2017: Mahindra Great Escape, GOA
2018: Mahindra Great Escape, Wayanad
2019: Mahindra Great Escape, Sakleshpur
After participating in 3 of the countries biggest off-road experiences, my quench for adventure wasn’t over. I wanted to reclaim my life. But, not exactly in terms of driving the Mahindra Thar in the lush green jungle trails or slush, but, this time an experience very unique to itself. Something, that I had never imagined in my wildest dreams. Driving my all-time favourite Mahindra Scorpio in the most pristine sand dunes of Jaisalmer. Oh wait did I mention driving at night?
I reached the Bangalore international Airport at 3:30 am for a 5:20 am Spice jet flight to Mumbai. I was greeted by the front desk with a big smile around their face. Time flew and we were in Mumbai by 8:30 dot, of course the T2. Before I could settle-in I was reminded of the fact that I had to travel to the Blue city – Jodhpur as it was time for Adventure.
Another connecting Spice Jet took us to Jodhpur where we weren’t greeted by front-desk smiles at the Airport this time but ballistic missiles hugging the fuselage of Sukhoi 30-mki waiting to be fired off to the enemy targets just miles away.
After the Hangover of black coffee of Spice Jet, it was time to hop into the seat of Scorpio which was waiting for us just outside the exit of the Jodhpur airport. I opened the rear door of the Scorpio and I could see 2 dudes with expensive sunglasses which doubled up as sunscreen to do the job of controlling all the Harshest ultraviolet rays entering the Scorpio. I smashed the door and walked into the front co-driver’s seat. Mercury was my new best friend.
After half an hour into the drive which was the straightest road I have ever been to in my Life, I gently asked the Driver to swap seats and he was more than happy to do so. Then, it was time for me to tap the gas and get as far away as possible from the Jodhpur Airport because Jaisalmer wasn’t close either at 200km which took just over 5 hours.
Trust me, the roads were Arrow-straight.
Before we reached the final destination I was completely stunned by the sand dunes on either side of the roads that lead us to our camp. We reached the camp just before dusk, it was a picture worth thousand words.
Artillery for the day: 10 Scorpios and a Thar.
Before we unpacked, we were asked to assemble for the briefing. Manish Saresar, the lead from Mahindra Adventure took us through the entire vocals for a good 30 minute and helped us with strategic points, just like a briefing at War takes place to hit the enemy target. We were assigned car numbers and refreshments were stocked up as we had absolutely no living being in the Desert apart from us, forget buffet-restaurants.
The course structure was as follows:
- Practice session at night in the Dunes + Mild Dune Bashing
- Dune bashing in the morning with a higher difficulty level
As Me and Bilal (Carwale) started driving in the convoy of Mahindra’s a sense of nervousness engulfed us as we were driving down to the dunes which are not accessible by civilians without prior permission. The road was straight for about 25 km before we took a diversion in no man’s land and drive through the wildest flora and fauna of the drought-prone desert. Before that, our tyre pressures were lowered all the way down to 16 psi to ensure wider contact of the tires with the sand thus enabling better traction and grip. The sand dunes welcomed us with a massive slope, I was surprised to see none of the underbellies being scraped, thanks to the massive ground clearance.
Things started to get very tricky as we traversed deeper into the sand dunes. The particles were loose and this accompanied with the slightly heavy Scorpios meant the trouble was awaiting us. Just as the convoy started to get stuck, the marshall communicated over the walkie talkie that we should switch to 4L to gain the maximum traction and keep the momentum going in the sand. From what i learnt in my experience in dune bashing, momentum holds the highest order of importance. It is important to note that momentum does not necessarily mean accelerating hard on the gas it would make the matters very worse, the tires would spin at a very high speed, inturn creating a borewell for us. Yes, we did experience this. The biggest question however arises is the presence of light during off-roading at night. You guessed it right, the only source of illumination apart from the half moon and twinkling stars were the halogens of the Mahindra army. It was nothing short of an IPL playground.
Cars got stuck, the Thar winched them out in a jiffy in most of the cases, while most of them were lucky some walked away with broken bumpers, thanks to the approach angle. The night was cold and dark and this asked for some campfire along with mocktails under the gazling skies of Rajasathan.
Day 2: While I was sipping the first of many chai’s of the day, I was confident that it is going be nothing short of a roller coaster day. We left the camp around 11 in the morning, courtesy the delayed arrival from the dunes last night. To me, it was not just another day, it was a day where I was more confident than yesterday. We hit the dunes with all the participants still relishing over the yesterday’s adventure. Broad day light ensured we had ample visibility till the horizon. But all we had to do was focus on the obstacles and put in our best efforts to crawl through the desert. Trust me, it is easier said than done.
Inspite of the instructions by the expers, it was not an easy task, and the participants stated to get stuck inspite of their 4L coming to their rescue. The Thar which was one of the 2 vehicles equiped with winch did not have any free time to breathe for itself as the dunes get harsher with more cars getting stuck and helplessly waiting for the ship of the desert to arrive for their rescue, fortunately it wasn’t camel but it was the Thar. We headed to the buffet lunch in the desert which was lip smacking vegetarian/non-vegetarian food – Rotis, Rice, Papad, Gravy and ofcourse Indian food is incomplete without a sweet for dessert.
Post lunch, infact heavy lunch we headed back to our vehicles and this time I swapped my scorpio for the Thar for a while. The dune bashing continued insanely and we had absolutely free time. The cars were bashing helter-skelter in the dunes while I had sand bath in midst of the desert as I tried to capture some beautiful moments through my Nikon hanging around my shoulder. We finally reached the sunset point and all the Scorpio’s lined up to take a group picture. With 10 vehicles, 25 participants and 5 marshalls, this was nothing short of an adventure straight from the tapes of National Geographic.
We headed back to the camp at night and we were greeted by traditional Rajasthani fork singers who kept us entertained with their melodious vocals and dance steps. We had our dinner by the open ground and headed to the cottage while stared up at the 4-blade fan which reminded me of the Bridgestone’s rotating in the Desert.
As we woke up the next day, we collected our participation certificates and bid goodbye to Jaisalmer and boarded the Scorpio back to Jodhpur via Pokhran. Although the route was exactly the same, our car was filled with memories.
Tips to drive in sand:
1. Switch to 4L (4 wheel drive low ratio). If your car is a 2WD or even AWD, leave it in the parking lot. You don’t want Akshay Kumar to Airlift it
2. Lower the tyre pressure to 16 psi, this will enable better grip of the tyres in sand
3. Move the car in 2nd gear, 1st gear has more than abundant torque which will cause the wheels to spin more than crawling. Upshift to 3rd, 4th ASAP.
4. Momentum is your new best friend. The most crucial metric of driving in sand. If you are loosing momentum, go back a little and drive again
5. Lane discipline? what’s that? it’s not a Yamuna expressway. Follow the tyre marks of the car ahead if you. This simple logic will save you from half the trouble
6. Not 99% but it’s 100% sure that you’ll get stuck, in that case reverse the car immediately atleast 50 meters back, the more you wait for the luck to favour you to get you out, the deeper it will dig for you
7. FOCUS- On the throttle input and steering movement simultaneously. It’s important to slightly fiddle with the steering movement continuously in the terrain
8. Do not tap the gas completely while driving. It’s extremely important to moderately input the gas. Sand hates heavy throttle input. it will cause wheels to spin terribly.
9. Do not brake hard. It will create a crate of sand ahead of the front tyres which will cause trouble in moving the car after standstill
10. Do not wander alone. We aren’t Tarzans of the desert. Ensure that there is a recovery vehicle with you with a ‘working’ winch. The winch of our recovery vehicle went kaput and it’s a different story for another day
Note: Once you’re done with dune bashing, set the tyre pressure back to original and get the car underbody wash. Sand is prone to rust the body of the car.
Good luck 👍
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This Thar was the sole saviour for the entire Convoy as the Winch of the only other rescue that went Kaput due to extreme workout in the battlefield.
A big thank you to Mahindra Adventure for hosting us for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to go dune bashing with their best of the SUV’s.
The Scorpio undoubtedly did justice to its maiden punchline – Nothing else will do!
Stay tuned and Drive safe.