About 39 km into the rally, I found myself quite lost, which forced me to backtrack 20 km. Fortunately, I managed to avoid the 50-minute penalty by making it just in time for the next TC. Finally, having covered the 200-km ride in the Giri River valley, I was the last person to cross the finish line. Later in the day, I was pleasantly surprised to see my name up in third place.
Overflowing with confidence, we started off from third place on the second day and decided to follow the same strategy as before. Later during the day I suffered a minor fall during which my foot got trapped between the silencer and the rear wheel. After wasting 10 minutes hammering the handlebar into place, I pushed on. But my share of surprises for the day weren’t over yet. A calm meadow had been turned into a challenging course where participants had to weave their motorcycles through narrow gaps between traffic cones and jump them down shallow drops. A tense 10 minutes later, I emerged unscathed and set off at a brisk pace to tackle the last few tricky stages of the second leg.
Very tired after nearly 24 hours of trail-riding over two days, I dragged myself to the start at 7.00 am. The route for the day was mainly on tarmac with some beautiful trails in Jagedh ghat. A couple of valleys and arduous, narrow roads later I ran into a surprise: another Royal Enfield challenge.
As I stood facing the steep, muddy incline whose summit I could barely see, I was informed that I had three minutes to reach the top or skip it with a 15-minute penalty. Before my cowardly self got the better of me, I agreed to attempt it. Seconds seemed to slow down as the marshals began the countdown. The flag dropped, I stood up on the foot-pegs and powered ahead. The friendly thump of the Himalayan escalated into an urgent roar as I attacked the slope in first gear. Having cleared about three-quarters of the distance to the top, my wheels found loose soil. I vaguely heard people shouting, “Don’t stop” and “Keep the throttle open”, as the marshals rushed forward to push my bike out before I dug myself too deep. With less than 30 seconds to go, I cleared the crest; tired, sweating and completely drained. I turned around to steal a glance at the steep slope and a smile crept across my face: my attempt had turned into an achievement worth remembering. Unfortunately, rain played spoilsport, forcing the officials to cancel the last 40 km of the rally.
A few hours after all of us had assembled at the finish, the results were announced. First place was secured by the Balvir Kaur-Amung Sharma duo who incurred the least penalties. Second place went to Dheeraj Kumar and Gursimer Singh Chhabra while the third place was taken by Manish Kumar and Gaurav Verma. Yours truly and his team-mate finished a humble fourth.
The Himalayan was at home on the trails and took everything I threw at it with aplomb. It also delivered a stellar performance from where the road ran out.
Three tiring days and 600 km later, I walked out with more experiences than I carried in. It’s great to see a manufacturer offer a dialled-down version of a proper rally to its customers. Between you and me, they hinted that they might bring the Scramble to southern India if there is enough demand. For those in search of thrill beyond the usual leisurely motorcycle trip, this could just be what you need.
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