Day 4 began on a sombre note as the previous night a small drive till the ATM after dinner had led to a tyre burst of the LC200. The issue snowballed as the cars should not have been taken out in the night (they were the rules) and a tyre burst points towards recklessness on the driver’s part. And then there was the delay in the start due to replacement of the tyre. I am quite used to the procedure as my personal car’s old tyres have kept me in touch with the process, however replacing the tyre on this brute was a totally ball game.
It took me good 20 min rummaging through the manual to find the jack and a suitable location under the car to place it. Then lowering the spare tyre is almost an art, and I’ve not yet mentioned the size of the thing. But what made it worse was the fact that firstly as everyone woke up and saw me and another officer struggling with the vehicle, none offered help. They just nonchalantly walked away to their cars as if we were not known to them or our troubles were just our own.
Then when tired of waiting, they did walk down, all these elite “officers” made a circle and started offering incessant suggestions, none of which were of any pertinence to the job in hand. I wanted to slap out the nuisance, but had to persist and somehow we managed to get the vehicle going.
However with the brake problem and now no spare tyre, the flagship vehicle was on tenterhooks. Furthermore the Toyota PR manager’s reaction when informed of the problem almost resembled a post heart attack gasp. The had no spares (even brakes) available in India, and the best they could do was cannibalise spares from the only other showroom car in the country, at Delhi.
With no option available, we continued towards Barmer through deserted roads and sleepy towns. Most of the journey was on state highways, which though relatively smooth, were sadly two lane most of the way, ensuring low speeds and a tiring driving experience. But a small stretch before we turned north for Rajasthan was as pristine as the German autobahns and that gave us license to test the Landcruiser’s legs. With all the faults we limited ourselves to 180kmph, but I must say the vehicle felt hardly stressed even at that speed.
Pure performance apart, what will steal your heart about the LC200 is its pampering suspension setup. Its almost like a magic carpet ride and only the roughest of roads can unsettle the occupants in it. The downside is that the car rolls quite a bit and that leads to a few hairy moments on lovely sweeping curves. That means its fit only for arrow straight roads and not the romantic curvy ones. And yes this is when talking of roads, else this beast can ride over pretty much anything the nature has to offer.
The route sadly had nothing to offer, not even patches of desert which we were hoping for and instead it was a constant stream of barren land punctuated by small towns, which were in a confused stage between a village and a small township. But one could certainly feel the draining influence of Gujrat and the rising of Rajasthani culture in the clothes, dialect and food of the land. Unlike one may expect, this is never sudden, infact quite gradual. There is no clear line as on a map where suddenly all changes, quite the contrary as there is a big area of uncertainty where its a cocktail of both.
I’ve to mentoin here that its incredibly sad to see people mistreating the vehicles and if one corrects them, they have a staunch reply “Abe kaunsi teri gaadi hai, chill maar, Toyota will handle.” Sadly that is the mindset of most people and they wish to fulfill all their wildest fantasies and idiosyncrasies on these vehicles. Be it the LC200 or the Innova, it doesn’t matter, they push all to the limits in the harshest way possible. I know I probably should not have mentioned this in a travelogue, but it definitely saddens me and I thought if those people could read this and feel a change its probably worth it (or others who read this discourage people around them from doing so).
Nevertheless we managed to reach Barmer late at night and the Army was once again generous to offer whatever little they had at such a remote location. Its the perfect example of amiability covering up for facilities. But soon followed a investigation / introspection session concerning the last night and day’s unfortunate sequence of events. It was the most stressful day for me, not only of this trip, but in my recent past.
Thanking god that it was over, I hit the bed wondering what the next day has in store. We have to cover about 800kms, our maximum yet and in the vicinity of the Great Indian Desert. With mechanical troubles and a bit of uneasy air, all I am hoping for is some good roads and nice sights, and definitely tasty Rajasthani food. I’m, sorry if this post was a bit down but am sure things will only move up. So till next time adios and drive safe