The mist clears, we’ve just entered the trail and already we’ve got problems. The Scorpio ahead of us has gotten stuck. Again so we’ve got a bit of a wait while it’s winched from its muddy grave. Around us are some very impatient people – one man slid his Thar into a tree tyring to do an impromptu donut, another is trying to cut his own path through thick underbrush past the bogged vehicle, and I’m chatting with a man called Stigger who claims his Mahindra Classic has never gotten stuck in the 21 Great escapes he’s taken part in. It’s pure entertainment and it’s exactly why I’m here.
Welcome to the second Mahindra Great Escape of 2012. This time it is at Lonavala and an unbelievable 135 Mahindras have turned up for some mud-slinging. As always, there’s the easy course for the 2WD Family picnic, a tougher 4WD course for serious Jeepers and an off-road trophy course for the truly muddied. The off-road trophy is something Mahindra Adventures (the organisers of the Great Escape) is running this year. Two winners are picked from each of this year’s seven Great escapes and the chosen 14 meet in December at the final face-off in Lonavala. The winner gets a brand new Mahindra Thar.
It is why there are all kinds of Mahindras here – everything from 2WD Boleros and Scorpios to Scorpio-engined ex-MM550’s and something that looks like a cross between an FJ Cruiser and a Hummer. The people here are even more varied – long beards. TV soap stars. Clean-shaven family types, doctors, slush-junkies and a lot of women participant as well. They all have one thing on their minds – paint their Mahindras in the deepest shade of mud possible. It’s alright if they get some stuck in their teeth too.
This year’s chosen path is through the ATV trails at 19 Degree North, an adventure base in Lonavala. The trails are narrow and the rain has made it extremely slippery. Other redeeming features includes a river crossing, a mud pit, a steep, rock-strewn descent and a narrow boulder trail.
Of course, not everyone feels like following the course – a big yellow Mahindra drives straight into the river, climbs up the other bank, slides back down and joins the convoy again, its occupants laughing their heads off. There’s a lurid green 1.8-litre Isuze-petrol-powered Mahindra bellowing somewhere in the foliage near us, and a few enthusiasts are arguing the finer points of getting a red Thar unstuck. A ballet this certainly isn’t.
So, plenty of wheel spin, flying mud and knocked differentials later, we’re at the mud pit.
It’s an open field with, you guessed it, a mud pit on one side. It’s for the off-road trophy participants only, so everyone parks their Mahindras by the side, grabs refreshments and settles down on the grass to watch the fun. The atmosphere is a bit like an open air concert – green landscape, dark clouds and crisp mountain, air. There are 11 contestants, and by the time the third vehicle is through, it’s more of a sink-hole than a pit. The recovery team is working overtime, the crowd cheers, chocolate brown mud flies and one more Mahindra is rescued from the depths. And when it’s all over, everyone heads back to the resort. Except that almost everyone gets lost on the trail. So, for the next hour, the landscape is full of Mahindra following lost Mahindra. Some get stuck, some have to backtrack and everyone seems to be enjoying the unexpected chaos. It’s what every Great Escapee learns – expect the unexpected, getting stuck is an occupational hazard, conquering that impossible-looking slope is an adrenalin hit like no other. As for me, I can’t think of a better way to spend a Saturday.
Source: Autocar August 2012