The sun refused to set as the dense fog enveloped the mountain. The driver drove past the road beside the tea gardens, miles along the twisted narrow lanes and hair pin turns. Tired but equally thrilled, I kept looking at the cars as they “navigated” their way through during the Himalayan Drive 5.
Picture this – the farthest edge of a forest has a rough patch, the ground laid with golden spring leaves. A car comes speeding by, stops at the check post, notes the time and zooms forward.
Or perhaps the sharpest bend in Paro, Bhutan.
The mighty river beds make it even more gorgeous and the forest adds to the sensation.
The landscape adds to the drama on the road.
Bhutan is a beautiful land. The happiest country on earth is perhaps the cleanest as well with a negative carbon footprint. Everybody is disciplined and this is perhaps one of the handful countries where the minister can roam around on the streets without any security personnel by his side. When he had the slightest hint of the immigration issues we faced towards the start, he said “You should always tell me. It is my responsibility.” I am not sure how many ministers would be so humble.
Nepal, on the other hand, isn’t as clean and there weren’t many immigration formalities. The cars were checked and given the permit to travel inside. The police on the streets were very efficient and helpful.
Hardly had we spent a few hours at Darjeeling. Darjeeling always brings back very fond memories. This is the place I first travelled to alone. Siliguri is a place where I have to travel because this is the only way to go to Sikkim and the North East.
The hotels we were put up were “Just Sports” standard, which officially means 5 stars in hospitality. Mr S Bose, the chairperson is an incredible person to strike a conversation with. He will scold you or clear your doubts or perhaps teach you things in the sweetest possible manner.
There were times when the “Tulip” wasn’t read properly and a couple of the cars faced problems. Well, it gave us an opportunity to photograph! There were one minor accident and one not-so-minor accident where no one was seriously injured. “Motorsports can take lives. I had warned you”, exclaimed Joydip Sur (reporter, Autojunction).
What’s a Tulip BTW?
A Tulip is a manual which was Greek to me. The overenthusiastic Mr Sur joyfully said, “What do you think the navigators do? They’ve spent years to master this. They form a team of 2 – one who is the navigator, he reads the Tulip. The other is the driver who drives.”
I caught hold of the Tulip and I saw rows and columns, with the customary serial number or Tulip number as the first column. The second column is cumulative of the distance covered across different landmark. The third column is the distance between two landmarks. The fourth column has indications of the landmarks. The fifth is for remarks.
The drivers are given the Tulip at the days flag off. They read the manual and navigate their way through the terrain in a time bound manner. There are regular checks to see if speed and time are maintained.
Do you know that there are no Car #13 in rallies of this sort?
The car rally:
Car #1, the defending national champion led day one with 50 penalty points with car #2 with 87 penalty points. Car #3 caught up on day 2 and Car #16 pushed car #2 behind at day 2 end. But Car #1 maintained the lead all through. Car #3, however, withdrew from the competition at the end of day 3. If we see the final result, the top 3 spots had a difference of only 70 penalty points. Deep Dutta and Prakash Muthuswamy who started as seed 16 finished spectacularly at rank 2.
The Final Top 3 are:
- Car #01: Sk. Ajgar Ali and Md. Mustafa
- Car #16: Deep Dutta and Prakash Muthuswamy
- Car #02: Ashish Budhia and Arindam Ghosh.
This Himalayan Drive 5 gave me an insight into the world of motorsports and the nitty-gritty of it. Being in the same car as Joydip Sur and Jaideep Mazumder, made sure that I get all the news as they happen. Joydip da analysed them and made it into instant news which was then consolidated by Jaideep da and made into the press release. Although I do not remember all details, Joydip da made sure we know the history of the top participants and how they performed in the last couple of years. There was no way I could skip a finer detail.
UrsDigitally (the company I was the consultant to, till December 2016) was the digital partner of this event. It was fun working out photography angles with them as Abhishek Chamaria went live on Facebook every second moment. He is one crazy person who could wake up at 5 to photograph “Good morning with Car #1” (Car #1 during sunrise).
I’ll end this post with a photograph of mine shot by Sachin. Sachin works with a digital agency which works for the J K Tyre and excels in mobile phone photography. That’s something I need to learn from him once I am in Cochin.