“Slow and steady.”
“Don’t rush it.”
Manish’s voice crackled over the radio, it was reassuring but, to be honest, also made me nervous.
It was my first time and my sweaty palms kept slipping off the steering wheel.
“Off-Roading isn’t about SPEED but Adequate Momentum.” His words reverberated in my head.
I was sitting alone in the Thar analysing the obstacle between the oscillation of the windshield wiper, with rather sweaty palms, a dry throat and a slight dizzy nervousness. In this obstacle I had to enter the monsoon stream from one side, keep pacing through the stream and then rev up to get out from the other side.
My fellow off-roaders were on the other side cheering for me.
I took a deep breath and slowly entered the stream. All was going as planned, until I had to rev up and get out of the water. I think this is where I panicked, revved up too much and then SHUT MY EYES!!!
Yes. I shut my eyes while driving. All I could hear was people screaming, “MOVE MOVE MOVE!!!” followed by a loud THUD and a rattled filled landing on the slushy ground.
When I opened my eyes, Manish was at my window, concern concealing his anger.
“WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED?”
I wanted to drown in that stream as I sheepishly said, “I think I might have closed my eyes….”
Apparently I had hit a big rock (which I hadn’t seen), had displaced part of the earth and was headed towards the spectators (which also I had not seen), all because I had my eyes shut!
That was 2 years back when I was going through the ‘Getting Dirty’ course (Yes, that is what it is called), which was the beginner level course at Mahindra Adventure’s Off-Road Training Academy at Igatpuri. The first of its kind in India.
Now, after soft-roading for some time, I was back for my intermediate level training, ‘Trail Survivor’, a little less nervous, ready to get DIRTIER and with a promise to NOT close my eyes during any obstacle! Come what may.
While travelling from Mumbai to Igatpuri, I went through motivational quotes on pinterest.
3 hours of Pinterest basically.
As soon as all my other batch mates arrived, Manish and Selvin, who are the trainers at the Academy, took us through a quick introduction and briefing. We stood in the rain, half attentive and half distracted by the brilliant weather at this place. I honestly did not understand most of the terms and jargons but all of it sounded important. Some things I do remember was about the power of Torque, the use of 4WD theory (part-time 4WD/full-time 4WD), types of differentials, 4WD gearbox, and its components, basic do’s and don’ts along with recovery technique. Sadly, my poor ‘artsy’ mind couldn’t grasp the rest of the technical aspects.
This was followed by the fun part, getting into the vehicles for our first obstacle!
Now the awesome part about the course is, that the Adventure team gives you a vehicle to learn off-roading in. You can choose between any of the Off-Roaders available, a Thar, an old Commander or Major or a Mahindra Legend maybe. We were spoilt for choice!
I was hoping that Manish had forgotten about my “little mishap” but then he piqued, “You know the Thar you drove last time? Well it still doesn’t drive straight!”
A reminder was just what I needed! As if I wasn’t nervous enough or embarrassed enough. *Meh*
Through the weekend, under the mercy of the rain and cloud cover, we attempted various obstacles like Home Run, Slush pit, Zig Zag Hill, Sarpanch Challenge, Shortcut, SUV challenge etc. I won’t go on and explain each and every one of them but from the names one can guess what the obstacle was all about. From going through giant pit trails to navigating slipper paths and enjoying major mud baths, there was everything. In fact each obstacle is carefully designed to give an experience of various real life situations one could land up in and what to do in such scenarios.
Ok I will admit I didn’t do some obstacles, mostly because I was too nervous and also because the sole of my shoe had popped out and I had to borrow someone’s size 9 rubber boot which slipped with every step! But the obstacles I did attempt was enough to get my adrenaline pumping!
Questions that I frequently get from my friends are, “What if I don’t own an Off-Roader, can I do this course? Is Off-Roading meant for me? How can I go about it?”
Well, according to me three kind of people should actually do this course.
One- People who already own an Off-Roader
Lately I have seen a lot of STUD boys driving around in their topless Off-Roader, but ask them what the little gear near the main gear does,*BLANK*. They have absolutely no idea! I know driving an Off-Roader has a cool quotient but believe me it would be cooler if you also know what this amazing beast is capable of. WAY cooler. So if you have an Off-Roader and have actually invested money into modifying it etc. why not also invest in understanding its full potential? These vehicles are the classic examples of rugged Beauty with Brawn and I bet you will appreciate your off-roader more after you try and understand it a bit more!
Two- People who are considering buying an Off-Roader
When people ask me about buying an Off-Roader (not like I am an expert, rather a strong advocate as you may have guessed!), I always tell them about going to the academy first. You get to test the vehicles in the worst possible conditions which is better than few minutes of test drive any given day. You can actually spend time caressing it, driving it or whatever helps you make a better and informed decision.
Three- People like me, who don’t own an Off-Roader but would like to and can’t afford to buy an Off-Roader but can still learn OFF-ROADING!
This academy is one place where you can learn everything about 4 X 4 and I have always wanted to understand if off-roading was for me. In case I could buy one someday. Another reason was that I wanted to come back here to boost my confidence as an off- roader. Plus it is a perfect weekend getaway during the monsoons, especially when places like Lonavala is super saturated!
My Top TIPS Before You Go
I can swear on this but the best time to learn off-road is actually the monsoon months starting July and all the way to September when it is green and also cooler. I personally don’t like the winter months there because it is brown and dry. Some may like it but not my first choice!
You need to have a valid driver’s license but don’t need to be a pro! Also you don’t need to own an off-roader or get one just to be part of the course. Vehicles will be provided. Stay and food is part of the course fee as well! *Yayiee*
If you are here in the monsoon months, chances are that you are going to get drenched, rain or mud or both. Avoid jeans. Carry your wind cheater and an umbrella if possible.
If you are heading in the dryer months, (October- June), DO NOT FORGET to carry sunscreen, a scarf to cover your nose and mouth, and sunglasses.
Your best bet would be rubber boots with sturdy soles or something sturdy enough. Don’t be like me, navigating the thick slush in sneakers!
A Little about the Academy
Mahindra Adventure Off-Road Training Academy is 28-acre facility, India’s first dedicated facility providing a one stop solution to learning everything about a Mahindra 4WD vehicle and how to use it to its full potential. Custom-made Mahindra Off-Roaders equipped with radio sets are exclusively used as training vehicles at the facility.
Located behind the MILE Centre, in Igatpuri on the Mumbai-Nashik highway, the slushy terrain makes it a perfect place for learning to manoeuvre a 4x 4 vehicle. Currently the courses on offer are:
- Getting Dirty (Basic)
- Trail Survivor Course (Intermediate)
- Global Explorer (Advance)
- Mahindra Certified Off-Road Trainer (NEW)
For more information, check out http://mahindraadventure.com/off-roading-we-go
So how about getting DIRTY on your next Weekend Getaway this Monsoon? 🙂