The Himalayan Challenge
21 September - 11 October 2018
SEPTEMBER 22, 2018
Chandigarh to McLeod Ganj
Onwards and upwards
In a bizarre climatic twist, the rally woke this morning to rain of monsoon proportions with the accompanying low cloud and a grey sky.
The downside was that the open car crews would finish the day much wetter than yesterday. The upside was that it was also much cooler which made the closed car crews a lot less and bothered.
So, with just a little splashing around the roundabouts, the Corbusier creation that is the Chandigarh grid system swept us out of town onto wet, wide and fast roads and into the countryside of the Punjab. It was Saturday morning so we almost had the roads to ourselves.
The first passage Control in the Royal Tourist Dhaba in Bharatgarh served an excellent, if typically Indian, selection of chai and instant coffee along with savoury and sweet delicacies. The washrooms were clean and functional and after sampling either the catering or the sanitation the crews remounted and headed on up the soaking tarmac towards the second Passage Control at Basoli where Jim Smith and Pete Stone stood by the side of a very minor road, sheltered beneath their tailgate.
The hills were getting bigger now, just as the roads were getting smaller and village after village passed us by wherein hundreds of curious locals came out to cheer and wave us through despite the wet weather. By way of thanks Jonathon and Freddie Turner had thoughtfully brought boxes of pencils to hand out to the excited children.
By this point the rally had turned well and truly off the beaten path and in a day of firsts for the event not only did we see our first troop of monkeys but we also took in the first hairpin. We’re assured that over the next three weeks we’ll be seeing plenty more of both.
More of this broken tarmac was the route to the lunch halt at the Kings restaurant in Thanakalan where an excellent buffet was offered to the very wet crews. The rain might still have been pouring down but it didn’t seem to dampen the spirit of the rally.
After lunch, the first Regularity of the event soon appeared in the route book just outside of the village of Charada and with John Spiller and Rikki Proffit on the start line the crews launched themselves through the trees towards Gill and John Cotton lying in wait some 11km away. This was a narrow road and empty road but it was a challenging one and by the end of the day it had given us our first leader.
Another quick passage Control in Pirasaluhi, manned by Dr Delle Grimsmo and Dr Bushan Lal, ensured that everyone who went into the woods came out of them and they were then free to make their way to the night halt a further 80km and 1,300 vertical meters away.
Philip Lunnon and Michael Draper spent longer in the trees than the rest of the rally though. One wrong slot led them down a blind alley which quickly turned to an almost impassable track. Some considerable pushing and pulling was required from both the crew and the rally organisation, before they and their Bentley were able to turn themselves around and head for home.
McLeod Ganj is a suburb of Dharamshala and also is known as "Little Lhasa" because the Tibetan government-in-exile is headquartered here. Getting to it is no mean feat and needless to say it involves a lot of climbing with many steep hairpins, narrow streets and rickety bridges.
Everyone made into the Fortune Park Moksha in time for dinner though and after such an unexpectedly epic day, there was plenty to talk about in the bar and over dinner.
Tony and Lee Strelzow, Peking to Paris veterans, suffered no punctures today but swapped the misery of flat tyres for that of a leaky roof. They recalled that they just about managed to set the canvas covering of their Derby Bentley to an angle so that the water at least pooled into one place and then hopefully drained out of the floor.
Sadly, we heard that Margo O’Brien Coelho and George Coelho are looking for a hire car this evening. Their Volvo has lost its clutch and there’s no way of repairing it anytime soon.
Andy Mudra and Gernot Woerle are still absent. They’re with their Bentley in Delhi looking for a solution to the misfiring issue. The plan now is for them to shortcut straight to Manali and join us after the rest day.
As for the results; Manuel Dubs & Robi Huber - Rockne Six 75, Adrian Hodgson & Matt Bryson - Austin A90, and Alan & Tina Beardshaw - Sunbeam Tiger are equally placed on top spot, each of these crews having zero penalties so far.
The weather forecast for tomorrow isn’t too promising with more rain set to come so there are more than a few amongst us looking at our wardrobes and deciding what will best suit the conditions.