old vintage Jeeps were the friendliest lot since they are happy to talk about their proud possession. The vehicles with doors but windows rolled down came next, and the Scorpios and Boleros with windows rolled up were just not approachable. I mean I have to knock on the glass to talk to them, and when they roll it down, they will be like ďwhat do you want?Ē Who wants to deal with that? In other words, by rolling up the window, they were unwittingly sending the ďleave us aloneĒ message. It is hard to develop new friendships like that. Therefore, most strangers I spoke to were the ďdoor less JeepĒ kind. And I mean no offense to ďrolled up window SUVĒ kind, it is just an observation I made.
Back to the story now. Once the Scorpio got stuck there, I knew it is going to take long to move it out of the way. So decided to continue further down the trail towards the river crossing other marshals were talking about.
After half a KM of walk, I found this.
And this is how you need to come down to reach the river.
The lone figure standing on top in the river photo is a local resident. He came down to talk to me since no vehicle was approaching. He told me that his kids go to school on a Jeep through this route every day. And he was a little concerned that recce team had damaged the trail during the recce process. I asked him to wait until evening to see the extent of full damage once all the vehicles get through the trail. These jungle trails are still public roads used by the locals, I wonder who pays for the repairs after the event gets over.
After standing around the river without action for a while, I decided to walk to the place where the Scorpio was stuck. By this time they had moved the Scorpio out of the way into the Jungle bushes. The vehicles started moving again and I started walking back to the river. Somewhere halfway, the Marshal Jeep driven by Sudhir Kashyap and carrying Aditya and other marshals stops and picks me up. Soon I am back at the river.
Sudhir eyeing the river before takeoff.
And he crosses in style effortlessly.
Now the vehicles start trickling in and I start looking for a perfect vantage point to shoot the vehicles crossing the river.
To be continued.
|27th September 2008, 16:18||#10|
|27th September 2008, 20:14||#11|
Senior - BHPian
Join Date: Dec 2006
Thanked: 517 Times
Thank you for sharing these "WONDERFUL" pictures would be an understatement. The photographs captured the essence of the whole adventure. Hatts off to you for such a comprehensive photolog & ofcourse such a detailed & informative write-up.
It is giving a beautiful detailed review to the "less fortunate". Kudos to you for the effort !!!!
|27th September 2008, 22:39||#13|
Join Date: Feb 2005
Location: San Jose, CA
Thanked: 21,526 Times
Great Writeup Samurai... But picture Abhi baaki hai
Waiting for the rest of the gory details!
|28th September 2008, 00:37||#14|
Now the bumper-less Bolero is ready to cross the river. Now we know this belongs to a new Team-BHPian.
At this point I decide to shoot a video, and I am glad I did. I could capture the excitement of one of their team member.
Now the photographers start crossing the small river, the river bed has too many stone that makes crossing difficult.
The following shot should give some idea of the incline next to the river.
I realise I too have to cross the river like them. Somewhere midway, I am sunk till my knees and both gum boots are full of water. Later I had to drain out the water many times from the boots, since the water from the socks and pants kept draining out slowly. My feet were wet whole day until I returned to the hotel room.
Now some Jeeps start coming through, most of them make it, but some need to be winched out.
One of the marshals (Chengappa) is watching the action from a higher plane.
When you are the center of so much attention, it is time to look good.
Alas, that was not the case. The Bolero slips back and breaks the rear bumper. I think this was one of the 2WD Boleros, but I am not sure.
Time to be winched up the slope.
Meanwhile, the surface of the incline is getting pulverized by all the spinning tyres.
NDMS rules on this terrain. See how slowly the Jeep crawls up. The Scorpios and Boleros had to rip through in high-revving and wheel-spinning glory.
At first this Mahindra pickup fails to climb. It had NDMS at the back and highway tyres in the front.
In the next attempt it succeeds.
Finally the lead Jeep (No 1) piloted by Sibi arrives on scene. He gets over to this side in an no-nonsense way.
Then there is lull in traffic and the photographers are getting restless.
Meanwhile there is a heated discussion between Aditya and Sibi (who is seated 15ft higher than Aditya) about the preferred gear for 340 to climb this incline. Sibi says 2nd low and as a CJ340 owner I tend to agree with him.
The local resident looks on with amusement, the road damage is no more on his mind.
Talk of the devil, and here comes a 340.
This is not a cut-out of some Telugu superstar like it appears, it is Aditya striking a pose.
Last edited by Samurai : 28th September 2008 at 00:51.
|28th September 2008, 00:53||#15|
Join Date: Feb 2005
Location: San Jose, CA
Thanked: 21,526 Times
Hmmm, Mahindra Pickup 4x4. I saw a lot of these(double cab version) in Rohru area.
I guess the Getaway is the yuppy version of this one, like scorpio is the yuppies jeep!
Great videos... Waiting for the rest of the travelogue!