The Himalayan Challenge
21 September - 11 October 2018
SEPTEMBER 21, 2018
Delhi to Chandigarh
Easy does it
Given the late start today, there was plenty of time for the crews to enjoy a good breakfast and to mill around the carpark soaking up the admiration of the crowd and answering questions from the many curious onlookers who’d gathered around the ‘paddock’.
Kitchen staff, waiters and hotel domestics also stole a few minutes away from their duties to take a sneaky selfie next to whatever car or crew took their fancy.
At 9.45 am though, with just fifteen minutes to go before the cars were flagged away, John Spiller called proceedings to order. A short blast on his cavalry bugle got the crews into a loose circle after which a pair of Hindu priests arrived to bless each competitor, wish them safe passage through the mountains and dotted their foreheads with red paste during a moving Tilaka ceremony. A bracelet was then affixed to each wrist as a mark of honour and respect.
With the Gods now right behind them it was Bill Cleyndert and Jacqui Norman who were the first away. Given the green flag treatment by the magnificently attired, ‘rajput’ inspired, Imperial Hotel doorman complete with his signature beard, moustache, turban and tunic.
The run through Delhi was an entertaining one but it was also inevitably hot and typically chaotic however, armed with a precise roadbook and a few well chosen waypoints, the cars soon reached the northbound dual carriageway and set a course for the Passage Control in Karnal.
Even on such a busy road, where everyone is supposed to be heading in the same direction, the unique and unpredictable nature of Indian traffic meant that both crew members had to keep an eye out for potential hazards be they bovine, vehicular or pedestrian.
After pulling into the service station / rest area / shopping mall, which was an oasis of cool and tranquility, the crews had a chance to reflect upon ,and share their experiences of the first 140km of the rally. Monte Gingery declared that it was “just like the Mille Miglia. You see a tuk tuk you go round it, see a truck go round it. No big deal”.
Manuel Dubs agreed saying that “it’s all good fun, all part of the adventure” which he's also thoroughly enjoying having celebrated his birthday yesterday.
Meanwhile, the Subway sandwich franchise did a roaring trade as did the Costa Coffee concession. We all knew that this was to be the last vestige of the Western way of life for the next three weeks and we acted accordingly.
Leaving this sanctuary behind us was difficult enough but, aside from the culinary delights we’d enjoyed, an outside temperature of 36°c jarred with the air conditioning we’d began to take for granted. Nevertheless the rally steeled itself and rejoined the three lanes of trucks, rickshaws and cows on their journey to Chandigarh.
The next section was a mere 120km long and, within a couple of hours most of the cars had made it safely into the grounds of the Taj Chandigarh. Along the way though two crews were seen sat by the roadside with what appeared to be fuel vaporisation issues. Roland Singer and Hans Malus reckoned that their Saab had a “hot fuel problem” whilst Keith and Norah Ashworth were left scratching their heads after coming to a halt some 800m from the hotel.
Some cooling drinks were called for once Pete Stone had stamped the time cards and then the spanner work in the carpark began in earnest. For most crews there wasn’t anything which would keep them up too late but Keith Ashworth quickly realised that he would be doing a night shift this evening. He’d discovered that he’d blown the clutch on the Mercedes, but luckily, he had the necessary parts with him and along with all four sweeps and Bob “holiday maker” Harrod he set to installing it.
Andy Mudra and Gernot Woerle unfortunately had an even more trying day. Their 1928 Bentley which was misbehaving yesterday on the way from the warehouse, was still not right this morning, so the crew made the decision to head back to the Imperial and take a good long look at the situation. With a bit of luck they’ll rejoin us tomorrow evening and we wish them the best of luck.
Adam Tuszynski had some more unusual problems away from the car though, he’s still waiting for his luggage which was lost on the way from Frankfurt. It’s scheduled to be with him either late tonight or very early tomorrow morning. Until then it’s either a borrowed T shirt or some local costume.
After the gentle start we enjoyed today, tomorrow should be a little more challenging as we climb to a cooler 2000m and catch our first glimpses of the Himalayas.