There they were, their bodies all brown with wet mud, twisting and pitching, making a new path where none existed before. Yet these machines made it unscathed, and were ready for the next challenge to be thrown before them.
This was what Mahindra & Mahindra's 50th Great Escape, held in Goa, was all about. Nearly 80 vehicles went this way and that, negotiating over boulders, through knee-deep slush and wading through streams as their passengers frolicked and yelled. Some were even scared stiff. But that is all part of the joys of the great outdoors, the sheer thrill of not knowing what's around the next bend.
We would be lying if we told you that the stuff we did was worth telling our grandchildren about. Well actually, it might have been a great story if we were driving little cars instead of these mountain goats through the course set by none other than ace rally driver Hari Singh himself.
Mahindra knows how to make their vehicles tough, and it showed. It took almost no effort to lug these SUVs through what nature had in store for us. And they came in all sizes and shapes. From two-wheel driven pickups to a bright orange behemoth that resembled an overgrown and mutated tarantula, they were there to prove that their vehicles thrive on being pushed to the limits.
We had a Scorpio 4x4 for one part of the section. Stepping in, the odometer said it all. It was a near-one lakh kilometre veteran. This very vehicle was going to ferry us through 60 km of terrain that ranged from highways to stuff that could probably stop a charging Sherman tank dead in its tracks.
The first few kilometres were through the typical Goan countryside. Lush, green and dotted with small little bars with quaint names like Fernando's and House of Spirits. Before long, we were at the first stage of the Escape. A steep decline that lead to a huge slush-filled crater and then a tough gradient that lead out of the monster puddle. Everybody seemed to want to let the other go first, which rarely happens on Indian roads today, don't you think?
A couple of vehicles bogged down, all thanks to their over-enthusiastic drivers. But the team from Mahindra had thought about these things in advance. Red overall-clad angels descended to yank the beached vehicles out of the mire, and after a shove and a heave (at times, a helpful tug from a 4x4 Mahindra did the trick), the jeeps were on their way.
Stage two was shorter, but with lots of water sports in true Jeep style! From tiny streams to forging through near-windscreen deep canals, the Mahindras went through it all. We got so hooked that we actually went back and did the same route thrice over. By this time, we got hold of a Mahindra Legend, a potent short wheelbase 4x4-enabled muck warrior that slithers through the dirt like it was born it.
If you are wondering what it takes to be a part of the Great Escape, we'll tell you. You should own a Mahindra SUV (or somehow get hold of one with clear paperwork) and you should register with the event organisers before the event. Love for the outdoors and the ability to bear getting your vehicle dirty aren't officially required, but trust us when we say this, you will need this and more! Check out www.mahindragreatescape.com for more details.