Offtrack thrills: Getting down and dirty 

The craze for off-roading captured a few individuals in Delhi-NCR around 10 years back. Over the years, what started as a mere hobby has moulded veterans

off-roading

Vikramjeet Sharma at ORAZ showcasing off-roading techniques

It’s 7 am and the whole ground echoes the growls of Gypsies covered in dirt as Thars race with muddy windshields and SUVs plough into the mud.

Families, men, women and other riders have come to let off steam and enjoy daring adventures. “Mud looks good on me” is what they say. A few people may be sceptical but at Off Road Adventure Zone (ORAZ), village Baliyawas, Gurugram, that’s how the day rolls.

Founded by Vikramjeet Sharma in 2016, it is the first off-roading track in the Delhi-NCR region. Lavishly spread across four acres in the panoramic background of Aravallis.

Sharma has spent most of his life with his cars; he can’t even imagine sitting in any other vehicle.

ORAZ offers slush pits, dirt tracks, rock crawls, water wading, extreme angle climbs and decline, motocross, autocross and much more. These terms can be jargon at first, but one hour at the zone makes you familiar with these techniques.

The constant cheer and applause from the trainer as well as the fellow enthusiasts during the morning routine gives an adrenaline rush to anyone present in the arena. 

Proper setup

“When I used to go off-road, I knew that I was evoking interest in other people too. But they weren’t part of a group or some don’t have a 4×4”, he adds. The motive of ORAZ is to provide a platform for individuals to have an exhilarating experience. They also provide vehicles on rent, so that everyone can have hands-on experience. 

Neeloy Sarkar started off-roading around 12 years back in his Toyota Landcruiser when the term off-roading was still new to a lot of people. When the interest started growing gradually, he  formed a group called ‘Terrain Tigers’ to bring together like minded people. Sarkar says, “In a place like Gurugram, you can either go to a pub or a mall.”

He elaborates that as more people started to join, it seemed to be a male-dominated sport. To be more inclusive, he started to organise outstation trips where the whole family could join and be part of the adventure. 

In due course he established good relationships with the villagers, so whenever they are out on a trip the villagers provide food and accommodation facilities for them. “It’s a whole chain and somehow we all are connected,” he exclaims. 

“Just like any other community, the group started to grow as an ecosystem and companies and businesses started to sprout out of these connections”, he adds. 

There are theme-based off-roading events like monsoon drive where the off-roaders cross rivers, drive through snow in the winter and dunes during September. With continuous practice, according to him, it takes around three months to get hold of off-roading. He has been off-roading every weekend for the past 12 years. 

Women at the wheel

The proportion of women off-roaders are still less compared to the male, but over years there has been a gradual increase in the number.

Inspired by her husband’s proficient driving, Neeru Madan started her off-roading  journey a decade ago. Long road trips to off-beat destinations marked her vacation spots. “About six years ago, I gifted myself an Isuzu V-Cross 4×4 Truck. My newly sharpened ardour and confidence led me straight to the adventure zone”, she conveys.

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Madan in her Isuzu V-Cross 4×4

Constant innovation

“It is a never ending challenge, we have seen a lot of evolution in the vehicles. I modify my car every two years and I still feel that I am a learner’, says Sarkar about his journey. It is a constant effort, one has to change the specificalities of the vehicle according to the terrain. 

Asked which terrain he prefers, natural or man-made he says, “Both of them, in the adventure zone you have people around you if anything goes wrong which is a plus. Natural terrain you don’t know what to expect. Everything is a challenge.’

The whole track terrain has been designed by Sharma himself. Designing a track with equal elements of adventure, challenge and skill is a tough task. “It’s all in the brain”, says Sharma proudly while talking about the tracks. He continues, “But it’s actually one hell of a job. We have to see which angles are suitable for the vehicles and which aren’t. I have to guide the workers and JCB operators on how to create the terrain step by step.”

Training sessions

Sharma started this with an aim to bring the thrill and vigour of off-roading among the fanatics. Apart from the off-roading track ORAZ offers training classes at beginners and professional level. The four-session class consists of both practical and theory.

From how to use a 4×4 to the advanced level techniques are taught at ORAZ, like how to manage the vehicle on an incline or decline, gear usage and much more. According to him anyone can be an off-roader, you just need to have that spark which can ignite passion. “There can be minor accidents, it’s part of learning and we have trained professionals to help you”, he adds.

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One of the off-roader going into the slushy pit in his Mahindra Thar

“Saturday nights are famous for late night parties, but if you want to be part of the off-road adventure you have to go to bed early and wake up early the next day”,  says Ajay Arora who attempted off-roading for the first time with his son Shiva Arora.

“It gets into your blood, it’s an addiction. Or else who’ll wake up at 5.30 am on a Sunday morning to reach the zone”, he asserts. 

For Shiva the most intriguing part of off-roading is the time he spends with the machine. “It’s a good break from the daily stress, because time you can spend with your machine is always the best ”, he claims. 

He further says that Delhi has more of a show culture. They would rather drive their cars than get dirty. “It is a limited culture right now, you can find very few people who would actually like to take their vehicles for off-roading”, he explains. 

The zone is open for individuals as well as groups on prior bookings. Apart from the off-roading zone, ORAZ provides a cosy atmosphere for private parties. 

 

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