|4th July 2010, 23:41||#1|
EXAMM/AKC - A Passenger's report
Ah! Where do I start? Pretty much everything that can be said about EXAMM and AKC has been said, leaving me very little to add. However, I will take a different path as usual, addressing my favorite areas of offroading, like terrain, techniques, scenery, etc. And I will be making my usual long winded comments, which can turn out very boring. Consider yourself forewarned.
When the initial dialogue about Alpha Kilo challenge was started, I didnít think I will be able to make it. My Jeep was in the garage, the distance was too much and my personal situation was not too conducive for far away campaigns. However, as the D-day closed-in, the event became EXAMM+AKC stretching to 3 days of wonderful offroad madness, with an impressive attendance list that included stalwarts like UBS, Behram, DKG, Arka, Patrick,etc., in one place for 3 days. I had once stupidly missed a similar occasion at Bangalore early this year. And there was another matter. BHPian Alpha_Kiloís last post on Team-BHP, probably his communication to the world was addressed to me. That too compelled me to seriously consider this trip. Finally my resolve to keep away broke.
So I discussed with my wife and we decided to make it a family trip. I decided to attend at least one day of EXAMM and AKC. The Sunday event was not possible since I had to be back at work on Monday, the kids had school, etc. I booked flight tickets, taxi & hotel room for my family of four, while I ride passenger at EXAMM/AKC, my family would do sight-seeing around Lonavala. That was the plan. But with only 8 days to go, my older sonís school announced the exam time-table, starting from June 23rd. Since the marks count for the final score, there was no way we could skip it. So we had to cancel the tickets for the family.
Meanwhile Vinay Thomas was also watching the events unfold and was wondering whether to attend the event in spirit (via phone) or in person. Vinay is legendary for his ability to attend offroad events in spirit, he often knows more about what is happening in an OTR event than the participants. After looking at the attendance list, his resolve too shattered and he decided to join me as another passenger.
We all know how much preparation is needed to make a long trip and then participate in an OTR event. Tejas had given a long list of preparations, short of yellow fever vaccine. But as passenger, most of those preparations are not needed. However, if my past experience as OTR passenger has taught me anything, that is to pack my backpack correctly. Drivers can dump their stuff everywhere in their vehicle. But we passengers canít do that, we gotta have everything in one bag so that we can jump between vehicles if needed. The cloths bag can anyway be left behind at the hotel. So to be on safer side, I visited Duckback shop on BVK Iyengar road and picked up raincoat and gumboots that can be worn while driving. And just two hours before leaving for the Airport, I went shopping to buy a new backpack suitable for carrying camera, emergency rations and raincoat.
As we landed at Pune Airport and got into our taxi, Vinay went into spirit mode, now travelling to Lonavala along with the Jeepers from Chennai and Bangalore. Patrick had lost his lock pin and bolt that hold the 4WD levers. If he doesnít get it by tomorrow, Patrickís Jeep canít switch to 4WD. Since they were really late, there was no hope for them to get it by themselves. BTW, they reached Lonavala at 2AM that night.
Since we had ample time and a taxi on our hand, hunting for that part became our next agenda. Turned out Vinay is a former resident of Pune. We visited numerous auto parts shops, and could not find this specific part. Most didnít even deal with Jeep parts. Some said they only have Bolero Jeep parts, but not real Jeep parts. The ones who did stock Jeep parts, didnít have 4WD jeep parts. However, thanks to this vigorous hour long search, we were finally led to the ultimate Jeep parts shop, hidden away beneath a building in Pimpri.
At first the shop guy was not too friendly considering we didnít look like his typical customers. He told he didnít have the bolt, but only the pin. So we bought it. Then Vinay called Pat & Giri and asked whether they needed anything else. The item list came pouring in, Giri wanted boot for the single lever 4WD gear. Pat wanted brake oil, and then the fuel return tube.
Shopkeeper: I canít give you return tube unless you tell me exactly which engine.
Me: Peugeot engine. (I remembered Pat had a Classic)
Shopkeeper: Which one?
Me: XDP ( I was gambling that Pat had not upgraded to XD3P)
Shopkeeper: Ah, I got that one.
By now the shopkeeper had warmed up nicely to us. He had realized that we were jeepers despite looking like yuppies. In fact, he went back rummaging through his stuff and finally found the bolt that he thought he didnít have. So we found all the parts we needed. Meanwhile I ran out of all my small change paying one item at a time since the requests came one by one. I had trouble tipping the hotel service staff later that day. Anyway, Vinay took the business card of that shop after they promised that they can handle outstation orders. Jeepers can never ignore a good part shop.
We finally reached Hotel Ramkrishna, where I was booked, in fact it was the hub of all off-offroad activity for the next 3-4 days. Hotel Cosset where many others were staying was directly opposite Hotel Ramakrishna. While Vinay vanished again into spirit mode, I dealt with the long check-in process where I had compete with waiters processing the bills, customers getting parcels, etc. Yeah, strangely the hotel reception is same as the restaurant cash counter.
I finally got into the room, which was very decent, and SMSed Vinay the room number. He came up within minutes and declared that it is time for rescue. Rescue whom? I say in a bewildered tone. Apparently the entire Extreme Offroaders core team along with M.P.Sreenivas had gone for a final recce and they are stuck at some place without a winch. And the closest team with winches happens to be the Bangalore Wild Boys & Buddas. Yes, there is a distinct difference here. Buddas are the ones who are ready by 7-7:30AM, and Wild boys donít wake up before 8- 9AM. Why it happens that way is way beyond the scope of this thread. Anyway, I took my backpack with emergency rations, since I knew we could be stuck all night in capers like this.
After gathering the Bangalore troops, we took off in 4 vehicles, Giriís classic, Vijiís Jeep, Robiís Invader and the Spidey at different times in different directions. Nobody knew which way to go, but after multiple phone calls, we finally get all 4 vehicles going in the convoy towards Amby valley. The final location is somewhere 12kms into the trail, off the main road. In reality there was only 10% chance that we could have found it in the night, but we didnít know it then. Somewhere half-way we get a call that rescuees have self-rescued themselves to avoid being rescued by the Bangalore bunch. That was really a blessing in disguise since we could have lost ourselves in the wilderness searching in the darkness for the damsels in distress.
So we all pulled over at an open place waiting for the core team to come back. And some guys (Vinay,Jaggu,Robi) decide it is the best place to align the lightforce lights on Robiís Invader.
While the rest stand around gawking. Meanwhile Giri is very sure that nothing would show in the photograph.
The EO core team finally reached us and introductions were made. I finally met Tejas, Allan, Devang for the first time. After some talk, we all left back for Hotel Ramakrishna for dinner. It was all vegetable fare, but the food was just fabulous. Although many guys were staying elsewhere, Ramkrishna was the watering hole for everybody, for breakfast and dinner. Therefore, we could meet pretty much everybody here.
25 June 2010 Ė First day of EXAMM
People showed up at Ramakrishna for breakfast at all kind of time from 7:30-9:30AM and then drove towards the rendezvous point. I was with Sreeni and thanks to yesterdayís adventure, he knew the way. As we were going towards Amby valley road, we notice a low bonnet Jeep slowing moving about, as if unsure of the direction. I told Sreeni to stop, so that I can tell them follow us.
I got out and ran to the Jeep and told the driver to follow us. As I was about to turn back, my eye wandered towards the rear seat of the Jeep. And I see a familiar face, a face I had seen in magazines and in some OTR photographs. It was none other the most famous Jeeper, ŗ la Jeep Whisperer, Uday Bhan Singh. After a quick introduction, we continued.
At first the roads were clear.
And then we saw the fog Lonavala is famous for.
The visibility dropped to less than 10 meters.
And then suddenly in the middle of the fog, we noticed all the offroad vehicles parked on an open area. We quickly turned and parked next to a Jeep. Or so we thoughtÖ
Holy cow, it was the Thar. Not the show-boat from auto-expo, but the grunt that meant business.
Positively cocky coming to an offroad event in a JK Elanzo highway treads.
It was strange to finally see the beast after 18 months of first hearing about it. I didnít know it was Thar until someone pointed at it.
After two years of long conversations over phone and forum, I finally met the man behind the Thar too.
And Letís also add Spike to the picture.
There was a quick ceremony and Sreeni is presented with participant certificate by Vinay in recognition of yesterdayís adventure.
The sticker/certificate distributions are happening as UBS looks about.
Milecruncher gets patient hearing from esteemed Jeepers
Meanwhile, this guy who rents out the natural kind of offroaders is quite disturbed. The parked Jeeps were obviously blocking his stall and he was begging every passerby to move the vehicles.
Dewangís SPOAed Steed
The Force Rhino?
And we are back on road, going towards Lake Pavna.
We finally reach the turn-off point and wait for everybody to join. We canít have some people ending up in Amby Valley afterall.
While I am looking forward to a very cloudy and drizzling day, Shahnawaz has other ideas.
Sunscreen to avoid rainsburns?
Still waiting for the marshals to give a green signal.
And then here we enterÖ
And the wait begins at the first obstacle. This is my cue to jump out of the vehicle.
As I reach there, I see Vinod negotiating the first challenge.
This is not an easy one. Vinod has to come back and try couple of times before he succeeds.
Some more vehicles get throughÖ
By now one thing was sure. This obstacle clearly favoured Jeeps. The SWB Jeeps went up with little drama, the Jeeps did lot more drama and Gypsy mostly failed to do it. I like this kind of obstacles that brings out the strengths and weaknesses of different vehicles.
And then the most anticipated moment, Thar doing the first obstacle, which was turning out to be a very tricky one.
To be continuedÖ
|5th July 2010, 10:38||#3|
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Join Date: Jan 2008
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AWESOME is an understatement. rating this thread 5 stars.
eagerly waiting to see more of the thar.
|5th July 2010, 11:03||#4|
Join Date: Apr 2006
Thanked: 5,140 Times
But on a serious note, this is what makes off-roading sooooooo much fun & crazy. Imagine all of us tired after 2 days of driving, are all pumped up & raring to go by just hearing that fellow offroaders are stuck and we need to rescue them.
But it was supeeeerrrr fun... the best possible way to spend the night before the 1st EXAMM day.
Last edited by khan_sultan : 5th July 2010 at 11:05.
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|5th July 2010, 11:50||#5|
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But, thanks a lot though! Three cars got stuck in slush. My hose pipe burst and i got stranded. Another classic was stranded and devang's gypsy trying to pull that classic got stuck but self extracted itself. Finally, what got us out was my sturdy old shovel after nearly an hour of digging by devang and misal.
Thanks to MP Sreenivasan to help me get my hose pipe fixed while the others were digging.
|5th July 2010, 21:43||#6|
As everybody waited in bated breath, Behram negotiates the Thar through this obviously very challenging reverse S curve. Now keep in mind that Allan’s Flight of the Hawkz fame blue Gypsy couldn’t make it through this one. However, before you could say Mahindra Thar, the Thar was through the challenge, making it look very easy. Yes, the driver was an expert and knew his machine too well, still you had to give some credit to the vehicle. The notorious IFS and lack of articulation didn’t really affect the Thar as any of us expected.
The smile on Cyrus’s face says it all.
After a moment of stunned silence, thunderous applause follows. So, this thing is for real. But how will it perform in the hands of a lesser driver?
Now, among the regular Jeepers out there, I am one of the least experienced, I am a Jeeper for only 2 years. But if I call myself a newbie, somebody is going to slap me, hard. So let me call myself relatively less experienced Jeeper. I have only driven SWB /MM5X0 with NA engines in off-road situations. Therefore, I driving a wider track, longer wheelbase and CRDe engine powered Thar should clearly expose what Thar can do when the driver isn’t an expert. So I asked Behram whether I can drive it in the same obstacle and he simply tossed me the key.
But I can’t exactly jump the long queue and take the Thar through, not when there are people waiting for their turn. I’ll have to bid my time.
Along came a Spidey
And just breezes through.
Meanwhile I decide to go to the other side in the Thar, so that I can closely watch and understand the obstacle.
Since everybody was waiting for the vehicles to get through this extremely technical challenge, there was a huge gap between the attempting the vehicle and the one behind it. That gave lot of scope for Thar to do some extra-curricular activities.
Behram at this point wanted to try climbing in Thar using only 2WD.
As Dewang is struggling through the challenge, Thar readies to go down the tiny valley and then climb, all in 2WD.
But it is unable to climb in 2Wd after mid-way, so Behram backs up and retries again in 4Wd and easily makes it through.
Checkout Milecruncher’s video on the same:
Meanwhile I missed to see whether Dewang made it through the obstacle. And I also had to guard the Thar from being hijacked while I was waiting for my turn. Jaggu took it for a spin I was waiting, and then Arka, and then Vinod, everybody wanted to take Thar into the challenge. I had to shoo them all away.
After that I take the Thar back again and go across the gutter while Allan was trying his luck.
One more Milecruncher video:
The Gypsies that couldn’t make it were asked to take the straight path and avoided the reverse S curve. Repeated attempts were wasting precious time and making the long queue feel even longer. After a while some Gypies didn’t even give a single try since the result was obvious. So they went up straight.
Meanwhile we also saw how SWB Jeeps can simply yawn through the challenge.
So what’s deal here? What I understood was that the terrain here demands articulation. If you don’t have articulation, you will be on 3 wheels. In a vehicle with open differential, 3 wheel means you are effectively in 2WD. Due to the terrain, longer vehicles (MM540, Gypsy) needed more articulation, while SWB could manage with less. As a result SWB was not affected much. Since MM5X0 has much better articulation and lot more low end torque, they could crawl out of the situation even on one axle power (effectively 2WD). But Gypsy with relatively lesser articulation had to suffer the 3 wheel situation lot longer than MM5X0 jeeps. And they have lot less low end torque or crawl power. So they were not able to pull themselves out. I saw two Gypsies successfully pass through this challenge using different techniques. One was Spidey, which was obviously helped by additional articulation thanks to SPOA and it would retain 4WD even at 3-wheel situation thanks to the lockers. Other one was a blue Gypsy that came charging at full momentum and flew out of the gutter in style.
Check out the Gypsy in 3-wheel or effective 2WD mode
Now see how a SWB stays in 4WD thanks to articulation.
As Allan finally gave up and went up straight, it was the time for the next vehicle in line. But that driver was missing in action, it stood there driverless. So that was my cue and I seized my chance. And Cyrus Dhabhar offered to shoot my action in my camera, thanks a lot Cyrus, you clicked some awesome action shots which I can now use to illustrate my point. Now keep in mind that Thar is wider & longer than both MM5X0 and Gypsy, but has an articulation somewhere in between those two.
I enter the gutter in an easy manner
I even managed turn in time without going into 3-wheel, so far good
Then it happens, as I start climbing, I press accelerator like I am in a normal Jeep. The Thar just takes off.
This 3-wheel circus didn’t happen due to terrain, I basically went over the wall thanks to the raw power that got unleashed. It was like riding a tiger, it just went off, woosh…
So I back up for the second attempt and then third attempt. Now Behram himself was spotting for me.
I was feeling a little stupid at this point. I didn’t want to be the guy who got the Thar stuck where it had passed easily little earlier. But I also realized I have to be very respectful of the power it can unleash. So, gotta go easy on the throttle, lot easy.
As I go up this time, you can see Thar too on 3 wheels.
So Thar is on 2WD, powered only by front wheels. On a Gypsy it would be a stalemate.
But on a Thar…
I was followed by the Hyderabadi Toyota FJ, which too cleared it easily.
Now Vinay is waiting for his turn with Thar with a wicked grin. Behram is blessing them both with his left hand.
Meanwhile the terrain has been dug up so much, the Arka’s trusty steed is having trouble clearing it. BTW, this was the third round for this Jeep, it had cleared this obstacle twice before, quite easily, but now the terrain has changed.
I always have a soft corner for this Jeep, for it is in this Jeep I learnt offroading back in 2007, when it was mostly stock, just rear LSD I think.
Something was not right, it was not able to pull itself out, so Mahindra team winched it out.
Now Sreeni looked at this scene with interest. He has been looking to get stuck and he figured this was a good chance as any. No, he doesn’t belong to the school of thought that promotes getting stuck. He has been testing the Hydraulic Winch for Lambda. So he needs to get stuck in order to test.
The Mahindra team was asked to provide him with an anchor for self-winching, I was asked to take photographs. Everybody was ready now…
And he comes out quite easily.
Obviously Sreeni is disappointed. I tell him there is always next time, we have 2.5 more days of offroading, I am sure there will be lot more opportunities to get stuck. He humbly accepts the logic and we continue, but this time I am in the Thar, as passenger.
To be continued…
Last edited by Samurai : 6th July 2010 at 11:13.
|6th July 2010, 01:11||#7|
Senior - BHPian
Join Date: Feb 2006
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Man I am glued to this, bring it on.. No better way to narrate those 3 days to people who couldn't make it.
I would have walked to the hotel from that point instead of getting rescued by you guys, I am sure you and siddhu would have made us quit offroad.
It was mind blowing experince. After booking the bunglow for you guys we thought we will go for a reccee, it was pouring like crazy one by one all 3 got stuck. Sreeni sir took balcony seat and enjoyed the view. Somwhow I managed to get monstar out, then one hour of digging session to get misals classic out and another 30 mins to get tejas out. Finally on the way back met banglore boys, man you all were so disappointed that you guys couldn't rescue us. Lol
Went to hotel, 2-3 am arka and boys came.
4am khan came to our room we were laminating I'd cards, askesd khan why aren't you sleeping?? Khan - that bugger is snoring. Lol
After this I had no clue when I went to sleep..and the day before examm got over
|6th July 2010, 09:20||#8|
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|6th July 2010, 09:54||#9|
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we wont mind the wait at all if its for such amazing pics. looks like the Thar has completely floored you. well, i guess it came with the 2.6 CRDe engine & not the 2.2 mHawk right?
|6th July 2010, 10:04||#10|
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Join Date: Nov 2004
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Nice to see your passenger's report, I guess in the thick of action you forgot to observe, hence mention, that My Trusty Steed was driven up the the first Obstacle by 3 different drivers.
IIRC, I was the first one up without much of a wheel-spin, so was Bala, then it was followed by Lateef, he was unable to driver her out, and subsequently winched out by the M&M Team.
Are you deliberately trying to underplay my JEEP's performance, reliability and ruggedness.
|6th July 2010, 10:19||#11|
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|6th July 2010, 10:23||#12|
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So if an "underpowered" thar can do this, i can only imagine what a thar with the mHawk engine can do!
|6th July 2010, 11:12||#13|
|6th July 2010, 15:08||#15|
Join Date: Jun 2007
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It was not the terrain that caused the jeep to get stuck. The third driver got her into such an angle, there was no space to get momentum or reverse.
If after winching we had brought her around, she would have breezed through.
I would say it was just driver fault.