The silence of the unending desert and the afternoon siesta of the scavengers were disturbed when 50-odd Mahindra SUVs powered through the Thar desert one chilly February morning. This month, Jaisalmer was the destination of the 88th Great Escape, a one-of-its-kind event organised by Mahindra for off-road enthusiasts.
The convoy started off from the luxurious Surya Garh hotel in Jaisalmer to a place about 25km away, where all the dune-action was to take place. A crash course warned us about the hazards of making a mistake in the unforgiving desert and this only served to get us even more excited. It was only when we reached our first challenge that we realised what we were really up against.
First up was a dune with an impossible-looking incline that we had to climb and almost immediately, we felt lucky to be in a 4X4 Thar. As instructed, we checked that the tyre pressure was down to 20psi, engaged the four-wheel drive in low ratio and drove up at a steady speed. The tyres slipped and sank a couple of times in the soft sand, but the Thar refused to give up and kept ploughing on. Its torquey diesel engine really came into its own in these harsh conditions — the Thar felt at home in the Thar desert. After what seemed like ages, we reached the top, feeling elated.
The drive downhill was equally tricky, the right method being to allow the vehicle to glide down, and not speed. This is where the Thar’s 200mm-high ground clearance came in real handy. The front bumpers dug into the sand as we approached the edge at an unthinkable angle and ploughed through the sand all the way down. It felt more like going downstream in a raft than going down a dune. After this challenge, the rest of the dunes felt much easier to tackle. Maybe because we had got used to it as we drove up, down and along the ridges of the unending dunes.
After half a day of dune-bashing in our respective Mahindras, we gathered at the hotel for a well-earned lunch and talked about our dune-bashing experience.
Amid the Thars, Scorpios and Boleros present, the one vehicle missing was the XUV500. Possibly because Mahindra does not promote it as a serious off-roader. Or maybe the desert’s demanding terrain is better suited for body-on-frame vehicles. Whatever the reason, we were glad to have the Thar on our side!
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