Friday morning. I’ve just ridden into Wild Berry Adventure Park in Chikmagalur, Karnataka. My Triumph Tiger 800 XCx with its off-road tyres is already sliding and struggling just to get up to the parking lot because it is that slippery. It has been raining all night and the proposed track is chocolate-coloured mud and wet grass. Spread out before me is mayhem. In the distance, an Isuzu V-Cross is stuck in slush and the tractor that went to save it is stuck too. To my left, a couple of support vehicles are sliding around trying vainly to escape the muddy trap they’ve driven into. The event starts Saturday and right now, the conditions
look incredibly challenging.
I’m not too worried because here to train us (and also a huge part of the reason why me and 29 other adventure motorcycle owners rode all the way here) are the chaps from Big Rock Motorsport Park. That will be CS Santosh, his trainer for the Dakar rally, Jordi Grau and Nelly, the other nutcase from Big Rock. I’m looking forward to learning lots from these guys because after all, it isn’t every day you get to learn from Dakar people. It isn’t every day you willingly choose to ride your big ADV motorcycle into what I think is the most treacherous surface around – slippery mud and grass.
Saturday morning. Last night was wild. It’s been raining even more and we were sleeping in tents. Luckily, there were cots in the tents, so we didn’t have to deal with wet grass. We did have to deal with an incredibly strong wind blowing through the meadow we were sleeping in. I am excited.
Some people are just show-offs and took full advantage of the slippery conditions.
I can hear the braap of an Africa Twin running an Akrapovic in the distance. The coffee is excellent as expected. The butterflies in the stomach awaken. I wonder what the repair bills to my Tiger will be like.
Mid morning. There’s no point going through the slow speed exercises we’ve designed for you says Santosh. The track is too slippery. He instead demonstrates the importance of correct body positioning on the bike, how the handlebar position should be and how to move about on the bike for different situations. He then throws us into the deep end. We are to ride a coffee plantation trail, and I find it very impressive that even the people who have up until that point used their ADVs only on the road, make it through the difficult conditions.
Afternoon. Excellent biryani, or maybe I was hungry from muscling a Tiger up that killer road. We now have slow-speed balance tests through a slalom course. It is not easy. I have mud in my teeth by the end of it. Didn’t know until now that mud and shawarma make for a tasty dinner. Deep sleep follows.
Sunday morning. Santosh, Nelly and Jordi debrief us on how we performed yesterday and then it is onto a trail that leads up to a waterfall. This one isn’t as slippery but it is technical because you need to pick the correct line through the hairpin bends and the loose rocks that make up the excitement.
All kinds of ADVs turned up at the event.
It has rained so much that the water has now started breaching my otherwise weatherproof Triumph Navigator riding jacket. The waterfall is nice but the road there is nicer. It’s full of puddles. I want the bike to look like it has done serious work and the puddles paint a muddy picture on the Tiger’s Caspian Blue tank. Koustabh, Divy and I treat the return journey downhill like it is a rally stage. We emerge from the trail with muddy smiles plastered across our faces. Everyone seems to have enjoyed their muddy morning going by the smiles all around the lunch table.
Early evening. Say goodbye to all the awesome people I met over the last two days. Head to Bengaluru for the night. Awesome fun this Great Trail Adventure is. I can’t wait for the next one. I hope it rains less though.
What is the Great Trail Adventure?
The Great Trail Adventure is the mud child of Koustabh Gadge, a Pune-based Triumph Tiger owner. He says the aim of the Great Trail Adventure is to teach owners of big adventure motorcycles how to handle their bikes better over difficult terrain. This one in Chikmagalur was the second edition (the first one was on the outskirts of Pune a couple of months ago), and there are two more that will happen soon this year. The GTA has teamed up with Big Rock Motorsport Park to handle all the training during these events. Head on to www.facebook.com/greattrailadv to find out when and where the next one is.