Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Desert Storm Trip Log - Day 3

Gajner to Jaisalmer

After sleeping like a log for the previous night, today was a supposedly easy start at 0900hrs. So after a heavy and leisurely breakfast, we were all set to start off again.

We started off in the 7th position, and were bullish about the future. After all, what worse could happen... right? WRONG.

Disaster struck just a few kilometers from start. We were in the thick of things, following the route, till it advised us to go off track, into the sand. Just before veering off the road, MV spotted all the cars before us stuck royally in the sand. However, he was committed to the turn, and still mananged to stop just off the road. Now we had the front tyres in the sand, spinning away to glory, while the rear ones were on hard surface. X-|

So out came the spade and managed to dig out atleast a ton of sand from under the tyres, and the engine bay. By that time, we had a few other cars join the fun... thankfully, they managed to stop in time, behind us. With the help of a few guys, we managed to push the car back onto the road. In the meanwhile, the leading baleno managed to get away with help from others behind him... so the race was on.

MV had another attempt with the sand crossing, only to get stuck right in the middle of the sand pit. Now we were too far for pushing it back and were royally stuck. Only if he had carried extra momentum...

Many other cars attempted different routes, and all of them got stuck at some place or other. Now all the routes were blocked. Team RPM of Maruti Suzuki got into the act and pushed Rana's car out of the sand, and he got away. The guys in the Innova managed to pull many cars out
of the sand, and all of them one by one went vrooming past us. That was one heartrending sight to see other cars - competitors - go on ahead.

Finally the organizers showed up, and pulled out one car after another. And then finally it was our turn to be pulled out. Since the Punto does not have a rear tow hook, I had to crawl under the car, to fix the rope on the dead axle... And as soon as the 4x4 gypsy put some tension on the rope, snap it went. Ah, there goes our race. Finally had to borrow a towing strap from one of the helpful participants -the A Star from Team RPM, and were finally out of the sand. This time
around MV took enough run up for an 747 to take off, and with lot of drifting, we were out of the sand trap, and back in the race.

All the while, were were being watched by a couple of air-force MIGs. I am sure they were wondering what the brightly coloured cars were doing right in the middle of the desert. And I was hoping that their trigger finger was not itchy ;-)

There was one section which totally resembled Sholay, complete with a goods train, and a road going right next to it. The only thing missing were Gabbar Singh and his cronies...

Somewhere down the road, we managed to get stuck again, but the Gods were kind this time, and we came to a rest just before a tractor. The only twist was that we had no towing rope! But thankfully, another car got stuck ahead of us, and they had a nice cable. So once they were pulled out, we were out in a jiffy. Barely lost any time there.

Then came the most challenging section for the navigator. We were supposed to spot a tower in the horizon, but there was nothing visible...yes, you could imagine a red and white tower, but that wouldent have helped. To make matters worse, the rest of the guys turned up and there was so much dust flying around that it was impossible to get your bearings. And all we had for directions were compass headings, and a screwed up odometer.

So all of us came together, and finally managed to find out way out of the mess. The irony was that we were on the right track, till we saw a few guys turn back, and we too decided to return :((

Rest of the drive was pretty uneventful till Jaisalmer.

My experiments with Kiss

Ok, now that I have your attention, here's the deal. Canon Kiss X3 is my newest toy. And here are a few pics taken over last week. Please do post your comments and help me improve!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Desert Storm Trip Log - Day 2a

By this time, our provisional results were out, and we were placed at 7th place. (Not bad, we thought, considering the amount of time we had wasted the previous night.) So off we went to tackle Leg 1b. We had just done @20 odd kms, when the road book ordered us to take a left off the main road. This was a sandy road, and soon, there was no road. only sand. We were doing good till now, and had crossed all the sandy pits.

Up on the horizon there was a small dune which we had to cross. On crossing it, we saw a line of cars stuck in the sand. So, we had no choice but to lose momentum and pull off the road, where there was a little vegetation, and a chance of restarting. So we got down to investigate, and saw all the cars stuck one after the other. Soon, there was a crowd of the remaining cars behind us. Those people whose cars had gotten stuck tried every trick in the book, but did not manage to budge their vehicle.

Here are a few sights from that place:

This is where it all started. The first one bought the others down...

Only if it was that easy to lift and move cars..but MV gave it a try, though...

Isnt that a cool helmet?

The saviour. Red Bull, Red Car.

A bevy of stuck beauties...

Finally me and Manoj lost our patience, and tried to find an alternate route out of the mess, and did manage to get to the very end of the sandy zone, only to be stopped by the Marshals since the Xtreme guys were expected in that zone. And thats it. Once we had lost all momentum, there was no way we could restart or take a U turn, and we ended up being stuck like the others.

You pull me baby...

So, for the first time in the rally, we had to wait for the tractor and had him pull us out of the sand. This was not before we managed to snap a couple of tow straps and cable hooks.

Once he had deposited us to the firm zone, we found out that the leg was cancelled and we were to take the fast highway to Gajner palace where we were to spend the remaining hours.

The drive back was in a daze, and somehow managed to reach the beautiful hotel. Had some hot biryani, a much awaited bath, and it was time for some shut eye. Those couple of hours of sleep was the best ever.

- One of the competitors ended up falling asleep while awaiting the tractor. Turned out that the rest of the guys got rescued, but i guess, he's still sleeping there.
- The army has an amazing participation. There are 4 army trucks supporting their xtreme participants
- In a rally, (or in real life as well) trust yourself. Specially, if the others say that there is no road ahead. Take that as a sign that you are on the right path.
- A rally is all about teamwork. Not just between the driver and the co-driver, but between other teams as well.