|29th July 2010, 09:22||#77|
Join Date: Nov 2008
Thanked: 271 Times
Brilliant write up and great pictures. I'm reliving the AKC once again after so many days, thanks to you and your wonderful sense of narration. Please do continue and keep it coming. Eagerly waiting for the next round.
|29th July 2010, 15:31||#78|
Join Date: Feb 2010
Thanked: 45 Times
You have made this post a virtual tour with your amazing narration skills.
Am hooked on. Thanks a lot.
|1st August 2010, 02:49||#79|
Before I start on the next session, I have to mention something. Usually, I go offroading in areas where the concept of offroading is wellknown. The hosts are always rugged Jeepers themselves, and often are known people in the offroading community. This is the general case when we go offroading in Kerala or Karnataka.
However, when we were having lunch at the farmhouse, we were introduced to the families of Kunal and Abhimanyu, and I soon realize that the whole thing is a family show. Correct if I am wrong, outside of Kunal, none of them looked or sounded like a Jeeper. Basically it looked like friends and members of two families got together to arrange this unfamiliar event to most of them, purely as tribute towards their love one, Abhimanyu Singh. Having interacted with Alfa_Kilo over two years, I am sure there could not have been a better tribute to him. While Mahindra team and local offroaders like EO & ROCK helped them out, to see every family member doing their part to arrange the OTR event was really remarkable to watch. Unfortunately, unlike the people who stayed overnight in the farm, I didn’t get to mingle with the host family as much as I would have liked to do.
While it is somewhat known that his last post was addressed to me, did you guys know his first post was also addressed to me? I just discovered it myself when I checked his first post.
Alfa_Kilo first post: https://www.team-bhp.com/forum/test-...tml#post415408 (The very first Team-BHP Test Drive of Force Motor's Trax Gama)
Alfa_Kilo last post: https://www.team-bhp.com/forum/4x4-v...ml#post1411248 (Mahindra CJ340 joins Team-BHP family)
I always thought he was a guy in his 30s considering the depth of knowledge and the maturity he showed in many discussions. With his demise, we lost a truly remarkable individual and BHPian.
Ok, back to the afternoon session, or was it evening session? I say that because it was already 5PM when we hit the trail again. There was a long wait under the high voltage power lines, not sure why we did that. However, it did spark some interesting discussion about why power lines sing. We made up some interesting theories, but the real reason is Carona Discharge, I looked up.
As we continued towards the first obstacle, Sreeni’s Jeep was the second vehicle, just behind Alfa_Kilo Jeep driven by Kunal. The obstacle starts with climbing down into a valley, but taking the approach from the right side. This valley has a gully running in the center. As you approach from the right, you have to enter the gully in an angle. If you enter cross axle, there is a danger of tilting precariously; therefore it is better to turn the steering completely towards left and drop the wheels together into the gully. Once you drop the front side into the gully, there is very little room to continue. Within 3-4ft, you have to turn completely right to align with the gully. This needs to be done pretty carefully. After watching Kunal do it, Sreeni followed him, but needed some spotting assistance. Therefore I got down to spot and then stayed around.
Sreeni dropping into gully with a left turn
And then quickly turning to the right.
So this was a tricky maneuver, not impossible, but dicey, needs careful execution.
Another Jeep goes through it.
Then I see something weird, a vehicle comes down straight without taking the right side approach, and entered the gully and continues as if there was no obstacle. I was surprised at first, and then realized that there is no challenge at all if you come down straight.
When I turned towards Kunal, he nods in agreement. He says he designed the route from the right side approach in order to make it challenging. If people find it difficult, they can avoid it by coming down straight. The real AKC route is from the right side approach, and not straight down.
Let me borrow couple of photographs from Kunal’s upload to illustrate the point.
In the above images, the red arrow indicates the real AKC route [it is steeper than it looks], the green arrow shows the direct route, which poses no challenge. However, if the participants are not warned at the entry point to the valley, there was a good chance that everyone will come straight down and miss the challenge altogether. Unfortunately, that is what happened later. Most drivers were not shown the actual route and they continued straight down and missed the challenge.
Therefore I quickly moved to the entry of the valley, and started asking each driver whether he wanted to do the difficult way or the easy way. If they said easy, I showed them the straight path, which was too easy. If they said difficult path, I led them through the right side approach and gave the advice to turn full left following by full right to enter the gully.
I forget which path DKG took, I shot this after he moved away
Vinod took the straight path, very evident from the angle.
Robinson took the difficult path using a cross axle approach. The resultant tilt scared that kid on the other side to assume the pose made famous by Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone.
All this time, it was lightly drizzling. But around this moment, I sensed a big one, a really big rain. Being from the heavy monsoon region, I can sense the onset of a rain, something to do with fall of barometric pressure I suppose. I was not wearing any jacket or raincoat, and my camera was unprotected. Yeah, my camera is weather proof, yet I didn’t want to expose it to the full fury of rain that was about to hit us.
I told the guys around me that I will be back with raincoat and quickly left in search of Sreeni’s Jeep to fetch my bag. As I climbed the next hill, I still couldn’t see Sreeni’s Jeep. As I came to the edge of the hill, I saw the long downhill, and my heart sunk. This means I won’t be able to come back once I go down. But go down I must, if I am to remain dry and keep my camera dry.
The rain drops were getting bigger. So I started climbing down while avoiding the main trail, didn’t want to get run over. As I got lower the steepness increased, and I was forced to run, again I controlled the speed by running in very short step, my two legged low ratio. I couldn’t shoot any more photographs as the rain started lashing down. I quickly reached sreeni’s Jeep and diving in before I got completely wet. Now there was no question of going back, I didn’t want to think of climbing that hill in rain.
This time I had the shirt and trousers type of rain coat. When I pulled it out, I realized it was a bad idea. It may be comfortable to wear, but putting it on in the middle of an OTR is not practical. Removing the long gum boots, pulling on the rain coat trouser, pulling the gum boots back on, all in the backseat of a Jeep, Aaagggghhhh… So I just put on the rain coat shirt, moved the wallet and the mobile to the already wet shirt pocket. I put the camera inside the rain coat and got down, only to be hit with rain that was being delivered by the truck load, or tanker load. I quickly decided I won’t be to able shoot anything in this kind of rain unless I have a sturdy umbrella, which I didn’t have. So I jumped back into the Jeep and shoved the camera back into my backpack. Within minutes of sitting inside, I felt suffocated in the trapped humidity due to rolled up windows. I figured I might as well enjoy the rain and jumped out again. I hope I am not exaggerating when I say it rained like that for the next one hour or so.
The vehicles started moving again and I started spotting for Sreeni. And we were to enter a small river, more like a stream actually. But let’s call it a river since everybody called it a river. It was river with big rocks in the bottom. But we could see the rocks, so we could step around them, but not so easy to do with the Jeep.
This river became the most interesting section of offroading of the day, may be of the entire 3 day event too. Therefore I felt it is very important to have an idea about the terrain to understand the events that will be unfolding next. Checkout the following illustration, it is rough and crude, hopefully to scale, any discrepancies can be attributed to my failing memory. The entry point to the river is a little hazy to me since I didn’t spend much time there.
So we enter at entry point A, and immediately encounter rocks as seen in the image. Sreeni’s Jeep did get stuck at couple place, but between Kunal, couple other guys and myself, we were able to guide Sreeni through the rocky maze and beyond point B and back on the river bank. As we were standing there in pouring rain, we could feel the water level rising. The Jeep continued to point C and it was time to cross the river again. Some of us crossed the river by foot and found the river bottom to be very firm and free of any rocks. That means one can drive across this area (C to D) safely, slowly, without any drama or apprehension. However, we will need somebody at point C to tell that to the oncoming vehicles and ask them to calm down. Or one can scream from point D saying the same.
The area from D to E was firm ground, at least to start with. However, within 15 minutes or so, most of the area between D to E looked like part of the river thanks to a quickly developed flash flood. Since we used to one or two vehicles parked there most of the time, one could make out it was firm ground under the river.
Now E to F was very dicey, for no one knows how to approach it, unless Kunal. Anyway, the path turned to be as shown in the map. One had to stay close to the left bank, but not on the left bank (no clearance) , no even one wheel on the bank, which some people instinctively tried to get some measure of safety. The middle of the stream had rocks and chances of getting stuck were very high. This was one of those times when you had to absolutely trust the advice from the spotter. There is nothing visible under the muddy water to help you.
The point F itself was tricky because if you don’t turn right there in time, you will continue and get stuck in deeper rocky waters. F to G is again needs complete dependency on spotter to tell you which is the safe path. As the Jeeps moved on, I stayed at points C to E to spot the next set of vehicles. Kunal went with the first bunch and I could barely glimpse the happenings at F and G how much ever I stretched my neck. Remember, it was still raining hard. As the vehicles kept coming, I kept telling them to cross from C to D at ease telling them that the ground was very firm and free of rocks. Still some revved and made a rush for it as if they were running over quick sand, only to find nothing precarious. While I spot for anybody, I first explain the terrain to the driver, before making my suggestion. That way they can decide whether to follow it or try their own technique. But in this river section, there was no choice but trust the spotter.
At this time I had not moved beyond point E. That means I didn’t know the ground situation at points F or G. When I sent them from E, I was telling them that the spotter at F will tell you where to turn. Initially I could see some rock at far distance, it looked like one was supposed to turn afterwards, but one can’t be too sure from that distance. Soon the exit from point E became quite precarious, if you go in slow, you were bound to sink in. So one had to take off a little fast from point E. These I kept telling drivers as they passed by.
As I stood here, I reflected on this situation. It was still raining hard, river was rising and vehicles were moving. I was completely wet despite the raincoat shirt, and I wondered whether any of my earlier OTRs were this much fun. I think not, and Sakleshpur monsoon OTR last year probably comes a close second. The only part that bugged was I don’t have photographs of this crazy moment. If I was carrying a umbrella, I could have shot some photographs even in this situation.
Meanwhile the spotters at point F & G moved on to the next point. And I was not aware of it since I couldn’t see well from my vantage point. Couple of vehicles I sent forward got into big trouble since they went beyond point F as they couldn’t figure out where to turn. The exit point G was not an obvious turn, having a spotter at this point was absolutely required.
At this time, the water level had reached the maximum and a green gypsy I sent forward too had got stuck near point F. I had finally deduced that there is nobody at point F to even tell the drivers where to turn. And I didn’t see any more vehicles coming beyond point B. I guess this was probably the time when Gogi’s Jeep was almost drowning near point B. I have roughly marked that point as GP or Gogi Point.
So I decided to walk to point F to help the Green Gypsy driver. Around the same time Siddu and Venkat had driven up in Viji’s Jeep towards point F and were having their own issues. Robinson’s Jeep was ready to leave point E, but I told him to wait until we get some handle on point F situation.
Then I got into water and started walking towards point F. The water came to just below my waist and the current was strong. Oh boy, this was some experience. Thanks to my background in martial arts, I have excellent balance even when I am being pushed around. And this was pretty similar feeling of being pushed around. Walking against current until point F and walking across the current until point G. While walking from F to G, Venkat advised me to lower my body by sinking my butt into the water. But I decided to rely on my balance and not give him the satisfaction of seeing me walking in that strange position. So I walked straight, but using foot work that retains maximum balance while moving. Glad to say I never lost my balance even though I had to walk over many rocks.
After walking from F to G point, we had identified the safe path. So we got the green gypsy to cross and since the driver was a newbie, Siddu decided to hop on with him to guide him rest of the way. That left me and Venkat at point G with nothing to do. By this time the rain had stopped and I felt it won’t rain anymore. And I was acutely aware that there was no spotter at point E,D and C. I wanted to go back, but not without my camera. So I requested Venkat to stay there to spot in case somebody comes along the river. I also promised to get some spotters if possible.
As I walked up the trail, I was amazed. It was not a trail. It was a natural formation, adopted as the route for AKC. Aaaggghhh, too bad I didn’t get to drive here, it would have been something. The AKC evening route is probably the most naturally formed trail I have seen, it is a fantastic trail by itself, but the rains turned it into a magnificent one. Finally I reached Sreeni’s Jeep, picked up my camera and turned back. And I also called up for volunteers to come down as spotters. So Vinod and some others came back with me.
As I walked back, I decided to take photographs along the natural trail before it got too dark.
By this time the green Gypsy was here and he was having problem climbing the hill. He complained about not getting any power in 1 low. I suggested doing a launch (clutch dump) since the traction was very good there, he tried that and then took off.
Some more images along the way back to the river.
Can you believe these, this is the AKC route.
Finally we had some spotter strength at point G to handle any traffic that would come up the river.
You can see Viji’s Jeep parked in a strange place.
By this time the water level had receded very much. And I wanted to get back to point E-D-C which doesn’t have any spotter. As I got into water, I found the water even below my knee level. Here is a rare photograph of me taken by Siddu.
When I first crossed the river, the water level was at the level of the metal button seen on my pant at the thigh region.
The river was still has strong current. You can see glimpse of Robinson’s Invader waiting at point E.
Prateesh too is planning to come back.
Now Suresh Stephen is spotting for Robinson.
Now you can see points C and D too. But there are no more Jeeps coming up from B. But some spotters have reached point D by now.
Another Jeep which was waiting at point D is ready to take off.
From point E onwards one has to dive into the river and continue along the river. Trying to keep one wheel on the bank results in this.
Meanwhile I am puzzled at the lack of activity beyond point B. So I walk towards point B and capture this shot. Now you know how I came up with the term Gogi point.
Sorry about the shaky shot, it was shot at 1/15sec at the longest zoom on my 12-60 lens. This shot hopefully captured whatever emotions going through his head. Only Gogi can confirm.
Do realise that I have no idea about all the drama that was happening before point B. Through this report now you can make out what was happening beyond point B.
At this time I was at point I, which is just before point C. Here I met up with Naresh Bhosle, who is the leader of Mahindra team. He tells me there is a pedestrian trail through the bushes, that will lead us to the river avoiding point B. I stand there, I don’t see it. So he bends down and disappears into the bushes. So I too bend down and see a small opening in the bush and follow him, sometimes almost on knees. We come out of the bushes at point H. So he reveals his plan to the Jeepers there. Meanwhile I call up Kunal to ask his permission. Turns out he too had that detour in mind.
Naresh explaining his detour plan
The next chore was to find a volunteer who is willing to risk his paint job by bulldozing through the bushes and create a new route. Soon they found a red classic Jeep owner to do the honours.
I quickly came back to point I to await the bulldozing Jeep and stared at the bushes in anticipation.
See the red Jeep? Neither did I. Then I realized that the driver might lose his way in the bushy maze. So I swallowed hard and slowly bent down and entered the bushes. I was a little afraid that the Jeep may suddenly run over me. After slowly walking half way through, I found the Jeep.
It was indeed a strange spectacle, and I am pretty sure they had lost their sense of direction.
Arka was riding shot gun, and after they saw me, I asked them to follow me.
However, while walking back, I too screwed up a little and ended up coming out at point J. The Jeep came out and no major harm was done by coming out at J. The next vehicle that came I sent it to point I and they kind of got stuck for a while thanks to a rock. Then Arka told me not to bother correcting the error since point J was a good exit point from the bush as any.
Now all the vehicles started coming through point H to J, continuing towards C. The point B was abandoned.
I went back to point H through the newly opened path, it was a strange feeling to have walked it before and after carving a new route.
A view from point H towards point A where vehicles are still entering the river.
Here I was told that, all the vehicles that have descended the incline will complete the river run, but the rest have to go back. I was stunned when I realized that quite a bunch of vehicles were still on the top, which was very much the initial part of the evening section. They probably saw nothing of the evenings event.
Soon after that I got back to point E, my usual haunt which had again become deserted.
A shot of the Mahindra team vehicle from point E.
Another Gypsy passes by the same section.
By now it is 7:30PM, there is no more light, time to pack the camera. But I can’t exactly leave since there are no spotters at point E and I don’t know how many more Jeeps are still making their way. I get a call from Giri looking for Suresh Stephen. I know Suresh is somewhere near point F & G. I ask Giri to wait for Suresh, and also tell Sreeni to wait for me.
Finally I notice Prateesh standing at point C, and call him over. I request him to spot at point E after explaining the conditions and tactics to employ there. As I was planning to walk up the river by foot, Soumya shows up in his petrol Jeep.
I give him the usual instruction and ask him to dive into the river, he looks apprehensive. It is dark and unlike me, he has not seen that section during daylight or walked in the river. So he asks me ride as passenger, which saves me the trouble of walking in the river.
Now he dives into the river as instructed, but tries to get one wheel on the bank which totally tilts the vehicle. So we have to reverse and get all wheels in the river. Then we continue fully on the river and reach point F uneventfully. There we notice a Gypsy that has passed point F and stuck in water. They request us to pull them out. The petrol Jeep doesn’t disappoint and pull out the Gypsy easily in 1st low. Then we reverse into the bushes at point F and drive across the current and reach point G.
After that it was fun navigating through the natural trail [remember the photos?] all the way up to the hill, where Suresh Stephen spots us in complete darkness to execute an extreme left turn. After that I knew the way, and we go down and then climb a very steep hill all the way until we reach the end of the AKC trail. Perfect execution by Soumya all the way from point E, except for one unintended climb into the river bank.
By then Sreeni had left. But I met Giri, Vinod and Huda who were collecting all the stragglers coming in late. And I remained Soumya’s passenger until we reached the farmhouse. It was time for thanks and farewell and goodbye.
AKC overwhelmingly exceeded all expectations. My heartfelt appreciation to the AKC organization team for pulling off a miracle. Yes, some things could have been better. For example, the route to the farmhouse was not really difficult. If a GPS track or location or even a clear step-by-step direction to the location was provided, many more would have landed at the farm house on the previous day. Many were apprehensive due to lack of information. Anyway, we know it will be much better next year.
Vinay and I were returning back to Bangalore next day by flight and had no plans of attending the event as Sawarsi. Some decided to stay in the farm house, but Sreeni, Vinay and me retuned to Lonavala since our room in Hotel Ramakrishna was still not vacated. Next day Sreeni decide to drive back to the farmhouse to thank Kunal and may be participate in Sawarsi event.
Vinay and I tried visiting Bhushi dam near Lonavala, but the amount of pollution at the entrance really put us off. We didn’t want to spoil the memory of the past two days by visiting this dam, so we turned back. We bought a lot of chikki for the family.
Finally we checked out, got a 30% off on the room rent since the owner turned out to be from my town. We decided to sign off our account in Lonavala by having a sumptuous lunch at Hotel Ramakrishna. As we waiting for our food, I see something…
Me: Vinay, I think I saw the waiter carrying tandoori chicken.
He: No way, this is a veg restaurant. At the most they might serve egg, that’s it.
Me: But I saw Chicken…
He: Not possible, you may have mistaken paneer as chicken.
Me: [upset] What? I have been eating chicken since 40 years, how can I mistake paneer for chicken?
He: Hmm [no comment]…
Two minutes later.
He: Oh damn, I hear the guy behind me ordering chicken.
So we call the waiter and he confirms they serve chicken. It is mentioned in the last page of the menu so that the regular veggie patrons don’t get upset. Quickly we order a chicken tikka, which turns to be even more delicious than their veggie preparations.
Holy cow, all these days we kept ordering only veggie stuff thinking this was a veg restaurant. All the 4 days…
Last edited by Samurai : 1st August 2010 at 11:18.
|The following BHPian Thanks Samurai for this useful post:|
|1st August 2010, 07:36||#80|
Join Date: Jul 2008
Thanked: 99 Times
I was There but you had me and Huda totally riveted with your narration and i must say the map you drew was very accurate!
I thank everybody for enjoying the Akc , it has really put a smile on our faces to know our effort was not in vain.
We will endeavour to make next years AKC better organised and keep the trail we choose secret till the end
|1st August 2010, 11:58||#81|
Edit: Spike just notified me that today is the first death anniversary of Alfa_Kilo. What a co-incidence I completed the report on the same day.
Last edited by Samurai : 1st August 2010 at 12:38.
|1st August 2010, 19:06||#82|
Senior - BHPian
Join Date: Jun 2006
Thanked: 107 Times
Sharath, as always, fabulous report. Not that we could have expected anything less from you - you make the pictures speak ten thousand words Thanks for the all the time and effort in sharing the experience! Fitting report for a fitting tribute to Alfa_Kilo.
Last edited by NIP : 1st August 2010 at 19:08.
|2nd August 2010, 09:45||#83|
Thanks NIP. The evening session at AKC was my favourite stretch, I still regret not carrying an umbrella, which stopped me from taking any photographs of those glorious moments in rain. Therefore I was determined to bring out the details at least using hand drawn maps and words. That is why I took so much time before writing the report.
|2nd August 2010, 17:17||#84|
Senior - BHPian
Join Date: May 2006
Location: Greater Chennai
Thanked: 483 Times
Wonderful Pics Sharat. And nice story telling too..unfortunately i will have to read it again..later at leisure..
|3rd August 2010, 16:02||#85|
Join Date: Aug 2008
Thanked: 24 Times
@sharath - its good in a way that your report took its own sweet time, as the memories of AKC even though very vivid would have ended up in the back of our heads with our everyday routines. So reading your report and looking at the pics really puts us back in the action.
and about the pic - sure is a rare one, as you are the who is always behind the camera capturing all the moments for everybody else. so i figured that it would be a good moment to capture you right in the middle of the river while you were crossing it by foot in the rain.
After venkat and i crossed the water kunal suggested that we wait there till the others come thru , as viji's jeep was equipped with a winch. So thats why we parked up against the slope facing the river.
Yes AKC was overwhelming!
After EXXAM i was wasnt actually feeling too well, i had caught a cold and was running a temperature and was sleep deprived as we had not slept enough the night before. so i had decided that at AKC i wont drive and will take it easy and be a passenger as we had to drive back to BLR the same night. BUT.. halfway thru the AKC trail i JUST COULD NOT resist the urge to be in the driver's seat and took over viji's jeep. Also thats why i mostly stayed in the vehicle when it was pouring while the rest of were roughing it out in the rain.
|6th August 2010, 14:56||#86|
Join Date: Jul 2010
Thanked: 255 Times
I joined t-bhp just to congratulate Samurai on the brilliant write-up and pics. Kept reading since July and finally was allowed to join. You are a storyteller and there's a lot to learn from your article.
Fantastic. Now you have another fan.
|6th August 2010, 16:39||#87|
Last edited by Samurai : 6th August 2010 at 16:41.
|6th August 2010, 16:47||#88|
Senior - BHPian
Join Date: May 2006
Location: Greater Chennai
Thanked: 483 Times
So I wanted to tell you that i liked the style and photos but dont have the time to read it "now"..and i will read it later..
I appreciate the patience in depicting A...E points with diagrams so we could feel being there!
Ofcourse, I did read it again at leisure to tell you this..
[PS: I need a smiley for whistle..can anybody help??]
|6th August 2010, 17:57||#89|
Join Date: Apr 2010
Thanked: 836 Times
can there be some more pics to compensate that please , for our poor reader's sake ?
P. S. A very good job you do thanks ,very much interesting .
|8th August 2010, 00:07||#90|
I am an avid novel reader since I was a kid, and even till today. Novels generally develop characters, describe events and locations in great detail in order to put the reader right in the scene. As a result I generally prefer reading the book over watching movies made from the same book.
This obviously has had a influence on me, and I try to bring out similar kind of details when I write about something. The trouble is it ends up becoming long...