Off The Road [OTR]: It’s not the destination but the journey….

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Off The Road [OTR] means taking your vehicle off the paved roads, onto the dirt tracks, rocky tracks or no tracks. OTR is usually done with 4×4 vehicles like Jeep, Gypsy, etc. There are many OTR groups across the country that have passionate and enthusiastic people who believe that going OTR on a weekend is better than being a couch potato watching TV or hanging out at the latest Shopping Mall in the city. I am part of one such group in Bangalore and we regularly go out for off road adventures.

Here is an account of one such adventure and the learning tat one can draw from it.

9 OTR enthusiasts in 6 Gypsies assembled outside IIM on Bannerghatta Road at 6.30 am on a beautiful Sunday morning with cool breeze blowing, deserted roads with virtually no traffic (Imagine, all of us were there at sharp 6.30 AM. No one was late and that too on a Sunday morning!). We all headed straight to our destination — Pearl Valley [Anekal] some 20 kms from the city. Needless to say that we all had a wonderful time navigating and negotiating the terrain in our Gypsies.

Let me share some aspects of an OTR event.

Planning is very important:
Planning is one of the most important aspects of an OTR event. In an OTR event we have to plan meticulously for spares, tool box, first aid, tow-ropes, food, snacks, water, etc. OTR events are usually organized far away from cities and there is practically no chance of getting food, spares, medical assistance. So, everything has to be planned in advance. In fact, most of the times, few people from the group do a recce of the location prior to the event to ascertain if the terrain is okay and also plan the logistics accordingly.

Having an OTR event without proper planning is like starting a project without any planning.

OTR is all about team work and collaboration:
We collaborate with fellow enthusiasts before the event on where to go, when to go, how many folks, the logistics, who all will lead, etc. In an OTR event, it is not about ‘we’ as individuals but ‘we’ as a team. If some member of the group is finding the terrain tough or having difficulties with their vehicles then we help them out. ALL of us have to progress to the next stage. No one can be left behind. Each member negotiates the terrain with fellow members guiding them. In fact, it would be impossible for an individual to negotiate the terrain without other team members’ guidance.

Very similar to team work and collaboration in a successful software project.

OTR is about sharing and learning:
In an OTR event there would be several members with varying level of expertise and skills. Less experienced and skilled members watch and learn from experienced pros upgrading their skills in the process, and the senior folks guide, handhold the less skilled members on the fine nuances as they in turn try and negotiate the tough terrain.

OTR is NOT about speed or having a wild time:
OTR is not about racing. Speed doesn’t give OTR enthusiasts any adrenalin rush. We don’t race against fellow participants or the terrain. In fact, you would be driving very slowly – you would want the vehicle to stop but it won’t. It is about you being in control of the vehicle, the terrain, your mind. Needless to say, alcohol is not allowed in such events.

Safety is of paramount importance:
Like any other adventure sport, OTR has its own set of risks. Safety is implicit and comes from every OTR enthusiast respecting nature and learning to negotiate the terrain safely. At times an OTR event is about fearfully conquering the terrain and many a times it is about accepting that mother nature is more powerful than you and your machine. As a team we decide if it is safe to go ahead with the terrain or to take an alternative path. At no stage is dare-devilry encouraged, allowed or practiced in a well managed OTR event

It is about taking initiative:
OTR enthusiasts believe in living life as a player rather than a spectator. In an OTR event you make your own roads, your own path – there is no existing road or path to show us the way. You go where mind would say not to. Believe me; the shepherd’s who saw us on top of the hill, the inhospitable terrain were perplexed as to what we were doing there and how on earth did we manage to get there in our vehicles.

Eco-friendly:
OTR events are about ‘respecting’ the environment and nature. No plastics, garbage, water bottles are thrown away during these events and all such waste is collected and brought back with us for disposal. In fact, some OTR events also organize planting saplings for each vehicle that takes part in an OTR event.

Addictive:
Yes, OTR is addictive! I have a friend who had a fracture and couldn’t walk properly [needed a crutch] but still came along with another person to drive. He did not want to miss the OTR. Once you start taking part in OTR events, you are hooked. There is no turning back.

So what’s the big deal?
At the end of the day when you are on top of a hill, far away from city, just you, your vehicle, your friends… no trappings of 21st century… unpolluted air, the sound of the wild breeze blowing, the eerie silence at times, no mobile phone signal, therefore, no unwanted calls … those moments become eternal.

It’s not the destination but the journey that makes it worthwhile….

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