The Himalayan Challenge
21 September - 11 October 2018
SEPTEMBER 30, 2018
Shimla to Mussoorie
Playing it by the book
An early start was scheduled for today as, whichever route we took, it was going to be a long day. The Himalayas are big, and they’re very twisty. In the 300km we cover today there was barely one metre of straight road and from our breakfast at 2,400m we fell to lunch at 300m before rolling into bed at about 1,700m.
After the events of the last week, we were all champing at the bit to get back on the road and despite the fact we were starting Day 10 and hoped do it all as per the route book, the torrential rain of Friday evening however had kicked up a whole load of new problems, including a rockfall so large that it would take twelve more days to clear it.
The 48 hour car therefore had been busy once again and as a result, John Spiller and Guy Woodcock had once again missed their rest day planning an alternative to get us into Mussoorie and to keep us all entertained along the way.
During the 6.00am breakfast then, a comprehensive set of amendments was subsequently handed out to all of the crews and at 7.01am Bill Cleyndert and Jacqui Norman’s Bentley led the pack down the hotel drive and turned onto the ridge towards the villages of Chail and Kandaghat, which we first visited on the hastily devised Shimla loop two days earlier.
Our first visit was a wet one though, with little chance to enjoy the views, but this morning, with the sun peeping over the heavily wooded hills, we were properly able to enjoy the scenery along with the ‘three dimensional’ traffic free road.
As we made our way down the valley the temperature climbed to 31°c and, in places, the traffic grew more dense where the debris of dozens of landslides was being cleared and the roads around them were being repaired but overall the morning’s drive was a thoroughly enjoyable one surrounded by some incredible local culture.
The day was run with a series of Passage Controls and at about lunchtime the crews pulled into a rest area and restaurant on the banks of the Yamuna River, at Paonta Sahib. Here, Guy Woodcock and Sarah Ormerod, along with our fantastic fixer, Lokesh Bagga, had laid on an al fresco lunch for the rally comprising a hearty mushroom soup along with plates of vegetable sandwiches.
Following this busy lunch halt, the next section proved to be the most dramatic of the day. The long climb to Mussooorie, made famous by the Air India, Himalayan Rallies of the 1980’s crisis crossed the very same Yamuna River that we’d also seen in Delhi and would see again at the finish in Agra. In places the road was less than a cars width, yet this narrow strip had to be shared simultaneously with cattle, buses and taxis as they made their way up, or down, the side of the mountain.
Despite the altitude and the difficult geography, the villages such as Kandhikal and Kempty through which we passed, appeared as thriving communities only too happy to wave and cheer the rally on their way up to the inevitable next hairpin and the mists beyond.
After such an epic day, the sight of the Jaypee Resort carpark was a welcome one for all of the crews but particularly for the likes of Jonathan and Freddie Turner, who were delighted that they’d enjoyed their first trouble free run of the rally so far, thanks to a distributor donated by Stephen Partridge.
David and Joe Roberts are finally back with us now, along with their Trans America winning Triumph, which was lined up neatly in the car park. Indian Customs formalities delayed them slightly longer than they would have liked but they’ve never not finished a rally and this comeback goes a long way to help them keep a clean sheet.
The evening's dinner at the Jaypee was by common consent one of the best we’ve enjoyed so far on the Himalayan Challenge and it was all vegetarian. Other than some grilled fish of course.
Tomorrow we’re told that there won’t be any route amendments.