Offroading In Maharashtra
I wanted to visit the beautiful Kaas plateau on my way back to Goa from Mahabaleshwar. Instead of taking the usual road I’ve used before, I decided to check out the route that my Garmin GPS was recommending. Understanding fully well that Garmin maps are questionable in rural India, I decided to go ahead anyways. As directed I drove to a village called Medha on the Mahabaleshwar-Satara road and turned right. After driving a little the GPS asked me to take a right at what was essentially a mucky trail up a hill.
I glanced at my boys and they said, “Go Dada! Go!” Truth be told, I was a little nervous. But armed with their confidence in me I started driving up the hill negotiating one hair pin bend after another. As I pushed the Vitara forward it became abundantly evident to me that there was once a road here but nobody had driven an automobile on it for quite a while now. This was an abandoned path that had more muck and slush than gravel. At many sections I had to switch to the Vitara’s 4H Lock 4×4 mode as the muck was just too deep for the normal 4H mode to offer any useful traction. The Vitara started swaying like a ferry boat in a strong current and I had to understeer it quite a bit to make it climb up the hill obediently.
My sons were all excited with the happenings urging me forward. But I realised that every kilometre I drove up this hill was a kilometre away from civilization in case the SUV got stuck and it needed to be pulled out of a sticky situation. Getting a blessed tow truck up this wretched hill itself would be a challenge to begin with. I would need another 4×4 vehicle to pull mine out.
As we approached the top of the hill I noticed a villager in the distance who had brought his cattle up the hill to graze at a green patch. As we crossed him I noticed that he had the most bewildered WTF look on his face. He started waving at me trying to get my attention. I stopped the Vitara and got down to speak to him.
“Where are you going? There is no road ahead”, he said. I pointed out that there was no proper road till here and I had gotten my SUV up till this point. He replied, “No, no. This is road is OK. Up ahead there is just slush and nothing else. Your car will definitely get stuck. You have to turn back.”
I could sense the seriousness in his voice and decided to take his advice. I thanked him and walked back to my SUV to let my sons know that the party was over. There is a fine line between bravery and stupidity and today I wasn’t going to cross it. Maybe if I was alone I would have taken a chance. But I wasn’t ready to risk putting my sons in harm’s way or getting the SUV stuck and making them walk down a slippery hill in the pouring rain to safety before the sun went down on us.
I found a relatively wide section a little head, turned the SUV around and slowly made my way down hill. Coming down was more scary than climbing up. The SUV was sliding sideways at every slushy hairpin bend. I thanked my stars that I had switched to the Yokohama Geolander A/T-S dual sport tyres. If I had the stock street tyres, I’m pretty sure I would have been in a heap of trouble. Well, come to think of it, I would have been better off with the street tyres because they wouldn’t have been able to get me up this wretched hill in the first place.
I plan to go back and scale this hill sooner than later. Preferably alone or with some of my equally crazy trail rider buddies. I have some unfinished business to take care of there.