Manvar is essentially no mans land located between Pokaran and Jodhpur in Rajasthan. If I were to give you a brief about this place, it would be rather simple-nothing but sand for miles on end and a few exotic tents to stay in if you wish to enjoy the tranquil location. Having said that, Manvar was going to be far from tranquil for us as we were here to unleash a solid diesel powered off-roading jamboree, courtesy the 100th Mahindra Great Escape.
With over 65 vehicles, comprising mainly of Mahindra Scorpios and Thars with a few Boleros thrown in for good measure the convoy was a definite sight to see and while the nearby villagers did get a nice wake up call watching this convoy snake through the desert, the story was entirely different for the participants who got to pit their wits and their machine against nature and truly test their capability.
My steed of choice was the Mahindra Thar, a vehicle that I have personally grown to respect over numerous adventures, and here too I knew it had the perfect pedigree to see me sail through the course. With the right vehicle, it is equally important to take the right measures and while negotiating a sandy route on four wheels can be a tricky affair, it is best to be prepared.
The first rule to driving on sand is to run deflated tyres. Lower your tyre pressure to approximately half the stipulated pressure and your vehicle is set. The rest depends solely on the driver and the ability to gauge a challenge and then set up the vehicle accordingly. Since it had rained earlier, the sand was slightly packed so the initial set of vehicles could negotiate the climbs in 4x4 high mode and in third gear.
As the sand loosened, the last vehicles had to switch to 4x4 low and then attempt the climb. Steep descents are a whole different ball game but the general rule of thumb would be to switch to the low ratio, stick the vehicle in first gear, keep the wheels straight, release the clutch, release the brake and the vehicle will crawl down the slope on its own. It takes a bit of faith to do that, but it works like a charm! Being able to judge the right gear is also a challenge and speaking for the Thar, it was able to do the course predominantly in third. Apart from that, it’s important to be gentle and avoid any harsh maneuvers, sudden acceleration or harsh braking. Be smooth and go with the flow. It doesn’t sound like much, but it takes a lot of practice to get this right.
Having been out on the dunes a number of times before, I was rather prepared for the course and if memory serves me correctly, this is the first Great Escape that I haven’t been bogged down on! The course itself was a heady mix of inclines and descents and provided a great deal of fun behind the wheel. If that wasn’t enough, Mahindra Adventure tossed in a neat show at the halfway mark where the specially prepped Mahindra Rally vehicles, namely the XUV500 and the Rally Thar, put on a display of their capabilities and that was a sure sight to see (Now I got to figure out how to get my hands on that XUV500 for a drive!).
On the whole, the Great Escape is exactly what it’s been designed to be; the perfect escape from the city to enjoy a day out tackling the elements in a rugged 4x4. It's the test of man and machine as well as the camaraderie amongst contestants that truly makes this an enjoyable event that one wants to return to year after year.
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