WildZests: October 2013

Friday, October 4, 2013

The Mahindra Great Escapes - 2013


So I realized that it’s been a couple of months since the last update and a lot has happened since then. Now I didn’t really get time to pen down trip reports from the Mahindra Great Escape events, but it’s better to get it documented rather than forgetting it altogether. This post is going to be more of a catch up rather than a detailed photographic update and most of the pictures will be with my phone camera or the GoPro since I don’t take my SLRs on these trips. Some of the pictures are from the Mahindra Adventure FB page and I’ll give due credit for those.

June 23, 2013: Kottayam Great Escape

I had plans to attend as many OTR events as possible in this year and with the advent of monsoons, there were quite a few Mahindra Great Escape events announced. The first one was scheduled around the end of June at Vagamon near Thekkady in Kerala even though it was called the Kottayam Great Escape. One of my jeep buddies was eager to join me for this event and we set off early morning on Saturday so that we reach Thekkady by lunch time. We were supposed to finish the event by lunch time on Sunday and head back home to reach late night.

The day had begun with a mis-adventure of a broken rear bumper which just crashed down on the road while we were happily cruising at triple digit speeds. Luckily nobody was behind us and there was no collateral damage. It would have been quite dangerous if the bumper door with the tire and hi-lift jack mounted on it had fallen in front of a trailing car. We thanked the heavens and carried on after recovering all the broken parts.


The monsoon was at its best in Kerala and we had really high hopes from the event scheduled for the next day. However, fate had something else in mind that day. The rains had played havoc through the past 2-3 days and the trail had become increasingly difficult from what the organizers had originally planned. The convoy started almost a couple of hours late and then got stuck with the first obstacle which was a deep water crossing. Of the 30+ jeeps participating in the competitive event, I was told that only the first 3-4 jeeps managed to cross it. Later the stream kept getting tougher as the participants spun tires haplessly and dug the ground deeper with each attempt before getting winched out. We had 25+ jeeps ahead of us and by the time we got to the obstacle, the marshals were insisting that everyone gets winched out directly instead of putting up a battle. It was already 5PM by the time we crossed the stream and the day ended shortly after the last jeep was pulled out the water. The whole excitement of the event had gone down the drains, literally!


What started out as a very promising event with a beautiful location and superb weather turned out to be flop. To add salt to the injury, there were winners announced on some mysterious basis which angered the participants even more since nobody really had a fair chance of being evaluated for their skills in that water obstacle. We were dejected with the whole experience and more so because our plans to drive back to Bangalore were washed away by the fact that it was 8PM by the time we reached back to have lunch. There was no way we could be driving back 600kms in the night after such a frustrating day, so we just went back to our room and got the much needed rest. The next day we got up relaxed and drove back to Bangalore to reach home by evening for dinner.

July 6, 2013: Lonavala Great Escape

Couple of weeks after the Kottayam event was the Lonavala Great Escape. The brakes had gotten some gravel during the OTR and I dropped it at the service center to have all the brakes checked for wear and tear and get them cleaned thoroughly as well. With the brakes serviced, the jeep was ready to see some more action!
Now, we’ve done a lot of monsoon trips on the bike to Lonavala while we used to be in Mumbai, but it was going to be the first one in the jeep and that too for an off-road event. The event was going to be held over the weekend but somehow it wasn’t making enough sense for me to drive 1000kms one way for a half day event on Saturday and then drive back home on Sunday. Then came a brilliant plan where all three of us can reach Mumbai on the previous weekend and work from there for the week. Being the US Independence week, business was going to be lighter than usual for me at least but it was a busy week for Gozu. It gave us some opportunity at least to catch up with family in between of regular work schedules even though it was going to be a hectic trip overall. We made arrangements at work and the plan was finalized!


The week went pretty quick and soon I was on the way to Lonavala with my brother as my navigator. This was going to be his first off-road experience and I was hoping that this event doesn’t turn out to be a dud like the last one. I must admit that it was a much better planned event and even though they called off one of the three obstacles for the day, we weren’t disappointed by what we experienced. It wasn’t a very tough trail but it did have some elements of surprise to keep us amused. At the end of the day, my brother was happy with how the day had progressed and I was satisfied too.

The trail involved some tricky slippery slopes where the jeep just skid down without any engine input.

Image Courtesy: Mahindra Adventure

The first obstacle was a stream crossing which was quite easy since the water level wasn’t deep at all. Besides the river bed was mainly stones and there was no risk of getting stuck in mud.

Image Courtesy: Mahindra Adventure

The second obstacle was a little more technical and involved some careful driving to avoid hitting the underbody and damaging the jeep. Again, this was also over some rocks and hence there wasn’t going to be any drama in the slush. We completed both the obstacles fairly easy and were happy with the jeep’s performance overall.

The drive back to Bangalore was tiring because of the lower average speeds we were doing and the bumpy ride at higher speeds even on the highway. This was the longest journey we had completed with the jeep and will remain that way for quite some time to come.

August 7, 2013: Mahindra’s Front Wheel Escapes

Post the Lonavala event, the jeep remained parked in the basement without any action for almost a month. I had to drop it for scheduled service but the timing wasn’t really working out. Finally, it was August first week where I realized that I shouldn’t delay the service any further since there were a couple of events coming up later that month. Called up the service center manager and informed him that I’ll be coming to drop the jeep for the 10k service. The odo was a little over 9k but it was okay if they did the 10k service a little earlier given that the jeep had accumulated enough mud from the past two OTRs.

The jeep started behaving a bit nervous as I drove it to the service center. I slowed down thinking it could be all the mud from the OTR which may have hardened by now and increasing the resistance. But it wasn’t the mud after all. About a KM short from the service center, the jeep came to a complete halt. I got down to inspect what was the issue and was shocked to see this…


The front left wheel had broken off the hub completely and there was no way the jeep could be driven any further. The service center guys sent their breakdown assistance vehicle which was a Scorpio but they couldn’t tow us because of the broken wheel. Finally a towing van was called and he lifted the front wheels and rolled the jeep directly to the service bay.

What followed this event was an agonizing wait for parts to arrive. The good part was that Mahindra agreed to cover the repairs under warranty, however the delay in procuring the parts was just intolerable and I ended up missing the Goa Great Escape scheduled on Aug 25th. I wasn’t even sure if the jeep was going to be ready for the next week’s Sakleshpur Great Escape. The service manager was hopeful that the parts should arrive earlier that week and he’d be able to deliver the jeep on time. On Wednesday that week, he broke the bad news that one of the parts was still awaited and there was no way I could get the jeep back ready for the Sakleshpur event. Not losing hope, I reached out to some of the higher ups in Mahindra and the next day morning was greeted by a phone call from the Area Manager that the part will arrive by that evening. The Service Center Manager was equally determined to start the assembly process as soon as the part arrives and get the jeep ready by Friday evening. I was supposed to leave on Saturday morning for the event.

Friday evening I got a call from the Service Manager informing that the jeep was ready and I can come and collect it. Given the last minute rush of getting all the work completed, they hadn’t finished the billing process and I was told to settle the bill next week once I’m back.

Aug 31, 2013: Sakleshpur Great Escape

I was glad that the jeep got fixed right on time for the Sakleshpur event. There were only good things that I had heard about this event and didn’t want to miss it. I was accompanied by a very close friend Ramesh who was on his maiden adventure trip. We started early morning towards Sakleshpur in order to reach by lunch time and explore the place a bit before the event starts on the next day.

The drive was pretty uneventful and once at Sakleshpur we drove up to the venue to make sure we knew the road we have to take the next day morning. The event was planned at the Kadamane Estate which spans over 10000 acres with a large part of it remaining as natural forest. Once at the Sakleshpur town we found this awesome hotel Gandharva that served awesome non-veg food and booked a room right upstairs at the lodge. The day was pretty much at leisure and we did a bit of walking around the town in the evening.


Next day, we reached the venue on time to be the second jeep for registration. The day was pretty relaxed given that it was only going to be a competition stage. The fun drives had concluded on the previous day and even the organizing team was at ease since it was only 25 jeeps to manage. The day proceeded pretty much on time and we had four well thought of challenges to complete for the day. This was definitely the most well executed event of all and we were quite happy with it.

The first obstacle was a steep rightward fall followed by some tricky slush patch and then a small stream crossing. The fun was when the jeep tilted and one of the wheels went up in the air.

Image Courtesy: Mahindra Adventure

Image Courtesy: Mahindra Adventure

The next one was more of a time based driving skill test with the competitors having to finish fastest through a zig-zag route amidst some tall grasses – in the reverse gear. The lack of rains had made the ground quite hard and it wasn’t as difficult. Had it rained, it would have been a totally messed up track for most of us. The participants were judged on the time and whether or not they struck down the flags along the track.

Image Courtesy: Mahindra Adventure

The third obstacle was more of an unknown since it involved driving through an unmarked trail which had a series of climbs and drops. It needed a fair amount of risk taking and keeping your cool as the jeep crawled down the steep slopes with amazing ease.

Image Courtesy: Mahindra Adventure

Image Courtesy: Mahindra Adventure

The last one was more of a fun thing than anything else, but this was also the one that nobody could clear except for one jeep. It was a small slushy patch that had to be crossed, but it was just not possible to do it since the open differentials let the tires spin wildly without any positive movement. A lot of jeepers made use of this opportunity to give their steeds a nice mud bath before getting winched out.

Image Courtesy: Mahindra Adventure

We reached the end point just in time for some nice lunch which was followed by the announcement of winners for the day. All in all, this was a very well organized event and it’ll probably serve as a benchmark for similar events in the future. The drive back was pretty good and we received a roaring welcome by the torrential rains which had hit the garden city that night.

Well, that's all for now, but I promise some more updates pretty soon from the new acquisition and some trips that are lined up.