Despite the 184bhp available on tap, the Rexton can’t make it up the dune. The wheels are spinning and if I continue to let it, the two-tonne car will quickly dig itself in. I slot the transmission into reverse and back down the hill. There is a mountain of fine sand looming up in front of the windscreen and my brain tells me this heavy automatic SUV with road tyres was not meant to go off-roading on fine sand.
But I am betting on the car’s 41kgm of torque to pull me through. I once again check that the ESP is off and the auto ’box is slotted into manual mode, let the revs build and give it another shot. The heavy SUV nearly makes it to the top, but not quite. Now things are getting personal and I am adamant to get the Rexton up the dune. Third try. I build as much momentum that the engine will allow and the big, heavy vehicle finally claws its way up and over the crest.
I am in Rajasthan. At the Sam sand dunes near Jaisalmer, to be more precise. Not for an off-road adventure or rally, but for a relaxed driving holiday with Mahindra Adventure. The adventure I am on, the Royal Escape, is a 1700km drive through Rajasthan over six days, starting and ending in the capital city. The dune bashing was just a twist in the sobriety of the otherwise sedate drive. A chance for the 60-odd people to experience what the Mahindra vehicles, and themselves, are capable of. Most of the 24 cars on this drive are 4WD Scorpios painted in Mahindra Adventure colours, a few Thars and just two Rextons – one of which I am driving.
The story begins on December 26, 2013, when a group of strangers were flagged off from the Trident Hotel in Gurgaon. This group ranged from kindergarten kids to a retired couple, rendezvous-ing here from across the country, taking time off from their day jobs to spend nearly a week with complete strangers. The only thread that bound us together was a love for driving and travelling. The drive took the convoy through Alsisar, Jaisalmer, Sam, Gajner and Bikaner before returning to Delhi.
The usual schedule involved a hearty breakfast, followed by clocking in a few hundred kilometres that took us through the heart of Rajasthan, stopping for lunch at a nice place, reaching a plush palace converted into a hotel by the evening, where you would bond with other participants over a drink and dinner. It also involved a rocking party on the sand dunes at Sam, where everyone merrily matched steps with the hip-swinging Rajasthani folk dancer – a man dressed as a woman! By the time the convoy rolled back into Delhi on the evening of January 1, there were no strangers but an extended family of friends.
The Royal Escape is just one in the long list of initiatives by Mahindra Adventure to encourage people to head off the beaten track with drives to Leh, to Goa, through Nepal and Bhutan and more. Go to their website for details and book your seat. It’s reasonably affordable, plus you have the safety net of a service team should something go wrong. As a popular ad slogan puts it – “just do it”.