The ultimate terrain to go off-roading
Dambuk. A place so isolated getting there is an adventure in itself. Situated in the Lower Dibang Valley, the distance from Guwahati airport is 650 odd kilometers but can easily take more than 19 hours owing to the grueling terrain, river crossings and non-existent tarmac in many places. But luckily for us, we could skip all this as easily as skipping an advertisement on YouTube, what with a helicopter waiting to fly us over the spectacular (from the air!) landscape in to Dambuk.
“For six months, the area becomes almost inaccessible. But we decided to turn that into a good thing and host such an event,” said Lhakpa Tsering
Dambuk lies dormant for the most part of the year but when the JK Tyre Orange 4×4 Fury, running simultaneously with the Orange Festival of Adventure & Music (OFAM) rocks into town, it makes sure all wavelengths of the sound spectrum are exercised. From the grunting of offroad vehicles stuck halfway between the lengths of the river to the sweet rock music ringing in your ears from the artist stage, the event made sure that boredom was contained miles away.
The area which is accessible for only six months of the year
The dense rain forest that rings Dambuk and the many tributaries of the iconic Brahmaputra river make the region almost inaccessible during the monsoon. So much so, the locals use elephants for transport during that time. “For six months, the area becomes almost inaccessible. But we decided to turn that into a good thing and host such an event,” said Lhakpa Tsering, president of Motor Sports Club of Arunachal.
“when you visit this part of India you realise that it’s like the creator himself handbuilt this vast piece of land rendering an off-road enthusiasts’ wet dream.”
Now, motorsport isn’t the first thing that pops into mind when the North-East is mentioned, is it? But when you visit this part of India you realise that it’s like the creator himself handbuilt this vast piece of land rendering an off-road enthusiasts’ wet dream. From the chilly rivers to the roads snaking through the hills and to no roads at all, there’s miles of uncharted territory and unexplored terrain in this wonderland.
I chatted with Aditya Mein and Ujjal Namshom, members of the Manabhum Off-Road Club of Arunachal (MOCA), who gave me an insight into the off-roading scene in the North-East. These local lads have been braving this spectacular yet inhospitable terrain for as long as they can remember. They started off by exploring trails and found places where their vehicles wouldn’t reach. That’s how they started modifying them. The boys were never into racing but Lhakpa pushed the local lads into the competitive sport.
The best part is that all the members of MOCA are cousins so it’s all brotherly competition between them. They swear by the Maruti Suzuki Gypsy and have gone through crazy lengths to make it race-ready. Since the parts required for modifications aren’t easily accessible they have to source them from far away places and modifying a vehicle to insane-specs can cost upwards of 25 lakh rupees. “The scene is growing significantly, all thanks to Lhakpa, Abu Tayeng, and of course JK Tyre. If they wouldn’t be here, we wouldn’t be here,” says a grateful Aditya.
The terrain led to the dense forest of Arunachal Pradesh
This was the fourth edition of the Orange Festival of Adventure & Music and the flag off for the JK Tyre Orange 4×4 Fury was the highlight of day one. Also on show was a breathtaking stunt performance by Gaurav Khatri on his dirt bike. Held over a span of three days from December 15- 17, the event took participants into the dense rain forests of Arunachal Pradesh and top clubs from across the country were brought in to compete in this punishing event.
Gerrari Offroaders were the hot favourites, having won the first edition of the 4×4 Fury in 2015. Kabir Waraich, winner of the last Ultimate Desert Challenge and Gurmeet Virdi, overall winner in the Force Gurkha RFC India 2017, made for a menacing pair. The local team, MOCA, led by Tseng Tsing Mein, Sunima Mein, Meoseng Namshoom, were all set to give their best, after coming in third last year. “They have been working on their vehicles and their skills all through the year and have emerged as a force to reckon with,” said Sanjay Sharma, head of JK Motorsport. The KTM JEEPERS from Kottayam, with veteran off-roader Sam Kurien at the helm, were present as well, arriving in Dambuk after a wild 4,000km drive. And others too.
An interesting combination of adventure and music
An interesting set of stages – Show Man, Bizari by the Swamp, Dance of the Sisari, Dibang Fury, Horn of Zaktum, Dambuk Fury and Orange Fury – had been laid out for the teams, with one tougher than the other. But hard core off-roaders weren’t the only ones having fun. For us less adventurous people, there were other activities like river rafting, dirt biking, ATV rides in the forest and zip-lining too. Local tribal sports like archery and darts, fishing or cycling around the beautiful and serene valley was also on the menu, just like orange plucking (the best oranges in India come from these parts, hence the Orange Festival) and other forest food.
“A massive line up of world-known and talented artists made sure that the crowds never stopped tapping their feet to the beat.”
Adventure wasn’t the only piece of the pie here. After all, it’s called the Orange Festival of Adventure and Music. And when they say music, they make sure it’s not just for namesake. A massive line up of world-known and talented artists made sure that the crowds never stopped tapping their feet to the beat. Headlining the OFAM 2017 was the legendary Richie Kotzen who played in iconic bands like Poison, Mr Big and Winery Dogs in a prolific career. This truly results in a unique festival which amalgamates music along with hardcore adventure, and is the first of its kind in India.
There is something you need to know though. I hadn’t been to anything like this ever before and the 4×4 Fury had me running around frantically to get a good look at the stages. The crowd-roaring, engine-growling, oil sump-breaking action did a number on my adrenal glands and had me feeling like a sugar high kid in a candy store.
Gerrari offroaders – The winners
Gerrari Offroaders proved to be the most accomplished team, clinching the coveted title and the winners’ purse of `2.5 lakh. Kabir Waraich and Gurmeet Singh proved to be in a different league, excelling on each of the three days to amass 514.5 points to win the title. The Association of Off-roaders from Nagaland (AON) mustered 398.5 points to take second place while the home team MOCA grabbed the third position to round off an amazing show for the North-Eastern teams.
And with that, the JK Tyre Orange 4×4 Fury came to an end, marking also the end of our stay in this place we had never heard of before, but yet somehow etched itself onto our hearts. But the thing is, there’s nothing especially extraordinary about Dambuk. Just grueling terrain, river crossings and non-existent tarmac. And that’s exactly where the beauty of Dambuk lies. In its rugged isolation.
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