Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.
— Ralph Waldo Emerson
Mahindra's trailblazing 'Great Escape' has been allowing owners a chance to go off-roading in controlled circumstances since it was first conceptualised in 1996.
DriveSpark was invited to witness and participate in the 134th running of the Great Escape, which took place in Sakleshpur, Karnataka.
To be honest, going off-road isn't something that I'm really accustomed to, but the opportunity to escape the hustle and bustle of the city and go off the beaten path, was something both Abijith (my colleague) and I pounced on.
The Great Escape and the accompanying Off-Road Trophy event took place at the ginormous Kadamane Tea Estate, which was the former hunting grounds of Charles Guy Fulke Greville, the 7th Earl of Warwick.
The estate itself sprawls across 6392 acres and our adventure through the various tea plantations, mountains, and rivers would take us through 20 kilometres of some of the most scenic locations in India.
After filling in the necessary paperwork, we were summoned to the start line alongside over 70 other drivers and given our instructions and safety briefing for the Great Escape.
Moments later, a multitude of Thars (including the one we were driving), along with a few older generation Jeeps, a few Scorpios, and some Armadas were sent out into the wilds of the Western Ghats.
The first two kilometres of the route took us through numerous tea plantations before we finally slipped onto a forest trail and really started going after the rough stuff.
It was here that the Thar and I came a bit unstuck. To be fair it was mostly my fault, a 6 foot 3-inch big boned bloke like me, isn't really the type of guy to fit into the driver's seat of the Thar.
However, the Thar had a small issue of its own as it wasn't willing to go into four-wheel drive mode, something that was really needed in some of the rocky terrain, that we were going through.
Thankfully, Abijith must have taken a few extra brave pills along with his breakfast in the morning, as he jumped over into the driver's seat and took over the driving duties after I had got the Thar stuck in a rather problematic climb.
From then on it was a rather different experience as Abijith and the Thar sized each other up, and funnily enough, decided to work together till we reached a large clearing in the middle of forest.
Up ahead was a track, which lead to a river crossing and it proved to be a tough nut to crack, as it had rained the previous night.
By the time the first 20 or so vehicles had crossed, the track had turned into a slush pit, forcing the rather brilliant but overworked recovery teams from Mahindra into action. Out came the winches, and despite the slow progress, over 40 more made it across the track.
Problems further down the road at the river crossing, saw us taking a detour through another track, to ensure that the marshals didn't have to fish us out of the river.
We did cross the river without any assistance, as Abijith's lead foot and the torquey Thar combined together to roar their way out of the water.
We crossed through the forests along with the rest of our convoy, past more slush pits and a few fallen trees. The resilient Thar girded its loins, and went about doing what it does best, going through the roughest terrain possible without complaining, despite being crippled.
Finally, we were out of the forest and on the home stretch. The smell of Lemongrass clouded the air as we started climbing up the mountains, with sheer drops coming up on either side of the trail.
We reached our final destination, after a nice climb up the reading of the altimeter. The scene we drove up to, made us want to stick around despite the threat of elephant herds running amok, in the late evenings.
When we finally returned back to base, we were exhausted beyond belief, with our bodies aching like mad. However, the grins on our faces and the sense of accomplishment we felt, was something that made leaving Sakleshpur the next day, a rather bittersweet occasion.
1) The Great Escape Trail Drive fee is Rs. 5000, inclusive of taxes. This fee is applicable for a team of two.
2) Every additional person in the Jeep, the entry fee is Rs. 1500. For Kids aged below 12, the entry fee is Rs. 750 per head.