Words by Afzal Rawuther
I woke up and made my way out of my cottage to see the clouds swirling down to almost within touching distance, the green of the tea estate combining with the grey of the clouds to make it a picture-perfect moment and we couldn’t help but laze around for as long as we could. But we had to go. There was something waiting for us down the meandering roads that led to the bottom of the slopes. So, we reluctantly made our way down to the 98 off-road enthusiasts waiting for the Mahindra Great Escape Sakleshpur 2017 to begin.
The Mahindra Great Escape Sakleshpur 2017 bore witness to the biggest turnout that any Mahindra Adventure Event has ever achieved. And understandably so, it was an event of epic proportions. The off-road trail drive in itself was an incredibly long and undulating twenty kilometers of one of the most treacherous, tricky terrain that we at evo India have come across on an off road trail drive in India.
The event kick started at around 10am with the pilot car leading the way. It was followed by us in the media car – A Thar. The first few kilometers were relatively devoid of drama. The trail, that had 86 participants (there were twelve that were competing for the trophy) slowly crawled in a line, taking in the beauty of the picturesque Kadamane Tea Estate -270 odd kilometers from Bengaluru -and none could believe their eyes.
Then the challenging part of the trail started – sections full of dirt and slush, fighting hard for traction, everyone slipped and slided around. It was difficult but not overwhelmingly so, even for drivers going off-roading for the first time. From that point onwards, it one tricky corner after another and the going got slower and slower and incredibly, a lot more fun. There were moments where, even the most seasoned drivers had their hearts in their mouths. A lot of times we‘d get stuck in the mud, or just wouldn’t find any traction to make the corner. But the ever helpful marshals from the IMSC (Indian Motor Sports Club) would help and guide the SUVs out and on to the right path.
As we made our way through the meandering woods, we were greeted by an exquisite range of flora ranging from tea fields to lemon grass plateaus to dense forests and we didn’t mind getting lost in any of them. Inevitably, we’d find ourselves in the middle of nowhere, waiting for the trail to restart after someone got stuck, but the wait wasn’t too bad as we had either something beautiful to look at or something fragrant whiffing by us –the lemon grass fields had this intoxicating sweet smell that felt relaxing, even in the midst of the almost 8 hour long trail. We found ourselves lost in the moment and at one with our thoughts –something we could never dream of in the hustle and bustle of our cities.
By the time it started getting dark, we were done with the tricky bits of the trail drive and the beautiful part of the drive beckoned us. We traversed our way through the plateau region and circuitously made our way back to the flag-off point. We encountered numerous streams, mud pits, tight, slippery corners and still somehow managed to come out at the end of it unscathed and with a grin on our faces that would put most clowns to shame. It felt more like a vacation than a grueling off-road drive- the perfect way to unwind and relax.
At the staging area after the event, the awards ceremony kicked off for the trophy participants. It was a concurrent event, victory in which ensured qualification for the National finals in Igatpuri. Jose J Cheeramkuzhy won first place and Gagan Karumbaiah finished second in the stock category. In the modified category, 1st place was Ajith Kumar followed by Sahad N K & Nanaiah. In the ladies category, Sapna Gurkar came first.
The hungry participants from all over the country soon dug into their late lunch and in a while bid farewell to the Kadamane Tea Estate, vowing to come back again soon.
As everyone else made their way back home, we stayed back for the night, unable to resist the beautiful views that morning brought along with it. We spent the better part of three days without cell phone coverage and we were all the more happy for it; it made us admire and eventually fall in love with Nature and its creations. At the end of it, we just couldn’t be too glad that we came.