The Himalayan Challenge
21 September - 11 October 2018
OCTOBER 3, 2018
Rudraprayag to Nainital
De ja vu
The second Peking to Paris visited Nainital in 1997 so, for Jonathan Turner at least, today’s drive was a trip down memory lane, to a time when his son and navigator Freddie, was but a twinkle in his eye.
Back in 1997 Jonathan's Bentley was with him then, as it is now, which means that he’s managed to achieve one of his three ambitions for this event. The next ambition is to get the car and crew to Kathmandu and the final one is to reach the rally finish in Agra.
The Indian road building industry redeemed itself today and we enjoyed pretty much a full day of roadwork free, dustless and smooth motoring. There was one minor hold up though, which we were willing to forgive. A school sports day was running races up and down the road near the village of Aagarchatti and as a result one or two cars were delayed by the boys 200m dash and the girls relay. We’re not sure who won but, given the heat and the gradient we thought that they all deserved a medal.
Despite the high jinks of last night, everyone was up bright and early this morning, keen to get themselves down the road to Nainital.
Bjorn Schage and Trond Brathen were busier than most. Before breakfast they had removed the rocker cover from their Morgan, and were deep into the situation with a set of feeler gauges - claiming that it was ‘just a simple matter of adjusting the tappets”.
The bottle that they taped to the wing in Shimla is also still doing a great job as a temperature gauge. When the bottle fills, the engine is getting hot and they know that they need to do something about it.
Although the roads were good and pretty much traffic free, today was a day of impressive driving. Sometimes it seemed that even the bends had a change of direction within them and, when this was added to the rate of ascent or descent, the drivers were given as good a work out as the cars were getting. We’re in a big landscape here, make no mistake, and every kilometre travelled is hard won but the views and the sense of achievement are well worth the effort.
When the cars arrived at the Maharani Inn, in Malla Tajpur and were lined up along the road, the simple buffet lunch which was provided, was quickly devoured by the crews who’d been working so hard all morning. Sarah Ormerod and Guy Woodcock provided the coffee from their improvised Bistro that has now been suitably nicknamed as “Carbucks”.
The afternoon section was, if anything even better than the morning. During the Regularity at Pinoli we climbed through a forest to Ranikhet, a neat and tidy garrison town, where even the monkeys by the side of the road seemed to stand to attention.
One more Passage Control at the Kenchi Temple was all that stood between us and the run to the night halt and, for most of us first time visitors, Nainital proved to be a delight complete with a lake filled with pedalos and rowing boats.
We’re not staying at the same hotel as the 1997 Peking to Paris did due to an ongoing refurbishment but, as Peter Lovett said, the Naini Retreat is “a lovely place and tomorrow morning it’ll be a bit more difficult to leave”.
Manuel Dubs and Robi Huber sadly lost a load of time today because of a failed wheel bearing, although they, along with Jamie Turner and Tony Jones managed to get the Rockne back into running order and it arrived at the night halt only slightly behind schedule.
Andrew Laing and Ian Milne got their Peugeot all the way to the finish only to find that after they’d unloaded their luggage it wouldn’t start again. A blown fuse in the ignition system was diagnosed and duly replaced whereupon the 504 was then able to make it up to the car park.
David and Jo Roberts are back once again after five hours of welding in Rishikesh with the “very helpful Sunjay, surrounded by his cows”. After the problem with the differential and now this suspension failure, Jo’s hoping that misfortune doesn’t come in threes.
Mike Velasco meanwhile, is tonight a happy man. He’s still leading the rally and is hoping that he doesn’t see a repeat of the Sahara Challenge, where he and Peter were in such a strong position only to lose it all on the road to Erfoud.
Tomorrow we take our leave of India for a while and head to Nepal.