78 vehicles. A scenic trail along winding tea estates and forests.
And plenty of challenges along the way.
Rediff.com's Rajesh Karkera relives his exciting off-road trip to Sakleshpur.
Photographs and video: Rajesh Karkera
Is off-roading for everyone who drives a car?
Is it a sport?
How I wish it was an official sport in India! And I am not the only one wishing so, so do the many others who come to these off-road adventures from far and wide.
The Mahindra Adventure Sakleshpur Great Escape -- a mix of a scenic off-road trail drive open to all those who own a Mahindra vehicle, and a trophy competition for professionals only -- is one such event to which passionate drivers and off-roaders flock to.
This was my first off-road competition outside of the M&M (Mahindra and Mahindra) Adventure off-road training academy. And by God, it is one hell of an experience!
The two-day event was held in Sakleshpur, in the pristine 8,000 acres of Kadamanne tea estates -- a five hour drive from Bengaluru -- which also happens to be one of the largest properties Mahindra owns.
On a normal day, no one is allowed to drive through these scenic roads. Let alone the trails where there are no roads!
The trail takes you through the tea estate and ends in the forests where there are no roads.
Here is how it started that morning.
After a sumptuous breakfast, the trail is flagged off at the rendezvous point. There were 78 vehicles participating.
The convoy rides through winding tea estates. As we chugged through the 23 km drive, we were greeted by the friendly faces of the local tea workers.
The Mahindra Thars passed through hills of lemongrass.
The fragrance of which made us forget the heat and missing the rains!
There were many first-time women participants in this trail. They were all given a crash course in 4x4 driving by the Mahindra Adventure team.
We were allowed to stop by and admire the nature around us. I mean, where else can you park in the middle of an unending patch of lemongrass!
Some indulged in acrobatics of a different kind :) The stuff we do for selfies and photos!
Entering the forest was not easy.
The stubborn branches had to be pushed away manually. There was always the risk of breaking your windscreen.
The tree cutting wires fixed on some of the Thars came in handy here. And for others, the marshals from Mahindra Adventure and the Indian Motor Sports Club (IMSC) were always around to help.
Driving through slush had its own hurdles. Each vehicle was given three attempts to try their way out.
When the media team's Bolero struggled, Mahindra's marshals stepped up.
Meanwhile, this Mahindra Thar CRDE effortlessly cruised through the mushy ground
For some of us, the heat was too much to bear.
But that didn't stop us from clicking, no.
The river crossing demanded a lot of power and push. Some villagers who'd become our audience didn't mind being on the other side of the adventure.
Emerging from the river without getting stuck had its own perks!
All 78 vehicles that participated in the drive and completed it were declared winners.
The IMSC and the Mahindra Adventure team also made sure that no one was hurt.
Sadly, the media team had ruptured the Bolero's fuel tank when it hit a huge stone in the middle of a slush pond.
As our fuel leaked drop by drop, our eyes were fixed on the fuel gauge. We were glad to finish the trail without having to be towed.
Kudos to the Mahindra Adventure and IMSC team for pushing us -- figuratively, then.