4x4 at Nuwara Eliya

The Four Wheel Drive Club and the Nuwara-Eliya Motor Sports club organized the anual off road challenge on the 17th of April at Nuwara Eliya. We (me and my brother Sanjaya) missed the last similar event organized by the Land Rover Owners club at Waters Edge, so we were very keenly looking forward to this one. And we also made arrangements to provide a live update of photos over the Internet. We drove to have a look at the driving range in the late evening of the 16th. Some members of the club were doing final preperations. We had a brief survey of the area with the dim streatlights from across the lake, and returned to my uncle's place where were were staying. 2006-04-ne-4x4-0004.jpg We got to the rally area at around 8 next morning. A long row of "jeeps" were already lined up. The climate was sunny and bright, but the general trend was to rain in the evening. We also met Asantha, our friend in the 4x4 club, who hooked us with Lasantha, the DJ of the event, and we could share the electricity supply with him. Lasantha was very talented at his job, and was always willing to give us a helping hand throughout the event. I connected the laptop to the Internet through GPRS/IR using the IR drivers in the Linux kernel, irda utilities and GPRS Easy Connect. The connection was not very fast, but satisfactory. The Flickr plugin in KIPI used by Digikam was a very convenient way to upload images. Sanjaya Sanjaya was taking photos, and I was uploading selectively as they arrived. It was difficult to capture all the interesting things hapenning all over, so he ran from one place to the other, and back again, and so forth. 2006-04-ne-4x4-0215.jpg My Canon PowerShot A70 was faulty, so this time we had borrowed a Fuji (don't remember the exact model) from a friend. It was also not an SLR, but had a 10x zoom which was very useful. We had two memory sticks, and could swap them without keeping one of us waiting for the other. By the way Sanjaya's photograph shown here was taken on the next day, as the ones I took during the event was not very clear. :-( 2006-04-ne-4x4-0073.jpg The morning continued to be bright and sunny, and the event progressed merrily. The obstacles were of varying degrees of difficulty, and carried points accordingly. Sanjaya was worried that still photos didn't capture the dramatic effects in clearing them. For example, a Nissan Patrol, which was doing really well, was airborn for a second or so at an unexpected moment, and Sanjaya found himself too late to capture it while in the air. A video, on the other hand, whould have done justice in capturing everything that came to pass. 2006-04-ne-4x4-0158.jpg By early afternoon, the sky started getting darker, and eventually rain set it. The organizers first decided to select the "top 10" from the already finished obstacles and hold a timed event, but later that plan also had to be cancelled. We stopped uploading images and started wondering around to see closely how the competitors were showing off "freely" on the track. 2006-04-ne-4x4-0340.jpg And what a showing off it turned out to be! The attaction was a muddy hole. One after the other, competitors started attempting to clear it in different ways. Some were successful, and some weren't, and the (friendly) reaction of the audience was in compliance with the outcome of each attempt. ;-) Slippery conditions in the middle of rain added another layer of difficulty, but the sheer courage of the competitors was amazing. By late evening, we remembered that both of us didn't eat nor drink anything for the whole day and hunger and thirst started setting in. So we decided to return home at around 6 in the evening, and had a refreshing meal. After a short nap, we started to drive to Colombo at around 9. Then we had the last, and the worst, adventure of the day. Our petrol tank was far from empty, but we knew that we can't make it to Colombo with what was left. So we wanted to fuel the Jimny as soon as possible before it becomes a crisis. But the gas stations in Thalawakele, Kotagala and Hatton were all closed, and the matter was alowly becoming a crisis. By about Ginigathhena, we could travel only about 10-20 kilometers more before we start going on the reserve. So we had to make a decision. We knew that the distance from Ginigathhena to Nawalapitiya was 12km, and we would definitely make it to Gampola from there. But if we can't find petrol in Gampola, then the journey from there to Peradeniya, where Sanjaya was certain that we can find the gas station to be open, was a risky one. But we decided to take the risk. We also first tried to contact some friends in Gampola to find a bit more petrol to reduce the risk, but later decided not to wake them late in the night. And we were lucky. We could reach Peradeniya, and the gas station was open. And it was around 3 in the morning when we finally reached our lodgings in Colombo. Images Sanjaya captured during the event are available on my flickr gallery.

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